How To Look And Sound Great For Under $700 – Podcasting, Zoom Meetings And Beyond

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Here is my final plea…

It has never been easier (and cheaper) to look and sound better on any kind of Zoom call, podcast, Teams or Skype call.
I’m frustrated with how many guests on my podcasts (both Six Pixels of Separation – The ThinkersOne Podcast and Groove – The No Treble Podcast) are using terribly antiquated gear (if they even have that).
I’m frustrated when I’m a guest on someone else’s podcast and they have sub-par audio/video gear.
This also includes doctors using telemedicine, lawyers, accountants, and, essentially, any professional that truly needs to be “present” while online.
In the past few weeks, I’ve had to turn down multiple potential guests who wanted to record via their iPhone, the mic in their laptops, or those USB Yeti-terrible mics.

Ugh! Yuck! No! No more!

I’m going to rattle off some gear, and if you can afford it, don’t think about it, just order it.
I promise, it will not only make your life better, but it will open the door to more and more opportunities.
Most humans really don’t understand that the better you look (and sound), the more people pay attention.
That may sound trite, but it is true (and, yes, humans are that simple).
I am also choosing gear that is easy and portable to travel with.

Here we go (and I will provide some context to my choices, let you know what I am using, and newer/different alternatives).
(As an aside, you can get much better gear than what I listing below as well, but I am providing this list as a “bare minimum”/let’s go list).


  • Shure MV7 ($250). This mic sounds great, and you should get the USB/XLR version, so you have the option to use it in any recording scenario. 
  • Rode PSA1 ($100). This is a broadcast-style studio desk boom arm that clamps on to any desk. There a million options for mic stands. You can ever get some that are portable (and much cheaper). The main idea is to get the mic about a fist’s distance from your mouth, and have it sit a few inches below your chin for optimal audio recording. There’s also a Rode PSA1+.
  • MEE audio M6 Sport Wired Earbuds ($15). These are in-ear monitors. They are clear, so you don’t see them when on camera and they sound really great for under $20. Earbuds are a critical piece of sounding better. Most people just use their laptop speakers. Terrible. When you use external headphones, you don’t get that weird clip/dropped moments in the conversation, plus there is no audio bleed from the speakers back into your mic. Always use earbuds of some kind. I also use these Shure SE215 Pro (but they are more expensive).


  • Sony ZV-1 ($750). A great camera can cost you a lot more. This is a simple one that can plug directly into your computer without an interface/adapter. It is very simple to use (but not as simple as a webcam). This is the way to go, if you really want to amp up the quality of your video. Do your own research, but this is the one I went with. All conversation around, “what is the best camera” gets extremely personal. I wanted something easy that can plug and play. 
  • Elgato FaceCam ($150). Most of the time, this is my go-to camera. It’s definitely not even close to the quality of the Sony ZV-1, but it does work great. If you’re heading down the webcam path, I’d recommend grabbing the Elgato FaceCam Pro ($300). Some people prefer the Logitech Brio ($250) and the InstaLink360 ($280) is also getting a lot of attention.
  • NexiGo Lightweight Mini Tripod ($15). I’m not sure if this is the one I have, so just grab one like it. The main point is to have your camera on a separate stand, and not on the ledge of your laptop/monitor. You can move it around this way! Up, down, left, right… it’s all so liberating!


  • Elgato Key Light Mini ($130). This is my go-to for better lighting when I travel. There a ton of much cheaper and smaller options, do some searching.
  • Elgato Key Light ($299). This is my go-to for my home/office studio. The truth is that lights depend on your space. You can get lights for super-cheap or go really heavy into it. I prefer to keep it really simple. Both options enable me to have the flexibility that fits my environments. Your mileage may vary.


  • Anker USB C Hub ($35). I can’t say enough about having a quality USB hub. Plug everything you’ve got into this, and then just the one plug from the hub into your computer. Pro tip: Get a hub that also charges your computer at the same time (aka self-powered). This keeps your computer’s power focused, and will not drain the laptop (which can make the camera and sound lag). There are more expensive options for better hubs (CalDigit), but these Anker ones do the job, and are portable.

For under $700, can you afford not to look and sound your best?

If you want more on gear/set-up, you can also check this out: The Complete “How To Podcast” Guide – 2023 Edition.

Before you go… ThinkersOne is a new way for organizations to buy bite-sized and personalized thought leadership video content (live and recorded) from the best Thinkers in the world. If you’re looking to add excitement and big smarts to your meetings, corporate events, company off-sites, “lunch & learns” and beyond, check it out.