Get Professional Quality Podcast Recordings From Home
Are you planning on starting a podcast? Or have you already gotten some downloads? Either way, this guide is for you! This guide will teach you how to record a podcast from home to get the best sound possible.
Excellent sound quality is essential for any podcast to grow. Your listeners will appreciate a clean, clear and intimate sound, whichever kind of podcast you have – whether you’re podcasting as a hobby, for a cause, to teach, to entertain or to promote your brand. Your listeners may not actively notice that your podcast sounds great, but they certainly will notice if it sounds bad!
A great sounding podcast will help you to improve listener experience and retention, and in turn, will help it to grow. And it all starts with a great recording.
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There are many ways to record your podcast, and the one you choose will depend on your budget and your podcast format (solo/guest/co-host etc.). I’m going to go over the methods that are worth considering and give you my suggestion on which you should use depending on your situation.
There is a fair amount to consider when it comes to recording your podcast, but I’m going to keep things straightforward and easy to follow, in three steps.
To start off, we’ll be talking about the equipment. Whichever recording method you end up using, you’ll find out what gear you need. I’ll be giving options for whatever your budget is.
Next, I’ll go over how to set up the equipment and where you should be recording for a high quality result.
Finally, you’ll get some helpful tips on how to best record your episodes.
And before you go, I’ll give you some guidance on what you’ll need to do next once you’ve recorded your podcast.
Now let’s get started!
The equipment that you’ll need depends on your budget, your recording space and the format of your podcast. Therefore, I’m going to give options for all budgets and podcasting styles.
If you’re just starting out, you have zero budget and you’re recording a solo podcast – you technically don’t need any of this stuff and you could record directly to your phone using the built in microphone (or your laptop using a built in mic). You could also upload directly from your phone too.
BUT – I really don’t recommend this if you’re serious about your podcast!
But for those of you who are willing to invest even a small amount of money and who are after a great sounding podcast, there’ll be a few things to add to your shopping list. And here they are!
1. A Computer
First of all, you’ll need a computer to record your audio, edit your recordings, organise everything and eventually upload to your podcast host. Thankfully, this is something that you most likely have already. Whether you use a PC or Mac, laptop or desktop – you’ll be covered.
Next up, you’ll need the right kind of microphone to capture a crystal clear recording of your voice. There are a few different types of microphone that you’ll need to pick from, and I’m going to explain what they are to help you decide.
USB vs. XLR
Your first choice will be whether a USB connected microphone or an XLR connected microphone would be best for you.
A USB connected microphone (e.g. the Audio-Technica ATR2100x) connects directly to your computer using a USB cable. They have a ‘pre-amp’ built-in to them that boosts your vocal signal to an audible level. They’re really simple to use and you don’t need any other equipment to get them working.
An XLR connected mic (e.g. the Rode M1) does not have a pre-amp built in. This means that it will need to be connected to a dedicated audio interface using an XLR cable. The audio interface then plugs into your computer. Audio interfaces (like the Focusrite Scarlett Solo) ensure high quality, low noise audio and some give you the option of connecting multiple microphones and headphones.
The USB option is easier to set up – you only have to buy and set up one thing. It also takes up less space and can be cheaper. The XLR option means potentially higher quality audio and much more flexibility when recording or upgrading your setup.
Dynamic vs. Condenser
Your second choice to make is if you should get a dynamic mic or a condenser mic.
Most amateur podcasters picking up their first microphone go for a condenser mic because they are very common and often marketed as ‘podcaster mics’. They’re often not the best option, though.
Condenser mics (such as the Yeti Nano or Audio-Technica AT2020) are very sensitive and have a large pickup pattern. This means that they not only pick up your voice, but also the reverb (echo) that your room creates when sound bounces around it. They also tend to pick up other sounds going on in your room more clearly as well, for example the air conditioner, the fridge, or even the dog barking outside! Condenser mics require power to use, which will be provided by your USB connection, or by the audio interface.
Dynamic mics on the other hand (such as the Audio-Technica ATR2100x, Rode M1 or Shure SM7B), have a much more focused pickup pattern. They mostly just pick up what’s directly in front of them (i.e. your voice). They’re robust and normally less sensitive and do not need to be powered.
