Fortunately, you've picked the right time to get into podcasting, since more people are listening than ever before. In the United States alone, over 100 million people listen to podcasts on a regular basis.
But there's just one problem: You're great at talking, but not so sure about the tech. Which microphone should you use? Where do you post your podcast once it's ready? And what the heck is compression and how do you actually use it? You'll find the answers to these questions and more in the following pages.
*Aside from perhaps perfecting your silky-smooth radio voice.
• Always monitor your audio with a good set of headphones.
• Do vocal warmups beforehand – talking for an hour is surprisingly hard on the voice.
• Export your audio in a lossless AIFF or WAV format (not MP3!) for maximum quality.
• Simplecast, Anchor and Captivate offer free platforms to publish your podcast.
• Use your platform’s analytical tools to track your podcast’s performance.
• Want to record guests remotely? Check out services like Zencastr and Cleanfeed.
• Record a few episodes in advance. That way you can ensure no release delays.
• Include links to anything you discuss in the show description for each episode.
PILLOW TALKPicking the right room can save you a lot of acoustic trouble, and bed- rooms are usually a good bet for recording podcasts if you don’t have access to a proper studio space. For a start, they’ve got duvets, pillows and curtains that can absorb sound. And, just as importantly, it’s a bit more private and you’re less likely to be interrupted (especially if you make a ‘podcasting in progress’ sign and stick it on the door).
GOING UNDERCOVERIf you’re using a sensitive condenser mic and your room sounds a bit bright (i.e. has lots of hard and reflective surfaces) you might want to consider actually getting under a blanket or duvet to record your pod- cast. You’ll feel a bit silly at first but trust us – your voice will sound way better.
SWITCHING OFFYou might be in the right-sounding room, but if your oven, air condition- er or grandfather clock is making a ton of noise it won’t matter. Ticking and buzzing right into the ears of your podcast listeners can be extremely annoying. So turn off even those objects that you can normally blend out. And be sure to switch your phone to silent or airplane mode!
UNTIL RECENTLY, YOU NEEDED A WHOLE BUNCH OF GEAR TO DO A PODCAST PROJECT PROPERLY. NOWADAYS, YOU CAN RECORD A HIGH-QUALITY PODCAST WITH JUST A SINGLE USB MIC AND YOUR LAPTOP. STILL, IT’S WORTH KNOWING ALL YOUR OPTIONS WHEN IT COMES TO THE GEAR.
MICROPHONESIt’s the age-old condenser vs dynamic decision again, and it depends on which suits your voice and recording space best. If you’ve got a condenser that you love, go with that – but only if you’ve got a room with the right acoustics. As for dynamics, mics like the SM7B and MV7 are perfect for podcasting and will work well in any room.
Regardless of which you choose, you’ll want to get it set up on a stand (preferably a desk boom stand as these cut down on noise) and then point it directly at your mouth. For dynamics, the mic should be no more than two inches (5cm) away, while for condenser mics it’s more like six inches (15cm).
Full power to the shields! You’ll definitely want a windscreen or pop shield to cut out plosives (those hard sounds with lots of air like ‘P’ and ‘T’). We’d recommend only using either a pop shield or a windscreen, as if you use both your voice might sound muffled.
RECORDERSSmartphone, laptop or stand-alone digital recorder: the choice is yours! But just be aware that editing audio on a phone can be a bit fiddly* sometimes.
To use your phone, you’ll need either a USB-compatible mic or an XLR** adaptor.
Laptops: If it’s a USB mic you can plug straight in, but if not you’ll need a mic preamp – especially if you’re using a condenser, as these require phantom power. If you’re using an SM7B you’ll also need an interface with a hefty preamp or want to get a signal booster like a FetHead.***
Stand-alone recorders will usually will work with any mic, but just re- member you’ll need either a USB cable or a card reader to get the audio from the recorder to your computer.
SOFTWAREOnce you’ve got your audio, you’re going to want to edit it (whether that’s adding theme music or removing the hundreds of ‘ummms’ and ‘likes’ you didn’t realize you were saying). The software for this job is called a DAW, which stands for Digital Audio Workstation, and luckily there are free options for both Mac and PC users.
For Mac, GarageBand has more than enough bells and whistles for en- try-level podcasting. For Windows, Audacity is completely free and does exactly the same job (even if it doesn’t look quite as fancy).
Once you’re established and have cash to spend, there are loads of other powerful paid DAW options available, from Audition to Hindenburg. Just remember: Whatever software you’re using, the most important thing is you’re comfortable with all its specific quirks.
*OK boomer!** Find out more about XLR connectors in the MIC BASICS section.*** The SM7B likes an extra 55dB of clean gain!
EQUALIZE THISThe first thing you’ll want to do is EQ, or equalize, your audio, i.e. boosting or cutting certain frequencies that you want to either hide or emphasize.
• First, cut everything below 80Hz (this is called a high pass filter, because it allows all the higher frequencies to pass through).• If your audio sounds a bit muddy, make a slight cut in the 300- 400Hz range (a few dB should do).• If your voice sounds muffled, put in a gentle boost from 2-6kHz.• If your voice sounds a bit harsh, make a slight cut around 3-5kHz.New page
GATEWAY TO HEAVENA noise gate cuts out unwanted quiet sounds (electronic hum, paper rustling, room reflections). Setting the threshold at 0dB will remove your entire signal, while setting it at -100dB will mean nothing is cut.
Getting the threshold right will require some trial and error but start at around -40dB. As for the amount of cut, a soft reduction of around 30-50 percent is best (anymore and you’ll get a weird pumping effect).
PUTTING ON THE SQUEEZEPut simply, compression reduces the range between the loudest and quietest parts of your audio. Used properly, it can give your audio a smooth, consistent tone – and it should always be the last step in your signal chain.
The trick for speech processing is to be subtle, and we’d recommend using the voiceover preset (if your compressor has one). If not, try a threshold of -16dB, a ratio of 3:1, an attack of 10ms, and a release of 200ms (and pick the ‘soft knee’ option if you have it).