How to make a podcast that sounds amazing

In our first podcast, we talk to experienced film, sound and podcast producer Stu Rolls. We ask Stu about how to achieve great sounding audio and why that’s so important for the listener experience. We also discuss what the ingredients are for producing a great podcast and the equipment you need to get that studio sound. Finally, we ask Stu the most challenging question of all – who he rates as the best music producer in the world.
podcast producer stu


Stu Rolls


Stu is an expert freelance film, sound and podcast producer, with 13 plus years of agency and production side experience. Stuart lives in Spain and his client list includes BBC, The Lego Group, Maserati, Barclaycard, Pfizer, Team Sky, amongst others.


Chris: Hey, everyone. Welcome to That Purpose Show. We’re the guys that help organisations tell the story of their business, one podcast at a time. I’m Chris Taylor, your show host, and this week, our podcasts delve deeper into the fantastic world of podcasting to bring you expert insights and analysis, to help you take the first steps on your podcasting journey.

Chris: Joining me this week is Stu Rolls, an expert freelance film, sound and podcast producer, with 13 plus years of agency and production side experience. Stuart lives in Spain and his client list includes BBC, The Lego Group, Maserati, Barclaycard, Pfizer, Team Sky, amongst others.

Chris: Hi Stu, how’s it going?

Stu: Very good. Thanks. And summer’s started today here in Spain, so, air-cons already on, so having to work out how to get rid of air-con sound on my microphone today.

Chris: So it was not raining on the plane as it does normally in Spain, not this week?
Now you’ve helped a number of high profile clients to develop a podcast channel. What ingredients do you think they need to create a successful podcast?

Stu: I think a lot of it goes into the planning. Not only technology but the narrative and understanding that, you need to provide your guests and your hosts with a clear platform from the start in terms of what they’re going to be talking about and the energy and the different messages that you want them to get across.
And also, of course, making sure that they have the right equipment there in the first place for them to sound good so that our listeners can focus on what they’re talking about rather than worrying about, hang on, this sounds a bit dodgy.

Chris: I mean, audio quality is key isn’t it for successful podcasts? You’ve got to invest a little bit of money haven’t you in some decent kit?

Stu: Well, we’re in a pretty amazing world where you and I are having this conversation here, I’m in Spain and you all are, you are in the UK and to be able to do this at this level of quality, even three or four years ago, probably would have been quite difficult. So, I think everyone’s realised that now you can record a conversation via any platform in the world, really with any sort of microphone, but that doesn’t mean that what you’re producing necessarily reflects on the quality of your brand. So that’s the challenge that we have as producers of podcasts, is creating something that sounds luxurious and reflects on the brand as being a premium brand, rather than having something that sounds cheap and reflects badly on the brand.

Chris: Sure. Cause it must be difficult for someone who’s a listener of a podcast to listen to something that has poor audio for 30, 40 minutes. That’s quite an ask, so it has to be rich, doesn’t it? It has to sound rich and luxurious.

Stu: Absolutely. I mean, it’s a pretty unforgiving medium of how you digest your content, really, because I suppose at least if you’re watching a film, there are so many different things that you can focus on. You can focus on the sound, you can focus on the action on screen, you can focus on the colours, you can focus on various other things, but with podcasts in particular, and I’d be interested to know what the actual statistics are, but a good amount of people or a high percentage of people that do listen to podcasts, I would imagine are using headphones. So it’s in isolation, nine times out of 10, it’s a conversation between two people without anything else to hide the fact that the audio might be bad. So if it’s bad, then you’re going to notice it. And it’s very quick that people say well, I don’t want this intimate feeling of a really bad, low-quality sound in my earphones, and so from there, the minute that you’ve lost that person, and they’ve said I’m not going to listen again, the next time you release something else that might have some really important information that represents your organisation they’ll just say, I don’t want to listen to it because it’s not worth the in inverted commas, “damaging experience to my ears”.

Chris: Yeah, no, absolutely. Now you’ve worked with, quite some high profile clients here, then Maserati, Pfizer, BBC, amongst others. What are they using podcasting for? Is it to talk to external audiences or internal, or is it a bit of a mixture of all of them?

Stu: From my experience, it seems that they’re using it in all sorts of capacities. You know, there’s an internal communications world where they have a lot of long-form content, a lot of information that they know people aren’t going to read on their website or in their newsletters that they send out. So they say, okay, we know that people listen to podcasts and a human voice to the messages they want to say, rather than just written word, which might not necessarily feel particularly engaging.

So in answer to your question, I think it’s everywhere, podcasting and seemingly more and more because people are understanding that as a platform it’s very accessible, if you do invest a little bit of money upfront with the right equipment and with a bit of time to make sure that you plan ahead with what you want to say in your podcasts because you can find short-form podcasts anywhere, you can find long-form podcasts anywhere. Whether it be Spotify that can be LinkedIn. That can be Twitter. That can be Apple podcasts. That can be anywhere. And they can even send that via mailouts, you know, emails with small MP3 files that say exactly what they need them to say.

Chris: Yeah, it’s pretty powerful stuff isn’t it? How important is the show host, do you think in all of this. I mean, you say, the written word you’re giving it an actual voice and a sound, how important is the show host?

