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Podcast recording essentials

There are some essential steps you need to take to ensure that your podcast is a success.

You want you and you listener to be clear and easy to understand. Your episodes should free of background noise (where possible) and your episodes should all be roughly the same overall volume.

Luckily for you, I’ve put together this guide to make sure you don’t miss a thing. I’ve also included templates for Logic Pro X, Pro Tools and Reaper.

I’ll be posting an article soon with tips for mixing your podcast, so stay tuned.

Microphone choice – Dynamic vs Condenser

Your choice of microphone is going to play a massive part in the final sound of your podcast mix.

I highly recommend you use a Dynamic Cardiod microphone and not a Condenser. The main difference here is a Dynamic Cardiod microphone will pick what you put close to it and right in front of it – in this case, your voice.

A Condenser microphone will pick up the who room – which is something you definitely don’t want. Depending on your setup at home and if you have any room treatment, room sound will tend to include a lot of things you don’t want in your podcast like wall reflection, chair movements, feet taps, passing traffic… you get the picture.

Three great microphone choices

Podcast Starter – Shure SM-58

Shure SM-58 on
Amazon Australia

Shure microphones are legendary. The SM-58 in its own right. They’ve been the go-to microphone for live music events for the past 50 years.

The SM-58 is a cardioid dynamic microphone. It has particularly strong rejection properties i.e. doesn’t pick up a great deal of background noise and the built-in, spherical filter is very effective at minimising wind and breath pop noise.

You do need to be aware of how hard you push the gain on the way in though, that is, don’t turn the gain on your interface up to 11 when you record or you’ll find that you end up with quite a bit of hiss. Instead, bring the volume up to where you start to hear the hiss, then bring the volume back down a few dB. You can increase the overall volume afterwards when you mix your podcast.

The Shure SM-58 is available on Amazon Australia for around $165.

Podcast Specialist – Rode Procaster

Rode Procaster on
Amazon Australia

The Rode Procaster is a broadcast dynamic vocal microphone and the only microphone on this list that was designed specifically for podcasting.

Rode have quite deliberately given this mic an especially tight polar pattern, which makes it an outstanding choice if your environment can be somewhat noisy at times. Like the Shure SM-58, the Rode Procaster has a built-in pop filter to minimise plosives and a high output dynamic capsule. It’s a robust microphone with superior ambient noise rejection.

The Rode Procaster will set you back around $200 on Amazon Australia.

Podcast Pro – Shure SM-7B

Shure SM-7B on
Amazon Australia

The Shure SM-7B is a high-end dynamic microphone for serious professionals.

Most notably, the SM-7B has a flat frequency response. Why is that important? Essentially, it means that it won’t accentuate or enhance any signal frequencies. The result – exceptionally clean and natural reproduction speech.

The rejection properties of this mic are outstanding and it also has improved rejection of electromagnetic hum and shielding against broadband interference emitted by computer equipment.

It comes with a price tag though.

The Shure SM-7B is available on Amazon Australia for around $650.

Audio interface – Onboard vs External

Using an on-board audio processor is likely to wind up causing you grief, especially if your computer is underpowered.

You can wind up with some seriously nasty and unwanted results if your computer CPU maxes out while trying to process the audio and run your recording software.

With an external audio interface, the interface will do the heavy lifting, leaving your CPU free to make sure your recording software does its job properly.

Two great external interfaces

I’ve used both of these interfaces extensively and I can highly recommend them both.

Both of these units offer two combo inputs, zero-latency monitoring, and included DAW software so you can hit the ground running.

The major difference here is that the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 supports up to 192 kHz sample rate, whereas the Presonus AudioBox iTwo only supports up to 96 kHz.

However, do you really need 192 kHz? That may not be the most important factor for you. Perhaps the included DAW software and plugins is more important to you? Or maybe iOS compatibility?

If you’re looking to use your interface with an iPad, the Presonus AudioBox is a fully tested and compliant iPad Audio Device. The Scarlett 2i2 on the other hand may not be the best choice. Here’s a quote from Focusrite’s official Help Centre: “While not officially tested or supported, we would expect the Scarletts to work with an iPad”.

Presonus AudioBox iTwo

You can pick up the Presonus AudioBox iTwo at Store DJ for $239.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

The Focusrite Scarlett is currently $289 at Store DJ.

Guest location – Remote vs Local

If you want to retain complete control over the sound of your guests’ voice, you’ll probably want them to come to you wherever possible.

In the international, interconnected world we live in today where everyone is everywhere and being time-poor is the norm that’s pretty unrealistic.

Regardless of your guests’ location, there are still some steps you need to take to ensure their voice sounds great on your podcast.

If your guest is local (in your studio)

Record in a dampened room. That is, a room with either acoustic treatment or lots of furniture, wall hangings etc that will soak up the ambient noise. If you don’t have either of those you can hang a blanket or two over a clothes rack or over a couple of microphone stands. Get creative, try a few things and let us know what works for you in the comments.

Avoid phase and echo issues by making sure that you and your guest are equally spaced from the microphones. If you don’t, your voices and any ambient room noise or early reflections will occur at a slightly different time in each track. You’d be surprised how big a difference this can make.

Put your and your guest’s microphones in each other’s rejection field. For example, with a cardiod pattern you’d want something like this:

If your guest is remote (calling in)

Like it or lump it, the most commonly used platform for Podcast calls is Skype. To be fair though, with any similar provider you’re at the mercy of the gods and there’s every chance of a drop-out occurring or weird audio artefact in your recording.

If your guest is willing and able, get them to record their end of the conversation in Sound Recorder, Audacity, QuickTime or similar. Something easy that requires no configuration so they can just open the application and click Record.

If you wind up needing their recording, you can get them to send it to you via a large file transfer service like WeTransfer – A really simple online tool for sending big files.

You’re going to need your guest to use headphones. You absolutely do not want speaker bleed in your recording. Fortunately, your best “less fuss” microphone in this scenario is also going to a set of wired earbuds – like the ones that ship with an Apple iPhone, Google Pixel or Samsung Galaxy. So if this is an option, I’d recommend you take it.

As with recording locally, you’ll get a far better result if your guest can call in from a dampened room so there’s as little room noise as possible.

That’s it, you’re ready to record

Good luck and please let us know how your podcast session goes in the comments field below!

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