The One Kit You Should Buy To Make A Podcast
by Alex Kapelman, June 18, 2018
Please note: All links to gear below are Amazon affiliate links, and I may make a commission when you buy on Amazon.
One of the most confusing things about making a podcast is figuring out what gear you need to buy. There are a million options for at every price point, and everyone seems to use something different. But with a sea of options, many potential great choices, and no industry standard, the process of choosing a kit can be anxiety-producing and time-consuming.
And that’s… not great. The more time and energy you spend worrying about your kit, the less time you’re able to spend getting your hands dirty with your brand new kit to make your podcast.
To help sweep that noise aside, here’s a kit that would be a great choice for almost anyone. It has everything you need, is relatively cheap, sounds great, is extremely flexible, and will serve you for years to come.
So what’s the kit?
The Zoom H5 Four-Track Portable Recorder ($270), with an Audio-Technica AT8010 microphone ($170), Sony MDR-7506 headphones($80), a Hosa 3 foot XLR cable ($7), a Transcend 32GB SD memory card($16), and an OnStage foam microphone windscreen ($3).
As of this writing, you can purchase this whole kit for less than $500.
Your Recorder: The Zoom H5
The Zoom H5 is a fantastic recorder, and many established podcast and radio producers use it as their primary option. We use it at the Audio Reportage program at NYU. It’s not the most pristine recorder on the market, but it sounds fantastic.
My favorite thing about the H5 is how intuitive it is — everything is laid out for you right there. Wanna record on Channel 1? Press the “1” button. Wanna record on Channel 2? Press the “2” button. Wanna record on both? Press both. Other functions follow suit. Everything’s in its right place, and easy to find.
The other major strength is its versatility. It’s light and compact, so you can take it into the field for interviews by pairing it with an external mic (I recommend the AT8010, see below), or use its great internal mics to record ambient sound in stereo, or as a backup if your external mic fails. You can also use it as a USB interface, which allows you to connect through your computer directly into your audio editing software, which can make recording narration much easier.
Your Mic: The Audio-Technica AT8010
The Audio-Technica AT8010 is just a very solid mic in general — it’s well known and respected amongst radio producers. It’s also well suited for use with the Zoom H5, since it has a high output, and you won’t have to jack the recording volume up, which results in hiss.
It’s also as versatile as the H5 — you can use it to do field interviews or to record in the studio. Buy two if you want to do a studio interview with a second person.
Your headphones: Sony MDR-7506's
The Sony MDR-7506 headphones are essentially the industry standard headphone. Walk into basically any newsroom—or recording studio for that matter—and you’ll see these.
They sound great so when you’re monitoring your live recordings, you’ll be able to pick up background noise that you might not be able to hear on cheaper iPhone earbuds. They also have a very neutral sound—they don’t boost one frequency over another, so you get an very accurate representation of how your mix sounds. And they last for years.
Your Accessories: XLR cable, SD card, and Windscreen
Once you have your recorder, mic, and headphones, you just need to fill out your kit with a few accessories. But don’t worry, they’ll only cost you around $25 total.
First, you’re going to need a cable to connect your mic to your recorder. I’d go with the Hosa 3 foot XLR cable. It’s a workhorse cable that’ll get the job done. Get the 3 foot option — that’ll give you enough room to extend your mic out from your recorder, but not so much that you’ll be swimming in your cable when you’re out in the field.
Next, you should buy a memory card to store your audio files on your recorder. You should buy the Transcend 32GB SD memory card. Again, it’s nothing special, but we’re not recording 4K video or anything like that, so it’ll do just fine. 32GB will store several hours of audio, which should be more than enough.
Finally, add on a windscreen for your mic. That’ll prevent blowouts like “p-pops” and other harsh noises that you and your interviewees will naturally make. The OnStage foam microphone windscreen is cheap and fits the AT8010. Plus it comes in several colors if you’re feelin’ kooky.
Buy the Hosa 3 foot XLR cable, Transcend 32GB SD memory card, and OnStage foam microphone windscreenon Amazon
Alternatives and Upgrades
Just to reiterate, I recommend that you don’t get bogged down in making a decision about gear, but if you do want to do more research, check out Transom’s excellent guide, Field Gear: Good, Better, Best. Transom also has a huge suite of gear reviews, including a full review the Zoom H5, by the leading expert in podcast gear, Jeff Towne.
If you prefer earbuds to over-the-ear headphones, you should check the Etymotic Research HF5 Noise-Isolating In-Ear Earphones. They block out any external noise (great for the subway!) and sound fantastic. However, in my experience, they can be onerous to put in and take out of your ears, and can get painful if you wear them for a couple hours or more.
The Zoom comes with a plastic case, but you might want to spring for something a little more protective, like the Zoom PCH-5 Protective Case for Zoom H5. If you’re planning on using the Zoom’s internal mics, you should spend a few bucks on a Zoom WSU-1 Microphone Universal Windscreen to prevent blowouts. And if you really want to pamper yourself, buy a pair of Velour Padded Earcushions for your Sony MDR-7506's.
Buy the Etymotic Research HF5 Noise-Isolating In-Ear Earphones , Zoom PCH-5 Protective Case for Zoom H5, Zoom WSU-1 Microphone Universal Windscreen, and Velour Padded Earcushions on Amazon
What if I can’t afford all this stuff?
That’s OK. Just use your phone or internal computer mic with the headphones/earbuds you already have. It’s not the most ideal setup, but it’s definitely better than not making radio at all. And once you’ve had some pieces under your belt, if you still can’t afford this kit, you can look into cheaper alternatives.
I bought the kit. Now what?
Now it’s time to make radio! I compiled the guide “A Ridiculous Amount of Podcast Resources” which is exactly what it sounds like. You should also subscribe to my Podcast Love newsletter for weekly emails geared towards creators.
But most of all, go out, make radio, and have fun!