Podcast Software Roundup: Tools You Should Be Using
Good podcast software gives creators the power to minimize workload and boost productivity. But, researching and discovering the software that best suits your needs can be one of the biggest challenges you face during the podcast development phase. The choices can seem endless, and the mountains of information are confusing.
In this article, we break down the software that every podcaster needs, as well as our top recommendations from the team who use it daily. So, Let's review the top podcast tools and services to make your production more efficient and professional.
Before deciding on the software you need, taking stock of the hardware you have or are looking to invest in is a good idea. Doing so will help eliminate your chances of buying or signing up for redundant software, which will save time and money in the long run.
1. USB or XLR Microphone
The primary gear you need to record your podcast is a microphone. Two different kinds are most effective, the USB microphone and the XLR microphone.
USB microphones can connect directly to your computer via a USB cable. The USB options require minimal setup, are relatively easy to install, and are low-cost and portable- which is why budding podcasters favor them.
However, there are downsides to USB mics. They tend to have a low sound quality, and you can only record with one mic at a time, giving you reduced control or little room for adjustment.
- Audio Technica ATR2100
- Audio Technica AT2005 USB
- Shure SM7B microphone
- Shure MV7 USB Microphone
- Rode Podcaster
Some podcasters find it worth investing in an XLR microphone and cable for a more professional and higher-quality sound.
2. Audio Interface/Mixer
If you are using an XLR connection, you'll need an audio mixer. A mixer is what will connect your microphone to your computer and provides more volume control and editing flexibility.
Focusrite Scarlette 2i2 is a simple-to-use audio mixer that connects XLR microphones to your computer via a USB-C cable. However, if you want a wider set of studio controls, you can look at the RODECaster. You can connect up to four microphones and have more control via its eight programmable settings.
3. Windscreen or Pop Filter
Podcasters need to get relatively close to the microphone to ensure their voice is clear. But, getting close can mean you create popping sounds, known as plosives. Plosives occur when a pop of air shoots from your mouth into the microphone. These sounds often arise from words with hard consonants such as the first 'p,' 't,' 'k,' 'd', 'b,' and some 'g' words like "podcast" or "publish."
A pop filter or foam mic cover will drastically reduce pops and plosives. These filters act as a barrier between the speaker and the microphone. In addition, they help disperse the pop of air from those specific words.
4. Studio-Quality Headphones
Headphones are so crucial for podcasters. Wearing headphones stops your mic from picking up feedback during recording and lets you hear how the recorded audio will sound in real-time. During recording, if you hear an unwanted sound, you can stop, make adjustments and ensure that you capture the highest quality recording.
5. Adjustable Microphone Boom Arm & Stands
We suggest investing in a boom arm or mic stand to stop unwanted noise from knocks and bumps of the table from reaching your microphone.
"What you're really after when you get a boom arm is that it's easy to reposition, but also that the microphone sits in a cradle. So that if you bump the table, or stamp your foot or anything like that, the shock waves don't transfer as strongly to the microphone," Audio engineer, Alex Bennett
Stands and boom arms can vary in price. From $30 to over $100, from beginner to pro, there is something for all price points and experience levels. However, we have found that cheaper boom arms often creak and squeak when moved. Also, if they are spring-loaded, they can tend to sag over time, making it challenging to keep the microphone at a reasonable distance from your mouth.
We suggest investing in something stable, portable, and easy to maneuver that will stand the test of time. A floor-mounted stand could be the best option for those wanting a more professional setup and sound.
- Pro Tip: Make sure your stand is compatible with your microphone and its accessories.
Before you can start recording, you need a computer capable of running your podcast recording software. The software you'll be using is what will capture and save the recording as an audio file.
Admittedly, it doesn't matter which operating system you use, just as long as the software you have chosen is compatible and your computer is powerful enough to manage your digital audio workstation (DAW).
We suggest you check all your hardware's requirements - checking the CPU, RAM, and overall storage capacity. For example, Audacity's audio editing software requires 2 GHz of processing speed or similar and 4GB of RAM.
Choosing the Right Podcast Software
Once you have your basic setup for recording your podcast, it's time to invest in the right podcast software. If you're on a strict budget, carefully considering the price of the software in your purchasing decision is essential. This is because your software stack can add up, not only in programs you're using but in price too.
You can get some great tools for free, but as with most software, if you want the highest quality, it's worth investing.
Researching the best audio software to use can be a lengthy and complex process. As with most things within podcasting, you have to ask yourself, what do I need to achieve the goals of my podcast?
Is simplicity something you're looking for to save editing time? Do you have a minimal budget or skill set, so want a free piece of software to broaden your editing knowledge while keeping costs low? Perhaps you're going to be onboarding a professional editing team and want to provide them with the right professional tools.
When selecting podcast editing software, you should first understand your degree of expertise. Starting with complicated software you don't understand adds a complex layer to the podcast process. Also, you do not want to be overpaying for features you'll never use.
