Covid-19 is the biggest modern plot twist of our time and is presenting many different challenges for all small and medium-sized businesses. With the majority of businesses being forced to work from home, there’s no such thing as business as usual. We’ve seen this first-hand at Metigy. Our professional podcast studio where we record our marketing podcast, Forward Thinking, is closed, which forced us to rethink how we could record from home.
Luckily, we’ve worked with one of the best podcast and audio engineers in the business, Daren Lake from Podpaste, who helps us keep The Forward Thinking podcast sounding amazing each week.
At Metigy, we are building the world’s leading community of Forward Thinking SME Marketers and we want to give you the best advice from the best in the business to support your marketing efforts that will ultimately support your business through these uncertain times. With this in mind, Daren has been kind enough to put together a comprehensive guide that will help you make your audio recordings sound better at home during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.
These principles apply not only to podcast recordings, but have multiple applications across video calls, high-end video productions or live streaming. I’ll hand it over to Daren to show you how to make your audio recordings sound better at home:
Imagine this: You’ve just received an email from your favourite podcast. They are promoting their new episode with a guest that you love. It’s a deep dive into the guest’s life, ethos and how they built their business. 😁
You are so excited that you immediately open up your go-to podcast player and dive into the episode. It buffers for ten seconds. You wait patiently. It starts playing and you hastily pop your headphones on to commence a lean-in listening session.
The interview segment starts, but you are confused. You ask yourself these rapid-fire questions in a foggy haze of disbelief:
- Why is there so much echo (sound-wave reflection)?
- Is that a jackhammer in the background?
- What kind of buzz is that; a fridge or an air-con unit?
You wait and think it will get better. But at the five-minute mark, you can’t understand half the words that the guest is saying and you give up. 😭
We’ve all been there. It is the sub-standard audio quality zone. Do-do-do-do. [Cue twilight zone music] It’s a thing, and it seems like it’s invading a lot of podcasts from novice to experts.
While that story was over-exaggerated, I’m sure you don’t want your listeners to have this poor experience. In this post, I’ll help you obtain better audio quality in your home podcast and audio recordings.
A few areas we’ll touch on are:
- The setup
- Internet connection
- Opening up the recording app on your computer
- How to use your USB microphone
- Using the free microphone in your pocket
- Capturing audio in your recording app & exporting
Again, all this information is available in a visual or audio format. Alternatively, keep reading if you want to stay here and gobble up all of the knowledge.
The goal for a functional recording space is to eliminate echoes and reflective sound waves. Your microphone captures more echoes and “room noise” in a place that is boxier/square-like with minimal objects/furniture in it. It’s best to avoid these rooms.
A rule of thumb that I like to follow is a hard surface is not an ideal recording surface. You want to stay away from things such as; glass mirrors, windows, marble/porcelain surfaces, non-fabric furniture and any concrete/hardwood floors.
Stay away from noisy things such as:
- A window that has loud noises outside (close the windows and pull down the blinds if you can)
- Air conditioning
- Heating vents
- Anything with a hum
Try this test – listen in to your house carefully for 15 seconds, identify troublesome areas and avoid them. Strive to record next to or around:
- Dense fabric surfaces
- Carpets and rugs
- Fabric couches and chairs
- Heavy drapes and curtains
- A room with a bed with blankets, pillows and thick sheets
Spaces you should try to record in includes:
- A closet that you can sit or stand in (we understand that not everyone has this)
- A storage room or small study area with a lot of stuff in it
- Random items placed randomly in your space is useful (it absorbs the sound waves)
If you are into experimenting, you can try this ridiculous and fun solution. Get a large box or plastic container that’s three to four times the size of your head. Glue a fabric-like material on the inside of it. Old cloth pieces, mattress foam or egg cartons work well. If you have access to a heavy blanket, sit under it and record yourself. Like a blanket fort!