I recommend choosing a dynamic mic if you’re recording at home or anywhere else that isn’t acoustically treated. You’ll get a cleaner and more intimate recording out of it. You just need to make sure it’s positioned correctly (more on that later!).
Recommended USB Mics *
Recommended XLR Mics *
3. Audio Interface
If you picked an XLR mic, you’ll need an audio interface to connect it up to. A mixer or a portable recorder would also work (I go into the differences here). An audio interface will be the best bet if you’re only recording one or two people and have a computer to connect it up to, though.
There are hundreds of audio interfaces out there though, so which one do you pick? Ultimately, it comes down to your budget and your required features. The prices range from $50/£30 to way up in the hundreds. You can normally stick with the lower cost ones for podcast recording, though, providing it’s made by a reputable manufacturer.
I go over which audio interfaces are recommended for different budgets here. If you want a quick idea for a quality interface, though, you can’t go wrong with the Focusrite Scarlett series. The Focusrite Scarlett Solo is perfect for capturing a high-quality recording of a single speaker. The PreSonus Audiobox is a budget-friendly option for recording two speakers simultaneously. The Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 includes two very high-quality pre-amps (mic inputs) and also features two headphone outputs so that two people can listen back.
Recommended Audio Interfaces
4. Mic Stand/Mount
You’re probably not going to want to hold your mic throughout the podcasting session. In which case, you’ll need some kind of stand or mount.
Some mics have built-in desk stands, but these aren’t ideal as they’ll pick up taps and vibrations from the desk and affect the recording. You can buy dedicated desk stands that aim to mitigate desk vibrations. The best option though would be to opt for a mounted boom arm or a floor-standing mic stand.
Desk-mounted boom arms (pictured below) are great because they won’t pick up most desk vibrations (if installed correctly) and they keep the mic and stand out of the way of your arms. A floor-standing mic stand is another option and can be even more effective in avoiding desk vibrations. They’re a bit more cumbersome and take up more space, though.
5. Pop Filter
Every single vocal recording should be made with a pop filter/pop shield/windsock in front of the mic. Period.
When you make ‘P’ or ‘B’ sounds (plosives), a blast of air comes out of your mouth. With your mouth pointing at the mic these plosives get picked up as nasty, bassy, windy sounds. They can sometimes be fixed in the editing stage by a professional editor, but it’s best to avoid them to begin with.
Pop filters are cheap, easy to set up and forget and well worth making use of to get a professional result.
6. Cables – USB/XLR
Don’t forget your cables! The cable should be included in the box if you’re using a USB mic. On the other hand, if you’re using an XLR connected microphone, you’ll likely need to buy an XLR cable to get it connected up to your audio interface. Check before buying to see if one is included.
And one last thing – it’s very important that every speaker is wearing headphones/earphones throughout the recording session. If you record into a microphone while listening through speakers out loud, whatever is coming out of the speakers will go back into the microphone and get recorded onto the track. This results in two copies of the dialogue being recorded and results in an unpleasant ‘echo’ effect.
It sounds bad and limits editing capabilities as well. Just double-check before recording that everyone is wearing headphones.
8. Recording Software
Technically this isn’t equipment – but it is essential! If you’re recording your podcast onto your computer, you’ll need some software to record with. Don’t worry though, the software that I’m going to recommend is simple to use and is free.
Your computer will likely have a basic voice recorder application built in, but I don’t recommend using this. I recommend downloading a dedicated ‘Digital Audio Workstation’ (DAW). A DAW is far more versatile. A DAW lets you see the waveforms of exactly what you’re recording. It’ll let you stop and start recordings, adjust recording and playback levels and even edit your podcast (if you’re editing yourself). It’ll also save your audio in an uncompressed .WAV format for the highest quality, and let you record multiple local speakers at once.
It’s not as complicated as it sounds, though. If you have a Mac – you probably already have one – Garageband. If you have a PC – download Audacity for free. You can use Audacity on Mac too.
If you’re recording with a co-host or guest remotely, you’ll also probably be using voice-calling software like Skype or Zoom. You can set these up to record the audio – just make sure that you set it to record both speakers onto separate tracks so they can be mixed and edited separately.
