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The Press Desk 26th January 2021 03:19 PM

Podcasting and content creation: A buyer's guide to all the gear you need to get started
 
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Sponsored by RØDE

Podcasting and content creation is a serious business, with many podcasts and online shows now reaching huge numbers of people and earning their creators substantial money. In a competitive landscape, there are no excuses - delivering your content with good audio quality is a must. In this guide we’ll help you to get there - with a little help from RØDE Microphones.

First things first

First off, you need to determine the nature of your content. Are you doing everything on your own? Planning on having guests? Recording in a quiet studio, or potentially noisy improvised space (e.g. bedroom), or are you planning to record on the move? Is all the content going to be recorded in advance or is there a chance you also will be podcasting ‘live’? Those are key questions to ask, so we’ll explore a few scenarios and suggest a number of viable gear options for each situation.

Scenario 1: Are you a solo podcaster or recording remote conversations?

This is probably the easiest scenario in terms of equipment, as you’ll only need a computer and a USB microphone for a bare-bones but workable setup. The RØDE Podcaster provides just that - it’s an excellent sounding microphone for voice work and offers bus-powered USB connectivity (compatible with iOS, Mac or Windows), a built-in headphone output with volume control, so there’s no need for a dedicated audio interface or anything else. The Podcaster is a dynamic microphone with superb directivity and off-axis rejection, so it’s a super safe bet for getting good results in noisy environments or spaces with excessive reverb.


If you already own a mixer or audio interface, a similar mic in terms of sound would be the Procaster or the PodMic, which are also cardioid dynamic microphones. Having XLR-connectors means that these ones require an audio interface with an XLR mic preamp, such as RØDE’s own AI-1 - a no-frills USB audio interface that should be perfect for solo operators thanks to its small footprint and ease of use. The advantage of an audio interface like the AI-1 is you get the flexibility to work any XLR microphone you like, as well as 6.35mm outputs to connect to studio speakers, something not possible on a USB microphone alone.


Both the Procaster and PodMic feature the same operating principles, excellent off-axis rejection and directivity of the Podcaster, so it should be easy to get a great sound out of either of them.


If an all-in-one package appeals to you but a more detailed ‘condenser mic sound’ is preferred, there is also the NT-USB Mini, providing studio-grade performance without the need for an audio interface. It has a 3.5mm headphone output, volume control, built-in pop-filter, detachable magnetic desk stand and has class-compliant plug & play USB operation so works on Mac, PC and tablets. You might be thinking, well if the NT-USB Mini has a more detailed ‘condenser mic’ sound, why would I consider a dynamic mic like the Podcaster? It’s time to talk about the room you record in…




Important question: is your working environment acoustically treated? A word on condenser microphones vs dynamic microphones.

As a rule of thumb, dynamic microphones are easier to use than condenser microphones under less-than-ideal acoustic conditions, so they’re generally preferred for ‘regular’ rooms with little or no acoustic treatment. The RØDE Podcaster, Procaster and the PodMic microphones are what you want if that describes your space. If you have an ‘acoustically-okay’ room, the NT-USB Mini is an excellent option - and of course you can reach for studio-grade mics such as the NT1 or NT1-A for that detailed pro studio condenser sound at a very friendly budget. Needless to say that outer space is the limit when it comes to condenser mics, so if your pockets are deep enough then do check out RØDE’s top-tier entries such as the Broadcaster or the NTR ribbon microphone which are both exceptional on vocals.

Another factor to take into account with condenser microphones is the polar pattern - some of them may have an option to switch between a few different options, such as cardioid, omni and figure-of-8. For voice work you’ll generally want to go with cardioid but if recording multiple voices with a single mic is required then an omni or figure-of-8 pattern may be worth a try, but you’ll absolutely need a well-treated room acoustically for it to sound professional.

Scenario 2. Do you need to record guests?


USB microphones are convenient for solo recording but when it comes to recording more than one voice, a multi-channel audio interface or mixing console will be required. A no-brainer solution for recording four guests in the studio and more online is the RØDECaster Pro Podcast Production Studio, which combines a mixer, audio processor, sound effects machine, audio recorder and audio interface, into a single device. It offers four class-A mic preamps, line-and-mobile-level auxiliary input, four headphone outputs, eight assignable pads for playing back jingles, sound effects or entire recordings, and eight long-throw faders for hands-on mixing capabilities into a very beginner-friendly form factor.

