Poor podcast audio quality can be really distracting. It takes away from the quality of the content and the authority of the podcast itself. As a podcast consumer, I find poor audio quality a problem. Now that I am involved in the production of podcasts, it has become even more noticeable.
Audio quality is especially important for podcasts, but it matters for any recorded audio. Have you ever paid good money for a webinar or training series and then had to strain to hear the content through the poor audio? This can be very frustrating and also totally preventable.
Simple things like having a decent microphone, a quiet room, and a few recording and editing tricks can make a huge difference when it comes to podcast audio quality. Adjusting levels, removing background noise, and applying effects like normalize and compression in your audio editing software can go a long way in improving sound quality.
I wanted to know some of the easiest and best techniques that could help podcasters get the most out of their sound recordings. Fortunately, at Podcast Motor, we have access to professional audio engineers, and I was able to get insights about sound quality and the process of editing podcasts.
This was a really interesting process. I connected with three of our audio engineers and asked them everything from software, workflows, setups, dream setups, and podcast audio and productivity tips and time saving tips. Here is what they had to say.
Damjan Cirilovic is from Serbia. He is a sound designer, music composer, and sound effects expert. He was extremely helpful and informative, and it is a pleasure working with him.
Mike Sacchetta is extremely knowledgeable about the audio industry, in general. He is a great asset, and I will be reaching out to him in future projects. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Music, and several other audio certificates and qualifications.
Jeremy Enns is an audio engineer, podcast consultant, and a photographer. He produces beautiful audio and video stories, and I loved the fact that he tries to keep things pared down because he is a minimalist.
It’s hard to do a good job at anything without the proper tools. The digital audio workstation (DAW) or software used to edit the audio podcasts is as important as the computer and other audio equipment.
Damjan uses Logic Pro X which is an audio editing and MIDI sequencer software program for the Mac OS X platform. This is a full music and audio editing tool with a sleek interface. When it is time to graduate from GarageBand, this is a logical choice.
Jeremy and Mike both use Pro Tools for their audio editing. They are in good company. Pro Tools was used for the audio editing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Jeff Fuller the sound mixer for the Foo Fighters, used Pro Tools for mixing the Sonic Highways album.
As a productivity nerd, I find workflows fascinating. Our audio engineers value their time and have smart workflow tactics to prove it.
Jeremy, our minimalist, sets up a template whenever he has a new show or begins working on a new series. Then he just imports the audio, makes the edits, adjusts the levels, and tweaks any other needed plugin settings before exporting.
His best time saving advice:
Mike will adjust the EQ, remove errors, compress, and address noise issues as he listens to the show. The order may change depending on what is needed. He then levels audio and makes sure that all parts flow into each other. He then bounces the audio to disc and converts it into an MP3 before uploading it into Dropbox.
His time saving tips:
Use Shuffle Mode in Pro Tools and Stay Organized!
Damjan had this to say about his workflow:
I like my audio tracks well organized, and sound files exported to proper sample rate and format, and then I do the manual customization (eq, leveling, compression, limiting and overall enhancing for better clarity). Next step is audio editing (removing mistakes, ‘ums’, long pauses, filtering out the noise, pops, clicks and other unwanted parts of the interview) and then I mix the completed interview with provided intro, exits and ads.
His biggest time saving tip was using Varispeed in Logic Pro X:
I use the Varispeed option in Logic Pro X which provides listening at a faster pace without losing clarity, so I work much faster at +50 % speed. Of course, when I export the final file, I turn that option off, so the audio remains at a normal speed.
Podcast Audio Editing Setup and Dream Audio Editing Setup
Just for fun, I asked these guys what kind of hardware setup they were using. I was also curious about their dream setup.
Jeremy is a digital nomad and travels a lot, so his set up on the go is a laptop, mouse, and headphones.
When he is at home he has a bunch of mics, pedals, instruments, and amps. He also uses a GA Pre73 microphone preamplifier, a MOTU 828mk3 Hybrid Firewire Audio Interface, and he also uses KRK V6 powered monitors which are like speakers with separate amplifiers for the woofer and tweeter.
Instead of wanting more for his dream setup, the minimalist, Jeremy wants to pare down even more.
Mike has more mixers, audio interfaces, and preamps than I can list. Including some from Behringer and Tascam. He also has tons of software and an assortment of microphones from Shure, Apex, and Behringer. Throw in some mixers, controllers, and an assortment of musical instruments, and he is not a minimalist.
His dream setup includes countless expensive things including Neve preamps and a powerful computer with a large monitor.
Damjan is working with Logic Pro X software and a professional mixing and monitoring system for audio post production. Some of the items he uses are an Arturia Mini Lab, a Roland UA-25 USB audio interface, M-Audio Studio Monitor speakers, a Behringer BCF2000 control fader, and a Akai Mpd218 pad controller.
Podcast Dream Setup:
He says he would be very satisfied with the Focusrite Studio Pack (audio interface, condenser microphone and headphones) recorded in a professional vocal booth, or with sound reflection and a pop filter.
Podcast Recording Tips for Podcast Hosts
Quality audio editing can make an amatuer level podcast sound like a professional level podcast. Still, the audio editing can only do so much. The better the original audio quality, the better the final outcome will be.
The most important thing that needs to be done is minimizing the noise in the room. Turn off the air-conditioners, close the windows and doors, and turn off the sound notifications on phones and apps. Use a proper microphone and headset it doesn’t have to be an expensive microphone, but placement and use matter.
Hosts and guests need to avoid too much background noise, and wear headphones to monitor their sound.
Get your levels right! Don’t be so afraid of clipping that you record WAAAAY too low and need to be cranked up to get to the appropriate levels. This just brings up the noise floor with your voice. Also, do EVERYTHING you can to record in a quiet, non-reflective (sound-wise) environment, and be mindful that your microphone is probably picking up you typing on your keyboard, tapping your pen on the desk, squeaking in your chair…
Podcast Audio Engineering Pet Peeves:
- Poorly recorded raw tracks
- Requesting vocals to be taken out without a space/pause afterwards
- Skype alerts computer sounds interrupting the flow
- Interrupting and talking at the same time when there are not separate tracks provided
- Unclear show starts or unclear show endings
- Extremely long shows – over an hour
Additional Podcast Audio Engineering Tips
- Test your recordings and modify the position of your microphone
- Play with your sound – You will be amazed at how much you can do to improve it
- Pace yourself when recording, it will eliminate filler words and sounds
- Don’t be afraid to let an interview end early if the conversation has peaked and is starting to fade
- Record in a relaxing environment, this will help with conversation flow
Audio engineering from the software and equipment to what they actually do, can seem mysterious. Hopefully, this has cleared up some of the audio engineering questions and misconceptions. I know, I really learned a lot writing this, and I want to thank the audio engineers for sharing their expertise. Even though there are different tools and methods to approach audio editing, the results should always lead to clear professional sounding content.