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?


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


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


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


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


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.

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Discover all the tools and tech you need to get your podcast started. Plus get access to my weekly podcasting tips delivered straight to your inbox!