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Use Skype and GarageBand to make a podcast that sounds great

Jason Snell | Sept. 2, 2011
Call me a podcast snob if you will—I certainly call myself one—but I just can’t bear to listen to a podcast with bad audio.

I’ve been doing a lot of podcasting lately. In the last year I’ve probably edited and posted something like 85 different podcast episodes, between my half-time duties on the Macworld Podcast and the podcasts I do in my personal time. During that time I’ve learned a whole lot about what to do—and just as importantly, what not to do—in order to make a podcast that sounds good.

In 2009 our own Christopher Breen detailed his methods for producing the Macworld Podcast as well as our favorite gear for podcasting. Those articles are both great, and worth reading if you’re thinking of becoming a podcaster or are a podcaster looking for ways to improve.

Get a microphone

Call me a podcast snob if you will—I certainly call myself one—but I just can’t bear to listen to a podcast with bad audio. And there are lots of them out there. Good audio starts with the recording itself, and that means everyone on the podcast needs a good microphone.

At home I’ve got a Blue Snowball USB microphone, which sounds great, comes with its own tripod stand, and is reasonably priced—$62 on as I write this. In talking this over with Chris Breen, I’ve heard some tales of Snowballs gone bad—fortunately, there are other good-sounding, affordable USB microphones out there, such as the MXL USB006 ($81 at Amazon) and the Audio-Technica AT2020 ($91 at Amazon).

At work I’ve got a $149 Samson G-Track, which adds fancy features like a headphone jack so I can hear myself talk. (Blue offers a similar microphone, the Yeti, which I found for $90 on Amazon.)

Some people insist on using headset microphones for podcasting, but I can’t say I’ve ever been impressed with the sound they create. Many of them are of low quality, the sound is often overmodulated, and they excel at picking up breathing noises. I don’t recommend them. I’ve also done a few podcasts with people using their iPhone headsets plugged into a MacBook; the sound quality isn’t terrible, but it can be pretty noisy unless you hold your head absolutely still.

Some audio purists will insist that you put your microphone on a boom arm clamped to a desk, with some sort of shock absorber in the middle. We’ve got such a rig in the Macworld Podcave, but at home I just hold the Blue Snowball in my hand and it sounds fine.

Bottom line: if you’re planning on podcasting with someone who doesn’t have a USB microphone, pressure them into buying one.

Everyone records


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