I’m a tall, nerdy, white man in my late twenties who obsesses over tube mics and Japanese-made Les Paul guitars, which means that even though I’ve never felt the need to start my own podcast or livestream, I totally thought I knew how to do it.
It turns out in the years I’ve been outfitting my home recording studio with outboard preamps, compressors, and expensive, XLR-based microphones, companies have spent a ton of research dollars making equipment cheaper and smaller for the masses, with pretty incredible results. I’ve been investigating this more affordable frontier of digital recording and streaming gear, and the takeaway is that it’s easier than ever to produce fantastic-sounding and gorgeous-looking content without spending a ton of cash. Whether you’ve been thinking about starting a podcast or sharing your epic Mario speed runs with the masses, here’s the gear you’ll need to share your story.
Windows Phone: Before You Start
We recommend a lot of gear below, but before you start buying, you should really think hard about what it is you want to record or livestream. Brainstorm podcast ideas! Block out stories! Think of ways to make your livestreams different from what’s out there already. Whether it’s just a hobby or you’re serious about making this a business, good content is always going to be more important than the gear.
Windows Phone: You’ll Want a Good Computer
While it is increasingly possible to record podcasts or stream live video and audio on smartphones, it’s often quicker, easier, and generally more professional to create and stream content on a personal computer. The good news is that it doesn’t really matter if you have a PC or Mac, and the vast majority of modern computers are more than fast enough for the tasks at hand.
However, if you’re planning to livestream videogames, you will want a powerful computer that allows you to both play the game and run your streaming software. If you plan to record or edit video, you’ll also want a speedy computer for rendering.
Here are our favorite gaming PCs right now, all of which are up to the task. If you want a MacBook, check out our guide that breaks down which is right for you. Consider also building your own PC—it requires a little more work, but you’ll get the best bang for your buck. But if you’re only doing audio recording and processing, any one of our favorite laptops (or really any modern computer) will do.
Windows Phone: Audio Gear You’ll Need
Audio is the most important component. Here’s what you’ll need to make sure your podcast or stream sounds the best, from microphones to good headphones.
A USB Microphone
Most built-in mics on headphones, phones, and laptops do the job for calls and Zoom meetings, but they’re not quite as great-sounding as you probably want your podcast stories or streams to be. The easiest way to upgrade your audio is to snag a USB microphone. These mics plug straight into your computer and allow you to record audio in surprisingly high fidelity given their ease of setup.
There are many good ones, but also a sea of weird, off-brand models on retailers like Amazon. Steer clear of those. My favorites of the models I’ve tested come from Blue and JLab Audio. Entry-level mics like the Blue Snowball ($70) and JLab Talk Go ($49) are good beginner options.
An Audio Interface
If you’ve got multiple people you’re looking to record or stream at once, you’ll want to buy what is known as an audio interface. These are external audio cards that plug into a computer via a USB or Thunderbolt port and allow you to use traditional non-USB microphones. They also typically have headphone jacks, so you can listen as you record.
Audio interfaces start at about $100 for one with a single channel (a single input for a microphone or instrument cable) and can cost several thousand dollars for models with dozens of inputs and other advanced features. You don’t need a super fancy one! My pick for most people is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 ($160). It’s got two mic inputs, a cool red color, and it sounds good enough for nearly every application you’ll find.
For mics to connect to the interface, snag yourself a Shure SM58 ($99) or SM57 ($99) (or both). These legendary, nearly bulletproof mics sound great and are $100 new, but you can often find them cheaper used.
A Portable Recorder
Another great option for recording multiple people, or for outdoor locations, is to use a field recorder. My choice is the Zoom H4N Pro ($200), which allows you to easily adjust the gain of the mic (how loud it’s recording), as well as how sensitive it is to sounds that aren’t directly in front of it. You can record just what’s in front of or behind the mic or enable it to record everything that surrounds it.
A Pop Filter
Many microphones come with built-in filters to help keep your “p” sounds from “popping” the mic, but if yours doesn’t have one, it might be worth buying a cheap pop filter ($17) that can easily attach to a desk or mic stand. If you’re a streamer, you might want to instead place the mic further away from your face or off to the side, pointed at your mouth—pop filters can sometimes block you from view.
