Improving Your Podcast Audio Quality

There are so many problems every podcaster will come across. Arguably one of the most frustrating is when you record a piece of perfect content, then listen back to it only to find that something’s gone horribly wrong in the recording. In this post, we’ll look at how to prevent audio disasters from happening, and what to do if something goes wrong. If you haven’t got a recording setup yet, check out this article first: “How Do I Record My Podcast?”

Unfortunately there are times where you simply can’t fix a piece of audio. I realise that this isn’t very helpful once the disaster has happened… But sometimes you have to be willing to let a piece of audio go. However thankfully in most cases you can prevent these situations from happening, and there are things that you can do if they happen anyway.

The Acoustic: The first step to improving your audio quality is to record in the right place. Try to avoid high ceilings, rooms larger than a bedroom, and rooms with no furniture. The sound you make will reflect off the walls more and subsequently make the editing process more difficult. On the flipside, if you record in a tiny storage cupboard, your sound can dry up too much and sound very flat. I’d recommend using a small and well-furnished room to absorb as much sound as possible.

The Microphone: When recording just your voice, or multiple voices with a microphone each, you typically want to be 5-10 inches away from your microphone… Using a windshield or pop filter (especially with condenser microphones). If you’re using your phone, you don’t have a pop filter, so hold it a little further away so harsh consonant sounds don’t feature too prominently. If you’re recording multiple voices with one microphone between you, make sure that you still stay fairly close, in a comfortable position; expect your sound quality to drop a little, but if you work on it then you can still create a professional sounding environment. I’d recommend recording in mono for this, because you’ll all be at different angles of the microphone, so it may sound odd in stereo.

The Post-Production: Once you’ve imported your recording file(s) to a program like Adobe Audition, you’ll want to double check the sound quality and remove any silences or umms. For a simple project, I’d recommend Audition, but similar softwares are available with similar features. At Abrupt Audio we keep our levels close to -3db, never above, and there are many methods to keep to this level as much as possible.

If you’re in a multitrack session, remember that you can change the volume of the whole track, which is often easier than using the automation line on the clip if you’re splitting it up. The obvious first way to change your levels is to simply adjust the volume level. This can work in certain situations where it’s consistent throughout the recording, but if there are lower or quieter bits, you want to look at multi-band compression. You don’t want to overuse it, but it can often beef up your sound and level it a little better. In Audition, you can use the speech volume leveller. I’m personally not a big fan of this, and tend to use the Waves Plugins for levelling audio out, but those aren’t cheap.

With the speech volume leveller, be careful as to how you use it, because if it’s overused then it can also increase the volume of silences and hurt your ears; the other option is the hard limiter, which essentially does the same thing, but can sometimes be more effective. Lastly, if you have a humming noise in the background throughout, you can use various plugins to remove this; beware that if the noise is at the same frequency as your voice(s), it can ruin the quality and so you should use it on a case-by-case basis. Remember, less is more, if you haven’t had to do much work in post then you’ve done a good job recording it.

There’s a lot of trial and error when it comes to recording, and each time you complete an episode you’ll learn something new, but hopefully this has helped you to get started.

Are you an aspiring podcaster? Here are some more awesome blogs:

Thinking of podcasting? Check out our podcast all about podcasting, it’s a bit like inception but makes starting a podcast simple and doesn’t have Leonardo Di-Caprio in it. Listen in Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Soundcloud.