For a new podcast project, I’ve done a lot of microphone, preamp, and digital recorder research. This guide and review shows you how to record podcasts and audio from your iPhone or Mac with one set of gear, and with the best bang for buck sound quality.
These were my requirements:
- be able to record on the go (iPhone, Zoom, etc.)
- be able to record from my Mac (or PC)
- be able to record an XLR microphone to both of these devices
- keep costs as low as possible
- be able to upgrade different parts of the setup later (e.g. I might want a better mic, to switch to a Zoom, etc.)
I was able to get this done for around $150 US (depending on Amazon prices at the time you order).
I’ll review each bit of podcasting equipment individually below, but here’s where I ended up after a tonne of research:
- iRig Pro—$135 on Amazon for connecting an XLR microphone to iPhone or Mac
- Pyle-Pro PDMIC58—$15 on Amazon, a cheap dynamic microphone
- Recording with Voice Memos on iPhone, QuickTime on Mac (free!)
A quick note: this probably isn’t the cheapest overall way to record your podcast, but this is the best way that I’ve found to be able to record from both iPhone and Mac without having two sets of gear, and where each piece of equipment is upgradeable later on. You might be better served by an iPhone-specific microphone (which I nearly ended up buying) and a USB mic for your computer. If you have a setup that other people might like, let me know on Twitter and I’ll add them to this post.
I make Transducer, a Mac app for posting your podcast to Libsyn or SoundCloud. If this guide helps you, please consider giving it a download—there’s a 20-day free trial, and it’s only $5 after that.
Audio sample using the iRig Pro and Pyle PDMIC58
Here is an episode of my podcast that we recorded via Skype using the iRig Pro and Pyle PDMIC58. We were pretty happy with the sound quality considering that each host has very little room treatment. We found that this audio quality was comparable to (if not better than) another episode we recorded using a Rode podcaster microphone.
iRig Pro review for podcasting
The iRig Pro is a really flexible audio interface that lets you connect an XLR microphone to your iPhone or computer for a pretty reasonable cost ($135 on Amazon at time of writing).
Digital recorders, like the Zoom H4n, are the iRig’s main competitor, but those recorders don’t let you record to your phone (and only some of them can be used with computers). They’re also much, much more expensive than the iRig.
- The iRig can be used with both iPhone and Mac. I don’t know many other devices that can do this!
- Works with any XLR microphone (though I wouldn’t put a mic that required a tonne of gain on it)
- The iRig itself is really compact and light—much lighter than I anticipated
- Recording is really simple for both iPhone and Mac. It’s more or less plug and play, with a little bit of software that I’ll go into in its own section
- Audio recordings have good sound quality as long as you don’t turn the iRig’s gain above 3 o’clock (any higher you start to get a lot of noise). Thankfully, I found 3 o’clock a pretty comfortable position for spoken word audio recording. You’ll need to remove noise and increase the levels after the recording, but using Audition I found that this didn’t introduce any extra noise to the recording.
- The iRig uses these totally bizarre first party cables that I’ve never seen anywhere else… I’m terrified of losing them!
- You can’t use headphones that have an inline mic to monitor sound (I’m guessing the iPhone picks the headphones’ mic over the one to the Lightning port). There’s also a little delay when monitoring your voice with headphones.
- It can be a little ungainly to hold, walk, and talk at the same time with all the cords going everywhere
Overall, the iRig solves a problem that not many other devices are solving, and does it very well. I was pretty skeptical going into the purchase (no one seems to be using iRigs for podcasting), but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good solution that fits my needs.
Pyle Pro PDMIC58 microphone review for podcasting
The Pyle-Pro PDMIC58 is a dynamic microphone that provides unfathomably good value for money, running at around $15 on Amazon. This is a purchase that comes via Marco Arment’s microphone mega-review. If you don’t have one, you’ll need a pop filter—I got this Shure one for like $5 that does the job. Another thing to note is that this microphone doesn’t come with an XLR cable. If you’re thinking of recording while walking around, I’d recommend a short XLR cable or getting some velcro zip ties to coil up the cord while on the move.
- Cheap cheap cheap
- Good sound quality
- Doesn’t come with an XLR cable
- Build quality is average
Overall, the way I’d describe the Pyle is that the build quality is what you’d expect for $15, but the sound is worth 4x that. This is a great value purchase, and it can be easily swapped out for a better XLR microphone later on. I’d even get one just as a backup microphone they’re such good value.
The best iPhone app for recording a podcast from your iPhone
I tried as many of the available iPhone audio recording apps as I could get my hands on. Most of them are bad to decent, but the best I found was Apple’s Voice Memos, which comes with the phone. For recording on the Mac with the iRig and Pyle, you can just use QuickTime—the iRig can be used like any other USB audio input, which is a great feature.
- Really easy to use and to start recording quickly
- Simple to export many recordings at once by connecting to iTunes (some of the other apps had really terrible export options)
- Works “through” the lock screen—i.e. you can start recording, lock your phone, and recording will keep going (and the phone even gives you live levels and recording progress on the lock screen). This was an awesome surprise when I discovered it!
- Allows pausing and resuming a recording
- Comes free with the phone
- You have to give stuff a name when saving, where the default is “Voice Recording #x”. Not a big deal, but a little annoying when you’re trying to record a few clips quickly
Here are the other apps that I tried:
- Apple’s Music Memos. This is a new app that does a reasonably good job, but missing some of the awesome features of Voice Memos. One thing this app does really well is boosting voice, so if you ever forget your microphone, I’d consider recording with this app as a last resort.
- Voice Recorder
- Awesome Voice Recorder
- Voice Record Pro 7
- Voice Record Pro
- iRig Recorder. This is the option that the makers of the iRig offer. It doesn’t do anything really special.