Whatever your goals, we have suggestions for everyone at all levels, from our audio wizard, Alex Benett, Lower Street's lead audio engineer.
1. Audacity (free)
Audacity can do most of what you need, such as cut, splice, and edit, all within one place. What many budding podcasters seem to love about Audacity is that it has a very low point of entry. In addition, the program is laid out in a way that makes simple edits an intuitive experience, meaning you can learn how to use it relatively quickly.
Unlike some free editing software, Audacity also can export your podcast in different files in multiple formats such as MP3, WAV, and AIF. While it is one of the most basic options you can opt for, it does house some powerful features, including "Truncate Silence," "Silence Finder," and saveable EQ settings.
- Free to download and use
- Great selection of recording and editing options, including live audio recording and importing digitized audio files from other media types and sources
- Able to support most audio file formats
- Windows, Linux, and Mac compatible
- Supports 16-bit, 24-bit, and 32-bit audio quality
- It doesn't support multitrack recording.
- No advanced editing features can hold back ambitious podcasters looking to get creative with their audio (i.e., narrative podcasts with vast soundscapes)
- It doesn't have a mobile app.
- You can't upload directly to your podcast hosting platform.
"Audacity can be tempting because it's free, but it's a bit limited. It's also not a great piece of software to stare at," explains Alex. "If you're doing the editing, you'll be in it for hours at a time."
While it does have some significant limitations, it's a great place to start.
2. Adobe Audition
Adobe Audition is a tremendous audio workstation developed by Adobe Inc that's comprehensive and has most, if not all, of the tools a podcast editor could ask for. Their well-designed workstation includes multitrack, waveform, and spectral display to give you the capacity to mix, edit, and restore audio content.
"Adobe Audition is probably the most common DAW people use. It strikes a nice balance between being powerful and beginner friendly," says Alex. "It's not a full-throated endorsement, but I'd recommend it for those starting."
- Easily add music, segues, and fades to your audio.
- Lots of audio templates and presets with the capacity to save templates as automated scripts.
- Has outstanding noise reduction capabilities, plus advanced audio restoration and compression capabilities.
- You can batch-process effects onto several files simultaneously.
- It is part of the Adobe suite, so you can get Photoshop as part of a package to help with your podcast design.
- Lots of user guides and resources online.
- Costly. A year of Adobe Audition will cost you $239.88 (as of August 2022). You can save a little money if you pay in advance. A monthly subscription is around $20.
- While it is relatively "beginner friendly," it is best suited for experienced podcasters.
Adobe Audition is undoubtedly a capable DAW. It has many great features and gives beginners a great introduction to more professional editing software.
3. iZotope RX Standard
Our top recommendation will be iZotope RX Standard if you have the budget. It features a wealth of valuable and advanced tools such as de-click, de-clip, gain management, voice de-noise, and more.
iZotope is an audio repair toolkit used on well-known albums, movies, and TV shows to restore noisy or damaged audio to a pristine condition. iZotope RX Standard is an editing powerhouse in that you will be fully equipped to resolve most editing issues. For Alex, his top plugins are De-Noise, De-Clip, and De-Click, stating them as "Black magic. When you get them dialed in properly, they work absolute wonders."
- Generous amount of presets
- Supports Windows: from 10 (64-Bit) and Mac OS (64 Bit): from 10.14.6
- Simple interface but advanced features
- Can fix a vast range of common issues in audio, from clipping and clicking to background noise
- It's both a suite of plugins and an editor
- You can review the audio's waveform and spectrogram on a granular level
- Lots of resources and guides available online
- Integrations between other editing software (such as ProTools) can be buggy.
- It can give a false sense of confidence. Don't relax when recording just because you think you can 'fix it in post.'
- Removing loads of background noise can degrade the audio quality as it strips noise.
- Specific plugins (De-Click, Spectral De-Noise) work the CPU hard. You may have to upgrade your CPU or resign yourself to waiting a few seconds for the audio to render.
"It's a shiny hammer, so everything will look like a nail when you first get it. Relax, and use sparingly," says Alex.
LOWER STREET PRO TIP
"One thing I'd add," suggests Alex. "Be careful asking audio nerds about the best software to use. They might have a niche or strong opinions about the best tools. You might end up editing in Hindenburg, which lots of people rate highly, but there isn't the vast pool of knowledge to draw on like there is with Audition or other more mainstream tools."
Skype or Zoom
Recording a podcast with a guest, host, or co-host can be a logistical nightmare. Sometimes recording remotely is the only option available.
Services like Skype or Zoom offer the freedom to record anywhere worldwide. In addition, both are relatively simple to install and set up. All you have to do during your session is make your call, hit record, have your conversation, and then save the audio file for editing.
However, Zoom does have a time limit for free chats of up to 45 minutes (depending on your subscription tier). In comparison, Skype is free no matter the call length, as long as you're calling another Skype user.
