I want you to have high quality sound on your podcast. Why? I am an audio engineer at heart, so this is the stuff that I love to teach people about. In this article I am going to share ten proven ways to help you to improve your sound. You may hear me say this often, but it’s true, “Asking why sound quality of a podcast matters is like asking why a restaurant needs to serve good, edible food.” If someone is willing to download and listen to your show, you need to do everything you can to provide the best listening experience. Otherwise your listener will, justifiably, unsubscribe. The first impression of your podcast is crucial. It’s important to your show, to your brand and ultimately shows you care about your listeners.
So, here are my ten hacks to make your podcast sound professional:
1. Start by understanding the basics of sound: It’s important to understand things like signal flow (the path an audio signal takes from your source to output). And then there’s audio formats (MP3, WAV or AFF). Formats are important so you know which one to use for your show and also will prove helpful when adjusting your settings in various VOIP dashboard panels. It’s also important to understand audio terminology. Doing so will help you with troubleshooting issues that may arise or at least, help you to convey to the person assisting you, what issue you may be experiencing. You don’t need to become a professional audio engineer, but it’s super important to understand the way sound works and use (or at least know) the correct terminology. Further, understanding how sound works will aid you in getting the best sound for your podcast.
- Set your room and environment up for success: way before gear, your room is the most important. You need to make sure that it’s quiet. Can you turn off the air conditioning? Is there traffic outside? Is your computer making noise?
- If your computer IS making noise, you can put a towel under it or put some foam under it to soften or eliminate the sound (and vibration) of the computer’s fan.
- Remember to turn off all computer (and phone) notifications and other annoying noises (television in another room, a radio, etc).
- Look at room absorption and diffusion: To improve (or create) sound absorption in your room, you can hang heavy drapes on the walls. Rugs are also a great absorber of sound. Also think about diffusion, or how sound reflections are disrupted by things in your room.
- A great home remedy is to use bookcases. They can serve as two solutions because the books will actually absorb sound and disrupt reflections a little bit. Bookcases can help reduce the reverb or echo in the room.
- One final tip: you want to try and stay away from walls. The closer you are to a piece of drywall (or even a window) the more reflections the microphone is going to pick up. But, you don’t necessarily want to be in the center of the room, either. Weird things with sound waves bouncing off walls can happen when you are in the center of the room.
- Record 10 seconds of silence: If you’ve done everything you can to reduce room noise and you are still picking up noise in your recordings, then record 10 seconds of silence every time you record something. You can then use it with noise reduction tools or plug-ins. Even Audacity, a free digital audio workstation (DAW) has great noise reduction tools that can analyze the noise and strip it out.
- Select the appropriate gear for you: You have to get appropriate gear for your budget, for your type of voice and for where you are recording. Once you have all of that set, then you need to take the time to learn how to use it. Note: Even if something says it is plug and play, it often isn’t. There is a learning curve.
- Don’t update your OS: Once you have your gear, equipment and workstation setup as you want it and it sounds good, do not update your operating system on your computer. If you do, you run the risk of messing with your setup. The last thing you want is two hours before an interview, you turn everything on and it’s not working because your computer’s OS updated. That’s why I say don’t update your operating system.
- Warm-up, not just your own voice: Before recording and conducting a podcast interview, you need to warm up. And, I don’t just mean your own voice. Be sure to spend between 10 to 15 minutes beforehand with your guests. As people get nervous, their voice becomes a little bit higher pitched. So by talking to your guests for a few minutes before you start recording, it helps them loosen up, allowing their voice to lower; sounding much more pleasant and inviting.
- Microphone placement: Place your microphone anywhere from two to six inches away from you. You can place the microphone just a little closer if you are using a dynamic microphone and have a little bit more space if you are using a condenser microphone.
- Use a pop filter: Utilize a pop filter to help catch plosives, like words starting with the letter P.
- Mixing and mastering – plug-ins and EQ: You can use plug-ins (a tool that process sound in a certain way) to improve your audio . Plug-ins are really good to know how to use and are actually pretty simple to use too.
- One plug-in you can use is the high pass filter. Almost all DAWs have a high pass filter. A high pass filter is a tool that only allows frequencies above a point you set to get through the filter. This is great plug-in to use with any mic pops that got through to your recording.
- At the opposite end of the spectrum is the de-esser plug-in. A de-esser takes the ‘sssss’ frequency that causes headaches and squishes is down, removing that ‘hiss or sss’ sound from your audio track.
- And lastly, EQ. For the human voice, you really only need to know four things about EQ: boosting 100 kilohertz (KHz) helps give the voice warmth (think Barry White) and for females use 150 KHz. At 300 KHz nothing good happens there, you can pull it out and clean up your sound a little bit. If you think you sound nasal, you can pull down around 2 KHz. And, then boosting 5 KHz increases clarity, presence, diction; which makes it easier to understand what you are saying.
While it’s true that if your content is good listeners will put up with lesser quality, they won’t stick around indefinitely. A quality-driven and professional sounding podcast means more listeners, in the long run. Do yourself and your listeners a favor and start implementing some or all of the strategies I’ve shared with you today. And if you are struggling with time, implementation or just feel like this is over your head, visit my website Emerald City Productions, where I offer services and packages for all of your podcast production needs. There’s no need to go through this journey alone.