There are also online services that you can host calls through that will record top-quality audio without any lag. Some popular examples include SquadCast, Zencastr and Riverside. These normally have a cost associated with them but are worth considering if you record remotely and you’re after the best possible sound quality.
I recommend that both speakers also record their audio locally as well on a DAW like Audacity. The sound quality is normally better (than recording over the internet) and you’ll have a backup if anything goes wrong with the calling software.
Setting Up To Record
So, you’ve got all the equipment you need. Now let’s talk about setting it up in your home or place of work.
The first thing to consider is which room you’re going to record in. It might not seem overly important to some, but the room that you choose to record in can make a big impact on your podcast recordings.
You might not be in a position to choose what room you record in. But if you can, go for a room that doesn’t have too much background noise or natural reverb (echo). Normally this will be a room that’s not too large and houses some soft furnishings, e.g. a sofa, a bed, some thick curtains. Ideally it’ll be a room that doesn’t have any foot traffic or noisey appliances in either. Perhaps an upstairs bedroom or a small, side office, as opposed to a large kitchen diner or open plan office.
Your podcast will sound more intimate and clear if you limit the amount of reverb and other ambient noises. As mentioned before, though, opting for a dynamic microphone means that your room will have less effect on your recordings.
As a podcast editor, what I find is that a lot of podcasters tend to pick up a condenser microphone, and record in an open space with lots of hard surfaces. The result sounds very echoey and you end up with a lot of background noise.
What you want is a nice, warm, intimate recording with as little reverb and background noise as possible.
Now you’ve found a cosy spot to record your podcast in so it’s time to get the equipment set up.
The process will depend on what gear you chose, but the setup will generally go something like this –
- Sit in a comfortable position, whether that’s at your desk or at a table.
- Set up your audio interface (if using) and your recording software as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Set your software up to record in .WAV format in 44.1 kHz resolution and 16 or 24-bit bit depth.
- Clip your mic onto your stand/boom arm and position it so that the mic capsule is pointing at your mouth. Leave some space between your mouth and the mic of approx. 6 inches or 2 ‘hand widths’.
- Connect your pop filter to the boom arm/mic stand.
- Connect your mic to your computer or audio interface using your cable.
Now we’re all set up, let’s talk about the process of actually taking the recording and what you need to be looking out for.
Recording Your Podcast
Comfortable? Let’s record a podcast! Here’s what you’ll need to do –
- Recording with a remote host or a guest? Call them up on your chosen voice calling application.
- Have everyone test and adjust their mic and headphones level. If you check your audio settings, you’ll find an input level meter showing how loud you’re speaking (most audio interfaces have these built in too). Make sure that you’re not reaching anywhere near the red when you’re speaking normally. You want to be hovering somewhere around the middle. Hitting that ‘0db’ mark causes nasty digital distortion, also known as ‘clipping’. I go into more detail about setting your levels in this video.
- Hit record on your DAW, and if possible, get the other speaker to do the same. If it’s your first time, it’s worth taking a quick test recording and listening back to ensure that your recording is clean and clear.
- Don’t forget to save and backup your recordings once completed!
Nice job. You’ve recorded your podcast episode!
What Comes Next?
We’re just covering the recording stage in this guide, but let’s just briefly go over what comes next so that you get start making plans –
- Editing. All podcasts need editing (providing they’re not live). Whether you’re editing your own podcast, or you’re sending it off to a professional editor, a concise, clean edit helps to clarify your message and keep listeners engaged. Furthermore, intros/outros/music etc. can also be added.
- Mixing and mastering. A professional editor will normally mix and master your podcast as well. Mixing is where the audio is enhanced and balanced to get the most out of your recording and get it sounding as professional as possible. Mastering is where the podcast is turned into an MP3 that’s ready for your podcast host, with the correct levels, format and tags.
- Upload. Getting your episode uploaded to your host to be distributed across streaming services.
- Promote. If you build it… they actually might not come! Get your message out there across your chosen channels that your podcast is here and it’s worth listening to!
A great podcast deserves a great recording. Take the time to get your audio sounding pro from the get-go and your listeners will be more likely to stick around. Let the world hear your message in it’s best form.
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