Recording separate audio files for each participant is a helpful feature. It helps with editing and improving sound quality. You can do this by using the settings under Recording > Local Recording > Record a separate audio file for each participant.
The great thing about this is your podcast guest doesn't need to have a Zoom account or download any software for the call. Instead, they only need to click on a custom link you provide and send.
- Physical distance is no longer a barrier.
- Simple to use. Your podcast guest doesn't need a Zoom account or download any software. All you need to do is send the link, press record, and talk.
- Record a video version of the podcast interview
- Video conferencing software sacrifices audio (and video) quality for speed and ease of use.
- Relies on a quality internet connection. If you have a bad signal, you'll have lousy audio.
Alternative Video Conference software:
Riverside offers, not only local recording where everything is recorded directly on your device (so no internet connection is needed). You can also have up to 8 participants in one studio, with no recording time constraints, capture video in up to 4K, and have separate tracks for all participants!
Communication, planning, and workflow software can be essential for podcasters working in a team environment. Slack is the ideal communication tool for podcasters and their team. Slack features include direct messaging between members, notifications and alerts, document sharing, group chat, and search. Slack offers integration with many third-party services, including Google Drive and Dropbox,
- Slack offers Free Pro ($6.67/mth) and Business ($12.50/mth) plans. The free version does have its limitations. Upgrading to a paid plan to access more features.
Project Management Software
Podcasts and podcast episodes involve multiple moving parts and small details. Therefore, a project management tool is key for keeping organized, consistent, and on top of tasks and to-do lists. Programs such as Asana and ClickUp act as hubs for your work tasks. The software is specifically designed to keep everything in one place. You can import docs, set and track tasks for other team members, chat, set and mark-off specific goals, add visual widgets for team members, and track your time. The possibilities are seemingly endless!
- ClickUp offers Free, Unlimited ($5/mth), Business ($12/mnth), and Business Plus ($19/month). All price plans come with their limitations and additional features.
- Asana offers Free, premium ($10.99/mnth), and Business ($24.99/mnth). Premium has a wealth of features that make project management a smooth experience.
To get the best use of these management tools, it's worth creating (or even downloading) episode templates so everyone keeps organized and consistent with the content.
A podcast hosting site is a platform that stores and distributes podcast audio files. These sites provide you with an RSS feed, which you submit to multiple podcast directories, such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, etc.
Every time you upload and publish a new episode to your hosting site, it automatically updates all your synced podcast directories. This form of distribution allows listeners to tune into your new content within their favorite podcast app.
Many podcast hosting sites and services are available, and a lot to consider when choosing which one to sign up for. Price, technical support, monthly upload allowance, storage, podcast monetization, reliability, ease of use, analytic tools, and marketing features are just a few.
Libsyn, Buzzsprout, Simplecast, and Podbean are great starter hosting sites. They all provide monthly subscription services and vary wildly in their scope of features. So, it's worth diving into your overall podcasting goals, understanding what you need from your hosting site, and doing some research before committing.
- FREE: Anchor is an excellent free option that is relatively user-friendly. Owned by Spotify, this site is really simple but has limited options. Unlike other host sites, you can edit on the platform, which means you can keep everything all in one place.
Of all the hosting sites we have worked with, our top suggestion for most podcasters is Transistor- especially if you have a big team or multiple shows. Its simple interface makes uploading episodes, distributing, and monitoring them easy.
The data coming in matters for us, especially if we are running marketing campaigns or need a clear overview of how a podcast's content is performing. Transistor offers detailed statistics around monthly listens, average downloads per episode, total listens per episode, which apps and devices listeners are using, and which country listeners are tuning in from.
- Price: Transistor has three pricing plans STARTER: $19/month, yearly $190/year PROFESSIONAL: $49/month, yearly $490/year. BUSINESS: $99/month, yearly $990/year.
Social media can be a difficult nut to crack for podcasters. Podcasts are an audio format; there is only so much you can share with your followers. That's where audiograms can be a handy visibility tool to help boost engagement with your podcast.
Headliner is a simple, easy-to-use online software that converts your podcast audio into animated videos for multiple platforms. Within this program, you can edit your audio into an audio-visual asset with customized background and animated waveform.
The great aspect of Headliner is that you can add captions. Studies have shown that users are more likely to interact with videos if they include captions. In addition, the Headliner's neat transcription tool makes writing and syncing captions simple.
They have three payment plans: Free $0, Basic $7.99/mo, Pro $19.99/mo. Unfortunately, the free version is fairly limited, with only five non-watermarked videos a month.
If you are creating a podcast, you will need software- there's no escaping that fact. But, to reduce costs and save time, you should invest in the podcast software that best suits your needs.
Before you start downloading or buying programs, get the gear you need. Your best starting points are a quality mic, boom arm, pop filter, headphones, and mixer. Then, start shopping for the editing, recording, and communication software to ensure you're creating the best content possible.
At Lower Street, we have a wealth of experts that can help you decide what you need or even take on the task of producing and editing a quality show for you. Head to our services page for more details.