A good pair of studio-style headphones will help limit mic feedback and bleed, and make you look cooler. I like the Audio Technica M50xBT ($179) because you can pair them wirelessly with your phone, but also plug them into interfaces and other audio production equipment easily with the included cable. They sound great and last a long time, which is why you’ll often see the standard, non-Bluetooth M50x in studios around the world.
Another option is to grab yourself a good pair of gaming headphones. They don’t sound as amazing as most dedicated USB mics, but they typically have decent sound and look good if you’re streaming videogames. We have a guide to our current favorites.
A Mic Stand or Mount
Many USB microphones come with built-in mic stands, but if you’re using non-USB microphones or you want to place your mic somewhere a built-in stand doesn’t allow, there are a bunch of other options. If your mic isn’t too heavy, try an Amazon Basics boom stand ($20). It should be more than adequate for most people.
Always recording while sitting down at a desk? There are also great mountable mic stands like this one from Neewer ($14), which will make you feel like a radio DJ.
Windows Phone: Video for Livestreams
Good video quality is integral to livestreaming. We’ve got gear recommendations from cameras and tripods to lighting, too.
A Reliable Camera
The most essential part of a livestreaming kit is a good webcam. But due to the high demand from those working at home during the global pandemic, they’re hard to come by right now. We like the Logitech C920X Pro and Razer Kiyo when they’re available, but you can also just use what you have on hand. We have a guide on using your smartphone as a webcam.
If you have a GoPro or other DSLR or mirrorless camera, you can also use it as a webcam replacement—just search online for instructions specific to your model.
A Sturdy Tripod
A small tripod that can hold your camera or smartphone can be an indispensable accessory, because it lets you change your setup if things are getting too crowded. There are many good ones for cheap, but this kit from SmilePowo ($19) should have everything you’ll need.
A Smartphone Mic
Whether shooting Instagram Live videos or the occasional review video for WIRED, I’ve been using and enjoying Shure’s microphone and tripod kit ($249). It captures much better audio quality than your smartphone’s built-in microphone and comes with a nifty tripod so you can plop it somewhere on your desk.
It’s worth noting that this only works with certain Android phones. I’ve haven’t had any trouble with my Google Pixel 4, but make sure to check that it’s compatible before you pull the trigger. iPhones or iPads shouldn’t have any issues. This kit is also great for live podcasts or outdoor video streams.
A couple of LED lights can be the difference between a beautiful stream and an ugly one. Quality lights can be spendy, but this one from Viltrox ($50) comes recommended by WIRED deals contributor Brad Bourque.
If you’re looking at other light options, just make sure that it has a temperature and brightness adjustment, not just one or the other. If it includes diffusers (for spreading and shaping light) or batteries (for portable use), that’s a plus.
Everyone at WIRED (and nearly all fellow gear nerds we’ve met) are big fans of Moment’s phone cases and lenses. They’re not always cheap, but they can really take the images you’re getting on a smartphone to the next level. If you’re shooting a podcast with a static shot, or find yourself using an old phone as a camera, the wide-angle lens is a good way to get everything in the scene. They’re also helpful for on-the-go streams.
Moment lenses require a Moment case on your phone, but the company only supports the top brands like Apple, Google, OnePlus, and Samsung. Be sure to check if the company makes a case for your phone model.
Windows Phone: Try These Apps and Tutorials
Gear isn’t the only thing you’ll need to get started podcasting or livestreaming. Check out these apps. We’ve also rounded up some of the best YouTube tutorials we could find to help.
Open Broadcaster Software for Streaming (free): If you’re looking to stream to Twitch, YouTube, or nearly any other platform, free streaming software OBS is the industry standard. The open-source software is available for MacOS, Windows, and Linux, and is sponsored by Twitch, Facebook, and Nvidia, among other big-name brands.
Audacity (free): From GarageBand to Pro Tools, there are many great Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) to record audio with. But the best free option for most beginner podcasters and streamers is Audacity. It’s got everything you’ll need to edit and upload audio, and an easy-to-use interface to boot.
YouTube is a great, free resource. We’ve handpicked a few places to get started, but feel free to search the platform yourself for videos that might help.
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