So, you’ve started a podcast. You’ve got great content; the beginnings of a loyal following; and even a sponsor or two in the works, but you know it’s time to take your podcast to the next level. The easiest way to do this is to improve the quality of your audio. The most listenable your podcast is, the more your audience will want to listen to it.
Let’s take a moment to define the qualities the average listener looks for in a professional podcast:
- Distortion-free Audio. This is the most crucial element to good audio, especially in the digital age. When analog-to-digital converters are overdriven, the result is disastrous and can make the resulting audio painful to hear. The easiest way to avoid this is to properly gain stage your recording. PreSonus has created this tutorial to help you learn how.
- No Background Noise. Broadcast studios are designed to be quiet. Because of this, listeners have been trained to find any background noise distracting. This comes with a caveat: if you are doing a podcast on location at a music festival or coffee house and this is part of your vibe, a certain amount of background noise is fine and there are ways to enhance this effect so that it doesn’t detract from your main content. More on that in a minute.
- Consistent Level. Each speaker should always be ‘on mic’ and their level should be relatively consistent. That’s not to say that in a lively debate the volume of each voice can’t rise and fall. It is to say that in a normal speaking voice, each speaker should be at the same level.
Good Audio In. Good Audio Out.
Even in the age of digital recording, there are some mistakes that simply can’t be undone. The easiest way to ensure your podcast’s audio sounds its best is to start off on the right foot.
- Choose Good Equipment. Your front-end is key to getting a good sound. Selecting a good microphone and connecting it to an audio interface with a great-sounding mic preamp is the best way to start. More information on setting up a podcasting studio can be found in this tutorial.
- Set Up a Podcasting Studio. Creating a quiet environment that is free from sonic distractions is easy and can be easily set up in a spare bedroom or home office. PreSonus has some tips on how optimize your room's environment for a home podcasting studio here.
- Good Mic Technique. Getting familiar with your microphone and becoming comfortable speaking into it will yield amazing results when you’re doing it right. For more information on proper mic technique, see this article.
Use a Professional DAW for Post-Production
Recording on a stereo SD recorder, like the one on the StudioLive AR-series mixers, is a great way to get started, but when you’re ready to make your audio shine, it’s time to start multi-tracking. Multi-tracking your podcast is the best way to ensure that every audio source sounds its best. Let's take the example we mentioned earlier of ambient noise. When recording in an environment where you want your listeners to hear the ambient noise, don't muddy any of the speaking mics to capture this, set up a condenser microphone and record the enviroment on its own track. This will provide you with better control over how loud it is in your podcast.
Digital Audio Workstation software (DAW for short) is designed to give you all the tools you need to record, mix, and master your audio session. PreSonus Studio One makes this process simple by offering drag-and-drop workflows and a single-window user interface. Professional plug-in effects like EQs and compressors help to enhance the audio and polish the overall mix:
- Compression. A compressor is a type of processor that evens out the overall dynamics of your audio file by limiting the loudest portions of the audio. This is done by setting the threshold. The threshold is the level at which the signal will be compressed. Ratio, Attack, and Release round out the other controls. For more information on compressors and how they work, see this article.
- EQ. EQ or Equalization allows you to boost or cut a specific range of frequencies to better shape each signal in your podcast. PreSonus has put together this tutorial to get you started with using an EQ.
- Noise Gate. No matter how quiet your podcasting environment is, accidents happen. Air conditioners come on. Garbage trucks roll by. If you’re lucky, you can edit these out if they occur in a portion of the audio where you are not speaking. If not, noise gates can be used to cut out all audio below a certain decibel threshold. More information on noise gates can be found here.
Listen Before You Post
It’s always a good idea to listen to your podcast before you post it. This gives you the opportunity to catch any audio anomalies that detract from your content. Once you achieve a sound that you’re are pleased with, professional DAWs like Studio One allows you to create a template. In Studio One, this template will launch with all the tracks and plugins you normally use already set and ready to go. This great feature makes it easy to reproduce the sound you want for your podcast every time.