So you’ve started your podcast, wrote your outline, hit record, listened back — and now you’re wondering, “Why does my podcast audio sound terrible?” Pops, hissing, echoes, background noise, and even skips can all plague independent podcasters when they are first starting their show. Don’t worry, it happens to all of us.
Recording audio for a podcast is an art form, and to truly master it can take years of practice. But the good news is if you are itching to get your next episode out into the world, there are several basic steps you can take to ensure your audio is crystal clear — without buying expensive equipment.
While you might not be able to salvage the audio you’ve already recorded, there is still hope for future episodes! Here are four tips to get the best recording quality for your podcast.
The Best Ways to Record Great Podcast Audio Without Buying New Equipment
Chances are, if you’re just starting your independent podcast, you probably don’t have a bottomless set of funds to dip into for new gear. You’re most likely footing the bill for your show out of your own pocket — but that doesn’t mean you can’t get great-sounding audio for your episodes.
The first step is to understand what makes up good audio recording quality. To the untrained ear, it might just sound like “clear” audio. But there are actually three important factors that go into making sure your audio is sounding its best:
Level: The signal strength of your recording. This is measured in decibels (dB).
Frequency response: The range of frequencies captured in your recording. Humans can hear frequencies between 20 Hz and 20 kHz, but most speech is concentrated in the 300 Hz to 3 kHz range.
Dynamic range: The difference between the loudest and softest sounds in your recording.
With those three factors in mind, here are four tips you can use to get great audio without breaking the bank!
1. Stay a consistent distance from your microphone
Whether you are using a headset, a tabletop USB microphone, or you’ve rigged up an old Shure SM-58 from your garage rock band days (are you ever going to release that EP), proper mic etiquette is a must.
Although you might not have a high-end compressor or ribbon mic, you can still control the dynamic range of your recordings.
For the best recording quality, you’ll want to be sure to stay a consistent distance from your microphone. This will help to minimize any pops or hissing sounds in your audio, and will also make sure that your voice is always coming through loud and clear.
Find a distance that is comfortable for you, and that gives you the levels you need, and stay there. You can put a ruler down on your desk to help you be more precise, or even use a small piece of tape to mark the spot.
2. Use everyday items to treat your room
If you’re recording in a room with hard surfaces (like concrete walls or a tile floor), try to find a way to add some absorption material to the room to help reduce echoes.
Heavy blankets, books, and even furniture can help to deaden the sound in your room and make it more forgiving for your recordings. Find an old carpet to cover wooden floors or tile and experiment with different placements to see what gives you the best sound.
And while we’re on echoes and background noise…
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning. Always use headphones when recording your podcast! Not only will this help you hear any background noise that might be creeping into your recording, but it will also help to avoid any nasty feedback loops.
If you can’t wear headphones the entire time you are recording, at least put them on for a quick listen back before you hit the stop button. This will help you catch any last-minute problems with your audio.
3. Use the right software (and settings)
There are a lot of great audio recording and editing programs out there, but not all of them are created equal. When it comes to podcasting, you’ll want to make sure you are using a program that is designed for recording podcasts.
So many newbie podcasters open up whatever app or software they already have installed and hit record. While you might luck out and get a great episode in the can (that’s recording-geek for recorded), more often than not, you’ll end up with a sub-par recording.
There are a lot of great podcasting apps out there that will make your life a whole lot easier. The most important thing is to find something you are comfortable using — and for us that means simple. You don’t want to be fiddling with digital sliders, settings, and other bells and whistles while you’re trying to record a great episode.
For example, Boomcaster is designed with independent podcasters in mind. We record simultaneously on each participant’s device which eliminates network connectivity issues, and then we back it up to the cloud. Our interface is simple but powerful and you get all of the tools you need to make a great podcast.
Getting the Most out of What You Have for Your Podcast Audio
It’s important to set some expectations before you hit record on your next episode. Even if you follow our tips for getting the best recording quality, your audio might not be perfect.
And that’s okay!
The most important thing is that you are consistent with your recordings. If you use the same microphone, in the same room, with the same settings each time you record, your listeners will get used to the sound and they won’t even notice the imperfections. After all, they’re here for your awesome storytelling not to critique your audio quality.
So don’t let the quest for perfection get in the way of your podcasting goals. Just prepare your space and workflow, hit record, and make your dream a reality.