Around 18 months ago I decided to start a podcast. The reason for doing this is I had taken a year off work to travel the world with my wife, but I wanted to develop a new skill while travelling and that was to become a good listener. I contacted Joel Lindstrom and talked to him about my plans and he invited me to syndicate my Podcast on CRM.Audio and so I recorded my first show in Nottingham UK at my cousin’s house. One of my aims in podcasting is to learn how to create a connection between the guests I was interviewing and the people listening so that the audience felt like the guest was speaking directly to them as an individual. The format of my podcasts has always been a guest interview scenario with me and one other person on the call.
I’m a technologist so one of the things I wanted to make sure was that I nailed the best possible podcast set up, from both an equipment and a software point of view. Note you don’t need much in the way of equipment to get set up for podcasting – you need the mic, the mic stand, and the recording software. What I currently use are all different than what I used when I started. I went on a bit of a progressive journey to get to this point. I hope if you’re just starting out you can benefit from the lessons I learned.
What I’m going to cover in this post are those three components: the mic, mic stand, and podcasting software that I use to record the Dynamics 365 Practice Show, the MVP Show and the Power 365 Show from my computer.
My Microphone of Choice
I use the Rode Podcaster USB Dynamic Cardioid Broadcast Microphone. I have found it to be a fantastic microphone to capture my voice, its form factor allows me to get right up and personal with it and it captures smooth high-quality audio. The mic I started with originally was just a cheap headset mic, but the audio quality was bad. After that, I moved to an Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone. This is a great Microphone but I found that it picked up a bit of background noise. On both mics, I also added a pop filter to clean up my ph sounds. The foam filter I use is Rode WS2 Microphone Pop Filter/Wind Shield.
Hands-free Mic Stand
The second thing I use is Rode PSA1 Swivel Mount Studio Microphone Boom Arm which is a studio-based mic arm that allows me to position the microphone however I like. I also added a shock mount Rode PSM1 Shock Mount For Podcaster so that any noise transference up the mic boom arm is not transferred to the mic. The beauty of this microphone and this stand set up is that the mic uses audio patterns to filter out background noise. There can often be noise around me that doesn’t get picked up because I am able to position the mic directly in front of my mouth while recording an interview for my podcast, meaning the audio that it captures is brilliant quality. What I originally started with was AOREAL Microphone Stand but it was low quality and did not meet my requirements.
The last thing I want to discuss here is Cast, the actual software that I use for recording the audio of the two-sided conversation between myself (on my computer) and my guest (on their own computer). When I was doing my original research, I found a lot of people suggested using a plug-in to Skype, but I could see that it would have challenges. Microsoft has started making massive changes to Skype and I could not rely on the software continuing to work with the newer versions of Skype, added to this is the issue that the audio is recorded to a single file, whereas the software I use allows me to record separate audio tracks for each individual. I know some people use Microsoft Teams, while others use Skype for Business to carry out recordings, and I have tried both. The reason I use Cast, as I mentioned, is that it allows for a separate audio channel to be recorded for each party. This means that the audio file that is recorded for my guest is separate than the audio file for my side of the conversation. This separation is really important when it comes time to do post-production on the audio. When engaging with a guest on my show I’ll ask them a question, and then as they answer, my audio file will contain a lot of agreement and encouragement along the lines of “uh-huh”, “mm-hmm”, or when I really get going I’m known to throw out a “brilliant”, “fantastic” or “right on!”. Which is good for encouraging energy from the guest I’m interviewing, but kind of annoying for the listener if I kept it in the final podcast. So the separate audio files mean I can edit those comments out, allowing the listener to focus instead on what my guest is saying and learn from the insights they share. I really want my guests to be the hero of the show at all times, and for you – my audience, to be able to hear the key takeaways being shared.
Those are the three main tools that I use in podcasting now.
Here is a bonus tip – the computer I use a Microsoft Surface Book 2 model, so a relatively high spec laptop, but I’ve noticed a little thing on Windows 10 that can make a big difference.
If you go onto the Sound Settings and go to Recording where you can select your Microphone and set the Properties. There is a Levels tab that shows the levels that your microphone is recording at and for some reason every now and again Windows automatically bumps it up to 100% 🤬. When that happens, it can create what’s called “clipping” in your audio. Clipping is when your audio input is too loud, a horrible sound is added to the audio, making it unusable because it can’t be removed in post-production. Before every recording, I tend to go in and check these settings and reduce my level down to around 85%. I find this is a nice level because I can always bump up my gain but if you’re clipping you can’t fix that audio quality in Post Production.
Just on the point of clipping, I wish that Cast would add to their software a real-time level meter to measure the audio levels so I could tell straight away if I was clipping on my microphone. A bonus would be to also to have that on my guest’s recording input that I can see so that I could see if they were clipping and be able to stop recording and fix the issue.
So that’s my podcasting equipment and software learnings to date. At this point, I’ve recorded around 58 podcasts and I’m really starting to get into a grove with this setup, but my standards are increasing all the time. In 2019 I’m excited to continue improving and bringing the quality up to another level again. If you’re just starting out in podcasting and what to discuss anything I have talked about, I am happy to help. I hope you found my experience helpful let me know in the comments if there’s anything you’d like to know more about, or if you have any favourite equipment that you recommend.