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PodSchool Podcast | 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.

Got some time on your hands? Read the full episode transcript

PodSchool Ep 71_Remote Recording Quality_EDIT.WAV

Hello and welcome to the show. If you're doing a podcast where you're remote recording with people who aren't in the same room. Maybe you're interviewing people on the other side of the world or your co-host might go away and you need to jump on to Skype or Zencastr or Ringr and record an episode with you and them in different locations. That is an absolutely acceptable way to record a show. In fact, Skype interviews are used on some of the biggest podcasts and you can still get a high-quality show when recording no Skype, you just need to think about a few little things. So, in this episode, I'm going to take you through some of the ways that you can improve the sound quality if you are recording your show remotely.

The one thing that's important to note is that when you're recording in Skype the quality of your guest or co-host will be lower than the quality of the audio recorded locally into your microphone. So you want to do as much as you can to make sure your guest has the best possible audio because you know you're already compromising on that audio quality.

First thing to think about is your microphone. If you're recording into your computer microphone where you can't get up close it's never going to sound good. Ideally, you want a microphone for any person on your show that allows some control over the audio that's coming out of it. That doesn't mean they have to have a high end $300 microphone; you can get some really good microphones for much less. And sometimes if you are in an absolute pickle and you've got no other option you can use your apple earbuds with the microphone. It's not something I would suggest to do every time but I have recorded some things on those before when I have had absolutely no other option and it can get you out of a pickle. But it's always best to test. Basically, you want the best audio quality you can possibly get for your show. If you can't do that then you want to make sure that the audio quality is good enough to not be distracting. If you have your guest on their earbuds and you can hear rustling and noise and it's echoey, as an audience member I'm not going to want to stick around. So the benefit of doing that show rather than waiting until another time or sending that person a microphone if you don't want them to buy one is going to be worth it. Ideally, you want to make sure everybody on your show has the highest quality mic possible. If you are interviewing guests all the time and they don't have a decent microphone and you don't have a big audience and you can't really ask them to buy a microphone then you need to make do with what you've got. But if you are worried about it I would test it and make sure that the audio isn't distracting.

The second thing to think about is where you are recording. You could have the best microphone on the market but if you're recording in an echoey space with hard tiled surfaces where the sound bounces around the room it's never ever going to sound great. So make sure you're in a good room for recording and that means soft surfaces. You could hang up curtains, put down a rug, throw around some blankets. And you also want the person on the other end of the line to be in a decent space. So if they're saying "I'm just going to record with you from my dining room where it's gigantic high ceilings and all-glass" you want to make sure they go somewhere where it's actually going to be better for the sound quality because it won't sound great if they're in a room that's massive and echoey.

The other thing to think about is over talk. When you're not in a room with somebody it's hard to measure body language and to work out whether somebody is about to say something and that can mean you often interrupt them or talk over the top of them. That can make editing really difficult and it can also be really annoying to listen to. Ideally, if you are recording on Skype you've also got the video going so you can see the person and you can use hand signals so they know you want to say something. This becomes even more important in a co-hosted situation. When you're interviewing somebody there's a back and forth that makes over talk a little bit easier. If you are a good interviewer it ends up being more "you go then I go" and a good interviewer will sit there silently until the guest has wrapped up their response. It's much easier to avoid over talk in that situation but it's much more difficult when you've got a co-host on the other line and you're trying to have a natural conversation. It's a good idea to use Skype if you're using a program like Zencastr or Ringr. Both those programs allow you to remote record people locally which means you often get much better sound but there's no video. So if you run Skype at the same time you can see each other and use hand signals to stop yourselves talking over each other.

Then just a few simple technical things like making sure you've got notifications turned off on your computer. There's nothing worse than hearing somebody's email pinging 98 times during an interview. So turn all your notifications off. And then just shut everything down on your computer except for Skype or Zencastr or the program you're using. It's just a good habit to get into because it prevents any notifications going off but also avoids your bandwidth being eaten up with other stuff. You want your entire internet connection to be focused on your audio recording. Sometimes, particularly with Zencastr, I've had it drop in and out due to the internet connection which can make it difficult to have a conversation.

And then finally, wear headphones. Naturally, that's going to be essential if you're talking to somebody remotely because you need to hear them. But if you've got headphones on and you've got them turned up nice and loud, you'll be able to hear everything as your audience will hear it. Sometimes that means your guest's dog might be panting underneath the desk and they might not have noticed it but when you listen in the headphones it sounds like somebody's having sex underneath the table. Or they could have a really loud air conditioner and wearing a headphones will give allow you to pick up that they need to turn it down. When you've got your headphones on you can pick up things your ears won't hear and make sure they don't end up on the final product. It's much better to flag things when you're recording things than get to the edit and think 'I can't use this audio!'.

I know wearing headphones seems like a bit of a silly suggestion since you won't be able to hear them otherwise but your headphones really are the most important piece of equipment in your podcasting kit.

Hopefully, that's helped you think about some of the ways to improve your audio when you're recording remotely via Skype. I've also got an episode of this podcast all about remote recording and how to do it properly so you can scroll back through the feed or head to PodSchoolPodcast.com and type 'remote recording' into the search bar and it'll pop right up. I'll also pop a link into the description of this episode. And if you need any further help with your podcast. Make sure you head to PodSchool.com.au where you can enrol in my online podcasting course. I would love to help you create your own show. Thank you so much for listening. I will see you next week and until then, happy podcasting.

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