To be blunt with things, answering the question of how to make your podcast sound better actually starts with you.
Don’t get me wrong though. I’m not saying that you should create a high-end home recording studio nor spend thousands on audio recording equipment.
What I am trying to get at is that many podcasters seem to not bother with audio quality thinking that things can be tweaked during mastering.
Look, it doesn’t matter what your gear or recording set-up is, so long as you understand it’s limitations.
In this article, I will talk about how to make your podcast sound better using simple audio engineering best practices.
We will also talk about technical aspects that affect audio quality, so that you will be able to pinpoint areas that could compromise the sound quality of your future recordings.
So, are you ready?
Understanding What Makes An Audio File “Good”
But for sound engineers, like the ones editing podcast files here at Podblade – there’s more to it than just that.
I asked one of our sound engineers and these are for him what constitutes a good audio file.
- Audio files should transmit from both output speakers clearly.
- Microphone recordings should not sound muffled and have a decent amount of volume.
- Audio file should not include any distortive sounds like signal interference, clipping, crackling, wind noise, or that somewhat rubbing sound that happens when a person handles a live microphone.
- Audio is free from any hissing sounds, or any ambient background sound during recording.
- Microphone levels are consistently in the green and are free if any clipping.
- Vocals does not have excessive reverb or echo – regardless if it deliberate or brought about by the acoustics of where it was recorded.
It’s Better To Enhance Than To Repair
A decent quality recording can be easily tweaked during editing and mastering. The easier the job is, the more time can be spent on enhancing the audio file.
A file with lower quality though on the other hand requires more thorough editing time, which eats up on what should have been time spent on polishing it.
Though we here at Podblade always try to edit and master podcast audio files to its full potential, there were cases where we had to send the files back.
That does not mean that our audio engineers are not highly capable, because they are, but because even with all the time spent on editing and mastering said files, it’s still far from what we believe is a decent sounding audio file.
So before recording, make sure to do a test recording first.
This will give you an idea if there are any problems that need tweaking – and especially if you have live guests.
What Are The Key Factors That Affect Audio Recording Quality
How you interact with the mic can have a huge effect on your recording.
For example, holding the mic creates a rubbing sound that can be quite irritating for many listeners. Also, talking way too close to the mic and not using a pop filter will not only screw up your sound levels, it will also create pops that can be quite distracting.
With that said, always use a pop filter, and try to keep at least 6 inches away from the mic when talking. And if doing the latter drastically lowers the sound your mic captures, then you might want to buy a new, or better microphone.
Now with regards to operating the mic, try to get yourself a mic stand or a boom arm. That will definitely get rid of those annoying scratching sounds, and frees up your hands to operate your DAW or other gadgets.
If you insist on holding the mic while recording, at least make it a habit to remove any solid objects from your fingers – and even cut your fingernails as well.
There’s a reason why top recording studios charge top dollar – and that’s because of its acoustics.
Acoustics is how sound travels to, from and around any given space. Not just that, it also takes into consideration the surroundings outside of said space.
Unless you have an underground bunker and lined its walls with soundproofing foam, your recording space is something you need to take into consideration.
Now some might suggest recording your podcast in the shower, because restrooms usually have great acoustics. Well, that they do – but in terms of recording music.
For podcasting, your voice needs to sound flat during recording. A control amount of echo and reverb can be added during editing and mastering.
To be clear with things, more expensive gear does not necessarily mean better quality recordings.
Keep in mind that an equipment is only as good as the person operating it, ok?
If there’s one thing that I would suggest you spend a little more money on – it has to be cables.
Microphone cables, and the ones you use to connect your laptop to the mixer.
Higher quality cables have Gold plated wires that transmit sound better and faster – thus making a much better quality sound file.
How To Make Your Podcast Sound Better When Recording Live Calls
There are a lot of factors that could ruin your live call recording. From bad internet connection to your guest using bad equipment – there are a lot of things that can make your record sound really bad.
Now to be fair, some of these things are beyond your control.
But if you want to try and minimize the potential of your recording sound like crap, then you should make it a habit to prep your guest.
Use this to not just talk about what you will be talking about, but also ask what gear he/she uses and what’s his/her internet speed like. That way you will be able to find a solution to the problem, before actually hitting record.
If your guest is not familiar with mic techniques, you can also brief him/her about it.
You can also use the “double ender” approach; where you give your guest a series of questions beforehand and ask him/her to do a recorded response to it. You then key in that file on your DAW and edit it in.
Now though this can work, it also brings its own set of problems.
Being pre recorded, the quality might vary from the actual live recording itself. This means you’ll be spending more time editing to ensure that your listeners wouldn’t be able to notice the difference.
And since this requires more technical audio editing skills, not everyone will be able to pull this off.
So yes, live recording is still the better option.
3 Things You Should Focus On During Post-Production
If not, then you might want to send us an email and ask how we can help you out.
Anyway, there are three main sections sound engineers focus on when they edit or master an audio file.
The idea behind compression is that your DAW will try to bring the quietest and loudest part of an audio file as close to each other as possible.
Now why would you want to do that? Well, compressing an audio file makes it sound more consistent in terms of volume.
Within the settings of your DAW, you will interact with these during compression:
Threshold – A limit that you can set which tells the DAW at what audio level should compression start.
Noisefloor – Ensures that “silence” (between speech pauses) are not amplified
Ratio – Determines how much compression is applied. The lower the figure, the lower the compression value on the audio file.
Regardless if you did everything to record a “clean” audio recording, there will always be a slight hiss to it. Though not immediately obvious, it can become audible at higher volumes.
This is where house reduction comes in.
To get rid of “noise” you need to highlight the lulls between your speech and activate noise reduction on it.
Now there are two types of noise within a recording:
Environmental noise – which pertains to the ambient noise within a recording space.
Equipment noise – Which pertains to the hiss made when an instrument is plugged in, or faint electrical signals that come out as a buzz or hiss during playback of a recording.
EQ or Equalization
Technically, equalization is referred to as the modification of sound frequencies for the purpose of correcting unnatural signals or frequency. In layman’s term, it means “making sure that it sounds ok”.
Equalization gives you the ability to minimize and and boost specific frequencies in order to achieve the sound that you like.
If you’re asking what constitutes a “good” sound when it comes to equalization – well, there isn’t one.
You see, though it is possible for anyone to do equalization, experience is the defining barrier between bad and good equalization.
For example, if you want to get rid of popping sounds or wind distortions, then you can isolate that frequency and lower it down to 80Hz.
And if you want to polish your vocals a bit, then you can isolate that frequency and play with it within the 200Hz to 600Hz range.
So as you can see, equalization is something that requires a lot of experience.
And if it isn’t obvious enough, the question of how to make your podcast sound better is not just a matter of having the tools, but the experience as well.
What’s Your Best Option?
If you need professional help in editing and mastering your podcast episodes, then we can definitely help you with that.
We at Podblade have assembled a team of experienced sound engineers that can help edit and master your podcast episodes.
To experience first hand how capable we are in cleaning up your source files, you can book a Trial Episode with us, or send us an email inquiry.
So now that you have an idea on how to make your podcast sound better; is it something you’re capable of doing, or do you need professional help?
If you opt to go for the latter, we’re just an email way.
Anyway, stay safe, and we will talk again next time.
Rom is a podcasting specialist, ranking his show in the top 100 for all business podcasts in only his first 6 months since launching. He is also the co-founder of Podblade, creating an affordable yet professional editing solution for podcasters. When he isn’t working, you can find him watching his favorite soccer team (Tottenham Hotspur) in action.