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The most important piece of equipment in your podcasting kit

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by in Podcasting
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A podcaster’s best friend is their headphones

Setting aside the obvious need for a microphone and something to record on, the one thing in your podcasting kit you can’t live without is a pair of headphones.

And that goes for everyone whose dulcet tones will be featured on your show.

This is obviously a given when you’re interviewing a guest via Skype or Zencastr because without headphones they won’t be able to hear you.  But if you’re chatting to someone face-to-face or you have a co-host, everyone will need their own pair.

Headphone splitterAnd since most computers and recording devices only have one headphone jack, you’ll also need an audio splitter to plug them all in.

If your guest wants to bring their own headphones, earbuds will do fine.  But it’s always good to carry a spare pair just in case.

Just remember, if you’re going to supply headphones make sure you get ones that go over a guest’s ears rather than into them because some people are funny about having a strangers ear wax in their earholes…understandably.

So now that you know what you need, here’s why

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Wearing headphones will make you a better presenter

I doubt there’s a person alive who, when hearing themselves on tape for the first time, hasn’t said: “I don’t sound like that!”

Newsflash.  You do.

If you’ve never recorded your voice or worked in radio or podcasting, the only way you’ve heard yourself is through your cheekbones.  And since everyone else is standing out in front of you when you speak, you’ll never hear yourself the way other people do. Unless you wear headphones.

Headphones take your ears (not literally) from the side of your head and put them right in front of your mouth so you can hear exactly what you sound like to others.

This is an important tool when you’re presenting a radio show or podcast because it gives you a huge amount of control when it comes to adjusting your voice and presentation style on the fly.

As you talk into the microphone your brain processes what it’s hearing through the headphones and gives you the chance to self-review and make minor tweaks.

This is obviously done in a split second and can include changing your tone, volume or any of the millions of variables you can adjust when you’re presenting a show.

If you don’t have much experience recording audio this might not seem important but trust me, it makes a huge difference to your performance and ultimately to how you sound.

The four things you need to start a podcast

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Wearing headphones improves your mic technique

This is true of both you and your guest.

If you can hear you’re off mic, too loud or that you’re popping every time you say a word with a hard consonant (‘p’,’b’,’k’), wearing headphones will help you adjust the way you’re using the mic in the moment.

The more experience you have with this immediate feedback the better your mic technique will be in the long run.

Best podcast microphones

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Wearing headphones will make editing easier

Editing takes a lot of time so the more work you can do at the recording stage to make the process easier, the better.  And one of the best ways to control audio is by listening to it as you record.

Microphones always pick up more than you can hear on your own.  A slight breeze, the buzz of a vending machine, an air conditioner; it’s all there on tape and you need to hear that when you’re recording so you can make the necessary adjustments.

The last thing you want is for audio to be unusable or for the background noise to mean your edits are really obvious.

If you’re not monitoring in the moment it’s not uncommon to find out later that things are impossible to fix or to spend hours repairing something that could have been avoided entirely.

This becomes even more crucial if you’re recording with a guest because you never want to ring someone and say “Can we do that again, there was a problem with the audio?”

Not only is it unprofessional to ask someone to re-record but trying to re-capture the genuine reaction you had to their advice, stories or jokes is almost impossible.

You want to make sure each conversation is as natural as possible and having to pretend you’re doing it for the first time makes that really hard.

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

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Wearing headphones means you won’t have to micro-manage your guest

Nothing kills the buzz of a conversation like telling someone how to talk every five minutes.

Even a guest with zero microphone experience will benefit from wearing headphones because they’ll be able to hear if they’re on mic or not or if they’re too loud or soft.

If they can’t hear themselves, they’re more likely to pay little or no attention to the mic and that means you’ll probably be interrupting them every two seconds to say ‘Could you come a little closer?” or “You’re too loud.’

No one wants to be constantly reminded they suck at talking and it’s a quick way to make your guest feel self-conscious and uncomfortable.  It will also put a handbrake on the flow of conversation which means you won’t get the best out of them.

If they’re wearing headphones they’ll be more likely to self-regulate, so you can stick to being interested in what they have to say.

How to get the most out of your podcast interviews

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Wearing headphones can save your show

There are a million different ways your show can be ruined during recording but wearing headphones can save you from a lot of them like…

Levels that are too high

It’s important to check your levels when recording to make sure they never go into the red but usually, this is something you’ll test before you start.

