Altogether, you can set up a reasonable, versatile podcast operation for about $300.
Advice/guidance: The Podcast Method A good podcast about starting podcasting; don't get overwhelmed by their encyclopedic equipment guide. Best single piece of advice: always, always test your recording setup before you start an interview.
Microphone: Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone ($60)
It's bizarre that this mic isn't recommended more for podcasting. No, you don't need a Blue Yeti. The ATR2100 is reasonably priced and its sound is very focused on what's nearby, so you can use it anywhere, even a normal office room next to a highway. It can connect using USB or XLR, so you don't have to bother with that decision at all! Only drawback is that it won't pick up ambient noise, so you really can't use it at all for capturing the feel of an event; and you need to keep a reasonably consistent distance from the mic, since your voice will become quiet even a foot away. Accessories to add to the ATR2100:
- Pyle PMKSH04 Suspension Boom Scissor Microphone Stand/Studio Radio Shock Mount Mic Holder, Adjustable/Extendable ($30): works great, makes it easy to move the mic where you need it, and get it out of the way when you don't need it.
- Foam Ball-Type Mic Windscreen ($3): reduces breath noises a bit.
- Dragonpad pop filter ($8): only reduces breath noises a tiny bit, but it's useful to position 2 inches from the mic to serve as a guide for how close to position your mouth to the mic.
First of all, you totally don't need this at first. It's only useful for making spur of the moment recordings, and recordings where you travel to someone else and interview them.
I think the sound is only OK, but The Wirecutter thinks it's the best among all the recorders it tested. I love being able to charge via USB. I don't love that you really can't hold it while recording -- your hand makes noise that it picks up from the case. You might consider one The Wirecutter didn't try, Amazon's top seller, the Zoom H1 ($100).
Call recording: Ecamm Call Recorder ($30)
For recording Skype calls. Just works.
Editing software: Audacity (free!)
Audacity isn't fancy, but it works, it's straightforward to use, it's cross platform, it's versatile, it's powerful, and there's a huge number of tutorials people have made for it. The only flaw I've experienced is that speed-shifting doesn't work well, but that's not something most people will want to use anyway.
Theme music: UniqueSound (license: $500) or free-intro-music.com (license: $40)
Obviously, the ideal is to commission custom music, which you can do through UniqueSound or by reaching out to composers whose work you like. Podcast producers are usually happy to tell you who composed their music; expect to pay around $3000 for a 3-minute piece composed in consultation with you.
But if you want to start quickly, try one of these reasonable off-the-shelf options.
Distribution: libsyn ($5/mo to start)
Provides episode hosting and analytics, and generates your podcast RSS feed. You'll still have to apply to iTunes and Stitcher manually in order to get listed there, but libsyn gets you pretty much everywhere else.