After editing, mixing and mastering hundreds of podcast, and seeing the same quality issues pop up again and again, I wrote this short guide to help new podcast producers produce better sounding podcasts and not make the same mistakes, which, once recorded, are difficult to fix. These are most essential tips for recording any good podcast.
Format is one of the most important yet most overlooked aspects of Podcast recording. I am amazed to receive Podcasts recorded in wav 8 bit, 8000khz, or worse on 32 KBps mp3! To give you an idea, this is like packing a chocolate pastry in a matchbox! Nothing much of the original will survive!
I always advice recording in wav format at 44,100, 16 bit. This format renders the best quality for size. But the file size can be huge (1 min recording =10 mb approx). But once it is recorded, a sound engineer can mix, master, eq and polish it up and reduce it a small 15 mb file, ready to upload. This way the saturation and quality of the source is maintained the most and all other process like noise reduction and Eq yield beautiful results. If you are recording in mp3, I would suggest a bit rate of 320 kbps, 44,100 at the least.
Placing the microphone
Placing the microphone or Miking is an elaborate science in itself. If the mic is too close to the mouth, it will cause pops, and bass boost, making the sound muddy or harsh. If it’s too far, the voice presence will suffer. It is always a good idea to record a couple of samples with different placements and see what gives the best results. Some basic do’s and don’t-
1. Keep the microphone as far away as possible from unwanted sound sources like CPU fans, A/c ducts etc.
2. Don’t place the microphone directly behind a wall. This will result is reflections and will make the voice echo.
3. Place the microphone directly in front of your mouth, around 4-8 inches away. You can also place the microphone a little higher then your mouth and point it downwards.
4. Always use a pop screen/filter to reduce the explosive breath sounds.
As a rule, the recording levels should never cross 0 db. A level higher then 0db causes nasty distortion in your recordings. The best way to avoid it is to do a sample recording and hear it back. Always monitor the levels on your recording software. Low levels can always be fixed, but distortion is nearly impossible to fix. My advice; don’t record at the maximum levels. Reduce them a little and always check that your recording has no distortion. Or better, if you can apply a compressor in the signal chain, it will take care of the peak levels.
An acoustically treated room is the best place for recording. Though ideal, it might not be available to all podcasters. Never record in rooms which have lot of metallic furniture/items or a completely empty room. These will reflect the sound waves and will result in bad recordings. A room with carpet and wooden furniture is a better choice.
Make sure the location you choose has minimum ambient noises. Fans, exhausts, noisy CPU all contribute to broadband noise. Make sure that there are no phone ringing, the neighbor’s dog or the doorbell!