Below you will find a range of simple tips to help you optimize your podcast audio quality.
Most of these are free or can be done very cheaply using a DIY approach.
One major point to note if you want to improve the audio quality of your podcast is the importance of taking a bit of time (about an hour or two) to test these things out and experiment to find what works best for you to optimize your podcast audio quality.
After reading and implementing the tips below that work for you, test record yourself (for 2 minutes or so) as if recording a podcast episode, then listen back to your test recording and critically reflect on how the sound quality was affected by each change you made, compared to your original setup.
Tweak things if it isn’t sounding quite right and then record another test to listen back on and critique. Repeat this process until you find a sound and setup you’re happy with. Be sure to take notes so you remember how to set things up next time!
The higher the quality of audio recorded at the onset, the more flexibility and control your production team will have in post production and the better (more professional) your podcast will sound when it is released live.
- Use earbuds or headphones! Your earbuds that came with your phone will work just fine.
- Host(s) and guest(s) – Do not use speakers to hear others as this will create an echo effect that cannot readily be removed in post production. Note: you won’t be able to hear this yourself (if you are the one listening via speakers) until afterwards in the recording.
- Consider purchasing a decent USB microphone.
- Consider purchasing a broadcast mic stand & pop filter to absorb vibrations that will affect your sound quality and to control plosives (p-pops).
- If you are using an external microphone, be sure to check the Audio Settings on your recording software (GarageBand, Zoom, Audacity, etc.) to ensure the correct input device is selected (i.e. your external mic – usually the name of your mic – ex: Blue Yeti) as these programs may not automatically default to using your external mic and may just use the computers built-in mic (which will not sound as good as a dedicated vocal microphone).
- Try to record a separate audio track for each speaker. This allows much more control during the editing & mixing stage. Things like cross talk cannot be removed if all speakers are present on the same audio track. See below for how to do this specifically using Zoom.
- Set the mic input level with your DAW (recording software) so that your voice/s peak at -18 to -15db (solid green, not in the red). You want enough headroom that you will not clip the audio and create distortion, but you also do not want the level to be so low that we have to boost the volume drastically in post as this will raise the noise floor along with the dialogue, which we do not want.
- Try to record in the same environment with the same exact setup every time for consistent sound quality. You can use tape to mark positions of microphone, chair, etc. that need to be moved between recording sessions.
- Lay a towel where your arms rest on the table to further absorb unwanted sounds.
- Record in a quiet location with sound absorbent materials (carpet, curtains, couches, beds) and avoid spaces with reverberant surfaces (tiles, glass, concrete).
- If your recording environment has an echo or sounds less than ideal, hang some thick linens (towels, blankets or rugs) around the recording space to absorb sound and reduce problem frequencies. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference even one strategically hung blanket or quilt can make.
- Minimize background noise (air conditioners, fans, appliances, etc).
- Mute your phone and desktop notifications.
- Remove noisy jewelry and minimize other potential distractions or interruptions.
- Try to record in a room that is rectangular in shape in order to minimize acoustic issues such as echos, frequency build up and other common problems.
- Position the microphone properly and speak into the front of the mic while maintaining a consistent distance throughout the entire recording. 3-5 inches is the rule of thumb, but experiment with your mic as it will have its own sweet spot.
- Avoid bumping the mic or the table it sits on while recording.
Zoom Settings for Recording Separate Audio Tracks
Record your audio and your guest’s audio on separate tracks. This allows for more effective editing. In order to do this, go to Zoom’s “Settings” and click “Recording.” Then check the box next to “Record a separate audio file for each participant who speaks.” With this setting in place, you’ll get the usual folder after the recording with three files: the joint audio, the video, and a chat transcript. You will also get an extra folder called “Audio Record” that contains the .m4a file for each speaker. The latter are the files you’ll want to use for editing.
You may also want to check the box at the bottom next to “Keep temporary recording files.” This can come in handy if something happens to your computer during the call and will give you a chance to recover the interview if it’s lost on your side. If you do this, make sure to also check the bottom box next to “Choose a location for recorded files when the meeting ends” so that you know where these files are saved!
Test your microphone before recording. To do this, verify that your microphone appears in the list of available mics. Make sure to select it from the drop down menu by the microphone icon, and then use the “Test Mic” button to record some test audio and play it back. Make sure to use headphones. This will help avoid you having echoes of other speakers on your side of the audio. You can test them in a similar way as the microphone by clicking on “Speaker” and selecting your headphones to run a test. To do this, click on “Test Speaker” until you hear the Zoom ringtone in your headphones.
Bonus Zoom Tip: It’s usually a good idea to select the “Press and hold space bar” unmute shortcut. Zoom calls work best when everyone is muted except for the speaker, but the space bar command makes it easier for people to unmute themselves quickly without having to click around.
Hopefully you found these tips to optimize your podcast audio quality helpful!
Let us know in the comments below which ones you’re planning on implementing to improve your podcast audio quality to sound more professional and give your listeners a better overall listening experience.
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Ben Krueger is the founder of Cashflow Podcasting and he specializes in helping thought leaders and entrepreneurs amplify their impact through podcasting. He’s a world traveller, outdoor sports junkie and future enthusiast!