Stu: It’s hugely important. Ultimately, I think the joy of podcasts as well is that you as a listener, feel like you’re in the room with the people in the discussion. So if there’s clearly no chemistry between the host and the guests, and that feels slightly awkward or forced, then imagine you’re sat in that room, then you’re going to feel uncomfortable and you’re going to feel like you don’t want to be there, so you’re going to take your headphones out.
So if that host can make that fun or if that host is able to get out the best answers possible from the guests on the show itself, then they’ve done their job.
And if you have the right host, you can really make sure that you get the right things said on the podcast that you didn’t even expect to say in the first place.

Chris: I think you’re right. It’s those conversations I think that are pretty free-flowing because, I don’t, I script some questions, but actually, I never really know where it’s going to go if I’m totally honest. I think that it can go in many different directions and some of the podcasts have been pretty, quick and 15, 20 minutes and others have gone on to 45 minutes, 50 minutes or so. So it really does depend, I think, on the chemistry between the guest.

Stu: Sure. And if you don’t have that chemistry then it can just feel forced. And like I said earlier, it’s really important that you plan and decide what direction you want the general conversation to go in. But it’s a really nice balance to have that structure, but actually, let it go and let it flow as a conversation as it would if you and I are in the same room together face to face.
That’s what we want it to feel like, a human connection.

Chris: Do you think that, for podcasts to grow their audience, how many episodes would you recommend producing? Or do you think sometimes companies go, organisations go look, we haven’t got enough listeners, or do you think they pull it too soon? And this is something that’s rather organic and you have to grow it quite carefully?
So how many episodes do you reckon it would take to connect to get going?

Stu: Well ultimately, it takes one episode to get going. In fact, if I had one piece of advice, it feels like sometimes there’s a little bit too much thinking that goes into the overall plan.
I think you’re not going to know what your podcast is going to look like in six months. You might feel this is where you want it to go in the long run, but I think it’s really easy as an organisation or as a strategist to get too wrapped up in the long-term goal and then you end up not actioning and getting going. Because you’re ultimately going to learn lessons. You’re going to say, okay, for example, this host doesn’t quite work, or actually, we only want two guests on this podcast, or actually, we only want one on ones or we need more music or we need some sound design.
So I think it’s really important actually from my perspective, to sometimes just say, do you know what? We’re going to try out three. And the reason we’re doing the three is because we want to tell a short narrative and there’s three stages to this narrative. And let’s just try that.
It’s always great to do a pilot. I think it’s always great to then say, okay, from the pilot, let’s do a series of three, four, five, six, and let’s have an overarching theme to make sure that actually, as a listener, you have a reason to go to the next podcast.
And yeah, it’s great to have a long-term plan, but actually sometimes you can overthink it from my opinion, at least, and I think it’s just great to go, do you know what? Let’s try it! And the good thing about the platform is it’s not hugely expensive to go ahead and start doing that.

Chris: No. No, absolutely. And if you could give some tips to an organisation thinking about starting a podcast, what sort of things would you recommend that they do?

Stu: If I was to give one tip to organisations thinking about starting a podcast, I would say, don’t get too caught up in the thinking about the long-term goal. Just try out the host, try out the format, try out the music, try out the guests, commit to making a start, and let it evolve over time naturally, just as you and your organisation do.

Chris: Absolutely. Now looking back at when you began your career, so you studied pop music production at uni, so this is fascinating. So I wondered who you rated as the world’s top music producer, or was that a really unfair question?

Stu: It is an unfair question, but I knew you were going to ask it So I’ve put a bit of thought into it.
So I, if I had to have a favourite or something that really influenced me as a “musical guy”, for want of a better phrase. There’s a producer called Andy Wallace, who did some of the most incredible 90’s, 2000’s rock albums that completely shaped my childhood. You know, you’re talking about Nevermind by Nirvana, which is staple album, all of the limbus early Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park albums, the Sum 41’s, A Perfect Circle. This guy knows how to make a drum kit sound massive. This guy knows how to make guitars feel like a wall of sound. This guy knows how to make the vocals grab your attention, stuff and tricks that I’ve studied of his that I used to put into a lot of the music tracks and the music mixes that I did for a lot of bands back in my day.

Chris: Ah, so these are real rights of passage, sorts of albums that you’re naming here. So this is really taking you back a little bit, isn’t it?

Stu: Yeah, these are the albums that I even have stuck on my wall in a frame. Various different nu-metal, 2000 rock, the albums that stick with you and ever since then, you’ve never had albums that have quite hit the note in the same way, you know?

Chris: Now people want to get hold of these two. How do they do that?

Stu: The usual methods, I guess,, which sounds as cheesy as it is and LinkedIn has always, and just popping me a note and saying, Hey, look, we’re looking to do this podcast. I need some advice I would like to bring you on board, or I need someone who can really see it from top to bottom from a strategy perspective, from a narrative perspective or just someone who can mix it for me, because obviously as we know the post-production process is equally as important as everything upfront.
And it’s definitely worth bringing on board, someone like myself who strains and stresses over the nitty-gritty details of removing a hum in the background or removing some mouth click or some noise or whatever. So definitely make sure that’s part of your production plan.

Chris: Brilliant Stu. That’s been brilliant. Thanks very much for your time.

Stu: You’re very welcome.

Chris: Thanks for listening to That Purpose Show. We’re experts at helping organisations tell their story by producing podcasts with purpose.
If like us, you believe podcasts are the best way to tell your story, then get in touch with Chris or Drew by visiting


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