Christian Podcast Hacks: Best Beginner Mic is Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB

In Podcasting by Kurt Willems

I started The Paulcast with zero “know how.” Well, that isn’t completely true. I did “know how” to say stuff. And I did know that Squarespace offers a podcast hosting feature (what we used at the time for our Pangea Church sermons). But that was it. Microphone? No idea. Sound settings? Forget about it.

Seriously, to this day I’m not a techie guy. Every bit of information that I offer on this blog is by spending hours googling questions that I had until finally I hacked something together that worked. When what was hacked into functionality served me well, I make it my goal to share these tips on this category of Theology Curator.

My Journey with my First Podcast Mic

So let me get right down to it. When I researched and sought to figure out a mic to use,  I knew that I needed something that could plug right into my MacBook. Soundboards overwhelmed me. I just wanted to sit at my kitchen table and say stuff, with the hope that my pups would stay chill during recording. My first 10 episodes (that is a guess) were all recorded from microphone to USB, directly in GarageBand.

In another Christian Podcast Hacks post, I’ll break down how the ‘recording’ part works, but for the purpose of this article, I’ll make my definitive recommendation:

Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone.

Why This Mic is the Best Beginner Mic

After scouring the internet for a few hours (yes, because I take this stuff seriously), I became convinced that the ATR2100-USB was the fix I needed. I mean, really–who wants to listen to a podcast recorded with iPhone earbuds? The worst. You won’t get anyone to listen that doesn’t share your last name. And even they will only listen once.

Price of ATR2100

But for around fifty dollars in investment on the front end, you can record yourself saying stuff about the thing you are passionate about. This sounds like it is worth its weight in gold… Ok, too much. Agreed. But it certainly is helpful.

Lower Financial Risk

The price leads me to the next important point: risk. If you are excited to start a podcast, Christian or otherwise, that energy will only get you so far. Gaining a following isn’t easy. It takes luck, strategy, and more luck. Getting to a point where more than 100 folks will listen to your show on a weekly basis is a challenge… 300… an accomplishment… 1,000+, rare… 10,000+, amazing.

As a church planter and former youth pastor, I know that playing the numbers game is bad for your soul. Measuring our worth by the amount of people we convince to come to our show (whether a church gathering or a podcast) is not a wise approach.

However, when it comes to podcasting, you will discover that it can become more work than you though going in. What begins as a labor of love, can become labor for the sake of laboring. This often burns podcasters out (I struggled at times with this in ministry, blogging, and podcasting).

If you start with a fancy setup with tons of cool gear and gadgets, but only last 3 months, the toll will be heavier than if you start smart and cheap. Don’t go “all out” until the show has momentum. This mic is a low risk investment.

My advice: start simple. The ATR2100-USB is a low-cost solution to something that will either “fail” or become something you commit to for the long haul. You can always upgrade later.

Sound Quality of the Mic

This is a clean sounding mic. All of the important reviews that I read bore this out. And my experience with it verified those claims. You can go back an listen to my “Entering the Conversation” series of The Paulcast to hear it in action: amateur action.

Is the sound perfect. Nope. Is it clean? Yes. Did I gain an audience? Yep. Do people complain about the audio quality of those episodes? Never.

There is a noticeable difference now that I switched over to a more advanced setup. But that only matters in the contrasts if you are listening for them.

Longevity of Use

So, if you end up with a show that lasts longer than a few months, then it might make sense to upgrade to a more advanced microphone. I will have a resource all about my gear. I record in my garage and have made some slight ‘hacks’ to the space to make it conducive to recording quality audio.

But, here’s the deal. I STILL use this Audio Technica mic. Sometimes if I want to record on the road, I take it with me. I also use it when I have a second voice recording with me. It sounds great. In fact, I can plug it right into my soundboard to add it directly into my mix.

Beyond that, I like the mic so much that I purchased one for Jeff, who comes on as a guest co-host, which he uses during our sessions from all the way in California.

This mic, will serve a purpose for the long haul. It is low risk. The cost in unbeatable for the quality. If you are a start-up podcaster, you will not be sorry.

Here is where to get it on Amazon: Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone

An Important PS: Pop-Filters

You absolutely NEED a pop filter of some sort, or else your recordings will have extra hiss and pop sounds that you definitely don’t want. Best of all, this is completely avoidable! For this mic, either a standard windscreen foam ball or flat windscreen will work.

Next Steps

Check out my growing “Recommended Setups” page to access more resources about starting a podcast, blogging, or theological tools. It is under development, but will grow with time.

Author: Kurt Willems

Kurt Willems (M.Div.) is the founding pastor of Pangea Church (Seattle, Wa.), curator of The Paulcast: A Podcast All About the Apostle Paul, blogger at The Pangea Blog (hosted by Patheos.com), graduate student at the University of Washington (focusing on Paul), and resourcer of an intelligent and humanizing faith at Theology Curator.
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