If you've read my previous post, you already know that when it comes to your podcast, audio quality is important and can’t always be fixed after the fact. So how do you ensure the quality of your initial recording? Luckily, it’s not as difficult as you think to improve your audio right out the gate.
1. Location, location, location
Those of you who’ve been recording podcasts for a while already know that just about everything in your environment can impact your audio. (Did you know? Carpeting will absorb higher frequencies, but not lower ones.)
Ideally, you want a quiet room, with lots of space around you. At the same time, however, be aware of the general acoustics. Will you get a lot of echo and reverb in your chosen location? If you can’t commit to foam panels on the walls, consider placing a semicircle of foam behind your mic to absorb the sound and reduce echo.
“But Kelly,” you say, “I’ve got noisy upstairs neighbors, and I can’t always record around their schedule.” Sit tight — I’ll come back to that.
Once you’re ready to start speaking, consider standing rather than sitting. Not only will this reduce desk noise, but you’ll have better air support. You’re not a lounge singer, after all.
If you regularly feature guests on your podcast, you might not always be able to lure them back to your studio. Not a problem. Check out Jon’s blog for tips on how to get the best audio out of a Skype interview.
2. Testing, one two three
And I do mean that literally.
- Record test audio and listen to it. You might notice issues with mic placement, plosives, or even content! Maybe you didn’t make a point as clearly as you meant to.
- Start off by recording the ambient noise of your studio for a few seconds. Processes like Adobe Audition’s “adaptive noise reduction” work best this way.
- Noisy neighbor crowd, this one’s for you. If you hear background noises partway through your recording, stop speaking for a while and let your recorder pick up that noise independent of speech.
Those last two steps make it much easier to remove noises in post. Pauses are easy to remove — unwanted sounds that are buried beneath speech, not so much. Trust me, your audio editor will thank you.
3. The right stuff
Look, quality gear is important. Full stop. That being said, you don’t need to drop thousands of dollars to record solid audio.
At the very least, as far as physical gear goes, you will need the following:
- Pop filter
- The nerves of steel required to listen to your own recorded voice without cringing (I joke, but I know I can’t do it)
Check out some of our recommendations here. Always keep your show’s format in mind when choosing your equipment. No two podcasts are created equal, so your needs might be different than your colleagues’. What works for them might not work for you!
4. The Hemingway Method
No, I don't mean you should surround yourself with polydactyl cats (though it probably wouldn't hurt). I’ll keep this one short and to the point: record in a high-resolution audio file. Yes, even if you’re compressing to MP3 format later. I like to think of this as the podcaster’s version of editing like Ernest Hemingway, who would relentlessly strip down his prose after writing. You can tone down your file for release, but you can’t add back in what was never there to begin with.
5. And speaking of editing…
Those of you who've been in the game for a while know that editing can be the most time consuming part of running a podcast. Why not look into hiring someone else to do it? You probably got into podcasting because you're a thought leader or hobbyist, eager to share your views and expertise. Whatever the reason, I doubt you started a podcast because you thought, “Gee, I sure do love to spend hours editing my audio!” But you know who genuinely does love to spend their time that way?
This girl. Right here. One of my favorite parts of my job is transforming rough audio into download-worthy podcast gold.
That's why we've launched Face4Radio, our podcast editing service. Whether you're a podcasting veteran or just getting started, I'd love to help you get happier listeners and more free time.