The most important piece of equipment in your podcasting kit




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The importance of wearing headphones

Setting aside the obvious need for a microphone and something to record on, the one thing in your podcast kit you can’t live without is a pair of headphones.

And that goes for everyone whose dulcet tones will be featured on your show.

This is obviously a given when you’re interviewing a guest via Skype or Zencastr because without headphones they won’t be able to hear you.  But if you’re chatting to someone face-to-face or you have a co-host, everyone will need their own pair.

Why you need to use headphones for your podcastAnd since most computers and recording devices only have one headphone jack, you’ll also need an audio splitter to plug them all in.

If your guest wants to provide their own headphones, iPhone earbuds will do fine, but it’s always good to have a spare pair in your podcast kit.  Just remember, if you’re going to supply headphones make sure you get the ones that go over a guest’s ears rather than into them because some people are funny about having a strangers ear wax in their earholes…understandably.

So now that you know what you need, here’s why…

Wearing headphones will make you a better presenter

I doubt there’s a person alive who, when hearing themselves on tape for the first time, hasn’t said: “I don’t sound like that!”

Newsflash.  You do.


If you’ve never recorded your voice or worked in radio or podcasting, the only way you’ve heard yourself is through your cheek bones and since everyone else is standing out in front of you when you speak, you’ll never hear yourself the way other people do.  Unless you wear headphones.

Headphones take your ears (not literally) from the side of your head and put them right in front of your mouth so you can hear exactly what you sound like to others.  This is an important tool when you’re presenting a radio show or podcast because it gives you a huge amount of control when it comes to adjusting your voice and presentation style on the fly.

As you talk into the microphone your brain processes what it’s hearing through the headphones and gives you the chance to self-review and make minor tweaks.  This is obviously done in a split second and can include changing your tone, volume or any of the millions of variables that are adjustable when you’re presenting a show.

Why you need to use headphones for your podcastIf you’re just speaking into a microphone without actively listening via headphones you’re not only less likely to pay attention to how you sound but any adjustments you make will be based on what you’re hearing, which will be different to what your listener hears.

If you don’t have much experience recording audio this might not seem important but trust me, it makes a huge difference to your performance and ultimately to how you sound.  It’s hard to appreciate it until you’ve given it a go but you’d be amazed at how much you’ll adjust your presentation style subconsciously when you can hear yourself.

Wearing headphones improves your mic technique

This is true of both you and your guest.  If you can hear you’re off mic, too loud or that you’re popping every time you say a word with a hard consonant (‘p’,’b’,’k’), wearing headphones will help you adjust the way you’re using the mic in the moment.

The more experience you have with this immediate feedback the better your mic technique will be long term.

Wearing headphones will make editing easier

Editing takes a lot of time so the more you can do at the recording stage to make the process easier, the better.  And one of the best ways to control audio is by listening to it as you record.

Microphones always pick up more than you can hear on your own.  A slight breeze, the buzz of a vending machine, an air conditioner; it’s all there on tape and you need to hear that when you’re recording to work out if you need to change locations or adjust something so you’re not spending hours in the edit trying to fix a problem you could have sorted on-site.

The last thing you want is for audio to be unusable or for the background noise to mean your edits are really obvious.  If you’re not monitoring audio in the moment it’s not uncommon to find out later that things are impossible to fix or to spend hours repairing something you could have avoided entirely.

This becomes even more crucial if you’re recording with a guest because you never want to ring someone and say “Can we do that again, there was a problem with the audio?”

Why you should wear headphones when recording

Not only is it unprofessional to ask someone to re-record but trying to re-capture the honest reaction you had to their advice, stories or jokes is almost impossible.

You want to make sure each conversation is as natural as possible and having to pretend you’re doing it for the first time makes that really hard.

Wearing headphones means you won’t have to micro-manage your guest

Nothing kills the buzz of a conversation like telling someone how to talk every five minutes.  Even a guest with zero microphone experience will benefit from wearing headphones because they’ll be able to hear if they’re on mic or not or if they’re too loud or soft.  If they can’t hear themselves, they’re more likely to pay little or no attention to the mic and that means you’ll probably be interrupting every two seconds to say ‘Could you come a little closer?” or “You’re a bit loud.’

