It is important to improve podcast audio quality when recording and in post production. There are a number of factors that go into making sure you capture clear sound pre-production when recording for different formats and platforms. Here are our 12 best approaches we recommend to improve your audio recording quality.
1. Choose a quiet space to record.
One of the easiest ways to improve audio quality is also the cheapest. That is finding a quiet place to record high-quality audio. It’s crucial to concentrate on noise reduction inside of your recording location. Turn off any superfluous electronics like fans, heaters, and air conditioning units. Oh yeah, and turn off mobile phones too. Additionally, wear headphones so you can hear things you may otherwise miss, such as the low hum of a refrigerator or even the humming of a lightbulb. You will be amazed at what you will hear when you put on headphones. Some people think headphones when podcasting is just for show. Headphone serve a very important purpose. They allow you to hear what your recording device hears.
2. Choose a smaller room.
Unwanted echo in an audio recording is no pleasure for anyone. In audio recordings this is called reverb. The key to increasing your audio quality is to take action to get rid of echo before recording. Avoid areas with hard surfaces as a general rule of thumb. It will be easier to absorb sound waves and lessen echoing if you record in a room with plenty of soft surfaces, such as carpet, curtains, tapestries, and soft upholstered furniture. Additionally, smaller rooms typically perform better than bigger ones. If you do not have a small room, if recording only your own voice in a monologue, then try recording in a walk-in closet with hanging clothing, this space can sometimes make an ideal sound recording booth.
3. Choose the right type of microphone.
Today there are so many devices which contain internal microphones from mobile phones and tablets to headphones and speakers. And while these can be good on the go, you may face challenges using them to record. If you choose such a device, minimize its movement while recording. For devices place them on a flat surface with the mic closest to you, or between you and another speaker. For headphones with in-built mic, make sure they do not brush against clothing.
If you want to spend a little more money or have a more permanent setup. After finding the right space, choosing the best microphone becomes the priority. A microphone will have a significant impact on the sound of your audio. The good news is, there are many reasonably priced external USB microphones that plug right into your computer or an audio mixer that need little setup.
USB microphones are only good for recording one voice. If you need to utilize two mics simultaneously (for example, for a podcast with two hosts in the same place). Instead, choose XLR microphones. They cost more and will also call for an audio interface or mixer, but they will deliver superior sound. A good XLR choice would be the Podmic from Rode.
If you’re an independent audio producer, you should probably choose a dynamic mic over a condenser mic, whether you choose an XLR or USB microphone. Condenser microphones are more sensitive and provide clearer sound, but because they are designed to be used in a totally soundproof recording studio, they will take up more unwanted background noise than dynamic microphones. Condenser microphones often require a mixer to also have phantom power.
4. Choose a good microphone stand.
Use a well-made sturdy mic stand or arm to safeguard your microphone. Good Mic stands should shield your microphone from unwanted vibrations and should also prevent it from tipping over if bumped. Additionally, they free up your hands so you may do other tasks like write notes or be more animated with your hand when you speak. Of course, waving your hands too much risks affecting audio quality should you bump the mic, so don’t get over excited. Although there are many different types of microphone stands available, podcasters prefer desk-clamp ones. The only drawback is that the mic could pick up movement if you bang the desk while recording, thus it’s best to mount the stand to some furniture nearby, as opposed to a desk you are sitting at.
5. Use pop-filters and wind socks.
Some microphones, like the Rode Podmic come with in-built features designed to improve audio quality. However, do not. Check your microphone to see what features are engineered. You may need a pop filter or a wind shield in some circumstances. A pop filter is used to shield it from air released by spoken plosives, or consonants like “p,” “t,” and “k,” which when you pronounce them produce a burst of air to come from your lips. Without a pop filter, the airburst might strike the microphone and distort the sound. Pop filters of excellent quality may be purchased for as cheap as $10 online and at your local audio store. Windsocks are used in windy environments, firstly avoid recording in windy environments. But if you must, a windsock or fluffy may provide a filter from the sounds wind makes blowing across a mic. The Rode Podmic has both these features built in to its construction. Additionally, the Podmic has an in-built shock mount to help absorb vibration should you accidentally bump into the microphone while recording.
