recording equipment and software: laptop speakers headphones
Equipment

Hardware, software, and your studio

Knowing what equipment you need

Creating powerful stories

In order to create powerful stories using audio, you need hardware and software to help you get the job done. While you do not always have to spend a lot of money, you do have to ensure that the sound that you record is high quality and free from distortion or imperfections.

The most comprehensive and readable tech advice on field (portable) recording gear is available from an American public media organisation with tons of expertise among the team. Like them, we recommend ZOOM (H1 is simplest, c. US$100, up to Zoom H5, c. $365) or TASCAM, but there are other good brands. See the regular tech advice articles. They also do an overview of technical advice in Spanish! As a back-up, most smart-phones have apps available to them that can record decent audio.

Generally, you need:

  • A portable recording device (for example Zoom) to do interviews etc out and about with a windsock

  • Good headphones

  • A laptop

  • A mic with USB capability that can plug into your laptop for you to do host reads

  • A mic stand (or three)

  • The option of plugging in one or two other mics into your laptop for guests in your ‘studio’

  • Software to record directly to your laptop and software to edit and mix (add music etc) with.

A recording device

You can purchase a recording device from most good audio and/or electronics stores or online. If you can’t get your hands on one of these, most smartphones have apps available to them that can record decent audio. Think about what mic set up will best suit your recording context.

A luxurious option: The Blue Yeti ($129.99) (for studio use)

Budget choice: earphones featuring an inline microphone and a smart-phone can capture quality sound

Good headphones

You cannot record good audio without headphones as they help you to hear tiny background noises, knocks or vibrations that may affect the quality of your audio. Aim for over the ear headphones as they have less of a chance of audio interference from your surroundings but in-ear headphones will work fine too. It is much easier to fix sound issues while you’re recording. For example, if traffic noise drowns out a sentence, you need to close windows or move somewhere else!

Quality for the price: Audio Technica ATH-M50x $149

Windsock

If you’re recording outside (think sports, nature, or on location) a windsock is a must. A windsock is placed over the mic and reduces all those undesirable sounds such as wind rattles, low distortion and breathing noises. All of these sounds are incredibly hard to remove in post-production so if you can reduce them when recording you should.

Options: Windsocks

Spare batteries

Make sure you keep spare batteries on yourself at all times. There is nothing worse than a dead recorder in the middle of an interview.

Audio editing software

Once you’ve recorded your interviews and other sounds, and you know how you want to craft your podcast, it’s time to head into the studio and start mixing. There is a range of different audio editing software that you can download to use in post-production.

Top of the range: Hindenburg is a quality option but costs around $100 to purchase. However, there is the option of a free 30-day trial.

Other options: include Pro Tools for $25 monthly subscription, Adobe Audition $29 monthly subscription or Reaper for a once-off $60

Free alternative: Audacity is free to use.

Studio

Your ‘studio’ can be your wardrobe if it’s just you doing a solo read. Or it can be you in your bedroom under a doona/duvet - anywhere that absorbs sound well and is relatively quiet. But if you have guests, you will probably need a space with a table for your laptop, chairs and one to three mics. Make sure it is a quiet room without echoey/reverb elements such as a lot of glass windows or bare surfaces. Carpet is good. So are curtains. You can always drag in a spare mattress to line a glass/boomy wall!

For some more tips on setting up your studio:

Read these articles on setting up your ‘studio’ + Recording gear + Gathering recording equipment

  • See how much of this equipment you have access to.

Want to learn more?

Read more with an overview of the software available on the market, attached below.


Conversation starter

  • Do you have any software or hardware recommendations? Include the reasoning behind your recommendation.

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This article is from the free online course:

The Power of Podcasting for Storytelling

University of Wollongong