Yes, it might look ridiculous, you might feel a bit foolish, and will get a bit hot, but it will sound fantastic. I recommend setting your ego to the side because high-quality audio is a must!
The above only works if it’s just you talking into the microphone, monologue style. If you need to see your guest via remote web call, this isn’t an ideal option.
Your internet connection is essential. It’s how you will communicate with your guests: bad internet, bad audio. Therefore, a fast connection is ideal.
I recommend testing your connection speed before doing anything drastic. Ask yourself this question, “When watching or streaming Netflix or YouTube, do you get buffers and pauses?” If so, you probably have a less than ideal internet speed in your space.
Congratulations if you have a good connection. The following ways to make your internet run faster may help your speeds go from good to great!
A few quick ways to help boost your bandwidth;
- Turn off and unplug your wifi router for 10 seconds, then turn it back on
- Hardwire your computer into your router with an ethernet cable
- Place your setup physically closer to your wifi router if you can’t plug directly into the internet with an ethernet cable
- Purchase a new router if it’s a few years old
- Close any apps and programs (except the ones used to record and the web-conference apps like Google Meet, Zoom, and Skype – which we recommend)
- Restart your device that you are recording on (Phone, tablet, or computer)
Using Your USB Mic
You want to make sure the microphone is as close as possible to you. The closer it is to your mouth, the less room echo the microphone will pick up.
A rule of thumb is almost to be kissing it (one to three centimetres away) and make sure it has about a 45-degree tilt.
Holding the microphone has proven for me to be the best way to position it. When you hold it, you are subconsciously aware to put the mic closer to your mouth when you speak and move it away when you’re not speaking.
If you have a mic stand, placing the mic on a stand is okay. Unfortunately, most of us tend to move around when speaking and the audio quality isn’t as consistent.
Using Your Phone Mic
Did you know that you have a relatively high-quality microphone in your pocket?
Your mobile device, iPhone or Android, has a strong microphone built into it. Just like any microphone, the audio quality captured depends on the room/environment (less echo/reverb) and the position you hold it.
The best position to hold your mobile device is similar to how I held the USB microphone. A 45-degree angle, one to three centimetres away from your mouth, is ideal.
You can also look to hold it similar to a phone call. This position is okay if you feel comfortable doing this, but the quality isn’t as sharp.
Another position is to use a book or object to prop your mobile device up in front of your mouth. This position is a better solution, but the book/object may be in the way of your video call, and your guest won’t be able to see you.
Capturing Audio & Exporting
On Desktop Computer
If you’re on a Mac, you have two apps ready and available; QuickTime and GarageBand. They are straightforward to use.
Alternatively, if you’re on PC and have Windows 10, you can use the app named Voice Recorder or Sound Recorder. It’s the same thing, but it seems like they had a rebrand. This app is similar to the voice/sound recording app on your mobile. Just one big recorder button,
On Mobile Device
Podcasting is application-agnostic, so it doesn’t matter what you use. If you have a favourite audio recording app or program of choice, please use that one.
Before you can do your soundcheck and listen back to make sure everything is sounding good, you need to open up the app.
Most smartphones have a built-in voice recorder or voice memo app. It doesn’t matter if your device is iOS or Android; you most likely have one. Just do a quick search on your phone for the app and make sure you go into settings and have the highest quality selected.
Go to the audio capturing settings in your mobile device. On iPhones, in the settings for “Voice Memos,” it’s called lossless. In the voice memo/recorder settings on Android devices, it will be either 48khz and whatever the highest setting bitrate that is on there. 16/24 bit is ideal.
Hopefully, I’ve helped you produce better audio with minimal effort and gear.
Thanks for reading and please share this with anyone that you know that might need some help capturing cleaner quality audio.
It’s time to record
A big thanks to Daren for providing this amazing advice on how to make your audio recordings sound better at home. Let us know how you go with your next recording in the comments section below.
If you want to check out the results from following Daren’s tips, listen to Metigy’s Forward Thinking podcast