With over 464 million listeners, the podcast industry is one of the fastest growing. Whether you are interested in content that's informative, entertaining, artistic or something else, you will be able to find something you like and start listening... or producing.
We have prepared this simple How to Start a Podcast guide for you with all the information you need to get started in Podcasting or if you want to improve the audio quality of your content.
The end quality of a podcast is dependent on the quality of what’s going in, and we are not talking about the subject matter! It has been observed that bad audio is less tolerable than bad video, so if your content is primarily consumed in an audio format, like most podcasts are, then it needs to sound great.
Here are a few pointers to get your podcast sounding professional.
Podcast Equipment: What You Need to Know
Invest in a good mic. There are many affordable USB options that eliminate the requirement for an audio interface.
USB mics are easy to use and simple to set up. Audio-Technica’s USB solutions can get your show up and running quickly, providing a professional sound for an affordable price. If you already have an audio interface, then there are XLR analogue versions of these USB mics available.
When you are interviewing remotely, discuss your guest’s equipment beforehand as it will have an impact on the overall quality of your podcast.
Consider your mic positioning, especially if you’re filming your podcast too.
- Audio-Technica’s AT2020 comes with a desk stand though these can pick up the sound of knocks and bumps from the desk itself. A floor-mounted mic stand, or boom arm can help prevent this. The AT2020 range is compatible with the AT8455 mic cradle, which will eliminate any noise created by table knocks.
- The dynamic AT2040 range needs to be positioned in front of the presenter, so ideally requires a boom arm like the AT8700.
- Invest in a pop shield as it sets a minimum distance between you and the mic and helps alleviate the “pop” plosive sounds from the mechanical impact of fast-moving air on the microphone. The AT2040USB has built-in foam (pop) shielding and the AT2020USB-XP comes with a small detachable metal pop-shield.
Most people will use a computer to record onto as they interface easily with USB microphones.
- Audio-only podcasts shouldn’t need especially powerful computers; standard home computers can be good enough.
- For video content, check your system’s specifications to make sure they meet the minimum requirements.
- Other recording devices include mobile phones and hardware recorders. These are good for recording out and about. Always check your microphone is compatible with your equipment.
During the recording process you’ll need to hear what the other person is saying, especially if your guest is remote.
- Don’t use speakers in the room as the microphone will pick up the audio coming from them.
- Choose a pair of closed-back headphones, like Audio-Technica’s ATH-Mx range.
Environment: Finding the Right Space and Sound
To achieve the best possible sound, you need to assess your recording environment.
- Find an appropriate space, ideally a small room with non-reflective surfaces. This will give you a “dry” sound without any ambient reverb. Reverb can be added to the recording later; you can’t remove it easily. A carpeted room with curtains and soft furnishings is ideal.
- Spend time in the room listening to see what background noises there are that may make it into the final recording. NOTE: As mentioned previously, a condenser mic will pick up more background noises.
- If your guest is being interviewed remotely, they need to be in a suitable space too, so you can have a consistent finished product.
Recording: Keeping Audio Quality High
If you are interviewing your guest remotely, you will not be able to control everything. Have a conversation with them beforehand about their equipment and environment to attempt to minimise any adverse effects.
- For remote interviews, a stable internet connection is required. If you are worried about your internet connection, turn off the video component on the app you’re using - audio connections require much less bandwidth.
- Some apps give you the option to record your conversation. If possible, record the audio separately at both ends. This will record only the mic source and not each other, allowing your guest to be recorded at the same resolution as you, which will sound better than a compressed version that has been received via the internet. NOTE: Record your guest at your end too just in case something happens to their file.
- Work at a 48kHz sample rate with a 24-bit depth for a great-sounding end-product. This is currently the professional broadcast industry standard. Most modern computers should be able to cope with this easily. You can drop to 44.1kHz and 16-bit if necessary, which was the standard used for the CD format for many years. At the other end of the spectrum, Audio-Technica’s new AT2020USB-XP can record up to 192kHz at 24-bit. Experiment with these settings and use the highest your system will comfortably cope with. NOTE: The higher the sample rate and bit depth, the bigger the file size, so your computer’s storage will fill up quicker.
Finally, familiarise yourself with the basics of audio dynamics and effects processing, such as compression, EQ, gates, and reverb, as these will help you improve the finished product. Most DAWs come with them, and many have good presets that will help you learn and achieve great results quickly.