For Mac users, the easiest road to a budget studio is Apple GarageBand, which is included with all new Macs and even comes with a number of Podcasting features built in. Windows users can substitute the freeware Audacity or use a low-cost recording program like Acoustica Mixcraft ($49.95). Both Mac and Windows users can also use Audacity for final tweaking of their stereo Podcast files before posting them to the Web.
The audio interface for this studio is an inexpensive M-Audio Mobile Pre ($179.95), which offers two XLR inputs and a stereo 1/8-inch mic input. I went for a pair of Audio-Technica AT2020 large-diaphragm condenser mics ($169), which offer solid quality at a low price.
Why didn''t I choose USB mics instead? While it''s true that doing so would have obviated the need for an audio interface, I prefer the quality of conventional mics, and with some recording software it can be tricky to get multiple USB mics to work simultaneously.
For recording telephone interviews, you can use the JK Audio QuickTap interface ($59). Or, if you have a decent-sounding speakerphone, you also have the option of recording phone interviews using one mic on the speakerphone and one on your voice; that yields surprisingly good results.
Finally, I chose a pair of M-Audio Studiophile AV 40 active monitors ($199). Although inexpensive, they''re more than sufficient for most Podcasting applications.