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How to get the best quality podcast audio when remote recording

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How to record high-quality podcast audio on Skype, Zencastr or Ringr

Remote recording is really common in podcasting especially when you’re conducting interviews.  So how do you make sure your podcast audio quality is the best it possibly can be when recording your show via programs like Skype?

Buy good microphones

This will make all the difference, particularly to the audio quality of your podcast guest if they’re coming down the line via Skype.

It’ll also make a huge difference if you’re recording via Zencastr or Ringr because your guest’s audio will be recorded locally.  So, if they’ve got a bad microphone you’ll have a much clearer recording of bad quality audio, which isn’t great.

As always, how high-tech you go will depend on your budget and whether you’re just starting out but you don’t need to spend a lot (you can find a bunch of affordable mic options in my podcasting guide).

Whichever mic you choose make sure you do your briefing chat or pre-interview via Skype so you can test what your guest’s microphone sounds like before the actual interview.  If the audio quality is terrible (and they’re really keen to get on your show), there’s nothing wrong with asking them to purchase a decent but cheap microphone, like this one.

If you’re still in the early stages of your podcast and you need your guests more than they need you, it might be worth purchasing a guest mic or two and covering courier costs to drop them off to interview subjects who need better audio.

Not only will this help the sound of your show but it’ll make you look like a serious professional who cares about the quality of what you’re putting out into the world.

At the end of the day, if your guest is providing great value for your audience, it will be worth the cost of shipping.

If the idea of organising couriers seems like too much work, don’t worry, because sometimes you’d be surprised at what you can achieve with a pair of Apple earbuds.

Please, don’t take this as me endorsing recording a podcast on these things.  The audio quality isn’t great but if you’re in an absolute pickle and your guest has nothing else, they can get you out of a bind.

Since Skype audio is lower quality it can cover up things that’d be much more obvious if you were recording audio from the earbuds locally. But whatever mic you use, particularly if it’s not a good one, you always want to test the audio before you start recording your show.

What you’re listening for when you do this is whether the quality of the audio is so bad it’s distracting.  If you’re using earbuds as a microphone they can brush on people’s clothes or pick up wind noise and you don’t have much control over the audio.  If this is the only option you have, test it by having a conversation before you press record and if it sounds really bad you might need to reschedule.

Or if you’ve secured an incredible guest and the sound isn’t great but you can’t reschedule I’d offer a disclaimer at the start of the episode explaining why the podcast audio quality isn’t great and why you still chose to run it.

What are the best podcast microphones?

Read

Think about where you’re going to record

Your surroundings have a huge impact on the quality of your audio.  Even the best microphone will suck if there’s wind noise or a lot of echo.

Avoiding rooms that are covered in hard surfaces like glass and tiles will help because you want the sound to absorb into your surroundings, not bounce off it.  It’s also important to make sure you and your guest don’t have your microphones too close to your mouth or, if you have a good microphone, that you use a pop guard.

Popping is the harsh sound that occurs with words starting with hard consonants like ‘p’ or ‘b.’  It often happens when you’re too close to the microphone and can be incredibly annoying to listen to and an absolute pain in the butt to fix in post.

You want the microphone to be close enough for clear audio but not so close that it sounds like a machine gun’s going off if someone says “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”

How to record high-quality audio at home

Read

Watch out for overtalk

Overtalk is a wanky way of saying more than one person is talking at once.

It’s a big no-no in radio and podcasting for obvious reasons – you can’t hear a damn word anyone is saying when everyone is yabbering at once.

When you’re in the same room together it’s much easier to reign yourself in if you talk over the top of someone.  But on Skype, it actually cuts out the audio of the person who’s being talked over which means if you get excited and butt in while your guest is saying something your audience might not hear them at all.

Then you get stuck in that awkward minefield of apologising, getting your guest to repeat themselves, them being unsure of what you missed and then losing your rhythm entirely.

When you’re interviewing someone via Skype it’s much easier to avoid overtalk than if you’re doing a show with a co-host because of the slightly formulaic nature of interviews.  People tend to take turns speaking in an interview so it’s important to get good at the ‘silent nod’ so you can show people you’re interested in what they’re saying without talking over the top of them.  Then once they’re finished you can throw your two cents in.

If you’re recording with a co-host via Skype it’s much harder to get the rhythm right because you need the conversation to be much more free-flowing.  And that’s going to be way easier to navigate when you’re in the same room together.

If you do need record via Skype make sure you use hand signals as much as you can so you’ve still got visual cues that tell your co-host when you want to say something.  That will help you stop jumping over the top of each other.

