Recording your Podcast

You might be surprised how flexible the process of recording your podcast can be. From a dedicated home studio to a casual on-location setup, there are loads of ways to make it work. But no matter your approach, focusing on a few key elements will make a huge difference in the quality of your final podcast.

Choosing Your Gear

Okay, let’s be honest, you could technically record an entire podcast with your smartphone, but the result might make your listeners cringe. Investing in even basic equipment gives your podcast a professional edge that listeners will appreciate.

Here’s the essential kit:

  • The Microphone: A decent microphone is your best friend. Even something like the Blue Snowball Ice is a huge step up from your phone. If your budget allows, explore mid-range mics or even professional options if you want that polished sound.
  • Pop shield/filter: Have you ever listened to a podcast where every “puh” and “buh” sound blasts your ears? That’s where a pop filter saves the day. A store-bought one is great, or you can DIY one with simple materials.
  • Headphones: Invest in over-ear studio headphones. They’ll help you catch any audio issues during recording and make editing much easier.
  • Your Computer is Key: You’ll need a decent laptop or desktop to run things. Look for specs like 8GB RAM, an SSD drive, and a decent processor. PC or Mac? It’s up to you!
  • Software (The DAW): You’ll need recording and editing software. Audacity and Reaper are great free options, and Pro Tools is the industry standard. There are even podcast-specific tools out there worth exploring.

Pro-tip: Think about your ambition level. If you’re serious about podcasting, starting with mid-range gear can save you from upgrading down the line.

Choosing Your Gear (Budget to Pro)

Let’s face it, podcasting gear can get expensive quickly! But don’t worry, you can achieve great results on any budget. Here’s a breakdown of some solid options to get you started:

Starter Setup ($50-100)

  • Headset with Microphone: Look for gaming headsets with decent mics; comfort matters for longer recordings.
  • Smartphone Recording App: Many free apps offer basic recording and even editing features. (Anchor, Lexis Audio Editor, Shureplus are all viable options)

Mid-Range Setup ($200-500)

  • USB Microphone: Options like the Blue Yeti or Samson Q2U are huge upgrades over headsets.
  • Pop Filter: Essential for minimizing those harsh “puhs” and “buhs.”
  • Headphones: Basic studio monitor headphones like the Audio-Technica ATH-M20X will do the trick.
  • DAW: Audacity (free) is excellent for beginners, Protools (paid) gives you more editing power.

Pro-Level Setup ($500+)

  • XLR Microphone: Legendary mics like the Shure SM7B offer unmatched quality, but they need an interface.
  • Digital Audio Interface: Connects XLR mics to your computer (Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is popular).
  • Headphones: Invest in higher-end studio monitors for accurate sound reproduction.
  • Advanced DAW: Pro Tools is the standard, but explore other options if it’s overkill for your needs, research about AI tools that can help you to save time when editing your Podcast (Resound).
  • Accessories: Mic stand (like the Rode PSA1+), acoustic treatment (Example: DIY Acoustic panels), XLR cables.

Pro-Tip: Consider all-in-one solutions like the Rodecaster Pro II. They streamline recording and offer great features for podcasters.

Important Note: This is just a starting point! Do your research to find the best gear in your price range, considering reviews and your specific needs.

Setting Up Your Space: Practical Tips for Better Audio on Any Budget

While a perfectly soundproofed studio is amazing, most of us start with the spaces we already have. Fortunately, even simple adjustments can significantly improve your podcast’s audio quality.

  • Hunt for Quiet: Start by seeking the quietest spot in your home. Bedrooms, basements, or even a roomy closet often provide a calmer environment. Avoid kitchens, active living areas, and places with noisy appliances.
  • Minimize External Noise: Close doors and windows to block out traffic and other outside sounds.
  • Turn Off the Hum: Air conditioners, fans, even buzzing refrigerators or computers in other rooms can create unwanted background noise. Unplug or temporarily relocate anything that hums.

