You’ve made the decision to finally start podcasting from your office, but you’ve got a budget and no idea where to start. We’ve been there and we’re here to help.
Many first time podcasters tell us they’re concerned about recording quality audio without needing to use a professional studio or build one themselves. Fortunately, several iterations of my own personal studio have taught me that if you make some smart decisions early on and plan well, you can get professional quality sound from an affordable and simple office setup.
Choosing the Right Audio Equipment
This is the single place where you really need to choose well. The right audio setup will make your office-studio very forgiving. The wrong one, on the other hand, will mean everything else has to go right for your audio to sound decent.
The old “buy cheap, buy twice” adage really applies here. Don’t make the same mistake I did and buy a cheap second hand microphone and mixer before tearing your hair out wondering why your audio is awful. Fortunately, you can get good sound at a reasonable price with these options.
It’s the most popular starter mic for podcasting for a reason. The Blue Yeti has a few key advantages. First, it’s designed for beginners with very clear instructions on how to use it properly. Next, it’s affordably at just over $100 in most cases. Then, because it’s a USB mic, it plugs directly into your computer (meaning you won’t need a mixer).
This is another budget option that eliminated the need for a mixer and is extremely portable. If you’re looking to do interviews instead of solo recordings, the built in mics along with the option to add more makes the Zoom a versatile option. Just be sure to get a dummy battery so you never run out of battery while recording.
If you’d like to step up your audio quality, you’ll need a condenser mic that plugs into a mixer. It’s a more complicated setup, but once you’ve found the settings you like there’s no need to really adjust them.
If your microphone doesn’t have a USB output, it will instead use an XLR cable to connect to a mixer. Most higher quality mics work this way. Just be aware that a bad mixer will make even a great microphone sound poor.
The mixer I’ve used for years has always been a reliable podcasting partner. It has input for up to 2 microphones and will give you excellent audio quality. Plus, it’s built like a tank (IE, to last).
If you’re looking for a mixer that supports up to 4 microphones, this is a solid choice. It’s simple, compact, and just gets the job done.
This is a fascinating two in one that offers excellent flexibility. It has 4 inputs for microphones like the Behringer but also has built-in mics like the Zoom H1. The result is a tool you can use to record by itself or upgrade with several higher quality microphones later. If you’re looking for a strong base for your podcast setup that you can upgrade later, this is it.
Equipment is equipment, you can always buy better gear. Moving to a new location is trickier, which is why the biggest concern for many looking to set up an office podcast studio is location.
Choosing the right room
Large rooms with hard surfaces will echo. So you’ll want a smaller room with as many soft, sound absorbing surfaces as possible. This could be a bedroom, a closet, or a tiny enclosure. Don’t worry if you have limited options though, any room can be turned into an effective place to record with enclosures and sound panels.
You’ll also want to find a way to alert your co-workers that recording is going on to ensure everyone is quiet. Usually a simple sign and friendly office-email will do.
If the only space you have available for recording suffers from echo, sound panels or an enclosure like the one mentioned above are your only options. That said, sound panels don’t have to be ugly, overly expensive, or difficult to install. That said, don’t buy them just because you assume you’ll need them (as I once almost did). Once your audio setup is ready, do some tests to see if you have issues with echo.
If you do need sound panels, focus on using them to cover surfaces that don’t absorb sound like glass, metal, or hard walls. There’s plenty of helpful advice online for how to do this.
Chair and Posture
This is one aspect of podcast studios that most often gets neglected. First, you need a chair that does not make sound. Trying to work around squeaks in your recordings will drive you crazy, so just avoid it with some WD40 or a new chair.
Next, you want a chair that encourages good posture. Many people who record podcasts and do voice overs have bad posture and it affects their performance. Being conscious of your posture and having the right chair will improve your ability to speak clearly and with confidence.
My personal podcast recording setup has me facing a blank wall. Strange as that may sound, it helps avoid distractions. Whether you’re reading a script or interviewing someone, it’s inevitable that your mind may drift from time to time. Try and set up your space to minimize this.
Beyond the gear and location, there are a few simple things to know about the right setup for podcasting from your office.
If you’re reading from a script (setup tips)
As mentioned above, posture is key. So you’ll want to find a way to read your script that doesn’t have you bending over. A tablet on some kind of a stand works well for this. You should also make sure the font size is sufficient to be easily legible and that you have a simple way to scroll down.
Beyond that, practice makes perfect! Reading from a script is harder than it looks, but it’s something anyone can master with time.
If you’re interviewing
Unless you’ll be doing your interviews remotely, you’ll want to find a balance between comfort and getting the audio right. Ideally you and the interviewee will be able to look at each other (even if the listeners can’t hear, non-verbal cues will help keep the conversation flowing.
Otherwise, make sure you have places for beverages that don’t make noise when you set the drink down. Lastly, make sure both you and your interviewee can be comfortable in the space.
Consider setting up a video recording option
The vast majority of podcasts are audio only, but consider whether adding video might be a good option. Video clips can be cut up and repurposed on platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and more to help promote the podcast as a whole. So, when you’re designing your setup, consider how you can easily add video capabilities to your setup.
You’ve got the knowledge, make it happen
Now that we’ve demystified the whole process of setting up a budget-friendly office podcasting studio, you’re out of excuses to get started. But if you’re still looking to hone your ideas to make the best podcast possible, let’s set up a brainstorming session.