You are looking forward to start your new podcast or already have one and looking for tips to make it sound better. Sure, a professional sounding podcast will attract a broader audience but do you have to spend a lot of money on equipment to sound great or you can improve the quality without breaking the bank?
Here are the top podcast recording tips for a professional sounding podcast.
1. Get a good microphone
Getting a good microphone is one of the most important things that will affect the way your podcast sounds.
Recording with your laptop's microphone or with the one that is built in your earphones will significantly decrease the sound quality of your podcast and will drive listeners away.
If you're starting out however, you don't have to spend a lot of money on expensive and professional audio equipment. You don't need an external preamplifier, an audio interface and an XLR microphone.
A decent dynamic or condenser microphone with a built in preamp and audio interface will be a great investment. You don't have to spend a lot of money.
In these two articles we talk about a few choices (some under 100$!).
2. Record in a quiet room
It's common to be thinking that room audio won't get recorded and won't show up on your episodes.
That's a misconception.
If your room isn't quiet, after you record your episode and start listening to it carefully, you will hear ambient audio, especially if you're listening with headphones.
When recording, you should shut your windows and doors, turn off any equipment that makes any noise and notify your roommates or family that you will be recording.
Condenser microphones are more sensitive than dynamic ones and they may even pick up noise from the next room.
Also be sure to be recording in a room that isn't echoing as it will be noticeable in the audio too.
Noises will be more noticeable after applying audio effects, like compression, to your podcast, so make sure that you follow this rule.
3. Stand up
Have you ever searched about voice over artists or singers studio videos? You will notice that most of the times they stand up when delivering.
This is one of the oldest tricks generally used by vocalists to sound better in recordings.
Standing up helps to deliver better air flow through your breathing and stronger, more confident speech.
If you have a script you can use a music stand to hold it.
4. Take breaks
It's common for podcasts to be separated into segments. Don't be afraid to take a break between segments. You can reset for a bit, rest, grab a glass of water and read your notes for the next segment.
If you've made any mistakes so far you can write them down, before you forget them, and edit them later.
Your guests will also appreciate a break. You can reassure them that the discussion is going great and discuss or discuss or plan what is up next.
5. Watch your audio levels
It's super common, in podcasts or even radio studios, that the hosts do not notice the audio levels.
If you record too "hot" the audio will distort and it will be impossible to fix it in post production. If you record in a low volume, increasing it in post production will probable result in the noise floor going up.
Almost all audio recording software will display the levels that you're recording. Make sure that when you're talking the waveform is big enough, but it doesn't seem to clip.
Some software will display levels in colors.
Green: You're in normal volume and the audio isn't clipping, but make sure it isn't low either.
Yellow: Be careful, if you talk a bit louder the audio may clip. It's a good idea to turn down the volume a bit or back off.
Red: Your audio is clipping and there's distortion you can't fix in post.
6. Get a pop filter
A pop filter is responsible for eliminating plosive sounds.
Try saying a phrase with a lot of "P"s in it.
You will notice that when you say "P" the waveform gets a spike and when you listen to the recording it sounds more pronounced and unnatural.
This is much more probable if you're using a condenser microphone instead of a dynamic one and a pop filter may be necessary.
7. Make test recordings
Before you start recording your first episode make sure to make a few test recordings to make sure that everything sounds great.
Take some time, learn how to use your equipment and audio software properly and make sure to fix any audio issues before officially starting to record.
You don't want to record a whole episode and after realize there's audio problems you can't fix in post production!
If you have a quest, make sure to guide him and ensure that their audio is good enough before start recording too.
8. Keep proper microphone distance
The distance and angle between your mouth and the microphone can greatly affect how your voice gets recorded.
As you get closer to the microphone your voice will have more bass and will be more focused. If you start going backwards it will start being more thin and roomy.
You have to find a balance (in your test recordings) and make sure you keep that distance throughout the duration of the episode.
Start with the front of the microphone in the same height as your mouth, put the pop filter a couple of inches in front of the microphone and start speaking close to it. How does this sound? Listen back and make the necessary adjustments so you're happy with the result.
9. Watch your breath
It's common that if you haven't much recording experience you won't think about the impact that your breath has to the sound.
If you're talking for a few seconds you are going to need to inhale. But beware, this will show up on the recording. You have to control how pronounced your breathing is and back off the microphone for a moment.
Breath control is a skill that singers and voice artists master and control. Taking notice of it and getting better will make you a more professional podcaster.
I you want to talk longer try practicing taking more air up front. You can also short inhale, in case you you're in the middle of a phrase and want to get through it without a long breath.
Remember the standing up trick? You can also control your posture and make sure you're not limiting your air flow, resulting in more noise than necessary.
