Gear up for podcasting

Fancy being the next Internet radio star? It's never too late to get geared

Video rules on the Internet. Yet podcasting, the equivalent of creating your own little pirate radio station on the Web, is still around and kicking.

Creating your own podcast is far simpler and less time-consuming that the work video takes. Getting started is a lot easier than you'd think. But you will, of course, need the right kit. Start off with the basics - a microphone, audio editing software and headphones. Once you're established, get a nice mixer. Can't decide what to get? Read on for our recommended podcasting gear.

A good mic ain't hard to find

Don't feel pressured to spend the big bucks until you're sure you're going to commit to podcasting in the long-term. Whatever the snobs or purists say, there is nothing wrong with eschewing a standalone microphone for a USB headset. Don't go for headsets that come with separate audio and mic jacks as some laptops no longer support separate mic ports.

But that doesn't mean you should be too stingy either. Something like the Plantronics Audio 628 (RM150) or the Logitech H540 (RM169) are decent headsets that offer reasonable microphone recording quality while providing noise-canceling benefits.

When you want to upgrade, there are two ways to go about it: go for a better USB mic from the likes of Blue Yeti and Samson. Or, spend more on getting proper studio mics, which will unfortunately need extra kit like a mixer. If you're podcasting on the go, USB mics like the Samson Go (US$39.99) are much easier to carry around.

If you fancy podcasting on the go, try IK Multimedia's iRig mini-microphones for iOS and Android phones.

Cleaning up with software

It's not enough to just record your sparkling commentary; you'll need to edit, trim and clean up rough-sounding audio before you upload your podcasts.

Audacity is an open-source software that's simple to learn and of course, free. Once you've outgrown it, try Reaper which goes for US$60 for personal use. On a Mac? Then there's the free and pretty powerful Garageband, which also has an iPad version. Take note, recording podcasts on an iPad might be trickier if you have multiple 'deejays' - it's better for solo podcasting projects.

What you basically need to learn is how to record and save your audio, convert it into a podcast-friendly format and make the necessary trimming or editing. Whatever software you use, just remember, practice makes perfect!

More after the break...

Having a listen with headphones

Once you have a standalone mic, you will need a good pair of headphones to help you monitor the audio as you record and edit your voice to its polished best.

Since your podcasts will mostly be listened by people on headphones, you should listen to your recordings on them as well. There's a marked difference from what you hear on speakers compared to what comes out on headphones.  In-ear or over-ear headphones? Go for the latter, but the choice is yours. A decent budget model is the AKG511 which costs below RM200.

Try not to cut corners on good headphones. Without decent sound, you won't get an accurate feel of what your listeners are hearing.

Extra gear

What other nice 'extras' would help you along your journey to podcasting fame? Pop filters, for one. They remove the annoying voiced p's and b's that often spoil the flow of a recording. Extra bonus: it protects your shiny, expensive mic from saliva.

A mixer, wires, a nice soundproof studio - all these help your podcast sound more polished. But when you're just starting out, best not to go crazy with the gear. Build up a following, upskill your audio editing-fu and build a solid podcast subscriber base on iTunes before you blow good money on gadgets.

There is no point creating super-polished audio if the content isn't worth listening to in the first place. When it comes to podcasts, one of the most important tools is the stuff between your ears. Creating good content for listeners to keep coming back for is the hardest part.

Make the most of whatever gear you can afford starting out, have fun and hear you on iTunes!

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