My last weblog post explained that anyone can podcast on a budget. Other than my laptop I managed to start with no initial hardware costs. Recently I upgraded my equipment to improve the quality of my show. Like an elite runner I couldn’t finish a marathon in my best time wearing flip-flops (we call them thongs in Australia, and I probably couldn’t complete one wearing a pair of those either). I’d also still look like an idiot with stockings wrapped around my noggin.
After being inspired to listen to a podcast by Michael Goeghagen, who explored his transition from cheap to a more professional rig, I set about finding the equipment I needed for a professional sound.
My focus was on improving the microphone. You’ve seen the pitiful one I originally used, and I wanted to upgrade to one that would produce a better sound, and that I also had more control over. The USB input of the Logitech meant that I could only boost the audio level within the PowerBook. That has led to plenty of frustrations with the sound level on my end.
I’d already read some reviews from other podcasters about the Shure SM58 microphone, and they suggested it is a good choice for voice. There are plenty of others that would no doubt have made a clearer reproduction, but my experience with home audio – like my home theatre – proved that once you reach a point in quality you pay handsomely for very little gain. Podcasts are compressed to small MP3 files – there goes the fantastic quality – so I wasn’t going to stress about spending hundreds on a condenser microphone (which I’m told will produce a better quality sound).
Next up was a pre-amp. This was a necessity for my configuration. The PowerBook’s line-in isn’t powered, so any input needs amplification. I knew that I could buy a cheap pre-amp that did a simple job, but I figured for only a few extra bucks I could get a simple mixer. In hindsight this was a great decision, because I can warm up the sound a little with the tri-band equalizer and add extra gain to increase the volume before it hits the Apple – great for when using Skype and the other party can’t hear me that well.
I grabbed the Behringer Eurorack UB802 because almost everyone in the podosphere says they have one. No point in being someone else’s guinea pig when I can just follow everyone else. I also paid the extra over and above the UB502, because I figured an extra microphone input may come in handy if I ever to interviews with someone in the same room.
The next purchase was completely unnecessary. I sprang for a K&M microphone boom arm that clamps to my desk. It’s mostly because I wanted to show off and look professional, but I used the excuse that our house’s floorboards would carry audio all the way up a freestanding mic boom. The popshield is an added extra, I wanted one that looked better than my last, and I swear these cotton disks are a must to cut out unnecessary plosives. Well worth the extra dollars.
For those scrutinizing the photo, my cans (the professionals term for headphones while I’m still posing) are an old pair of Sony noise cancelling headphones, with the cancelling turned off. I also invested in a Griffin iCurve stand and Apple keyboard and mouse, but that’s purely to help the neck ache I’ve developed since starting the book.
So, how’ve I found the quality? It’s impressive. If you want to compare the difference then check The Gadget Show episode 20 and compare it to 21. Other than the new introduction the changes have only been in the hardware.
So, although I mention in the last post that it doesn’t cost much to start podcasting, if you decide to pursue it as a hobby or as a serious venture, it’s worth investing in a good microphone. At least I don’t look like a lunatic with a stocking flapping around my lugs.
Any advice on podcasting, please chip in.