10. Record with headphones
You can live monitor your audio by wearing headphones!
Make sure to set the volume on a high, but comfortable, level and you will be able to catch a few audio issues before they ruin your recording.
If your preamp is too high, you may hear the distortion and lower the volume or back off the microphone. If you head many plosives when you speak you may want to step a bit back. You may be able to listen to buzzes, meaning that your audio cable is faulty.
If there's more than one host make sure that everybody's audio is been monitored with headphones.
11. Be silent when a co-host speaks
When another host or interviewee speaks you have to keep quiet. Do not make any noises or breath to the microphone, as they will show up. Step back until your co-host finishes speaking.
If you're recording on multiple channels you can cut such noises but it's a long process that you can skip.
12. Take editing notes
You probably don't have the time to re-listen to whole episodes you just recorded, especially if they're long, and you don't want to outsource the editing. Also you may don't want to stop recording when you make a mistake and interrupt your flow.
Take Notes! You can quickly look at what time into the recording you made a mistake and take a note so you can quickly go and edit it afterwards without re-listening to the episode.
If there's multiple hosts, each one can take notes in turns.
13. Cut breathes and "uhms"
Okay, you maybe want to take your production value up a notch and dedicate some time to audio editing.
You don't have to do it right after you record but after a while you can listen to the episode and cut noises that don't fit in.
Such noises are breathes, "uhms", "you know", like"...
Don't spend lots of time in this, you still want to sound like human and there's no need to cut every noise out.
Tip: To identify these sounds better and know where to cut you can zoom in the waveform and make it bigger.
14. Separate audio files for each host
When you record more than one host or interviewee you don't want to record one audio track. Instead it's much better to record each one separately.
It's much better if you record each one separately in high quality WAV format and then transfer a high quality MP3 file to the editor to have more flexibility with.
We have talked a little bit more about the process in "The 100$ Podcast Setup", read this for online file sharing service recommendations.
15. Help your guests sound good
You're reading all these tips, and you will sound great but what about your guests?
They may have no prior experience with podcasting or audio recording. It's your job to help them set up properly so they sound good.
Take notice about their mistakes and make sure you help them understand what they can do to improve. Your audience will surely appreciate if both you and your guest sounds good. Isn't it annoying when you listen to podcasts that you can't understand what the interviewee is saying due to bad audio?
If they are recording remotely make sure to help them export and transfer the files afterwards.
16. Use modest amount of audio effects
There's a lot of plugins in your audio editing software and you can download dozens more, but do you have to dive deep?
No, you don't have to.
There's a few basic plugins that come with your audio editing software and their enough for making your podcast sound great if it was recorded properly.
Compressor: A must use audio plugin is a compressor. A compressor helps lessening the dynamic range between the quietest and loudest parts of an audio signal. It will boost the quit parts of the signal and attenuate the louder ones. That way the listener will be able to head everything you're saying, even if they're inside a bus or walking hove. Be careful though, don't overuse the compressor as it will start raising the noise floor too.
Equalizer: With an equalizer you can adjust and balance frequencies within your audio recording. Does your voice sound boomy? You can cut some of the low end or use a high pass filter. Does your voice sound a bit nasally? You can find the right mid frequency and cut it. Does your voice lack clarity? Add some high end!
Limiter: Last in the chain (and that's important) comes a limiter. It is responsible for limited the audio signal to 0.0db so it wont distort. (digital audio signals can start distorting if you push them loud enough)
That's it. Three audio plugins. If you master them your podcast will sound great. Check if the plugins in your audio software have some presets that you can use as a starting point. Beware though, do not overdo editing. It will not sound natural!
17. Listen to previous episodes
Audio recording and mixing is something that takes time to learn and master. You can't expect to get it perfect in the beginning.
If you already have a few episodes up, listen to them carefully?
What doesn't sound that good? What can you do to improve your audio? Which one of the above tips and tricks can you use?
Find what's wrong and fix it, your audience will notice and your production value will be better. It's not that hard once you have grasped the basics.
18. Get a second opinion
It's never a bad idea to get a second opinion. Have you got any friends that are podcasters themselves or have some high end audio monitors? Ask for their opinion.
You maybe like to listen to podcasts on your earphones or laptop speakers that can't produce low frequencies and someone with higher end ones will notice them.
You can even ask your audience about if your podcast sounds okay or they would prefer if you changed something!
These are some tips about how you can make a great sounding podcast.
Read them and re-read them until you feel comfortable with and apply each one of them and I can tell you, your podcast will sound great.
If you're starting your podcast now it's a great time to read our "How to start a podcast?" guide for helping you with each step of the process.