By Jacob Bozarth, Resonate Recordings
Podcasting is incredibly popular these days and the trends seem to show it’s not slowing down any time soon. It’s simple to do and usually not very expensive, making it approachable for many types of people. (You can get more information on starting a podcast here. Podbean offers free starter podcast hosting plans and affordable unlimited hosting.) However, podcasting can have a learning curve to it, particularly when it comes to how to record a quality podcast. This is something I deal with on a regular basis, so I understand how important it is to make sure you have a quality recording for your podcast episodes. To help make sure your podcast recording process is simple, effective and offers you the highest quality, consider these 5 easy steps to recording a quality podcast.
1. Select Quality Podcast Recording Equipment
Podcast recording equipment can be a little daunting, especially since there are several different competing voices that recommend different things. How do you know who has the best and right recommendation? We have found the simplest recording setup happens to be the best option for podcasting, and it doesn’t have to break your bank. Here are our top podcast equipment recommendations:
● Podcast Microphone: Electro-Voice RE320
○ USB Microphone – Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB/XLR Microphone
● Headphones: Sony MDR 7506
● Podcast Recording Software: Built in Zoom recording software (Zencastr.com if you are planning to record remote)
● Podcast Recording Hardware: Zoom H6 Portable Recorder
● Podcast Equipment Accessories:
○ Cloudlifter Mic Activator
○ Microphone Cable
○ Pop Filter
○ Microphone Stand
2. Record Your Podcast Audio
A quality audio recording is the foundation for a well-produced podcast. Here are some tips for recording your audio to ensure you get the best sound possible out of your recording equipment.
Recording Tip 1 – Choose the right environment
Your recording environment is perhaps the most important element that can make or break the sound of your recording. The majority of podcasts today are self produced, with most not being recorded in a professional studio environment, which means that the environment you create is incredibly important. First, a good recording space must be quiet (no HVAC, fans, etc.). Second, a good recording space has natural sound absorption. For example, carpeted rooms with furniture or walk-in closets are going to work much better than an empty room with bare floors.
Recording Tip 2 – Proper microphone technique
Once you create an ideal environment you need to think about the basics of the actual recording. When recording there are 2 basic things to ensure good microphone technique:
Distance – Most microphones will have what we call a “sweet spot.” This is the distance at which your voice will sound the best on that particular microphone. When recording narration, the distance from your microphone is everything. A good rule of thumb is to stay about 3-5 inches from your microphone.
Positioning – Getting your mic in the correct position is key. Depending on the type of microphone you are using, the difference between 1-2 inches can make all the difference between clear, warm, and articulate narration and hollow, muddy, or unintelligible narration. Once you have your mic at the correct distance you want to ensure that the front of the microphone capsule points directly towards the source (aka: your mouth).
Accessories – In addition to your microphone, we recommend a few accessories that will help prevent common problems when recording. A pop filter is an affordable tool that goes between your mouth and your mic that stop bursts of air that may cause a pop sound in your recording. We also highly recommend using a mic stand or broadcast arm to help enable you to correctly position your mic while also preventing handling noises.
Recording Tip 3 – Monitor recording levels
Gain – Whether you are using an outboard mic preamp, an interface, a handheld recorder, or a usb mic there should be an adjustable gain setting. But once you have found your adjustable gain setting, what is that magic level you should record your narration? A good rule of thumb is to have your mic peak around -10 to -12 dB. This means at the louder parts of your recording the level should go no higher than -10dB. Most recording devices have these numbers listed on a visual meter. However, if your device does not have these numbers listed, try to stay in the green or about halfway up your meter. If you cannot find a visual meter on your device, well this leads us to our next point…
Monitor – It is important that you have a way to monitor and listen to what you are actually recording. Even if your device has an excellent visual meter to check your recording level, we recommend you be a skeptic and never trust your eyes. In our world, you must learn to only trust your ears. For this reason, we recommend someone always monitor your recording with high quality, closed back headphones when recording. Monitoring your audio in real time will enable you to quickly recognize and address any issues with your recording.
3. Master the Art of Remote Recording
The majority of podcasters have some sort of interview on their show, and more often than not these interviews are conducted remotely as opposed to in-person. There is a right and wrong way to record remotely, and we want to help you know the right and best way to capture a quality remote recording.
*if you don’t do remote recordings for your show, feel free to skip on down to #4.*
Hands down, the 2 best tools to help you capture a quality remote recording are Zencastr and a Zoom H6. We have created in-depth tutorials on how to use Zencastr and the Zoom H6 on our website, but here’s the basics of what you need to know:
Computer to Computer – There are many great options out there for recording a computer to computer remote recordings. In these situations you and your guest will connect, hear each other, and record through a web based audio recording application. The two platforms that we recommend for this are Zencastr and Squadcast. Both of these platforms are designed to record high quality audio and many of our clients use these platforms to do just that. You can also find a detailed review and tutorial of Zencastr here. Squadcast is a newer platform but unlike Zencastr it has a video feature so you and your guest can see each other while recording. If you are have used a video communication platform such as Skype, Zoom, or GoToMeeting you might like the video feature that Squadcast offers.
Double Ender – In this case you and your guest will record each end of the audio locally. Many well known interview style podcasts use this setup and to be honest this is the way to record to capture the highest quality audio for a remote recording. You can record your audio locally to your computer, a DAW, or a handheld recorder. When I get interview requests to record for a podcast, I use the following setup to record the audio on my end: Skype or a phone call to only hear the host, a RE20 Microphone, into a Cloudlifter CL-1, into a Zoom H6 handheld recorder. Once we are done recording the interview, I will upload my track recorded locally on the Zoom H6 to the host or producer so they can edit and mix my track with the hosts for the episode.
