33% of people claim low quality is the reason they don’t listen to podcasts, according to Riverside.fm. Your podcast is an extension of your brand, and investing in its quality reflects the high standards of your work. The world of podcasting has expanded beyond just good audio; it’s now a platform that demands a combination of crisp sound, adequate lighting, and engaging speaking.

We rounded up our favorite video and audio podcast gear into three sections:

  1. Microphone
  2. Camera
  3. Lighting

Below, we give you an entry level and intermediate option for each (six total options).

woman smiling microphone recording

Everything on this list we’ve tested and used over the years so you can trust these recs will get you there, even if you buy only the lower cost items.

Your audience wants more than just expert advice. They yearn for a connection with you, the host, and a seamless listening experience. Upgrading your microphone, optimizing lighting for video podcasts, and refining your speaking skills can significantly elevate the quality of your podcast, making it more appealing to your listeners.

Microphone (2 Options)

First, let’s talk about microphones – the foundation of good sound. Investing in a high-quality microphone can make all the difference in capturing clear, immersive audio. Avoid built-in laptop or headset microphones, which often pick up unwanted background noise.

Even if you’re a guest on a podcast just once, buying a nice mic is an investment in your career. With all the Zoom meetings you’ll be on for the rest of your life, it’s worth sounding great. How you look and sound in a Zoom meeting is the equivalent to how you show up as far as clothing and appearance. Sloppy or ripped clothes would make a poor impression; on a video call, tinny audio and low res video have the same effect.

For your podcast and future video calls, opt for either a USB or XLR microphone, based on your technical capabilities and budget. USB microphones are user-friendly and relatively affordable, making them ideal for beginners. XLR microphones, on the other hand, offer higher sound quality but require an audio interface for connection to your computer. Additionally, a pop filter and a sound shield can further enhance your audio quality by reducing unwanted plosive sounds and echo respectively. But they’re optional, what you really need is a great USB or XLR mic on a tripod stand or boom arm. And plug in your AirPods or a wired headset.

Whatever you do, don’t use your laptop’s built-in mic or speaker on a podcast!

Mic Option 1: Blue Yeti (popular and decent)

Blue Yeti USB Microphone

Four distinct pickup patterns allow you to record in ways that would normally require multiple mics.

This is affordable, popular, and super easy to use. It’s a USB mic that sounds alright and easily plugs into Mac or PC with no additional equipment. Blue Yeti USB Microphone

But we really recommend option 2 below; in the long run, another $150 or so doesn’t matter and you won’t miss it. Amortize this over the years you’ll use this mic (think about cost per Zoom). If you are going to use this for Zoom and any podcast or video recordings for years, why not get the best value with rich sound that is still just the cost of a blouse or nice dinner?

Below: The simplest, best value (value does not mean cheap!), plug and play USB/XLR professional sounding mic we recommend is the Shure MV7.

Mic Option 2: Shure MV7 (level up and value, the way to go)

Shure MV7 microphone

The Shure MV7 is a professional-quality USB/XLR dynamic microphone inspired by the legendary $399 SM7B, ideal for close mic applications that require vocal intelligibility with a balanced tone. A touch panel interface on the microphone provides control…

Option A) Bundle with mic + small tripod desk stand. Easy, great quality, plug and play. Shop mic + tripod bundle on Amazon.

Option B) Bundle with mic + Gator 3000 boom stand (clamps to desk, can swivel around, a bit more pro – we have tested many boom stands and the cheap ones are terrible, just pay a bit more for the Gator, trust us). Shop mic + boom stand bundle on Amazon.

  • Great sound, rivals the $399 Shure SM7B
  • Why we like it: USB is simpler than XLR (no additional equipment)
  • Sound incredible on every future Zoom call or podcast. You will get compliments.

Camera (2 Options)

Camera Option 1: Logitech Brio 4k Webcam

Let’s keep this simple. Get a good quality 4K webcam. We like the Logitech Brio. Here’s why:

  • Easy USB plug-in (Mac and PC friendly)
  • Crisp video – you will look great
  • Has a privacy cover you can flip up or down easily
  • Has a built-in mic if you don’t have a mic (but we don’t recommend using that for a podcast)

Camera Option 2: Sony ZV-1 II Camera

Sony ZV-1 II camera

The ZV-1 II is an ideal all-round vlog camera. Compact and portable, it features a wide-angle zoom lens for versatile framing, a 1.0-type image sensor for great image quality, and an intelligent microphone for clear audio recording.

If you want to really level up and spend more, the Sony ZV-1 II is an excellent camera. It’s great for vlogging or talking head videos. There is a learning curve but YouTube can help there.

Note: The earlier Sony ZV-1 is great too and will save you about $150. Here’s Emily’s Day 1 review video of the ZV-1 (how it looks for a brand new user without reading the manual).

Lighting (2 Options)

When it comes to lighting, it’s crucial for video podcasts. Your audience wants to see you clearly and comfortably. The only thing worse than poor sound quality is someone dimly lit. It looks unprofessional and is distracting. Fortunately, it’s easy for you to shine and be well lit!

office desk podcast recording setup

Lighting Option 1: Ring Light

The cheap and easy improvement is a simple ring light. This one is only $17 and gets the job done. EMART 10″ Selfie Ring Light

But let’s go a little beyond that, without complicating things. For a professional look, employ the three-point lighting setup: the key light, the fill light, and the back light.

  • The key light, typically the brightest, should be placed to one side of your camera facing you.
  • The fill light, on the opposite side, helps eliminate shadows cast by the key light.
  • Lastly, the back light, positioned behind you, adds depth by subtly separating you from the background.

Lighting Option 2: LED panel lightsNeewer panel lights kit

These panels that we suggest our podcast clients use at home come with adjustable brightness and color temperature give you flexibility in creating the perfect ambiance for your podcast. We love this pack of two panel lights from Neewer.

Panel lights features:

  • adjustable from warm to cool
  • low to high brightness
  • height adjustable on a tripod
  • easy to set up
  • operate plugged in or on Built-In Lithium Battery
  • Ultra-Thin LED Screen

How to set up panel lights for filming video (talking head):

  1. Put one panel in front of your face, at least a couple feet away.
  2. Put one panel above your face to one side, angled 45 degrees for “hair lighting”. This means you’ll have slight shadows, making a nicer shot and depth to the face which is flattering more than even spill light.
  3. Level up to three-point lighting: you can use a ring light PLUS these two panel lights for greater depth and shadows or to have additional lighting in a dim room.

Shop all these products on Emily’s Amazon Idea List – we made it easy. The list includes all the above as single items and has two bundle options for the Shure MV7 (so you get the tripod or boom stand with it).

How you show up on audio and video is key to building trust and an engaged audience. Ten years ago you could get away with blurry video and tinny sound. Now it’s too easy to look and sound good to sound like it’s 2013. Share your voice better with these simple equipment recommendations.

Related podcast: Once your equipment is locked in, here are some speaking and voice tips: 4 Tips to Improve Your Voice with Vocalics – play on Spotify

Need help? Our Tech Support is here to:

  • Help you decide which items to buy
  • Video chat to set up your new or old gear perfectly in under 45 minutes

Book a virtual podcast equipment setup session. Talk to you soon!