If you’re shooting a video, nothing looks better than a scene shot on a high-definition camera. If there’s an equal comparison in the podcast realm, it’s audio quality. Audio quality can be the difference between success and failure. For the untrained ear, poor podcast recording quality may go unnoticed. But if it gets to the stage where regular listeners can notice poor audio quality too, then you’re in real trouble.
Capturing amazing audio can be a challenge. Several uncontrollable factors affect the sound. The goal of any podcaster is to record high-quality source material. In post-production, the recording can always be adjusted. But there’s no coming back from a bad track. Some of the best podcasts today still use these techniques to create studio-quality sound, even from their own homes.
Yes, you can start a podcast with a smartphone and smartphone mic. But if you’re looking for Serial quality audio, you need to invest in better equipment. For starters, invest in a cardioid microphone. This type of microphone makes sure most of the sound stays right in front of you.
Consider getting an audio interface like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 to manage and convert your audio. This converter works well if you have a podcast guest. While there are more expensive items that can transform your sound, these two items are exceptional, high-quality audio basics.
It sounds simple, but where you place your microphone can make a significant difference in your audio. Speaking to far away from the receiver can convert into soft audio and will also pick up soundwaves from the room. Too close can create a poor listening experience as well. Place the mic about 6 inches away from your lips.
Consider moving the mic at a 45-degree angle from your mouth. Moving the mic reduces those popping ‘P’ sounds, ‘S’ sounds, and clicks you can make with your mouth. Even with a pop filter applied, this can significantly increase your audio quality.
There’s a reason you see everyone with headphones when recording podcasts - specifically over-the-ear headphones. First, if you’re interviewing someone on the computer, this prevents the computer audio from getting picked up. You also can gauge any surrounding echo and adjust your audio levels accordingly. Headphones also keep you honest with your levels. We tend to speak higher when we’re animated or lower when we’re embarrassed. Both you and your guest will be able to manage your sounds for better recording experience.
In a large room, the sound has to travel large distances. They then bounce into other walls and obstacles, making their way back to you. This process can create an echo that can damage your audio quality. While some cardioid mics have improved the sound profile in large rooms, nothing can beat moving into a smaller space to record. Try a closet or other small enclosed space. It may feel uncomfortable for a while, but your listeners’ ears will thank you.
Even in a smaller room, you can pick up sounds that you had no intention of picking up like a humming fridge, fan, air conditioner, or even your barking dog. Make sure to remove or turn off anything that the mic can pick up. A shock mount comes in handy when you just can’t seem to sit still.
Even in a small room, hard surfaces like windows, walls, and hard floors can reflect the sound of the microphone. Work on dampening or absorbing the sound on those hard surfaces. Add soft surfaces like couches, blankets, and pillows to the room if possible. Aim for using a place with carpet floors. Studios or advanced podcasters spend thousands on reducing the echo and improving the acoustics. However, you can create your room acoustics for as little as $5.
Some microphones are so good that they pick up the slightest noises. As hard as it is to keep still, those little movements and quirks get recorded. Scratching, shifting in your chair, adjusting your clothes, or even breathing loudly can damage your audio. While it’s almost impossible to stay still for long periods, it will pay off in the long run.
The volume level can be one of the most significant factors in podcast recording quality. If you don’t get your levels right, your podcast listener has to turn the volume up or down unnecessarily.
We all know those green, yellow, and red bars that audio recording software displays. Staying out of the red zone ensures the sound is not distorted, creating a poor listening experience. You don’t want to go above 0db. Set your mic levels between -12db to -6db, which gives you enough wiggle room for editing. For in-person interviews, set your levels for each microphone so that one is not louder or quieter than the other.
If you’re new to editing, it helps to get some knowledge in your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) of choice. Audacity, Garage Band, and Logic Pro X are typical editing workstations. The wrong steps in your editing process can mean a low-quality final result. If all else fails, you can get help from a professional podcast editor or freelancer.
It can be a temptation to spend thousands of dollars on equipment and acoustics. However, there is a massive advantage in starting small and using the tools at your disposal. You get an ear for what works and what doesn’t. It also improves your creative skills, as you may do interviews or record episodes in different situations. By learning how to get the best audio possible, it becomes easier to use higher quality materials as you add more episodes to your catalog.
An excellent podcast recording positions your brand as a high-quality program in your niche. It’s easy to overlook the simple things. Combined, they can ruin what was otherwise an engaging episode. If possible, invest in the equipment that will give you a head start. Then start to cut out the simple things that can take it up a level.
If you need more help, tips, and tricks on improving your podcast game and content creation, let’s connect.