Phone Call Recording – There are many apps out there that claim to be a high quality call recorder. In our experience, here is the best way to record high quality (if that exists) phone recordings:
Use a H6 or H5 handheld recorder, along with this cable to plug into the ⅛ output of your smartphone, and the ¼ end into the combo input on the handheld recorder, a microphone for your vocals and a pair of headphones. If you would like to see a sample video of this setup explained and used you can check out this post.
4. Post Production Part 1 – Podcast Editing
Editing your podcast is probably the most tedious and time consuming part of the post production process, but it is an essential step nonetheless if you want a high quality show that will retain listeners. Here are our top 5 tips for editing your podcast. (For more editing tips and techniques, you can check out this resource on podcast editing tricks parts 1 and part 2.)
Podcast Editing Tip 1: Watch your tone
One of the biggest editing mistakes is when there is a sudden shift in tone of the voice. Editing together two different segments of audio or merging different sentences together can be tricky. Not only can there be a change in the tone of the voice, but also a change in volume and a change in background noise or room tone. Another thing to listen for is room reverberation and echo. Sudden cuts at the end of phrases can prevent the natural room reverberation, so it’s best to listen for the end of the “room decay” before making an edit or cut.
Podcast Editing Tip 2: Just Breathe
Another common mistake is cutting off breaths too abruptly or missing breaths all together when making an edit. Cut off breaths occur when a breath is chopped off or incomplete. Missing breaths occur when a breath is edited out due to two different segments being put together. Double breaths can also be a problem when editing. This happens when there are two breaths back to back. All of these errors cause the dialogue to sound unnatural and choppy. When looking at audio waveforms, breaths can be difficult to spot because they are so much lower in volume compared to other parts of dialogue. To make it easier to spot breaths we recommend increasing the size of the waveforms in your DAW.
Podcast Editing Tip 3: Copy/Paste Quality Consonants and Breaths
Sometimes there will be certain consonants and breaths that are problematic and just don’t sound good. For example, a plosive (‘P’ sound) is typically caused by the host being too close to the microphone and by moving too much air through the diaphragm of the microphone. An effective fix to this problem is to copy and paste another ‘P’ sound that isn’t popped and sounds more natural over the problematic area. This is very tedious, but it makes a huge difference in the overall quality of the finished product.
Podcast Editing Tip 4: Remove Lip Smacks/Clicks
Do you ever get annoyed by hearing a continuous barrage of lip smacks? We sure do, and nothing can be more annoying than hearing a lip smack every other sentence. While lip smacks are a natural part of some people’s speech patterns, going through the work of editing out lip smacks and mouth clicks will make your podcast a more pleasant listen. In the end your audience will thank you!
Podcast Editing Tip 5: Use Headphones
One of the most useful tips when editing is to use good quality headphones. Over the ear, closed headphones work great to help isolate you from your editing environment. Listening on headphones will help you hear all of the details and nuances of the voice much better than listening on computer speakers or even on higher quality near-field monitors. This makes hearing subtle details such as breaths much easier.
Now you’ve captured a high quality audio recording and edited out the distractions, you’re ready to finalize your show to go live!
5. Post Production Part 2 – Mixing & Mastering
Having a well edited show is just one part of having a quality podcast. Too often we come across a podcasts that have great and very desirable content, but the audio quality is so bad that we have to turn it off. Sometimes it’s a podcast where one voice is loud and the other is soft; sometimes it’s a distorted, echoey, or noisey dialogue track; sometimes the audio is so “muddy” it seems like the host recorded the show underwater…the list goes on and on. More often than not we hear audio issues that could be reduced and often eliminated had the show been properly mixed and mastered.
Mixing is the post-production process where individual tracks for the podcast are improved and enhanced, so the final presentation sounds great. Mastering is the process of ensuring the overall levels are consistent throughout the episode and making sure the average loudness standard for the episode is met. When podcast mixing and mastering is done well, you provide a distraction free and enjoyable experience for the listener. When this is not done well, listeners are distracted by the poor audio quality of the show and many listeners will quit listening to the podcast.
When mixing and mastering is done properly, the quality of the show goes unnoticed by the listener — which is the best result you can hope for. Proper mixing and mastering allows your listener to enjoy the content of the podcast undistracted by audio issues. Once your podcast has been edited, mixed, and masterd you should export your audio to share with the world as a stereo MP3 file. We recommend your final file to upload to your hosting platform be a Stereo, 128 kbps, 44.1kHz MP3 file. This will ensure the final product is a high quality audio file that is broadcast ready.
Podcasting is a great way of expressing your message for the world to hear. It’s a great creative outlet, an effective marketing strategy and a very approachable way of getting your voice heard by others. No doubt it will take a little work to create a great podcast that people will enjoy, but rest assured that it is possible! By doing a little homework to make sure your recording equipment selection is right, your recording environment is distraction-free and your post-production is on point you can have confidence that your end result will be a podcast that people will love.
About the Author
Jacob Bozarth is the co-founder and CEO of Resonate Recordings. They partner with podcasters, companies, and entrepreneurs to make podcasting easy. Their in-house team of audio engineers provides professional editing, mixing, and mastering for over 200 podcasts. Sign up through this link for 2 free episodes with Resonate Recordings (1 before you pay, and 1 when once you get 20 episode credits or more) You can connect with him at:
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If you have any questions or need any support with anything discussed here, feel free to reach out the Resonate Recordings team.
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