Podcasts have a very low barrier to entry, which means you can set up the podcast of your dreams without having to sink a ton of money into your project from the get-go. But besides investing in the right equipment for your show, you also need to spend time making sure that your episodes sound like a quality show people will want to subscribe to.
You’ll want to completely eliminate hissing, distortion, and fluctuating audio levels that range from super loud to indistinguishable mumbles. These are embarrassing beginner mistakes that first time listeners of your show won’t take kindly to. They’ll get turned off immediately if your show sounds like it’s being recorded in a busy train station and probably won’t ever give you a second chance.
We talked about the importance of choosing the right microphone and headphones for your podcast in this equipment primer. Today we’re going to focus on the software side of recording your own podcast.
Sure, you can stick to the audio recording software that comes standard on your computer, but if you’ve ever wondered why professional podcasts sound so much better than ones started by the average Joe, we’ve got you covered. The secret’s not in spending thousands of dollars on expensive equipment — it’s choosing the right recording and editing software for your technical ability.
What to Look for in Audio Software for Your Podcast
Podcast software should not only clean up your audio so that it sounds crisp and professional, it should also take care of the following things:
Whether you’re recording episodes from an external device or from the sound card in your computer, your audio software should be able to capture your sound file directly, so you can edit it seamlessly.
There’s no point in using audio software that doesn’t edit your files for clarity. You’re bound to have a few mistakes during your recording sessions that you’ll want to cut without destroying your entire file — like that accidental hiccup that slipped out right in the middle of your show.
The best software tools also let you mix tracks, add audio effects, cut and splice audio, and even convert your files into the appropriate formats for uploading and publishing online.
Software with included publishing tools will let you add descriptions and those ever-important meta ID tags to your audio files (podcast name, episode title, genre, etc.). That way you’ll be able to export your audio files right from your editing software to your website or podcast directories, such as, iTunes or SoundCloud.
Help and Support
Try to look for the best audio software that matches your technological savvy. In other words, don’t purchase an expensive suite of programs if you don’t think you’ll use half of the features you’ll be paying for.
To keep it easy, especially when you’re first starting out, find software that’s intuitive and backed by positive reviews. Look for helpful features that favor drag-and-drop or right-click edits over complicated keystrokes you need a chart to remember.
If you’re a tech wizard and you know what you’re doing, feel free to dive into something more complicated. Just make sure your program of choice at least comes with comprehensive information in case you get stuck. This can be in the form of live chat representatives, user forums, email support, or frequently asked questions/answers on their website.
The Best Audio Software for Your Podcast
Most audio software will be able to handle everything you need to record and edit your podcast episodes, but the best ones will be able to do that, plus publish your finished product directly online.
Here are three of the most popular audio software choices for podcasters:
GarageBand is an audio recorder and editor that comes standard (free) on all Mac computers. While it’s been geared more toward musical recording, it still works well for vocal-dominated podcasts.
GarageBand has a clean user interface as to be expected of any Apple product. It lets you edit and delete sections of your audio file or slide specific chunks of clip along your timeline to reorder segments. The addition of music overlays and sound effects, combined with visual equalization and compression, helps hold your recordings to a higher standard.
Plus, you can export your file directly from the software platform to your chosen podcast directories.
We don’t recommend Audition for beginning podcasters since the price and complicated features may turn most people off, but early adopters with cash in their pockets and years of practicing audio wisdom may want to seriously give it a try.
Per Adobe, “Mix, edit, and create audio content with a comprehensive toolset, which includes multi track, waveform, and spectral display” using Audition.
Audition has a wide variety of built-in plug-ins for processing, editing ,and mixing tools that focus on fine-tuning audio levels with greater care, and even has a podcast episode template that preloads an audio track with podcast-specific plug-ins for voice-processing. It has the strongest audio restoration properties of the three on our list today.
This is next level audio engineering, but it also comes with a higher price point than other simpler tools.
Audacity is a “free, open source, cross-platform software for recording and editing” audio files. It’s the most popular open source audio editor because it works on almost every operating system (Mac, Windows, and Linux), and did we mention it’s free?
While its user interface isn’t as traditionally pretty as GarageBand, you can’t get anything better for the price. This is why most beginning podcasters go with Audacity from the start.
Audacity can record live audio from a microphone, mixer, or even streaming audio from recent Windows versions. Audacity can even digitize recordings from other media.
Level meters monitor volume levels before, during, and after recording so you have less editing to do afterwards. It supports 16-bit and higher samples and automatically converts tracks with different sample rates.
Audacity’s editing tools include noise reduction, voice overs, intro music, and eight effects like echo, phaser, and reverb to play around with. There are also several windows that provide detailed audio frequency analysis if you’re into the finer details.
Because it’s so popular, you’ll find lots of help online with easy-to-follow tutorials from other users, making it a piece of cake to get started.
However, Audacity does not currently have any publishing abilities, so you’ll have to take your edited file, convert it to MP3 format with either iTunes or an encoder like LAME, and then upload it to your chosen website manually.
Studio-quality audio doesn’t have to be out of your reach as a beginning podcaster.
Consider audio software for your podcasts like photo editing software for your pictures. You can eliminate most of the blemishes (i.e. poor recording conditions, background noise, cusswords, etc.) or enhance your audio levels to give you that coveted perfect podcast voice, all with a few keystrokes in post-production.
Listen to your audio recordings with a critical ear to always ensure you’re providing your listeners with the best possible sound experience — it may mean extra work to clean up your audio, but you’ll see a return on your investment when your list of subscribers continues to grow.