This is really important when you’re using recording programs like Zencastr that don’t have a video feature.  Even if you’re not recording on Skype you should run it at the same time so you can see your co-host and try and inject as much of the feeling of being in the same room as possible,

Since chemistry is a huge part of why people listen to your show, my advice is that remote recording should be an option of last resort when you have a podcast co-host.  Or a way to keep the show rolling when one of you is away.

How to record a podcast with people in different locations

Read

Turn off everything else on your computer when you’re recording

There’s nothing worse than listening to an interview where someone’s email notifications are going off every two seconds, so turn everything off and ask your guest to as well.

As a habit, I’d suggest Skype, Zencastr or Ringr should be the only program you have open when recording.

That way there’s no chance anything will ping halfway through the interview and your internet connection can be solely dedicated to keeping your interview alive.

How to make editing easier when you’re recording a podcast

Read

Make sure you’re somewhere with a good internet connection

You want to avoid anything that interrupts the flow of conversation and nothing is more jarring than someone’s audio breaking up mid-sentence, except perhaps, losing them completely.

A crappy internet connection is not your fault but when you’re in the middle of a chat and have to keep stopping and starting your guest, it’s you who ends up looking unprofessional.

I’ve noticed this a bit when I’ve used Zencastr in the past and it results in the audio of your guest dropping out.  The good thing is, because the program is recording locally, this doesn’t affect the final recording but if you are missing bits of someone’s conversation it can affect the flow of the show.

Why you need to wear headphones on your podcast

Read

Make the most of your headphones

When you’re recording audio, microphones pick up things your ears would never hear so you want to make sure you’re monitoring every little detail as you’re recording so you can fix things as you go.

Maybe you can hear the air conditioner where your guest is recording or perhaps their dog is panting under their desk so it sounds like someone is making sweet, sweet love next to them.  These sounds can be distracting for a listener (and make editing more difficult) so you want to make sure you’re listening out for them BEFORE you get to the editing stage.

The goal, when you record, is to get the best possible audio in the moment, so you’re not stuck with something you can’t fix later, or heaven forbid that you have to re-record entirely.

The more attention you pay to your podcast audio quality when you’re recording the better your show will be.

Got a burning podcasting question you’d like answered? Send me an email.

Want to start your own podcast but need a little help?  Download my “How To Start A Podcast” guide or sign up for my online podcasting course, PodSchool.

21 Comments
  1. Blake says:

    So…what if someone you’re wanting/needing to interview wants you to call their cell phone and just record that. Of course the quality will be lower. But I’m looking at a sports related podcast. I known on sports talk radio you often have people “call in” for interviews. And you can tell they’re on a cell phone. But it’s kinda accepted in that arena I think.

    Are you okay w/ Skype to Cell Phone for interviews?

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Blake,
      Thanks so much for the question. You’re absolutely right about phone interviews in radio and to be honest I’ve never thought about doing it on a podcast because my preference (if I can’t have people in the same room) is to use Skype so that I can try and control as much audio quality as possible. The other thing about callers on radio shows is they’re usually a really small portion of the overall show so the decreased audio quality isn’t too much of a problem. Were you thinking of just having a short interview with people on the show or would it be the full podcast? If you were going to be doing a full 30-40minute chat with someone I would advise trying to get them on Skype with a decent microphone. Have you recorded with Skype to cell phone before?

  2. Ryan says:

    Hey Rachel,
    I’m toying with each contributor recording separate Audio Streams for Skype conversations and combining them in the edit to achieve best sound quality. Is this something you have tried or would recommend?

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Ryan. Absolutely! I’ve tried that and it works really well but obviously, both you and your guest or co-host have to have eCamm recorder (or the PC equivalent) for it to work. Basically, you’ll both record the call at separate ends then after you’re done go into your individual eCamm recordings and split the tracks. Then you put together the two tracks that have been recorded locally at both ends (the high-quality ones, not the crappy ‘coming through Skype’ ones) and voila! You’re still recording on Skype but you sound like you’re in the same place! Obviously, with interview guests, this probably isn’t going to be an option because they might not be across the tech and you also don’t want to say to people “you can come on my show but you have to download this software, split the tracks and send me the audio etc etc.” If you’re just using it to record you and a co-host remotely, it’s perfect! Just remember to do the ‘clap’ so you can line up the audio because chances are you and your co-host won’t press record at exactly the same moment. Hope this helps!

