If you have a great podcast idea and want to bring your vision to life, you must learn how to record high-quality episodes that people will want to listen to. Once you’ve brainstormed episode topics, lined up guests and created a website, you’ll need to gather the necessary gear and software to start.
In this article, we’ll go over the basics of how to record a podcast, as well as the equipment you’ll need for optimum sound quality.
Starting a podcast? Use this podcast name generator to name it.
How to record a podcast
01. Find and plan your topic
You may know what you want your podcast to be about generally (like a leadership podcast, for example), but you’ll need to break down your idea into smaller podcast topics to discuss in each episode. Research what might interest your listeners and what questions they’re asking. If you don’t know where to begin, our guide on how to start a podcast will direct you how to start from scratch. Furthermore, you’ll need to come up with a podcast name and may want to review some inspiring podcast website examples.
02. Determine the format
Next, you’ll need to narrow your idea to a specific niche. This will not only help you find the right audience for your marketing strategy, but it will also help you pick the right equipment and editing software. For example, if you have a solo show, you’ll likely need just one mic. If you want to have a business podcast where you interview guests every episode, you’ll need to purchase two.
03. Write a script or outline for each episode
Often, off-the-cuff conversations with guests or your cohost can turn into organic podcast magic as you dive into undirected topics. However, this is a skill that requires some experience to build up. For most, starting a podcast on the best foot means crafting a script or at least an outline. If you plan to have a structured storytelling podcast, such as an investigative journalism podcast, you may want to plan your entire script. Then, when it comes time to record, you’ll just need to read your script. However, if you have a co-host and want a more conversational podcast, like Wix's SERP's Up SEO Podcast, map out which topics or questions you want to address and when you’ll bring them up in the episode. That way, you’ll know what points to cover but will still have room for conversation.
04. Purchase equipment
Depending on the podcast you want to create, your equipment needs may differ slightly. However, you should consider purchasing a few key equipment pieces before you begin recording:
No matter what podcast you host, you’ll need a good microphone. However, with so many different options on the market for podcast hosts, how do you know which one to choose? Familiarize yourself with these different mics:
Built-in microphone: Mobile devices and computers come with a built-in mic. That said, these microphones aren’t designed for recording podcasts, so don’t rely on them to record a whole series. You can use them to test episodes, but podcasters do not recommend them for full-time recording.
USB microphone: A USB mic connects to a computer via a USB cable. Start here if you want to record right away without investing in expensive equipment. Just plug in your USB microphone, and it’ll be ready-to-use with recording software.
XLR microphone: When you’re ready to take it up a notch from your USB mic, choose an XLR. Rather than connecting to your computer via USB, an XLR mic plugs into your computer and audio interface via its own cable or adapter. The high sound quality makes it worth the extra technical effort.
Dynamic microphone: If you want something higher quality than a USB mic without a huge price tag, try a dynamic microphone. They aren’t highly sensitive mics, so you can use them no matter where you record your podcast.
Condenser microphone: A condenser microphone is more sensitive than a dynamic mic, meaning it will pick up background noise. While the sensitivity means you’ll end up with clearer sound, this can cause problems if you record in a noisy setting. As a novice podcaster, you might want to start with a more versatile mic first, especially if you don’t have a professional studio setup.
To make the podcast hosting experience as seamless as possible, you’ll want to invest in a pair of studio-grade headphones. Headphones allow you to hear exactly how you sound as you speak into the microphone, as well as any background noise. For example, if your audio sounds a bit muffled, perhaps you need to pull away from the microphone a bit. And if your audio is quiet and fading out, you may need to speak closer to the mic.
You may want to consider a digital recorder for a few reasons: First, this equipment can be more reliable than a computer alone, as you record and store your audio files externally. Second, if you plan on having in-person guests or if you have a co-host, you can easily set up multiple microphones through a digital recorder. A computer or laptop may have limited entry ports for a USB mic, so having a digital recorder on hand will allow you to connect more XLR microphones.
USB audio interface
You can also use a USB audio interface, which acts as something in between a USB mic and a digital recorder. The device plugs directly into your computer via USB, and then you can plug in one or more XLR mics to it, depending on the model. They also improve your audio quality slightly, so this can be a good interim option if you don’t have a digital recorder. When shopping around for a USB audio interface, consider how many mic and headphone inputs you’ll need.
Other equipment to consider
Aside from the basic equipment you’ll need to record, these other essentials can help you get started and improve your sound quality:
Microphone stand: This will hold your mic steady and keep your hands free to use your computer or flip through notes.
Smartphone: While you shouldn’t use a smartphone as your permanent podcast setup, you can use one to start recording. You can find microphones that plug into your smartphone so you can record directly on your mobile device or use it when interviewing someone on the go.
Soundproofing material: Foam panels or a foldable soundproof barrier can make a big difference in your sound quality by reducing echoes and reverberated sounds.
Pop filter: Add a pop filter to your mic to muffle the sounds made when words with letters such as ‘p’ or ‘t’ pop in a recording. If you record at home and don’t have soundproofing material, this small fabric piece can make a noticeable difference.
05. Find a place to record
Find a quiet place with sound-absorbing materials. If you don’t have soundproofing material or a recording studio, make sure you surround yourself with bookcases, clothes, couches and carpets. A walk-in closet can also suffice.
06. Perfect your microphone techniques
Record the best sound quality by following these microphone best practices:
Move away from your microphone when silent to keep from recording any unnecessary noises.
Keep your microphone five to six inches away from your mouth when speaking.
Tilt your mic at 45 degrees. This will capture your voice in its highest quality.
07. Pick a recording and editing software
Audio recording software allows you to record live, edit audio files, splice sound clips and edit your recording speed—all from one tool. You will also use editing software to clean up your audio, cut segments, add in music and edit out silences. Well-known audio software includes Alitu, GarageBand, Audacity and Adobe Audition.
08. Hit record
It’s time to press record on your chosen podcast recording software. It may be a good idea to do a few test-runs to ensure everything sounds clear and the software and equipment works. Once you’re ready for the real thing, hit record and start speaking according to your prepared script or outline. Don’t worry about speaking perfectly—you can edit out your hesitations and distractions.
09. Edit your episode
Professionals recommend that you first edit your podcast for content, then distractions. You can also add compressions via settings to smooth out your voice and automate noise removal. If your episode includes music, set your bitrate to 192 kbps for a polished sound. If you only record voices, you can set it at 96 kbps.
10. Export your episode
Follow your software’s instructions for exporting. Remember to add ID3 tags to your export so that your chosen hosting platform displays your episode’s correct data.
The next step is then to think about promoting your podcast, you can learn more about how to do this in our guide to podcast advertising.