Microphones, mixers, software, and more podcasting tools can help you podcast better, but when is it actually worth upgrading your podcast equipment?
This topic was inspired by our recent discussion about the evolution of a podcaster's gear in Podcasters' Roundtable.
1. Think before upgrading to “improve your quality”
Many podcasters will think they need to upgrade something to improve their quality. This can be true, at times. But other times, you need to learn how to properly use the tools you already have.
For example, the Audio Technica ATR2100-USB ($40–$60) is a great starting microphone for most podcasters. I would score this mic at about 7.5 out of 10 for a podcasting microphone. But I would give the Electro Voice RE320 ($300) or Heil PR40 ($325) both 9 out of 10. So is an extra 1.5 “points” worth spending an extra $300? Maybe, maybe not.
Misuse an ATR2100-USB, RE320, PR40, or any professional microphone, and you'll still sound horrible.
Thus, upgrading your microphone or other equipment is not a guaranteed way to improve your quality. Sometimes, it can help, but sometimes, you can do more to improve with what you already have.
2. Upgrade when your podcasting tool is causing frustrations
You may be merely tolerating the podcasting tools you have. Maybe a program keeps crashing, something is extremely slow, or something is so complicated that you keep messing up settings.
These frustrations can often be solved by replacing or upgrading the tools you're using.
Here are some examples.
- Poor performance on your popular website can often be resolved by upgrading to better hosting.
- A slow workflow with your audio-editing software can often be resolved by upgrading to better or easier software.
- Hiss and other noise in your audio could be resolved by upgrading your microphone, mixer, preamp, or even the space where you record.
A frustrating experience with your podcast could slow you down and eventually kill your enthusiasm for podcasting. Don't let a podcasting annoyance get in the way of sharing your passion!
3. Upgrade when your podcasting gear breaks
This may seem obvious, but you may forget it when the time comes. When something breaks, you know you have to replace it anyway. So why not consider taking this opportunity to upgrade the replacement?
Check with the warranty, first (the ATR2100-USB has a generous lifetime warranty!). Some companies may be willing to give you a credit toward an upgrade instead of replacing the item you had.
4. Upgrade when you outgrow your podcasting tool
Like with clothing, we often outgrow the things we use.
Maybe you started out as a solo podcaster but now you have cohosts and your single-input mixer or interface is too small. Or maybe you have too many people visiting your website for you to remain on cheap, shared hosting.
But when you upgrade, don't upgrade only to the level of your immediate needs. Give yourself a little room for more growth.
5. Upgrade when you need new features or functionality
This is the most important reason to consider any upgrade: when you need to do something that your current podcasting tools can't do.
- take live calls,
- produce video,
- setup mix-minus,
- sell something on your site,
- go mobile,
- interview people,
- and more.
Discern your needs from your wants. This is especially important to remember whenever new smartphones are released. When Apple introduced the larger, faster iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, I wanted one, but I realized I didn't need one (though I'm hoping the next generation will have more of what I need).
A “need” is something you can't do without. You can't, realistically, host the podcast the way you want to without this thing.
A “want” is something you can do without, but it would be nice to have or make something more fun.
Do you need a Zoom H6 as a simple two-track digital recorder for your mixer at home? Probably not. But do you need it if you want to carry only mics, cables, and a recorder when you record up to six people offsite? Then, you might need it.
When do you upgrade your podcasting tools?
How have you decided on upgrades you may have made? What needs did the upgrades fulfill?
Please comment to share your experience!
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