No one wants to be constantly reminded they suck at talking and it’s a really quick way to make your guest feel self-conscious and uncomfortable.  It will also put a handbrake on the flow of the interview which means you won’t get the best out of your guest.

If they’re wearing headphones they’ll be more likely to self-regulate, so you can stick to being interested in what they have to say.

Wearing headphones can save your show

There are a million different ways your show can be ruined during recording but wearing headphones can save you from a lot of them like…

Levels that are too high

It’s important to check your levels when you’re recording to make sure they never go into the red but usually, this is something you’ll test before you start. When you’re in the middle of an interview it’s a good thing, in theory, to glance at them but chances are you’ll be so wrapped up in the conversation you’ll probably forget about it.  And that’s where your headphones come in handy.

If you’re listening as you record you’ll know if you’re too high or low and you’ll be able to adjust as you go along.  This will help you when it comes time to edit because you won’t need to painstakingly go through each section raising and lowering levels which is time-consuming and annoying.

The most important thing to avoid when it comes to levels is to make sure they’re not too ‘hot’ (in the red).  You can always increase the volume of audio in post but if it ‘blows out’ i.e. it’s too loud, the only thing you can do is send it to the audio graveyard.

Checking the levels before your record will hopefully prevent the entire episode from recording at a level that’s unusable but you have to keep an ear on it. Usually, when you get people to test their levels before the chat they’ll talk at a volume that’s quieter than the volume they’ll speak at during the interview. They might also get excited and yell at points during the show and you want to be onto that the minute it happens.  Chances are, those are the moments you’re going to want to get on tape so if they blow out and you hear that, you can adjust the levels or quickly ask them to re-record a small moment and then keep the levels lower to compensate.

If you’re not listening to that as you record, you won’t know any of this until it’s too late.


‘Popping’ is the term we use for harsh sounds that are created by words with hard consonants like ‘pop,’ or ‘kettle.’  This popping sound often occurs when words are said too close to the microphone.

A lot of this can be avoided by using a pop guard or by talking slightly across a mic rather than directly down the barrel, but even if your mic technique is on point, sometimes you’ll still pop.

This is one of those things that’s impossible to detect without headphones and hella annoying to fix in post.  There are some effects in editing software like ‘auto-heal’ that will remove this sound but if the pop is really bad the edits can often sound over processed and therefore, obvious.  The importance of wearing headphones in a podcast

The other issue is that if there’s a lot of them it can turn a 30-minute edit into an all night one as you try and save your audience from conversational machine gun fire.

Ambient noise

There are many types of ambient noise that impact the sound of your show but wind is the worst offender.  Problem is, it’s really hard to hear how badly it’s affecting your recording unless you’re wearing headphones.

Think about a phone conversation you’ve had with someone when it sounds like they’re in a cyclone.  Often it doesn’t take much wind to create that effect.  In fact, if you’ve ever been the person on the windy end of the phone you often don’t know until the person you’re talking to says “are you in a wind tunnel?”

Listening to a conversation with a lot of wind noise is incredibly irritating and often drowns out what’s being said.  It’s also impossible to fix in post so wearing headphones will make sure you don’t have to chuck out the audio because of mother nature.

And there you have it podcasters, my tips for why headphones should be your new audio best friend.

And one final piece of advice –  when you’re using them, make sure the volume is up LOUD.  That goes for the edit too.  If you want total control over your podcast you have to be able to hear every little bit of it.

Want to start your own podcast but don’t know what you need? Then grab my FREE podcasting guide: “5 things you need to start your own podcast.” It takes you through all the tools and tech you need to get started straight away.


  1. Megan says:

    Do you have a list or link to all the equipment you would recommend for someone? Like what is a good mic to start with, headphones, etc. ?

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Megan! Thanks for getting in touch. This is a link to my podcasting tech guide which will give you a list of all the equipment you need…http://podcastguide.com.au/

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