The $1,000 Podcasting Setup

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I figure between (as I write) the 267 episodes of ShopTalk, 134 episodes of CodePen Radio, 154 video screencasts (and many hundreds more as part of the different series), and all my guest podcast apperances, I’m edging on 1,000 things I’ve voice-recorded for public consumption.

98% of that was with the Rode Podcaster, the same exact microphone I documented using in 2008. I figured it was about time for an upgrade, as I plan to continue podcasting and screencasting for another 10 years! I know audio quality is a big deal. I don’t quite consider myself an audiophile, but I know I prefer listening to podcasts with good audio quality, and I’d like to make sure what I produce is as good of quality as is practical for me right now.

I had our podcast editor Chris Enns on ShopTalk to talk gear’n’stuff, and this setup is largely his recommendations. A good part of the beauty of this setup is that it’s designed around making it sound like you’re in an amazing studio, without actually having to be.

Shure SM7B ($399)

Pictured here with the big alternate big fluffy cover that it ships with, which is helpful for minimizing breathing noises and pop filtering.

As Shure says, the SM7B has:

flat, wide-range frequency response for exceptionally clean and natural reproduction of both music and speech.

It’s a pretty dang good microphone. (Chris Enns also recommended the Heil PR 40, which is in the same range.) On my desk, I have a Swivel Mount Boom Arm to put it on, so I can swing it into place when using it, and swing it away when I’m not.

Like most pretty dang good microphones, it’s not “USB”. It has an XLR plug, and you’ll need an XLR cable to plug it into our next device…

DBX 286s ($196)

Chris Enns described DBX 286s to me as a sound sweetener.

It’s an optional bit, but plugging the microphone into this first does a bunch of nice stuff for you. It’s a big part of the “sound like your in a nice studio when you aren’t” situation.

It looks kind of scary, since there are a whole bunch of knobs and buttons on it and they all actually do things. I found setup videos like this helpful:

The DBX 286x outputs in a 1/4″ cable, so you’ll need a XLR Male to 1/4″ Male to plug it into…

Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 ($189)

This is the device that you actually plugin into your computer via USB. Your computer will recognize it as a sound input device.

The Focusrite Scarlett comes in a variety of models, mostly differentiated by how many inputs it has. If you know you’ll only ever need one input, the Solo model has you covered at $99. I went for the 2i4 model which has two microphone inputs and four instrument inputs, just in case I want to do something a bit more robust with it at some point. Even just having a second podcast guest in the same vicinity, you could pipe them into one computer and get separate tracks, which is cool.

With the DBX 286s, you won’t need any gain from the Focusrite Scarlett, but if you skip the DBX 286s (which you totally can), you will.


On my desk, I have it all stacked up like this:

That’s Shure SM7B > DBX 286s > Scarlett Focusrite > Computer.

Then I use Audio Hijack Pro to record, so I can get the mono-audio recorded on both left and right channels properly.

All Together