Nothing encourages a listener to hit the unsubscribe button more than avoidable and annoying sound quality issues. As a podcast writer, I’m always trying to stay on top of what is happening in the industry. Subsequently, I am subscribed to several newsletters and facebook groups.
Sound quality is always a hot topic, and I have recently stumbled across more than a few discussions about sound quality and listener pet peeves. Today, I dive into sound quality mistakes that drive listeners away and how to fix them.
Sound Quality Matters
Most participants in discussions about sound quality agreed that quality sound is really important. A few people said they would make concessions for new shows or really great content, but most agreed with the following sentiments.
“Bad audio will make me unsubscribe everytime”
“Audio quality is a must for me”
Interview Sound Quality
Some of the biggest audio complaints involved interviews. Skype calls that cut in and out and volume levels were the two biggest complaints.
Skype calls cut in and out because of poor Wi-Fi connections. An easy solution is to use an ethernet cord and hardwire your computer and router, at least for the duration of the call. Also, try to get your guest to do the same.
This information can be included in the guest interview checklist that you send to all of your guests. The guest audio checklist is also a good place to discuss microphones, headphones, and microphone placement.
Get Your Volume Levels Right
Uneven volume levels seem to be a deal breaker for podcast listeners. Want to make a listener angry or encourage them to just go away? Talk so quiet that they have to strain to hear you, then after they turn up the volume switch to your very loud guest who shouts in their ear.
In the same vein, random burst of excessive laughter or any yelling or loud bursts are equally annoying. Another issue is music or ads that aren’t adjusted to appropriate sound levels or don’t fade or transition well.
The specifics will depend on what software you are using for recording and editing, but it’s a good idea to adjust your sound levels when you are recording and then make sure they are the same during the editing process.
- Recording and Playback Meters In Audacity
- Audacity Tutorial to Increase the Volume (Amplitude)
- How To Adjust Sound On A Track (Audacity Envelope Tool)
- Podcasting with Adobe Audition
- Fixing A Quiet Voice In A Skype Recorded Podcast Episode
One magnanimous listener said that if it’s a show they really like they will increase the levels using this tool. They are probably in the minority, so check your levels when recording and editing.
Another audio complaint was tinny sound. Some audio issues are difficult to fix, so it is much easier starting with a good recording in the first place.
- Learn How to Create Killer Podcasts With 25 Free Audio Resources
- The Ultimate Guide to Recording Great Sounding Audio for Your Podcast
- Podcast Audio Advice from Podcast Motor Audio Engineers
Recording in Stereo
Another issue that has come up is when a host records a guest in stereo and doesn’t split the stereo track into two separate mono tracks or mixdown to mono when they create the mp3 file.
This would result in one voice in the left ear and the other voice in the right ear. If your listener is only using one ear bud, they will only hear half a podcast.
Unless you are trying to create a binaural beat podcast, make sure that your stereo tracks are split or mixed down to mono before publishing.
Annoying Sounds That Make Listeners Cringe
Bad manners can even come through in a recording. Whether it is lack of awareness or some other reason, there are certain sounds and noises that are best avoided.
Lip smacking, plosives, dry mouths, and even stuffy noses can make listeners cringe. Misophonia is a selective sound sensitivity that is often triggered by oral noises. These noises will not only turn off listeners they actually make some listeners angry.
Use a pop filter, have some water handy, stay hydrated and try to avoid unpleasant noises. With practice these can be reduced or edited out, if unavoidable. A clear, calm, warm voice is much more pleasant than slurping coffee, mouth clicks, bumping the microphone, coughing, sniffing and other annoying sounds.
Content and Presentation
Many listeners also complained about excessive cursing and repeating the f-word over and over for no apparent reason. There are times and podcasts where cursing is relevant and even welcome by some audiences, but repeating a certain word over and over is like not editing out ums and ahs. Heavy repeated use of the word “like” has also been complained about.
The other big content complaint that turns listeners off is boring content. Things that seem to add to the boredom are lack of research, inability to stay on topic, too much banter, immature giggles, and monotone hosts with no inflection.
Mispronouncing names, poor grammar, and using poor taste and bad judgement have also been complained about.
Background Music & Transitions
Some folks like background music, but it needs to be done in a way that adds and not detracts from the show quality. Music that is too loud and abrupt transitions are also frowned on.
Missing intros are almost as bad as intros that are too long. People seem to like an introduction to a show and what they will be hearing, but they don’t want it to go on too long and waste their valuable listening time.
Shows that are too long have been an issue too. Although, this is really specific to the show, the audience, and the content. Don’t stretch it out if you don’t have anything worthwhile to add, but Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Podcast is 6 hours long. So long shows can work.
Wrapping It All Up
No show can be all things to all people. Still it doesn’t hurt to do an audit of your show and see if there are some things that you can do to improve sound quality, audio editing, your presentation and delivery, and the content of your show.