This is my podcast equipment set up. Basically, it’s just a list of the equipment and software I use to create The Classic Ghost Stories Podcast Podcast with some commentary on how I got from where I started to where I am now.
Disclosure: some of these are affiliate links and I get a small % of your purchase price.
Podcast Equipment List: Microphones
Shure SM 7 B
I used to use the Shure SM 7B which is a lovely, but very expensive microphone.
But to be honest, the increase in quality, didn’t justify the price for me, so I sold it on Ebay and actually made a little money.
Instead I bought the Rode Procaster. I use this for nearly all the podcast episodes. It has good quality and because it is a dynamic microphone, it is directional. It is very good at cutting out noise. I don’t podcast from a sound-proofed studio, so that is necessary.
I think it has a nice tone and I have it hooked up next to my computer.
However, if I’m doing an Audiobook narration on Audible for someone, I have another room which is much quieter. I use a cardioid condenser microphone. It was Booth Junkie on Youtube who sold this to me as he loves it. It’s the CAD E100S and it has a delicious tone like warm chocolate.
However, it is so sensitive that it picks up all the background noises, so for me that’s seagulls, wind and cars outside. Sometimes ambulances. I don’t have a recording studio, maybe one day, so I have to use lots of fabric and close windows, shutters, doors to get close to silence.
It’s a lot of work, but if you listen to the Audible books I’ve done, you can hear the difference.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo
Because it’s a one man podcast and if I ever interview someone it’s over the internet, I don’t need a big interface with lots of inputs.
For those who don’t know, good microphones will not plug straight into your USB port on your computer. You need to use an interface. You can get them pretty cheaply. Mine is a Focusrite Scarlett Solo
Also on the recommendation of Booth Junkie, I looked at another interface, the DBX 286S. It is quite possible to do all your signal processing, that is the cleaning up and enhancing of your voice, with software, which I will mention below. However, the DBX 286S strip does much of this in its hardware settings.
The downside of this is that the signal you receive and record on your computer will be ‘as-is’. If you think you’ve processed it too hard through the DBX, then that’s tough. There’s nothing you can do to strip that out and you will have to record again.
The upside is that the DBX does a wonderful job so you don’t really need to do much with the signal once it’s recorded. That means you don’t need to use lots of computing power and the files are rendered much more quickly so you don’t have to sit and wait for hours for the mp3s to be generated before you can upload them.
For me the killer feature that I use all the time is the Expander / Gate. It is almost miraculous how it can shut out external noise so you record like you are in a recording studio instead of your front room.
I still need the Focusrite, because the DBX doesn’t have any USB interface so can’t plug into a computer. I feed it through the Focusrite.
I record onto an IMac. I used to have a PC, but I got this because it is quiet! It records with no burden on the processor so I don’t get any fan or disk noise.
Zoom H5 Recorder
Getting this recorder was a real breakthrough for me. Over a year ago, before I’d got the DBX, I was getting a lot of noise. I got the Zoom portable recorder and I would retreat to a closet upstairs and record with my CAD E100S directly into the Zoom H5.
Then I transferred the .wav files onto the Mac and edited them there.
I still do this if I want the best quality sounds and use the CAD rather than the Procaster straight into the Zoom while in a closet.
Because it’s portable, I needed rechargeable batteries and a battery charger. It uses a lot of battery power so I also invested in a suitable power supply.
AKG 240 Headphones
You need a good set of headphones over ear so you can really hear how your audio sound. These are good quality low price.
I also use a pop screen, microphone stands and XLR cables
Podcast Equipment List: Software
My Podcast equipment set up list also includes details of the software I use.
I record and edit in Reaper. There was a bit of a learning curve, but there is lots of stuff on Youtube to teach you how to edit. I’ve tried others, but Reaper is the one I go back to.
I think it cost me £80 and that is a one off purchase, no further payment necessary. They release updates all the time for free.
You will need a Digital Audio Workstation of some sort. I tried Garageband and Audacity and they were fine, but Reaper is better in my opinion.
Reaper Link (not affiliate)
If I want to put together files for a podcast, say like The Turn of the Screw where each episode had 3-4 of the original book’s chapters, I put them together in Hindenburg Journalist.
I don’t use the Pro version which is way more expensive. The basic Hindenburg Journalist is £79 while the pro version gives you a few more things for a big price jump to £299.
I don’t need the features it offers because I’ve got Reaper, which is cheaper.