Understanding Room Acoustics: How Your Space Affects Your Sound

Sound waves travel through a room and interact with the surfaces they encounter. This interaction can affect the quality of the sound you record in several ways:

  1. Reflection: Sound waves bounce off hard surfaces like walls and floors. This can create echo or reverb, making your recording sound hollow and unclear.
  2. Absorption: Soft materials like carpets, curtains, and furniture absorb sound waves. This helps to reduce echo and create a more natural-sounding recording.
  3. Transmission: Sound waves can also pass through walls and other surfaces. This can be an issue if you’re recording in a noisy environment or if you don’t want your recording to be heard by people in other rooms.

Audio Examples

Now, let’s listen to some audio examples that demonstrate the impact of room acoustics on sound quality. Check out this video on Youtube. Observe how the room can greatly effect how your voice sounds.

As you heard, the room you choose to record in can have a big impact on the final product. In the next section, we’ll explore ways to control echo and improve the acoustics of your recording space, even on a budget.

How to control Echo on a budget

Hard surfaces like bare walls and floors cause sound to bounce around, creating echo. Here’s how to combat this on different budgets:

  • Low-Cost: Rugs, blankets (hung or draped), cushions, and furniture can absorb sound. Experiment with what you have on hand.
  • Mid-Range: Acoustic foam panels offer targeted sound absorption. Start with the area behind and above your microphone.
  • Pro-Level: Dedicated vocal booths and room treatment systems provide the ultimate control, but come at a higher cost.

Remember: Every improvement counts! Even small changes in your recording space will translate to better-sounding audio for your listeners.

Best Practices for Recording

Now that you’ve got your gear and space sorted, let’s dive into the techniques that will help you capture great audio during your recording sessions.

  • Microphone Technique:
    • Speak Directly: Aim to speak directly into the front of your microphone. Experiment with distance (usually about the distance of your thumb away) to find the ideal sound.
    • Minimize Plosives: Those harsh “puh” and “buh” sounds can be distracting. A pop filter is your best defense, but also, be mindful of your microphone placement and speaking style.
    • Consistency: Maintain a consistent distance from your microphone throughout the recording.
  • Monitoring Your Levels:
    • Use Your Headphones: Keep an eye (or rather, an ear) on your audio levels while you record. You will find digital meters in your DAW’s which visually represent the input level in dB (decibel).
    • Stay in the Green: The green zone on your DAW’s meter indicates a good range. This ensures your recording is loud enough to hear clearly without distortion (clipping, which makes your voice sound scratchy). A good rule of thumb is to aim for a peak level of around -3 dB. This provides some headroom for editing without introducing noise. Levels consistently below -12 dB (in the yellow zone) can be too quiet and boosting them in editing can amplify background noise. Capturing a clean, high-quality recording at the source is ideal.
    • Test Recording: Do a quick test recording before diving in. This helps ensure your levels are good and that there are no unexpected noises.
  • Additional Tips:
    • Take Notes: If you stumble or have a brilliant idea mid-recording, jot down a note. It’ll make editing smoother later.
    • Hydrate: Keep water handy to avoid dry mouth or distracting throat-clearing sounds.
    • Relax and Have Fun: Your energy comes through in your voice. Breathe, try to relax, and enjoy the process!

Important Note: These are starting points. As you gain experience, you’ll develop your own preferences and techniques.

Now its your turn to write:

  • Walk around your home. List three potential recording locations and analyze the benefits and challenges of each (quietness, potential for echo, etc.).
  • If you haven’t purchased gear yet, create a “starter” and a “dream” equipment wishlist. Research prices and write a short justification for why you included each item.
  • If you have your equipment, do several short test recordings, experimenting with microphone distance and placement. Listen back critically – what differences do you notice in your voice?

Bonus Activity:

  • Share Your Setup: If possible, take a photo of your recording setup (even if it’s the closet!). Share it with us for feedback and ideas.

Let’s move on to the world of editing and production in the next class!