Better Podcasts: Audio Quality Matters

This seems obvious. The quality of your audio is the quality of your podcast. But it seems to be one of the things that people don’t pay attention to. There are a couple of things you need to do.

Use a Good Mic

I’m not going to recommend a mic here, if you really want to know email me. This is the single biggest thing you can do to record it right the first time. You can fix a lot of stuff in post, but a crappy mic is hard to overcome.

Telephones have crappy mics. I do an interview show and sometimes the guests are on phones. This is poor quality in general. When we send them our interviewee guide we tell them the order of preference for calling them, Skype, Landline, Cell Phone. This has everything to do with the microphone.

If you are doing a regular show with others in other places, you need to just limit it to Skype with a good mic for the regulars.

Edit

Yes, it is much easier to just record a live event or a quick recording and throw it up on the server. But don’t give in. I was listening to one podcast and there was a 30 second exchange where the host told someone to note the time because they really were going to edit out something they had just said.

Get rid of the dead air. Another easy edit that people don’t make it to edit out long pauses. The reason I say it is easy is you can see what you need to cut. All sound editors show you a way form, and when it goes flat no one is saying anything. Just cut that out. Then go back and listen to the transition.

Don’t be afraid of the do over. Once you know you are going to edit, when something goes wrong while recording you can just stop and do it again. I had the phone ring in the middle of a recording of EMS Newbie a week or so ago. I thought I’d turned them all off, but it turns out my new printer rings. 🙂 I just said, “Hang on a minute Kelly” Hit the off button on the printer, and said “OK back up and repeat what you just said.” Or we’ve had to clear crying kids out of the room. You don’t hear that on the podcast because we edit it out.

Fix bad connections. When you have someone cut out because you’ve overloaded your bandwidth, I don’t want to listen to it as a listener. Say, “Hey you cut out there, can you repeat what you just said now that you are back?”

Not Too Many People

We all listen to This Week in Tech and they have half a dozen people on every week. It sounds and works great. They are all calling in via video over Skype. So we think our round table podcasts should be the same.

You are not Leo Laporte.

Sorry. Have you seen his setup? Do you know the kind of bandwidth he has? And almost all of his guests are professional broadcasters, with years of experience working with others.

My personal limit is 3 or 4 people. That is the most amateurs that can work together. They don’t walk over each other and there aren’t many long pauses while they figure out if they are the one who should answer. Also this give an intimacy to the listener, making them feel they are part of a private conversation.

Speaking of bandwidth, your home DSL line or cable modem can’t hand a dozen video streams. Probably less than 3 or 4 without something breaking up. Remember your pipe is getting all of the other’s streams. So if you have 5 callers there are 5 video streams coming down our pipe. Each caller is getting 1 stream to them, but you are mediating them all.

Your computer may not be able to handle everything you want it to do either. It is managing multiple video displays and recording.

If you aren’t doing a live video broadcast, don’t bother with Skype video, just do audio.

Related is streaming live while recording your podcast. I’ve thought about doing this with P&M, but haven’t yet because of the bandwidth issues. Remember that upload speeds on a cable modem are way less than download. So that video you are streaming up is having a big impact on the quality.

In the end you have to decide what is the most important channel you are going to use. UStream live? Blogradio live? Or iTunes recorded?

iTunes lets you reach literally millions of people, more than you will every have listen live. You need to optimize your podcast for that medium.

Video vs Audio Podcast

Should you do video at all? Yes it is cool, but is it how your listeners want to consume your product?

I generally think of people as listening to my podcasts while they are commuting, or exercising. Something that is time consuming, but not mind consuming. But it is also generally not something were they can look at a screen. So audio is the best.

Secondly is there an advantage to people being able to see you? If you are interviewing, or discussing stuff, it doesn’t really add anything to see you while you do it. The benefit is not worth the extra cost and effort. If you think editing audio is a pain, try video.

Hopefully these things will help improve the audio quality of your podcast. Let me know if you have any questions or comments below.

4 thoughts on “Better Podcasts: Audio Quality Matters”

  1. Hey Ron,

    I would like to know what you would recommend for a specific mike. Right now I am using a Sure SM58 and may upgrade in the next year.

    email me

    Thanks,

    Dax Wagner

  2. This isn’t an easy question because it depends on a lot of things. For me the mic needs to be a USB mic. I don’t want to have to go through some other device to connect it to my Mac.

    So I first bought a Blue Snowball, but never really got into it. It worked, but I didn’t like it for no particular reason. Sounds great.

    Then I decided I wanted to record my P&M interviews live and so I needed a recorder. I bought an Zoom H4n (http://amzn.to/ao7kNi ). It was great for interviews because you could essentially have 3 mics, one in each XLR port and the mic on the recorder. Then I hooked it up to the computer as a USB mic and it works great. It’s what I use for both my podcasts. Shawna and I sit in front of it for P&M and it pics both of us pretty good and in stereo.

    I’ll be using it this week at the EMS Conference to record the live event.

    I sent Kelly the Snowball and it is what he uses now. If you listened back through the Basic episodes there would be a point where he changed from a headset mic to the Snowball and you can tell.

    Shure makes good stuff. That mic is better than any headset. It isn’t really a podcast/radio type mic though. It is always a decision of how good you want to sounds.

    Long answer, but hopefully it helps.

Comments are closed.