  3. Eric Smith says:

    Good afternoon, Wonder if you have any advice for me… I am currently trying to record a Facetime interview (but only need to record my guest, and not myself). Generally speaking, my guest are overseas in remote locations. I haven’t had issues with video quality, only audio. Because of where they are at, they do not tend to have mics, and i the quality i am recording over my own computer is low/with feedback. is this because i’m not using a mic? are there any tricks you might be able to give me?
    Thank you in advance
    Eric

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Eric, I’d use Skype and eCamm recorder if I were you. It records you and your guest separately on two tracks but I’m afraid microphones are the quickest way to improve audio quality. Particularly at your end. If you’re just using the built-in mic on your computer that’ll sound pretty bad and if your guest is just talking into their phone that’s not going to sound great either. Rach

  4. Trevor Beckwith says:

    Hi,

    I use Skype and ecam to record my podcast I use audio Technica 2020 XLR with a mixer. Skype won’t allow me to turn my mic down on my Mac so when I speak or my co-host speak we are louder than we want to be and I have to try to fix it in post. Any advice on how to control Skype audio live?

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Trevor, if you’re using a mixer you should be able to adjust the volume using that? Rach

  5. Suad says:

    Hi Should your headphones be in your computer headphone jack or in the headphone jack in your microphone?

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Suad, This depends on what you’ve got selected as your output in the “Audio Hardware” section of your Preferences. If that sounds like another language, a quick way to check is just to plug them in and see where you can hear yourself. If you plug your headphones into your mic and you can hear yourself clearly then go with that. All that matters is you can hear your voice as it will be recorded. Hope this helps. Rach

  6. Kathy Rushing says:

    Great info here. I am launching a podcast for entrepreneurial couples. I’m having a heck of a time trying to find a way to have both people on mic if I’m using zoom (or skype, I just prefer zoom). Is there a way to mic BOTH people sitting TOGETHER, as I think that is the best DYNAMIC for my topic (the intersection of business and marriage).
    Do you have thoughts on how to accomplish this?
    Thanks so much.

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Kathy. Doesn’t your Zoom have multiple inputs for microphones? Best thing is for both people to have their own mic.

  7. Lee says:

    Hi. I’m really sorry if this is an stupid question, but what are yo actually recording on? Where do you actually press the record button?? Software?

    1. rcorbett says:

      If you’re recording on Skype you mean? You can record within Skype or use an additional piece of software. I’ve got more info in this article…https://rachelcorbett.com.au/how-to-record-a-podcast-with-people-in-different-locations/

  8. Jim says:

    Hi Rachel, just want to make sure I have this right. You can use a mic and headphones? I worry that plugging in the headphones cancel out the Mic. I have an audio converter, but I’ve never used it with headphones plugged in to the computer

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Jim, Headphones shouldn’t cancel out your mic. Your mic is your input and your headphones are your output. Rach

  9. Jax says:

    Hello Rachel, this website is brilliant, you have helped me a lot. This is information really for anyone who is starting their first podcast on RINGR. I have just done my first podcast via RINGR an it is very easy to use. I used my computer and my guest used her androide phone with headphones but not an external microphone. The quality from my end was excellent, the quality from my guests end was good but I realise if she could have used a microphone it would have been perfect…. only glitch was after the two conversations blended halfway through the it sounded like I was talking over the top of her and we definately were not on the call. We anticipated and put in a gap after each question and answer. So I have been back to RINGR who are going to try and rejig the two ends to remove the overlap. They said the same thing, you have to have everthing switched off on your computer except RINGR. I had the ladies website open in case I wanted to refer to it…. it would have made sense if RINGR had mentioned that somewhere…. so I may or may not have lost the call… anyway LESSON 1 if using RINGR on Desktop/Laptop don’t keep any tabs open.. only RINGR…LESSON 2 – try to get a guest on mobile phone to either get a microphone or sit closer to the phone – RINGR is a good cheap way to get podcasting recordings

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Jax! Thanks so much for sharing this! This is definitely a great way to up the quality of a remote interview from phone quality (which can often be really bad) to audio that’s locally recorded (even if it’s on a phone mic). And yep, it feels silly closing everything down but it does reduce the potential that things will interfere with the recording. Really appreciate you sharing what you’ve learned! Rach

  10. Marcus says:

    Hi Rachel, I’m considering the Skype approach for my podcast. I don’t mind my guests using iPhone ear buds since interview-style podcasts typically have lower audio quality for the guests. My question is, assuming we record the interview on Skype or any related program, will my audio quality be lower, even if I use a podcaster’s mic?

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Marcus! Your audio should be higher quality because it’ll be recorded locally where you are so if you’re on a good mic it should sound good. Rach

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