When you’re in the middle of an interview it’s a good thing, in theory, to glance at them but chances are you’ll be so wrapped up in the conversation you’ll probably forget about it.  And that’s where your headphones come in handy.

If you’re listening as you record you’ll know if you’re too high or low and you’ll be able to adjust as you go along.  This will help when it comes time to edit because you won’t need to painstakingly go through each section raising and lowering levels which is time-consuming and annoying.

Whatever you do just make sure the levels never go into the red.  You can always increase the volume of audio in post but if it ‘blows out’ i.e. is too loud, the only thing you can do is send it to the audio graveyard.

Popping

‘Popping’ is the term we use for harsh sounds that are created by words with hard consonants like ‘pop,’ or ‘kettle.’  This popping sound often occurs when words are said too close to the microphone.

A lot of this can be avoided by using a pop guard or by talking slightly across the mic rather than directly down the barrel, but even if your mic technique is on point, sometimes you’ll still pop.

This is one of those things that’s impossible to detect without headphones and hella annoying to fix.

There are some effects in editing software like ‘auto-heal’ that will remove this sound but if the pop is really bad the edits can often sound over processed and therefore, obvious.

You can also go in and cut out the offending pops manually.  But that’s a painstaking process that can turn a 30-minute edit into an all-night one as you try to save your audience from conversational machine gun fire.

Ambient noise

There are many types of ambient noise that impact the sound of your show but the worst offender is the wind.  Problem is, it’s really hard to hear how badly it’s affecting your recording unless you’re wearing headphones.

Think about a phone conversation you’ve had with someone when it sounds like they’re in a cyclone.  Often it doesn’t take much wind to create that effect.  In fact, if you’ve ever been the person on the windy end of the phone you often don’t know until the person you’re talking to says “are you in a wind tunnel?”

Listening to a conversation with a lot of wind noise is incredibly irritating and often drowns out what’s being said.  It’s also impossible to fix in post so wearing headphones will make sure you don’t have to chuck out your audio because of mother nature.

And there you have it podcasters, my tips for why headphones should be your new audio best friend.

And one final piece of advice –  when you’re using them, make sure the volume is turned up LOUD.  That goes for the edit too.  If you want total control over your podcast you have to be able to hear every little bit of it.

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.

10 Comments
  1. Megan says:

    Do you have a list or link to all the equipment you would recommend for someone? Like what is a good mic to start with, headphones, etc. ?

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Megan! Thanks for getting in touch. This is a link to my podcasting tech guide which will give you a list of all the equipment you need…http://podcastguide.com.au/

  2. Fatemia says:

    Hi, I am totally new to podcasting and I have a very basic question. It seems a little silly to ask, but here goes. Could I or should I use wireless headphones?

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Fatemia, it’s up to you. Most of the recording devices like a Zoom just have an old school headphone jack but if you’re recording on your computer and the quality of your wireless headphones is fine there’s no reason you can use those. Just make sure you can hear the audio really clearly and you’re good to go. Rach

  3. Max says:

    Hi there, I want to podacst on a tight budget and thinking of getting $20-$40 gaming headsets cos they have built in mics and soft earpads…Do u recommend?

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Max, I’ve never used them so I’d just advise testing the audio quality. The tech is getting so good for lower prices these days so it might be fine.

  4. Redd says:

    Can you hook up three usb microphone and one laptop for a podcast. If so please me know how

    1. rcorbett says:

      You can but you need to configure your audio settings so that your software recognises there’s more than one microphone. I’ve got a link to an article that takes you through how to do it in this post…https://rachelcorbett.com.au/usb-xlr-podcast-microphones/ Or, if you’re on a Mac you can also create an “Aggregate Device” in the Application called “Audio Midi Setup.” I’ll add this to the list of future podcast episodes and do a bit more of a deep dive on it. It’s a good question!

  5. Andre says:

    Great tips and perspective. I never thought about how I sound with or without headphones. I will definitely incorporate this into my Skype and Zoom calls going forward.

    1. rcorbett says:

      So glad this helped, Andre and thanks for letting me know!

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WANT TO START A PODCAST BUT HAVE NO IDEA HOW? THIS GUIDE TAKES YOU THROUGH ALL THE TOOLS AND TECH YOU NEED TO GET GOING!

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