Podcast sound quality

How can I make my podcast sound better?

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Why you should focus on making your podcast sound better

Audio-only podcasts increasingly rely on quality production to help maintain and grow listener numbers. Poor quality recordings will lead to your listeners not reaching the end of the episode and moving instead to a different show. Also, a podcast with poor audio and production values is hardly going to entice guests to your show so here are some great tips to get the best possible sound quality.

What does great audio sound like?

We associate a great audio experience with the following traits:

  • Vocal recording is clear, crisp, vibrant and rich. The vocals should not sound thin or muffled
  • The recording is free from distortion such as crackling and wind noise
  • Volume levels are consistent throughout for all speakers and all segments
  • Background noises are minimised
  • The best possible mics are used such as the Rode Podcaster USB mic together with quality headphones.

The location

Plenty of successful podcasts do not use a recording studio. As your podcast shows grow you may want to consider moving to a studio or if you have the space at home, installing a purpose-built recording studio but if you’re recording at home or in the office, think about the following:

  • Rooms that are carpeted and have other soft furnishings such as curtains and cushions, as well as bookcases, make an ideal environment. Stay away from walls and windows as hard and flat surfaces reflect sound much like a mirror reflects light
  • Try and eliminate all other external noises in the room. For example, turn off any air-conditioning, close doors and windows and if you have curtains or blinds then pull them closed
  • Microphones have the ability to pick up the smallest sound; the clicking of a mouse, the whirring of your computer fan, the vibration of your mobile phone. Use headphones to monitor the audio that you’re recording and find a place that is far away as possible from any noise you can’t manually switch off
  • Exit any apps you’re not using and be sure to turn any off any notifications such as email and social media updates
  • Make sure the desk and chair you using are stable and don’t squeak whilst in use. Make sure cables are secured and if you have an acoustic panel for your desk use it to deaden any unwanted sounds
  • If you’re using a script to read from and need to turn to the next page, take a pause when doing to allow for these noises to be edited out later
  • If you are using a dedicated room at home or in the office for podcasting, we would also recommend purchasing some foam acoustic panels or tiles that can easily be affixed to the wall and help to reduce sound reverberation or echo.

Most podcasts aren’t recorded live, so if you do have any unexpected noises during the show, you can re-record the segment or edit out any undesirable sounds later.

Your guest

If you are recording with a guest or a co-host you will need to follow as many of the steps above as you can. However, guests may not have access to as suitable a location as you so you can’t eliminate every noise. But as a minimum, you should ask them to close any doors and windows, disconnect any external fans/air-conditioning, turn their phone to silent and close any apps they are not using. If on your podcast you are regularly interviewing external guests recording remotely, then your listeners will generally forgive a less than perfect audio experience. However, listeners will expect the podcast show host(s) to have near broadcast-quality audio.

We would recommend that you prep your guest as much as you can in advance of the recording. Find out where they will actually be on the day of the recording. Do they have access to a mic? How fast is the internet connection they are using and have they any headphones? What experience do they have of podcasting? Are they a seasoned pro or is this their first time?

If they are an inexperienced guest then we recommend you meet in advance (either in-person or on video) so that can establish a rapport. In that call or meeting we suggest that you cover:

  • The themes you would like to cover with them. We don’t recommend sharing questions in advance as the podcast episode could sound too rehearsed and the very best interviews are organic and grow in all sorts of directions
  • The length of time the recording is likely to take
  • An explanation of remote recording apps such as Riverside, Zencastr and Squadcast if you’re using one
  • If the podcast recording isn’t live, explain that if they stumble or make a mistake or wish to re-phrase an answer this can be done and edited later
  • Get agreement from them to share podcast marketing material on social media and other promotional platforms.

The equipment

All podcasters whether hobbyists or those seeking to monetise their content need to invest in decent recording equipment. The costs for condenser mics and shock mounts for example are relatively inexpensive. The investment you make in recording equipment will be paid back many times over by giving you the ability to capture broadcast-quality audio content.

Use a high-end microphone to make your podcast sound better

Yes of course you can use your laptop mic if you want your podcast to sound awful. Serious podcasters would never dream of recording audio through a computer mic. Condenser mics offer broadcast-quality audio. Newer condenser mics also remove the technical aspect of XLRs and phantom power by allowing you to connect via USB. Many of the mics have an in-built pop-filter thus removing plosive sounds (the air blast from the mouth or popping noise on words beginning for example with P or B).

Shock mount

A shock mount provides isolation from handling vibrations and prevent unwanted movement of the mic when you’re recording.

Mic boom arm

A mic boom arm allows the mic to be freely positioned above your desk for maximum convenience and optimal sound capture.

Headphones

Wearing headphones that connect to your mic allows you to identify and fix and background noises before you hit the record button. The wearing of headphones also helps with your technique as by hearing what is being recorded you can adjust the sound levels and the position of the mic for optimal audio quality, which will make your podcasts sound better.

Podcasting Recording Platform

Many podcasters use the services of a remote podcasting recording platform such as Riverside, Zencastr and Squadcast and there are plenty more available. These platforms allow podcasters to record studio-quality content remotely anywhere in the world. This is particularly useful if you wish to record episodes with guests who aren’t based locally or are overseas. Many of these platforms allow you to:

  • Record video podcasts
  • Record audio-only podcasts but show video
  • Record audio-only podcasts.

The platforms are intuitive and easy to use (for both podcaster and guest). They record both .mp3 and higher quality Wav files.

The platforms essentially all work the same. They record each participant’s audio locally, creating separate files for everyone. This means the quality of the recording is largely uncompressed and unaffected by the quality of the internet connection, so each file will sound clean and crisp when downloaded. However, we would still recommend that guests use external mics and headphones and be in a quiet room to ensure that broadcast quality sound.

The platforms upload everyone’s audio while the podcast is being recorded so download time at the send is mere seconds. Additionally, files are uploaded to the cloud so if disaster strikes don’t worry, your files will still be available.

The remote podcasting platforms are really easy to use for guests. They simply click a link in the email you send them and they’ll be taken straight to the session. Most of the platforms also have a virtual ‘Green Room’ where guests can prepare and if using video, can check their appearance.

Lastly, there is no software to download, it’s all cloud-based. You simply access the platform through your browser and pay a small monthly subscription.

Post-Production

There are plenty of post-production resources for podcasters; free apps such as GarageBand and Audacity to subscription sites such as Alitu. While these options are great for beginners, to truly produce broadcast-level audio quality you will need to use the expertise of a podcast agency like The Podcasterists.

The key elements of any post-production process include:

Noise reduction

Despite all of the precautions you’ve taken, you’ll probably have some low-level noise that has been picked up. It could be traffic, a police siren or people talking. It could also be equipment noise such as low buzz or hiss. As you boost the volume of the recording, these noises will also become more audible. There are tools you can use that highlights a section of silence in your recording and allows the software to identify the noise to be removed. Therefore it can be good practice to record a few seconds of silence at the start of your podcast to use as the noise reduction sample.

Equalisation

A recording is a layer of different sound frequencies. Equalisation lets you either reduce or remove the volume of certain frequencies whilst boosting others. This allows you to experiment until you find a sound you’re happy with.

Compression

Compression is the term used to bring the loudest and quietest parts of the recording closer together helping to have a much more consistent volume level throughout the entire episode.

Make your podcast sound better with The Podcasterists

We’re experts at creating high-end audio and can help you make your podcast sound better. Let The Podcasterists remove one of the biggest podcast headaches and let you get back to doing what you do best – creating great content! Drop us a line at team@thepodcasterists.com or book a call by clicking on the button in the section below.

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