How to use Audacity to master a podcast is like asking how to tune a Honda Civic because you want to race it against a Formula 1 car.
Kinda killed the entire article, huh? Well, let’s just say just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
But then again, I do understand why some people prefer using Audacity to master their podcasts compared to more professional DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation) like Ableton.
I mean, Audacity is super easy to use, it’s free, and it actually does a decent job at recording audio.
So for someone who’s new to the podcastsphere, using Audacity to produce an entire episode just makes sense.
Look, I am by no means belittling the use of Audacity. For the record, I did use it when I was starting out – and I still do at times.
All I’m saying is that it has its limitations.
Now with that out of the way, let’s get you started, ok?
Why Do You Need To “Master” Your Audio
Now some of you might say “Is it really needed?”
Well, think of it this way.
Just like music, podcasts are meant to be listened to. And I don’t know about you, but listening to music, or in this case, a podcast that is filled with hiss and inconsistent volume levels can be very entertaining.
Mastering gets rid of all unwanted noise and ensures a much better playback quality – irrelevant of the device the file is played on.
Now some people believe that they don’t need to master their audio source because they already “mixed” everything.
Well, there’s actually a huge difference between the two.
A typical podcast usually has an intro music, the actual program itself, advertisement and outro music, right?
Now all of those need to be arranged in such a way to make it sound properly, right?
That is mixing.
Going back to the Honda Civic example; mixing is you taking all the racing parts and putting them into the car.
Mastering on the other hand is making sure that the engine, exhaust and brake system of your car is tweaked to its top racing performance.
Does that make sense?
How To Use Audacity For Mastering: Where Do You Start?
Since I am assuming that this is your first dive into the world of mastering audio tracks, then I guess we should start from the basics.
The Basics Of Sound Recording
Now the first thing you need to understand is that Audacity measures sound levels in “db” (decibels).
The ceiling in terms of what an audible db is at 0db. Go beyond it and you get a distorted sound – and if you’re lucky, a busted speaker as well.
When podcasting using Audacity, aim for a db level that’s between -7db and -14db.
This gives you a sound signal that is loud enough, but one that still leaves enough space before hitting the 0db ceiling.
You following all of this so far? Good!
Audacity shows you the sound of your recording in waveform.
This though does not completely show you the exact decibel reading of each section. To see the exact db reading, click on a section of the waveform and click Analyze -> Plot Spectrum.
Audacity will then provide you with a graph that indicates the db reading of each point within said highlighted section.
A thing associated with decibels is frequency.
If decibels provides you a general picture of how loud a sound is, frequency tells you in where it occurs.
A lower frequency level means a low pitch; for example a baritone voice. A higher one on the other hand, well you guessed it, means a higher pitched sound – let’s say you voice after inhaling a good amount of helium.
Typically, a regular human voice is indicated on the Plot Spectrum within the 86 hertz and 3 kilohertz range.
This is the suggested frequency range your recorded voice must be in.
Yes, I know that everything I said so far sounds pretty general. Well that’s because it would take ages for us to finish if we took that path.
Is everything making sense to you so far?
Good, because we’re about to jump into the main section of this article.
Using Audacity For Mastering Is All About Using Compressor, Envelope Tool & Amplification
Compression is a two-stage process.
First part is that it reduces any audio that goes beyond a specific level you indicated. To make it easier to understand, think of it as Audacity getting rid of loud parts in your audio file.
During the second part of compression, and since all the loud parts have been removed, it then increases the volume of the entire file.
To apply compression to your audio file, all you need to do is:
- Highlight your audio file
- Click on Effect
- Choose Compression
Is that it? Well, you have the option to click “OK”, but it won’t do much.
In fact you will be given three settings to tweak; Threshold, Noise Floor, Ratio, Attack Time and Release Time.
In a nutshell, using an Envelope Tool allows you to tweak the volume of a sound file.
That’s it? Yeah, it is!
But then again, as with anything associated with mastering, it’s not as straightforward as you think.
So let’s stick with the basics shall we?
Anyway, to use the Envelope Tool:
Look for it at the middle part of the Audacity window (it’s the hour glass shaped icon). Hold down the left mouse button and scan sideways through your audio file.
As you scan sideways, you are automatically highlighting sections within the file. You will also notice that moving the mouse up and down changes the size of the waveform.
Dragging up increases the volume, while dragging down lowers it.
You will also notice that if you click on a specific section of the file, you will start creating control points. You can use these points to increase or decrease volume on said section.
Now the idea is to try and set all the “peaks” throughout your file at an equal level.
Let’s say you got all your peaks in a somewhat straight line. Now it’s time to increase volume levels one last time.
Go and select your entire file and go to Effect and then choose Amplify.
Audacity will automatically check how much volume is needed to be added – without going beyond the 0db ceiling.
Is There An Easier Way To Master My Podcast?
Like I said, even though Audacity is quite basic compared to other professional DAWs out there, do you really want to go through all the headache of tweaking all of those?
What if there was a much easier solution to mastering your podcast, would you take advantage of it?
If you’re on the fence if you should or not, then maybe this article Is It A Good Idea To Outsource Podcast Production To Professionals might help you decide.
But if your answer is yes, then why not let us do all the hard work for you?
We at Podblade offer professional mastering services, so you don’t have to fuss around trying to figure out things – or read how to articles about how to use Audacity to master your podcast.
We have professional sound engineers that are more than happy to tweak your podcast and make it sound like a million bucks.
And the best part of it is that you don’t need to pay anything upfront to see if we are indeed the podcast editing company that you need.
All you need to do is schedule a FREE consultation call, and allow us to explain to you how we can help, and what benefits you’ll get out of it.
I hope you didn’t get a migraine reading through all of that.
If you did, well I guess it’s fair for you to leave your frustration on the comment section below.
Anyway, stay safe, and I’ll talk to you 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.