Podcasting equipment on a budget – get started for less than £100

21 Mar

Just to show you what I use. I am not saying this is the best or the most up-to-date, but I will say why it works for us.

Dictaphone

Dictaphone: Olympus DS-2 Digital Voice RecorderFor most of our recording I just use this Dictaphone, plonked on a table in-between a few people. It is a very adaptable approach, and because it it so small and unobtrusive people can forget it is there and relax.

This particular model, the Olympus DS-2 has proved popular with colleagues because it is really straightforward to use, not too many buttons. You can show someone how to use it in five minutes. I see Amazon has it for £63 at the moment.

The drawback is the somewhat poorer sound quality – it is normally perfectly good, but suffers where there is background noise, a typical consequence of using dictaphones at a distance. If you want perfect podcasts, then yes you are better with a specialist mic, up close to your interviewees mouth, in a sound-proofed room. But if you are recording on the fly, recording live events and talks, you will find this is does the job well – I have even had good results recording panel discussions with it.

I would just add though – when I transfer the files to my computer, the format is .wma which is not accepted by the free editing  software I use, Audacity. I use Format Factory to convert the files to .wav, then import to Audacity.

Microphone

Microphone: Samson CO3We got this microphone, a Samson CO3U condenser Microphone with USB, for high-quality recordings. We have a small desktop stand, and use it plugged directly into a laptop. It costs arond £80-90.

It does give better quality output than the dictaphone, but I find I use it less often. Partly because it is less portable due to needing a latop and a weighted stand. Partly because it is just so much easier to show someone else how to use the dictaphone (so I don’t have to attend every talk that is to be recorded). But what has turned out to be most important factor is the sheer size and presence of it.  Interviewees tend to be impressed and slightly intimidated. It sits right in front of them reminding them constantly that they are being recorded, making them feel self-conscious. Of course people get used to it, but if you are recording a range of people new to being recorded, using the dictaphone feels kinder.

Editing software

Screenshot of Audacity in actionAs I mentioned, I use Audacity. Yes because it is free, but also because it is easy to pick up, reliable and gives good results.

There are plenty of tools to cut and edit with. I probably now only use the amplify and fade in/out effects but that is all you really need (noise reduction doesn’t really work unfortunately). I found the more I fiddle with little segments, the more it starts to show.

I won’t start explaining how to use Audacity here as I am sure you can find instructions on the web if you need them. I think you can pick up a lot just by playing with it, but that might take a little time. AGCAS members can get full and helpful instructions written by James Mears from here.

So in the end, if you are starting out making podcasts: for most people I recommend you get Audacity + Dictaphone for general and multi-purpose use; but get Audacity + condensor microphone if you know you want to focus on one-to-one high-quality recordings with regular contributors. And this is all you need to get started – easily under £100.

condenser Microphone with USB

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