21st April 2020 For the love of pod

Podcasts are the new punk rock!
With podcasts more popular than ever, we sound out some of the latest kit to help aspiring podcasters create content, perfect for professionals and hobbyists alike

Podcasts are booming – and everyone’s talking about them. Originally introduced in the early Noughties to capitalise on the trend for portable media players such as Apple’s iPod, a podcast is a downloadable audio show that’s usually spread across several episodes – and in some cases, many.

In recent years, the format has enjoyed a resurgence, and it looks as if it’s here to stay. According to the Media Nations 2019 report, which was carried out by broadcasting and telecoms regulator Ofcom, around 7.1 million people in the UK now listen to podcasts each week – that’s one in eight of us. Interestingly, half of those listeners have come on board in the past two years alone.

So why have podcasts become more popular and what are people listening to?

In an article for American business website Forbes.com, Carrie Ryan, co-author of the true crime podcast Dead Air, wrote: “One of the reasons podcasts are so popular is that the format is uniquely situated to fit into our busy lives. Any topic you’re interested in? You’ll find a podcast dedicated to it. Only have 15 minutes to spare? You’ll find a podcast that you can listen to in that time frame. It’s information and entertainment, in bite-size chunks, right at our fingertips.”

Entertainment

On average, in the UK, regular podcast listeners access seven a week, with ‘entertainment’ being the most popular genre, closely followed by ‘comedy’ and then ‘discussion and talk shows’. The massive uptake in the ownership of smart speakers has really helped to increase the audience figures for podcast listening: one in five UK homes now has one or more smart speakers and 22 per cent of owners use them to listen to podcasts.

Podcasting started out as ‘audio blogging’, but now traditional broadcasters are fully embracing the phenomenon. The BBC has podcast versions of popular radio shows, such as Desert Island Discs, while ITV podcast’s Love Island: The Morning After complements the hit TV series.

Ian Macrae, Ofcom’s director of market intelligence, says: “Podcasts are transforming the ways people listen to audio content – just as on-demand video is transforming the way people watch television. It’s fantastic to see how the UK broadcasters, as well as newspapers and other media companies, are embracing podcasting and offering a great deal more choice about what we listen to than we’ve ever had before.”

Microphones and headphones

It’s not just media organisations that are riding the podcast wave, it’s now much easier for hobbyists and amateurs to put out a podcast – all they need is the right kit.

So what are the basics needed to get up and running? As well as a laptop, budding podcasters will need some recording software, a decent microphone, some headphones and a mixing console. This means there’s a great opportunity for retailers to stock audio equipment that specifically appeals to those enthusiasts (and future stars) who are looking to record in their bedroom. Indeed, it might be said that with their rough-and-ready, DIY approach, the new generation of podcasters are the new punk rockers.

Of course, this gear won’t only appeal to potential podcasters – it’s perfect for recording musicians too.

When it comes to recording a podcast, good audio quality is essential. AKG’s D5 and P5S Pro Dynamic Microphones both deliver a powerful, crisp and detailed sound.

The D5’s dual shock mount is designed to get rid of any kind of mechanical noise, while the P5 has a heavy-duty metal body, to withstand even the toughest recording sessions.

An integrated ‘windscreen’ helps to eliminate any pops and air noise. Headphones are another must for podcasters, who will need to use them to monitor the audio they are recording.

For potential podcasters who want top-notch studio quality on a budget, Audeze’s LCD-1 could be the perfect solution. Retailing for just £399, these
open-back, foldable and lightweight headphones have been engineered for comfort, convenience and the most premium sound quality – great for both careful monitoring and relaxed listening.

If your customers have deeper pockets and are after a more luxurious option, there’s the LCD-X from Audeze (£1,499). The LCD-X are the first headphones from the brand that have been specifically designed with the needs of music creators in mind.

For use in a professional studio, out on the road, or just in that spare bedroom-turned-podcasting studio, the LCD-X has Planar Magnetic drivers to reproduce the most intimate details with microscopic clarity.

The ultra-thin diaphragms and powerful Neodymium magnets are said to deliver some of the most accurate sound reproduction from any high-end headphones in the world.

Monitor speakers

When it comes to audio engineering, US manufacturer JBL knows what it’s talking about – it’s been in the business for more than 70 years.

The One Series 104 Powered Reference monitor speakers from JBL (£129) are ideal for bedroom podcasters, recording musicians or music and video producers, as well as anyone who’s simply looking for an enjoyable, rounded listening experience from a pair of super-compact desktop monitors. Slim, robust and with a clear, revealing sound, they’re perfect for the job.

Optimised for placement on a desktop, these sleek monitors may be compact, but they pack a serious sonic punch. These speakers deliver real clarity and great detail. Thanks to clean, integrated 60-watt Class D amplification that distributes 30 watts per speaker, the One Series 104 monitors provide a high level of performance, even at loud playback levels.

Mixing console

For anyone wanting to creating a professional-sounding podcast, a mixing console is an essential tool, allowing you to mix several inputs at once, whether that means two or even three separate microphones, or even some background music you have prepared and want to drop-in at specific moments.  Soundcraft’s compact and portable Notepad 5 mixer has a built-in USB audio interface, so it can be very easily used with both Mac and PC editing software.

Two EQ controls per channel give the user convenience and flexibility. Microphones, guitars and keyboards can be connected to the Notepad 5, making it suitable for musicians as well as podcasters. A rotary headphone volume fader makes it easy to adjust your personal listening level, while a master level with LED metering provides precise control over the master output signal. Soundcraft says the Notepad series has a layout that’s familiar to audio professionals yet easy for beginners to understand.

By stocking good-quality recording equipment, retailers can appeal to more than one market – that’s great for business and increases the chance of making a sale.

It’s definitely a sound choice.

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