A good hook can draw listeners in, but bad sound quality can drive them away. From mics to headphones, we've gathered all the best podcast gear you need for recording professional-quality audio.
I’ve been a contributing editor for PCMag since 2011. Before that, I was PCMag’s lead audio analyst from 2006 to 2011. Even though I’m a freelancer now, PCMag has been my home for well over a decade, and audio gear reviews are still my primary focus. Prior to my career in reviewing tech, I worked as an audio engineer—my love of recording audio eventually led me to writing about audio gear.
Whether you’re just getting started or looking to upgrade your podcast recording setup, gathering all the requisite gear can seem daunting. After all, a good pair of studio headphones and a top-notch microphone can set you back a hefty chunk of change. The sheer variety of options doesn’t help matters, either. 
Thankfully, you don’t need to spend a fortune to seriously upgrade the quality of your recordings (although you certainly can). Here, we’ve gathered some of our favorite options for home recording studios across a range of budgets. Whatever mic you choose will help you record crisp, broadcast-style vocals, and all of the headphones can reproduce audio accurately without leaking sound. Beyond mics and headphones, we also include some accessories, such as desktop mic arms, cables, mixing stations, and audio interfaces to help you achieve the most professional podcast setup possible.
High-End USB Mic
The Apogee HypeMiC takes USB mic recording to another level, applying analog compression to the signal before digitally converting it. That means you get the convenience of USB connectivity, along with the gain and compression of an analog signal, in one easy-to-use package. The HypeMiC isn’t ideal for purists who likely prefer the XLR route, but if you’re fine with USB connectivity, this is an excelent option from an industry titan that specializes in analog-to-digital conversion.
Budget-Friendly USB Mic
You’ve probably seen this mic somewhere—the very cool (no pun intended) Blue Snowball Ice has become a standard of sorts for video productions and podcasts alike, delivering quality audio free of digital signal processing (DSP) for an impressively low price. While it doesn’t quite compete with other mics on this list, it’s affordable enough that you can buy several of them for the price of a single higher-tier alternative. And if you pay attention to your mic placement and technique, you can get solid recordings out of it.
Hybrid USB and XLR Mic
The MV7 takes its design cues from the legendary SM7 mic that Michael Jackson made famous, but adds the option for USB connectivity. If you don’t need USB functionality and can afford it, springing for a real SM7 is probably the better move, but few mics that sound as good as the MV7 are as versatile—it’s one of the only we’ve seen with both XLR and USB outputs. In testing, it delivered quality vocal audio that didn’t require processing, but you can, of course, use the Shure Motiv suite of EQ and compression tools to clean up your recordings.
Secondary XLR Mic
The Rode PodMic is a simple XLR workhouse that is conducive to multi-speaker podcasts because of its affordability. The audio is relatively uncolored, and, although you may want to add a bit more crispness to the high-mids or dial back the lows slightly in post, the initial signal is clear enough that doing so is not a necessity. And the built-in pop filter works quite well (as long as your recording subject vocal has decent mic technique), which means you likely don’t need an external one.
Pop Filter
The Royer PS-101’s metallic screen should be the first indication that this is no garden-variety pop filter—the louvered metal redirects air passing through downward and the filter itself disperses plosives in a natural-sounding manner. Sure, dispersing plosives is what all pop filters do in a bid to protect the mic’s capsule, but some of them can be a little louder than others. The PS-101 is both aurally and visually transparent; on the latter front, the ability to see the mic through the filter can be a real advantage for precision vocalists. Royer makes the PS-101 as the perfect complement to its ribbon mic lineup, but the pop filter work wells with just about any mic with which you pair it.
Desktop Mic Mount
A studio arm helps you make quick, quiet mic adjustments, frees up desk space, and, let’s be honest, looks cool. With the Rode PSA+, vocalists can move the mic while it’s live, and as long as they use a gentle touch, the mic shouldn’t pick up any sounds or vibrations. It can handle just about any mic weight, from the very light to the bulky, and also makes cable management a breeze. Make sure you go for the new PSA1+ over the original PSA1; the former offers several improvements that enable more graceful movements.
High-End Studio Headphones
The Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X headphones are our pick for premium studio over-ears; in addition to being exceptionally comfortable for long listening sessions, they deliver accurate audio with a focus on clarity and balance. They don’t exaggerate either the bass or the highs, so if a track features deep bass, you hear it as it’s intended. The headphones also passively block out ambient noise and don’t leak much audio, which makes them ideal for podcast recording and mixing.
Budget-Friendly Studio Headphones
The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones have been a staple in recording studios for decades, and are our go-to recommendation for tracking and mixing audio on a budget. The earpads feature generous cushioning, while the thick, semi-coiled cabling is sturdy, and the pair stays in place for musicians (or podcast hosts) who tend to move around during recording. If you need to hear audio clearly and precisely in the studio, these over-ears are an excellent value.
Audio Interface
If you plan on recording your audio to your computer and intend to use anything other than USB mics, you need to add an audio interface to your setup. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is well made, easy to operate, and delivers quality, transparent audio. Its two XLR inputs double as quarter-inch instrument inputs, so you can record synths and guitars directly, as well. Furthermore, an Air button allows for brighter, crisper vocals, while you get separate knobs for monitoring volume and headphone levels. Focusrite also bundles a beginner version of ProTools for those interested in trying out one of the industry-standard audio editing suites.
All-in-One Recording Station
If recording to ProTools or GarageBand is more involved than you want to get, an all-in-one recording system like the Rodecaster Pro might be a better fit. This mixer has four mic inputs, works with both XLR and USB mics, and even has Bluetooth channels to loop in remote guests. It also offers built-in sound effects and is intuitive to use. Plus, it looks cool on a desktop.
Quality Mic Cables
Most USB mics come with their cables, but most XLR mics don’t. Therefore, if you plan to record with a quality XLR mic, you need a quality mic cable. You can blow some serious money on cables if that’s your thing, but Mogami cables strike a solid balance between performance and price—a 6-foot cable costs only about $60. This cable terminates in gold-pin Neutrik connectors and can transmit audio cleanly, clearly, and reliably.
Although squaring away your hardware needs is an important first step, that’s not the only thing you have to worry about. You also need to consider how you’ll record and edit your audio, as well as where you’ll host it, which we cover in our story on how to create a successful podcast. And if you need a bit of inspiration to help get you started, check out our roundup of the best podcasts.
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I’ve been a contributing editor for PCMag since 2011. Before that, I was PCMag’s lead audio analyst from 2006 to 2011. Even though I’m a freelancer now, PCMag has been my home for well over a decade, and audio gear reviews are still my primary focus. Prior to my career in reviewing tech, I worked as an audio engineer—my love of recording audio eventually led me to writing about audio gear.
Read Tim’s full bio
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