Sound quality is one of the most important things for podcasters. There are thousands of podcasts and that number is growing everyday, so you need to stand out and your podcast sound quality should be professional. The vast majority of podcasters use USB microphones, there are plenty of different microphone options available. It’s an easy task to find a microphone for your podcast at the affordable price you need. While it’s still possible to achieve really good sound quality with a USB microphone, you can always go the extra mile and use an audio interface or even a sound mixer.
What are the differences between audio interface and mixer?
Both devices perform the same task: convert electrical analog signal (sound) that comes from your microphone into digital signal. So both devices do the same thing, but there are few key differences. Digital audio interface is a much more simple device, it’s very easy to connect and operate with it, but on the other hand it has more limitations if compared to a sound mixer. Mixer is a much more advanced device.
Which one is a better choice for your podcast?
There is no short answer: it depends.
It depends on your needs, the type of your show and finally it’s important what budget do you have for it. Digital audio interface usually comes with 2 or 4 mic inputs, so you should keep that in mind. 2 mic inputs is really not enough, because you will definitely have more than one guest some day, a smarter choice would be if you choose an audio interface with 4 inputs, such a variant should cover most podcast scenarios. If you think that 4 inputs wouldn’t be enough for some of your episodes, then it’s better to choose an audio mixer instead of an audio interface.
Another important aspect is - if you plan to produce your show “live” or not? For “live” radio-style podcast audio interface is not enough, and you should consider a sound mixer. It’s also important to notice that you should avoid cheap mixers (these with a price tag lower than $100). Such cheap mixers will produce noise in your recordings and you definitely do not want this. It makes sense to invest into a sound mixer that sounds decent.
Is an audio interface or mixer necessary to get started on podcasting as a beginner?
No it’s not necessary, but as it was already mentioned at the very start of this article - it’s highly recommended if you want your show to sound professional. You can always start with a USB microphone, and get an audio interface or sound mixer later on. It’s worth mentioning that most microphones come with both USB and XLR connectivity, so you can easily switch to audio interface or sound mixer later on depending on your situation. Audio interface is not the main factor for successfully growing your podcast audience or increasing a number of your show downloads. Many successful podcasters started their shows with a USB mic and are still running their shows without an audio interface or sound mixers. So it’s nice to have, but not the must have for most cases. If you’re reading this article with intention to grow your podcast audience and you expect that purchasing an audio interface, sound mixer or improving your setup in any other way will help you to boost downloads - forget it - connect good enough microphone (e.g. Audio-Technica ATR 2100 - this is not affiliate link, just a honest recommendation) simply via USB and focus on your content - this is the key ingredient for a successful show.
The best audio interfaces and sound mixers (no affiliate or sponsored links, only honest recommendations)
Focusrite Scarlett Solo (3rd Gen) - probably the best choice at a fair price if you’re looking for a 1-mic audio interface. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) is perfect choice as a 2-mics audio interface and Scarlett 18i8 (3rd Gen) for multiple hosts and guests.
If you go with a sound mixer these are the best price-performance options available: Yamaha MG10, Mackie 402, Rodecaster and Behringer Xenyx 1204.