The RØDECaster Pro comes with a compressor, de-esser, high-pass filter, noise gate, ducking and, excitingly, APHEX® Aural Exciter/Big Bottom processors on every input channel to provide slick, broadcast-ready sound. These processors are set-and-forget too, so don’t require any technical knowledge to use. It can operate without a computer as well, and it offers recording on a MicroSD card, which is incredibly useful for backup purposes and when you might need to do a “field recording” with minimal gear. It’s a device that was designed to allow a non-technical person to achieve a pro result with the minimum of fuss, but later firmware updates have also allowed users to unlock full control of the audio processing blocks inside - so if you’re a pro and want full control, that’s possible too.

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BBC Radio 2 DJ Johnnie Walker used a RØDECaster Pro to record the “Sounds of the 70s” show in his own home - Radio 2 is the biggest radio station in the UK with over 14 million weekly listeners.


Mounting the mics

Regardless of your choice of microphones, you’ll need a proper way to mount them that is comfortable for conversation . With episodes often running on for hours, ergonomics are a key factor, so make sure you have a nice comfortable chair and a mic stand that doesn’t restrict your movements. Guests should also be accounted for, as each will have their way of expressing themselves by moving their hands or making gestures while talking, so get those mics out of their way without sacrificing capture quality, by placing them too far away. RØDE has plenty to offer in this area, and we think the coolest solution is the PSA-1 Professional Studio Boom Arm, which offers a sleek pro-looking desk mount that should be perfect for any podcasting setup, offering plenty of flexibility. If portability is required, then take a look at the DS-1 and Tripod mic stands which are perfect for cramped desks or portable setups.

While it can sometimes take some getting used to, a good tip is to ensure that all guests are using headphones as this encourages guests to employ proper mic technique, staying close to the mic and not leaning back or becoming overly expressive, without realising they’re drifting away from the microphone!

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PSA1 Professional Studio Boom Arm with Procaster Microphone


Scenario 3: Do you need to record remotely or in the field?

For solo setups based on Android, iPhones and iPads with lightning connector, there are quite a few options available, so let’s have a look at them:
  • i-XLR Adapter: this allows you to connect any dynamic microphone to your iOS device. A great pick if you already have a dynamic microphone or battery-powered condenser mics that you’re happy with. Just note that it doesn’t provide +48V phantom power.
  • VideoMic Me microphone: a directional microphone mounted directly on either the lightning connector or 3.5mm connector, great for capturing a single sound source or shooting video. RØDE’s new Vlogger Kits provide the mic, plus light, tripod and coloured filters for video capture.
  • SC6-L Mobile Interview Kit: If you plan to record two-person interviews out and about on a regular basis, this is a very neat solution for a minimal yet highly effective portable setup on iOS. It comes with two smartLav+ ‘tie clip’ style microphones and SC6-L adapter, for capturing a two-person conversation with great sound quality into RØDE’s free Reporter app, which can record lossless WAV quality, with separation between the two microphone tracks for flexible editing later.
In terms of compatible microphones for the iXLR, the previously mentioned PodMic is a good choice thanks to its small size and ruggedness, paired with a stand like the DS-1 or PSA-1. The Reporter microphone is also a great handheld pick if you’re recording ad-hoc interviews or presentations with a few guests, since multiple speakers can share one microphone.


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SC6-L Mobile Interview Kit for iOS devices


A note about Android devices:

For reasons that are beyond the scope of this article, Android’s audio support for external audio devices (such as interfaces and mics) is virtually non-existent. However, RØDE don’t leave Android users high & dry, as the VideoMic Me provides a high-quality directional microphone that uses a regular 3.5mm analog audio connector that can work seamlessly with any device. If using lavaliers is required, you can recreate much of the functionality of the SC6-L interview kit using two smartLav+’s and the less expensive SC6 (note the missing ‘L’). The SC6 allows you to plug two smartLav+’s into one phone’s TRRS headphone input, and use a built-in headphone jack to monitor the results, with the limitation that you do not get separation between the two mics in your end result - they get blended together. In most cases though a well-placed lavalier is pretty foolproof (just ensure it’s placed around your solar plexus and not rubbing on your clothing).

All set and ready to record

We hope this article has given you plenty of options and ideas for getting that podcast off the ground with the finest sonic quality. Already recording podcasts? Please share your experiences, challenges and examples below!