Still, I like Hindenburg Journalist for adding sound effects and editing interviews.
In the basic version, it is not easy to see whether you are hitting the audio requirements for ACX audiobook production, while it is really easy with Reaper though putting the Audio Statistics module in your Master Channel.
I also tried out Hindenburg Audiobook Narrator in the free trial but that cost £412 to buy. As far as I could tell the advantage you got for shelling out over £300 extra was the ability to have your text in a screen in Hindenburg.
I can replicate that effect by splitting my Mac Screen (I use Moom by the way, see Ali Abdaal’s recommendation of that cheap piece of software).
I have Reaper in the left 2/3 of the screen and Kindle or another text window open in the right 1/3. This little tip saved me £300.
But seriously, I think Hindenberg make nice software, it’s just overpriced, apart from Journalist basic.
Izotope Nectar 3
This is a plug-in suite for vocal processing that you can use inside your DAW, so it opens up inside Reaper and can be added to your track effects along with plug-ins from other manufacturers.
Nectar 3 (non affiliate). Nectar looks lovely and I used it heavily originally. I used all the modules available, the De-esser, the EQ, the Compressor, the Gate.
Remember ACX doesn’t like you over processing the sound and warns against de-essers and compressors, but they won’t blacklist you if you do use them.
Over time, I have found that I have stripped back the modules I use and I probably only use the Gate and the EQ now.
Nectar 3 cost me about $250. Honestly? I now realise I can get the same effects from the free plug ins that come with Reaper. I just use Reaper’s EQ, or Apple’s that comes with the Mac, and Reaper’s gate.
I wish I’d known that then, and I would have saved myself some money.
Still it looks nice.
Izotope RX 7
I got this very good repair suite quite cheaply by buying the RX 7 Elements for $29 and then upgrading from Elements to the Full Suite, which normally costs about $1,199. I ended up paying maybe $100.
It’s a great piece of software though and cleans up old dirty audio. I don’t use it any more because I don’t record dirty audio!
Sometimes when the audio was poor, say it had external noise, or had clipped, I would use a de-noise program. Izotope RX 7 has those plug-ins, but I actually find that two cheaper options do a better job.
These are the Acon Restoration Suite, which is currently £79.90 which is a fraction of the Izotope RX 7, or RX 8, and I think the Acon De-noise is better too.
I also use, Waves NS 1 for noise suppression. That only costs $37.90, but look out for deals. It’s good.
Breath noises are the bane of a podcaster or audiobook narrator. There are different viewpoints on whether you should ever hear any breath noises from a narrator and lots of Youtube videos about drinking water and breathing control to minimise them.
I now hear breathing everywhere. I was listening to a BBC drama the other day as a Podcast, and I could hear the narrator breathing. Awful! But clearly they think it’s okay.
As people point out, breathing is natural. Somehow though it sounds different when you hear it so loudly.
When I tune into a new podcast, I always listen to the sound quality, particularly to see how they’ve done the breathing.
With most audiobooks it’s cut out all together. I used to spend hours and hours editing to cut out my breath noises.
The DBX handles a lot of that for me now, but still some get through. Usually I just quieten them by dropping the volume, but that is time-consuming.
I have tried plug ins, the main two are the RX 7 de-breath plug in. I can’t get that to work really.
The most useful one is the Waves De-Breath plug in which is currently on sale for $29.99. This does work, but.
You can adjust it to take out the breath noises, and it does this well, but at the same time it also takes out the breath-like fricative consonants and sometimes stops, both voice and unvoiced.
This means you lose your -th- and -f- sounds as well as sometimes -k-, -t-, and to a lesser extent -d- and -g-.
Did I tell you I used to be a linguist? I did, but that was years ago.
So, mostly I don’t use it. I might use it for the podcast commentary if the breathing is annoying me and then I just put up with losing my fricatives. It’s not painful and no one has ever complained, but I hear it.
If I am narrating an audiobook, I just buckle up, sit down and prepare to spend hours and hours and hours taking out breaths.
I pin my hope on better software in the future, but for now, it’s just got to be done.
Podcast Equipment Set Up Conclusion
So that’s it where I am right now in November 2020. I used different equipment last year and probably will again next year.
I was not a sound engineer or a podcaster before this, so its been a steep learning curve. I’m still learning. You may have some tips!
Let me have tips if you do have them!
In the meantime, check Out Our Episodes on The Classic Ghost Stories Podcast