Articles, podcasts and news about Swift development, by John Sundell.

What hardware and software do I use to produce podcasts?

Answered on 04 Aug 2020

At first, it might seem like starting a podcast requires a ton of expensive equipment and software, and while it’s certainly true that you can spend a quite enormous amount of money on various kinds of audio gear, I really don’t think that’s necessary for the average podcaster.

When I started the Swift by Sundell podcast back in August 2017, I had no idea where that journey would take me, and that the show would end up becoming as popular as it has. So, I wanted to get started as cheaply as possible — while still being able to produce a show of reasonable quality — since, for all I knew, I could’ve just ended up making one or two episodes and then calling it quits.

After doing a fair amount of research online, I ended up purchasing the Blue Yeti USB microphone, which I still think is a quite good microphone for beginners. Its very wide pickup pattern doesn’t require much in terms of microphone technique, and it’s easy to plug it into any computer using USB. I also paired that microphone with a standard pop filter from my local music store.

However, the Blue Yeti’s wide pickup pattern, along with the microphone’s very high sensitivity, can also be a downside depending on the recording environment that it’s being used in. If you’re recording in a room with lots of hard surfaces (such as stone or concrete walls), you’ll likely end up with quite a lot of room echo within your recordings, and the Blue Yeti will also pick up most other types of unwanted background noise as well.

So although I ended up using the Blue Yeti for quite a while — along with placing lots of blankets and cushions within my office while recording (the classic “Podcasting blanket fort”, as I call it) — I eventually decided that it was time to upgrade to a microphone with a more narrow pickup pattern and less sensitivity.

To that end, I consulted Marco Arment’s excellent Podcasting Microphones Mega-Review, and ended up buying the Shure Beta 87A, along with the K&M 23850 microphone stand and the Focusrite Scarlett Solo XLR/USB audio interface — which is the setup that I currently use. While the Beta 87A does require much more precision when it comes to how you speak into the microphone (especially when compared to the Blue Yeti), it has amazing audio quality, and picks up very little room echo and background noise.

As for software, I used the exact same strategy as when purchasing hardware. I wanted to get started quickly and without having to make any large up-front investments, so I used Apple’s GarageBand for editing, along with the open source app Audacity for processing each audio file before editing (mainly by applying normalization and noise reduction).

I still use Audacity to this day. Its user interface might not be a shining example of a beautifully designed Mac app, but it’s incredibly powerful. However, I’ve now upgraded from GarageBand to Logic Pro X, which I both find easier to use for podcast production, and it offers a much larger suite of compressors, equalizers, and other tools that are incredibly useful when dealing with audio files of varying quality. I now also use Marco Arment’s Forecast app to encode each episode’s metadata, like its chapters and show art, into its MP3 file.

To record each episode of both Swift by Sundell and Stacktrace, I use Cast — which is a web app that makes it easy to record with other people remotely, while still performing local, high-quality audio recordings. I typically also ask each guest to do a second, local recording using Quicktime, as a backup in case of any internet connectivity problems.

Finally, I host my podcast’s MP3 files on Libsyn, and generate its RSS feed (along with this entire website) in Swift using Publish.

So there you have it, those are the tools that I use to bring my podcasts to life. There are of course a huge range of other tools available, both hardware-wise and software-wise, and I’m in no way claiming that these tools are the absolutely best ones you can possibly find — but they work really well for me.

Here are all of the tools that I currently use, once more, in list-form: