What you need to know to avoid the “audio house of horrors” and engage listeners to the end every episode.
By: Laurissa Cebryk
For people who devote their lives to working in sound, the popularity of DIY podcasting is a double-edged sword: While it’s great that so many people are digging audio storytelling, the downside is that the internet is now flooded with what can only be described as “bad” sound; a veritable audio “house of horrors,” if you will. As storytellers, we know the odd “rough patch” of sound – if used judiciously – can add authenticity to your podcast by presenting an immersive, “in the field” feeling. But sustained periods of poorly recorded or poorly mixed sound ultimately obscure your message and drive listeners away. In general, you want to avoid this if you are trying to make a high quality podcast.
And boy, do we hear a lot of bad sound out there.
Listen, we understand that audio is a complicated, temperamental, intimidating beast. That’s why we hire incredible sound engineers like our very own Sam Séguin to tame it on our behalf. For those in the DIY space or just setting out on their podcast journey, it can be tough to know where to start to ensure great audio quality. So, if you’re here then congratulations! You’re seeking to make your branded podcast a success by taking your audio quality seriously. Not only will excellent audio keep your audience engaged to the end, but they will value you as a brand who knows what they’re doing, is a leader in the field, and cares about quality.
And this isn’t just us being picky. As a marketer this should matter to you. According to Tom Webster, Partner at Sounds Profitable, a poor sounding podcast “is not going to do great. So it’s almost one of those things where I rather companies not do it at all.”
So let’s open the blinds and shine some light into the “audio house of horrors.” — Here’s how to step up your audio game.
Be Wary of Environmental Noise
It’s so great that people are taking the hint about boosting their audio quality with a great Mic — but that’s only the first step. Mics are not miracle-workers! You also need to pay attention to the environment in which you are recording. This could mean renting studio time to record in or setting up a more sound-proofed space.
Of course, some noise is unavoidable. In the event something does come up (for example a passing siren), do a second take. If you don’t have time for a second take (ie. difficult guests, tight budget on studio time, tight schedule, etc.), then the most important thing to do is to address the noise. Add it into the editorial, “Oh, I have my dog in office with me today, sorry about the barking.” Do NOT just ignore it as if it is supposed to be there. If you address the noise and move on, your audience will move on with you. If you don’t, they’ll get distracted and then you lose them.
Business leaders need to pay attention to sound quality too. If you’re a marketer, for example, your goal isn’t just about the number of downloads. The real goal is to get your audience all the way through your podcast, to move the needle on how they perceive your brand. To lengthen the time they are spending with your brand. If they are distracted by poor sound quality, they won’t absorb the messaging you’re trying to convey. They’ll just leave. If that happens – you can kiss your “brand lift” goodbye. Quality audio is step one to keeping them engaged. Do not lose your listenership due to distracting environmental noise.
Here are a few other common sounds to keep an ear out for during recording:
- Laptop fan noise — plug ‘em in, close those tabs, and just record on the software you have.
- Street noise — Close your windows! Find a quiet space.
- Animals/Humans — Maybe send your roommate on a walk with their dog?
- Appliance hums — These are shockingly loud at times: fans, fridges, A/Cs… If you name it, it probably hums. If you can turn it off, do so. If not – consider relocating for the interview.
A Closer Source of Sound
You did it. You have your studio, your software, and now… the ultimate podcasting Mic. All of your audio woes should be fixed, right? Wrong! The next step to fixing your audio quality is paying attention to the Mic noise itself.
You know that tin-can, we’re-beaming-in-from-a-spaceship-while-also-standing-in-the-shower type audio you hear from time to time? Yeah. That’s often from extreme Mic abuse. Nothing will turn your listeners off faster.
When using your Mic, here’s what you need to pay attention to:
- Mic Volume: If it’s too loud, you’ll hear voice clipping, which is that distortion as you talk.
- Mic Placement: If it’s too close, you’ll hear a lot of extra sound, maybe some echo, and a lot of popping. Too far and you’re in that tin-can.
- Gain: This is the actual volume that is entering the Mic itself. If it’s too loud, you’ll have a lot of peaks in voices and sounds, which is never pleasant for anyone’s eardrums.
Work the Mic Like Celine Dion
“Anyone can be a podcast host — It’s easy!” Sure, if you want a flat, read-off-the-page, less-than-exceptional final product. Finding a trained host for your branded podcast actually makes a huge difference. Why?
They will understand and know the dynamic range of their voice. When you understand that, it will significantly boost audience perception and overall audio quality — No extra pops, no mumbling, no flat sections that lose your audience’s interest. No sounding like they’re reading a laundry list. Your trained host will know how to work it like Celine Dion, keeping the audience mesmerized down to the last second.
No More House of Horrors
If you want to use a branded podcast to give your marketing a boost — quality is king. Not only will it keep your audience engaged to the end (hitting more KPIs than just downloads), but it will demonstrate your dedication to crafting an exceptional product. That way, your brand can chime in on the conversations that matter while keeping your target audience in it until the end, establishing yourself as a thought leader in the industry and ultimately giving you that sweet brand lift. They say “nobody notices sound unless it’s bad.” While there are exceptions to this – it’s a good rule of thumb to try to create sonic experiences that flow, feel organic, are well balanced, and immersive.
To step into the actual JAR Audio DIY House of Horrors, have a listen to How To Get Ahead In Podcasting, Episode 3. The latest episodes of the JAR Audio Podcast!