S15E2: How Much Less Is More?

In this season, The Way of The Podcaster, I’m delving more deeply into a podcasting philosophy. Today’s instalment, Less Is More, looks under the assumptions many of us enter the discipline with. 

Historic Background

For the digital native, the idea of minimal tech is not anything outrageous. For the rest of the world, history matters. A one person setup, in the past, meant an individual with a mast aerial in the backyard, sending their voice across the world in short wave radio style productions. Usually live, usually only to others with a similar setup in their backyards. After we moved out of the 1920s, the Marconi revolution in wireless communication, radio, depended upon larger and larger studios with more and more tech and trained engineers. Toss in some sales teams, stenographers, producers, managers and owners and we have the model for the last 70 years of the twentieth century. To be fair that model still exists for terrestrial radio nowadays but I’m not sure who is actually listening to that anymore. 

Podcasting Begins

Podcasting began in 2004. Way back then, the RSS feed, the file that tells Apple, Spotify and nearly everyone else your latest episode is available, had to be hand crafted. That is, typed by hand. This required a minimum level of technical knowledge. The editing software available then was lifted directly from the music industry and contained many tools not required for a voice based media. The same can be said for microphones. The thing with mics is their intended use. If you’re in the terrestrial radio world, hugely expensive, highly sensitive mics require soundproofed studios, an audio engineer external to the studio twiddling dials and sliders and what not. 

The point being, as the twentieth century rolled through and turned into the twenty first, the way to improve audio was to layer more levels of technology onto the actual voice being recorded. Technology that was increasingly expensive as the setup became increasingly complicated. More tech, more people and more corporate structure to finance, maintain and drive the system. The DJ, the talk back host and their ilk were but the tiniest tip of a huge iceberg of structures, peoples, technology and culture. 

The Last Twenty Years


In the last twenty years, the possibilities for podcasters exponentially exploded. We can still hear the old radio types talk about the need for layers and layers of tech to manipulate their voices into some perceived standard from the pre-internet age. These I find are unnaturally “clean”, in that they are devoid of nuance, the subtle background sounds we require as humans and feel false, because they are, I suppose. Nowadays, everything from the “cheap” $20 eBay mic to the many thousands of dollars worth of studio equipment are on the table. Alongside these changes in mics are a plethora of editing options. Many of these still carry huge amounts of bloat, from a voice recording consideration standpoint, designed for music production. 

With the Apple baseline option, Garageband can be downloaded without all the musical loops and doo dads but it still needs some tweaks to set up. Close the metronome down, change the timer from bars and beats to seconds and you’re good to start.

Smart Phones

The elephant in the room when it comes to the last twenty years is the iPhone. Launched back in 2007 I used an iPhone 4 as my mic for the first 50 episodes of what’s now called ChangeUnderground. The sound quality has vastly improved since then. So if you have a phone with a voice recording option, you’re ready to start, even if you think you’re not. I would recommend downloading the Rode Reporter App in their iOS or Android. It’s free and despite its somewhat low star rating is an excellent voice recorder. Simple, easy to power up in a hurry and does what it says on the tin, it records voices and some background but nothing excessive and that we can deal with later. 

To add a level of sophistication to the phone, a Rode VideoMic Me adds a shotgun mic to your phone. This is a small, relatively heavy, hence tough, piece of kit that fits in the backpack with no dramas at all. It fits into the charging port, lightning or USB c or into the headphone jack depending on your phone and the model you purchased. 

The Setup

This episode was recorded entirely using this system. An iPhone 13 mini and VideoMic Me -l (l for lightning port). I think the sound quality is good. For full disclosure, the phone was propped up on the desk with the mic pointing at my mouth from about 15 cm away. I would also add I have no financial relationship with Rode nor any other company. I use the tools I suggest because they work.


For interview or multiple person episodes, I’ve found Zoom works really well. You need to go to settings and ensure each participant is recorded independently and on the cloud. All participants need to be aware that Zoom will do its magic for a short time after the meeting ends. Once you have a notification form Zoom you can download all the tracks onto your laptop. The benefit of these individual tracks is you can drop the volume on anyone talking over the top of others and edit the entire conversation at once while maintaining the continuity of the audio. You have the option of downloading video and audio or audio only. For the most part, I only use the audio.


Once I have the audio, I run it through Auphonic, this puts everyone’s levels, that is volume, at the same place. Auphonic suggests you do this after editing and before publishing. I do it before editing for the reason stated: even levels across all tracks.



Then I edit and publish. Editing is a matter of preference. I know of at least one podcaster who started way back in the day who still edits their own audio on GarageBand. It is free, it is more than sufficient for the job but only on Mac devices. Audacity is another free editing tool for iOS and PC. I find it ungainly and ugly but as I say, it’s a matter of preference.


My preference is Hindenburg, designed for voice digital audio workstation (DAW). I find its editing tools intuitive and very simple to use. I had a look at GarageBand the other week and the keystrokes and mouse movements came back fairly quickly. I could use that but I prefer the look and feel of Hindenburg so I stick to that.

Bringing all this together a podcaster will need, as a minimum:

  1. a device to capture audio, a phone, a mic, Zoom or similar.
  2. a way to standardise the audio (Auphonic)
  3. A DAW: GarageBand, Audacity or Hindenburg

And you’re on your way to recording and publishing.

Next episode I’ll take on a journey through the world of podcast hosting to ensure you receive the services you need, the stats that matter and the distribution to cast your pod across the interwebs.