6. Microphone proximity.
Spending a month’s salary on the newest top-of-the-line XLR microphone won’t help you if you’re standing too far away or too close to the microphone when recording. Place your mouth four to six inches away from the microphone to get the greatest voice recordings. Also, to reduce plosives, speaking across a microphone as opposed to speaking directly in to it, can reduce clipping or harsher sounds. To reduce mouth/lip clicks, keep water on hand. Being too close to a mic can also record unwanted breaths.
7. Record to separate channels.
A mixer allows you to improve audio recordings when utilizing two or more XLR microphones, yet you may record decent audio without one as well. Some cheaper audio mixers do not offer the ability to record a multi-track. So, consider your mixer wisely. Having the ability to record in multi-track means every voice (mic) ends up on its own channel (track). Your options to change the volume and apply additional audio effects to certain speakers are improved when recording multi-track. This is useful if one of your podcast hosts has a natural tendency to talk much louder than their co-host or guest. Look for a mixer that has enough XLR inputs for the quantity of people you’ll have on mic when selecting a mixer. If you are recording a monologue then a recording device like a voice recorder or phone or a single-track recording mixer may be ok to use.
8. Adjust mic sensitivity.
Gain is the term used to describe the recorded audio signal’s decibel (dB) input volume. Audio distortion is likely to occur if your gain is set too high (or too loud). Position yourself in front of your microphone and speak a few test lines at your loudest anticipated level to accurately calibrate your gain. Check your recording software or mixer’s levels to make sure they are not in the red “danger” zone. If they are, turn down your gain until it stops peaking in the red when you talk at the desired volume.
9. Sound Proofing or Sound Treatment.
While soft room furnishings and small spaces offer some means of reducing reverb. If you find too much echo you may look to add sound proofing or treatments to a room. The most common sound treatments may be blankets or foam wall tiles. These tiles can be used to deaden hard surfaces and therefore reduce sound reflecting off such surfaces. For monologue recordings, you may purchase portable sound booths.
10. Speak Clearly.
When recording, the way you talk goes a long way to add to the quality of your recording for the listener. Enunciating clearly and pronouncing words correctly allow the listener to understand what is being communicated clearly. The pace at which you speak also gives time for the listener to digest what is being said. If two or more people are involved in recording, avoid speaking over each other during recording this will save time in post-production/editing. Also avoid ‘ums’ and ‘aahs’ when you speak. While a couple are ok, overuse of filler words can make a conversation sound disjointed to a listener.
11. Editing Audio Post Production.
Technology and computers have advanced significantly, and today software can make subpar recordings sound like it was made in a studio. Therefore, if you can’t afford a microphone, just record at an acceptable location, and make sure you have the resources to edit it afterwards. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time editing, then putting in the effort to improve recording quality pre-production is a better strategy.
12. Checklist and test.
Make a checklist of the previous suggestions and use them as a guide to ensure you have covered all the bases of improving your audio quality. Once you set everything up as you see fit. Make a fast test recording to catch any audio difficulties in the early stages before you actually hit the record button. Just like musicians conduct sound checks before a large concert, make any required modifications to your setup while listening to the test through headphones. Take some photos of levels and record other information that may help you set things up faster in the future too, particularly if you are not leaving your equipment permanently set up.
Modern Media School’s online courses assume an intermediate level of computer literacy.
If you are planning a podcast, we have a successful podcast launch checklist available for purchase in our online store.
Should you register and pay one of the online podcasting courses here, this podcast planner is made available to you at no extra cost.
It is a great resource to make sure you tick off all the things you need when starting a podcast, it forms part of the course curriculum.
Like all things, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. That’s what makes this checklist so important.
Coach Craig Rowe has 30 years’ experience in graphic design as well as audio and video content creation. A journalism graduate from the University of Queensland, he has contributed to content creation for government and private clients and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with learners. His ability to teach is drawn from his experience as an endorsed trainer and speaker helping people attain knowledge across various industries.