Podcast Studio On A Shoestring Budget
Samantha Lee Wright, podcasting expert, author, and host of the world’s #1 essential oils podcast, talks about how to create a podcast studio on a shoestring budget. Learn why you shouldn’t obsess over gear, what to consider when picking a new microphone, how to improve the audio quality of your recording space, microphone and software – as well as what to focus on when you’re just getting started.
Why Do Aspiring and New Podcasters “Obsess” Over Gear?
For Samantha, this is completely normal for the fact that it’s overwhelming to start a new thing, especially one that requires several technical steps. Oftentimes, the podcasting tools needed aren’t tools we are familiar with on a day-to-day basis, and they aren’t something we have learned about in school.
Chances are you have done some Google searches but have ended up with a ton of options or even insane microphone price tags like $600!
How Samantha Got Started
Samantha started on a very tight budget. She bought a $40 microphone (the Audio Technica ATR-2100) and borrowed $15/month from a friend to pay for hosting.
She already had a laptop and an Internet connection so she was pretty much good to go with this setup.
There are a few myths that aspiring or new podcasters may hear and fall into the trap of believing.
‘You need many different tools, including a $1,000 microphone to get good audio quality’ is an example of that. However, as Samantha shared, you can get close to professional-sounding audio even with a microphone that costs $60.
‘You need the perfect studio with soundproofing, foam pads, and everything else.’ Oh, yes, and ‘you need an editor right off the bat.’ This isn’t necessarily true. If you are just getting started, you can do all these things by yourself (and learn everything relatively quickly).
As Samantha put it, ‘Done is better than perfect.’ And remember that when you do something wrong, you’ll learn much faster than those who have been waiting to do something perfectly.
“‘Done is better than perfect.’ And remember that when you do something wrong, you’ll learn much faster than those who have been waiting to do something perfectly.” Samantha Lee Wright
Podcasting Gear Must-Haves
When it comes to things you have to have, Samantha shares the top 3.
Firstly, a microphone. She recommends using a USB microphone that can be plugged directly into your computer – though she has a student who records through his phone.
A computer… that’s the second thing you should have as a podcaster. And thirdly, a media host. This is the “home for your podcast”, the place where your files will get uploaded to and shared with the world through platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Tips for Buying the “Perfect” Microphone
You don’t need to break the bank to buy a good podcasting microphone.
Samantha started out with the Audio Technica ATR-2100, and now uses the Maono HD300 T dynamic microphone.
Typically, there are two types of microphones. Condenser microphones (what you typically see in music studios, for example) are a bit more luscious than other microphones but are very “unforgiving” when it comes to the sound quality of your room.
The second type of microphones, which is the one Samantha recommends, are dynamic mics. When doing a search online using the keyword ‘dynamic’ make sure that the results you see on Google, Amazon, etc., are indeed dynamic microphones and not ads or sponsored posts for a condenser mic.
If you have a higher budget, Shure microphones are the gold standard in the podcasting industry.
How to Improve the Sound in Our Room
There are a few things you can do to improve the overall acoustics of your recording space.
In the early stages of her podcasting journey, Samantha recorded in her basement and the sound quality was good. Then, her family moved to a new home with an office that was beautiful but was the “worst room for podcasting” – with a tall ceiling, huge glass windows all around.
Samantha fixed the issue by placing a thick rug on the wooden floor and by putting up velvet curtains. As she puts it, ‘the more “layers” of luscious materials you can put in your studio, the better the sound quality is going to be.’ A book shelf, a comfy couch, anything you can use to help with hard surfaces that are in your recording space will lower the amount of echo.
The One Thing Most Podcasters Ignore When It Comes to Their Room Sound Quality
When you are recording, it isn’t just about the space in front of you but about the space behind you too.
Samantha, for instance, bought tapestry and stretched it over a wooden frame with soundproof materials behind it, and placed everything on the wall behind her recording station.
Mic Settings to Improve Your Audio Quality
There are two settings you should pay attention to in order to improve your audio quality.
The first one is the microphone input. On a Mac, go to System Preferences > Sound > Input, click on your microphone and adjust its input volume.
Generally, your mic input shouldn’t go above 50% when you are talking in your normal voice, and it shouldn’t go above 75% if you are getting excited and speak loudly. This is the #1 mistake many people make, and they just don’t know how to fix it.
The second setting has to do with the dial that’s typically on the microphone itself (sometimes it isn’t labeled): the gain. The gain is how loud your microphone picks up sound around it.
Ideally, you would want your gain to be as low as possible without completely canceling out your voice or making you sound like a mouse.
Where to Place Your Microphone
With a dynamic microphone, you should almost “make out with the mic”. Place it around two inches from your mouth to sound more close and personal.
In the case of condenser microphones, go for a distance of about 4 inches.
Recording Platform Options
Needless to say, there are plenty of options you can choose from to record your audio, especially if you host an interview-based show.
There are platforms like Zoom and Skype (which is what Samantha used, in combination of an add-on called eCamm Call Recorder, when she got started), and then there are Zencastr, Riverside and similar.
One of the main differences with these types of platforms is how the platform itself records. With Zoom, Skype, and similar, your voice goes through your microphone, then your computer, and the Internet.
If you are a podcast guest, the host would be recording what’s coming though the Internet. This can be problematic if there are connection issues because the audio quality will be impacted by it.
On the other hand, platforms like Zencastr and Riverside record everything locally, which means that the recording won’t be affected by any potential connection issue.
Remember, though: at the end of the day, your content is what matters most.
Hack for Recording Through Zoom
If you are using Zoom, here’s a hack Samantha recommends implementing right now.
Head over to your settings (on a Mac), go to Recording and tick the box that says Record separate files for each participant. By doing that, an individual audio track will be recorded for each speaker, making it much easier in the editing phase.
Teaching Podcasting Through the Pineapple Podcast Academy
Samantha’s life changed when she started her podcast 7 years ago. Her family was really struggling, and her solution was to start a podcast.
She started on a shoestring budget, and it has been a marathon, but today Samantha hosts a 6-figure podcast.
Now, she teaches all aspects of podcasting through her Pineapple Podcast Academy.
Final Tip for New Podcasters
When you are getting started you shouldn’t focus on the gear but on the show itself. ‘There’s gold in niches. Really think about niching down – go smaller, go weirder, let your freak flag fly a little bit because that’s really the way to get your foot in the door!’
By doing so, you’ll be able to attract people in your niche and become an influencer in that space.
Samantha Lee Wright is not only a master of her platform but a passionate teacher of the podcasting medium itself; leading the next generation of podcasters into the future with clarity and confidence. She mentors new podcasters on their journey with her no-holds-barred online course, Pineapple Podcast Academy –– the online training program which has helped dozens of new creators start and grow their podcasts from scratch.
She believes the world needs great people making great podcasts and big things can happen from the smallest of microphones. With a bootstrapper’s approach to business, she fosters creativity, strategy, and accountability in her students in order to help them achieve success in the podcasting arena. She’s the author of Pineapple Podcasting: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Creating, Launching, and Monetizing a Podcast, with Zero Experience and a Shoestring Budget.
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