The Input and Record steps of making a podcast tend to bleed together when most people speak about when discussing how they record a podcast. However, they are independent stages; the two just happen to be in close proximity in a chain of events. Considering them as separate steps allows you to think through exactly how you want to record and what you want to use.
There are two primary ways to accomplish the Record step:
- A stand-alone recording device
- A computer with recording software
Note: This excludes analog and other outdated methods of recording a podcast.
Now, the point of this article isn’t going to cover the act of how to record a podcast; We should clear up any confusion for new people. In this article, we’re going to delve into the options which should be considered. And we’ll discuss the impact on your workflow.
With that out of the way, let’s move forward…
Using a Recorder to Record a Podcast
Using a recorder is still a popular option for podcasters. And this is for a good reason: They’re relatively easy to operate and travel with which is great for going mobile to record a podcast. Many get used in the studio as the microphone. (This is how your buddy Ron rolls.) So they can do double duty for you as both your input and recording device.
There’s one more advantage to using a recorder. They are added to a chain of hardware as a means of making a simultaneous backup of all locally inputted audio. This is usually accomplished by plugin the device into a mixer or USB audio input device.
The downside: Using a recorder to record a podcast introduces an extra step in the recording process. After a recording session, someone transfers the audio file from the recorder to a computer for editing. (Obviously, this could also be an analog audio workstation if that’s your jam, old school.)
Pick a recorder with microphone input(s). This would be the one big recommendation on things to look for when picking a device. The integrated microphones tend not to be the best; though, they are passable for starting out. Microphone inputs allow you to use the recorder with a higher-end dedicated mic when you’re ready.
Using a DAW to Record a Podcast
The second of the two options is to record directly to DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software on a computer. DAWs include programs such as GarageBand, Audacity, Adobe Audition, Hindenburg Journalist, or Reaper, to name a few.
Recording a podcast directly to your computer cuts down on steps. There’s no need to transfer the audio files anywhere once the recording is complete. They’re already in their tracks, lined up, and ready for you to listen to and edit.
DAWs can also handle more tracks, often. In fact, there’s no reasonable limit on how many people can be recorded simultaneously. While there are stand-alones that can do move than two tracks at a time, they tend to be very spendy and out of the financial reach of most podcasters.
Which option is right?
There isn’t a right or wrong here. For my setup, recording directly to a DAW made the most sense:
- I sometimes record more than two people — up to four at a time
- I don’t do mobile recordings
So, based on those two things, a recorder wasn’t necessary. There isn’t even a recorder in my hardware chain; though, I do own one. The In The Rabbit Hole podcast uses a digital backup system instead. The thought was, if both the backup digital recorder and the DAW go down, the entire computer must have gone down. In that case, the own point is mute because a physical recorder wouldn’t solve the breakdown.
However, if the criteria and needs were different, then something like a Zoom or Tascam might make sense. Those things to consider would be the following:
- Less than three people being recorded at a time
- OR not caring if everyone in the recording is in a separate track
- Needing the option to go mobile easily
It should be noted: You record a podcast on the go and record directly into a DAW. It will mean dragging more gear with you and using a laptop.
But there is something to be said for carrying as little gear with you to a remote session as possible.
The nice part of this decision-making process is this: Because you begin with using one strategy to record a podcast it doesn’t mean your stuck or can’t switch easily. You may even find the need to do both depending on the situation. So don’t fret over it too much.
Resource: For more on how to record a podcast, see our podcast recording software article.