FYB 160 | Podcasting Audio Equipment

Your voice is the core of the episode, and the best way to convey your message is through a good set of audio equipment. Like any host, you would want your recordings to go smoothly. Technical issues are inevitable, but they would be the last thing you’ll worry about when you invest in the best podcasting audio equipment. In this episode, Tom Hazzard talks about the importance of quality audio in a podcast and weighs the differences between headphones, earbuds, and AirPods as podcast audio equipment. Listen in as he shares tips on enhancing your audio quality, especially if you’re a beginner at podcasting.

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In this episode, I’m going to talk about a subject that should be of interest to all podcasters. I want to talk about headphones. Specifically, I want to talk about headphones versus earbuds versus AirPods, and which is the best podcasting audio equipment. I’m going to talk a little bit about why use headphones at all. Do you need to? I want to talk about the pros and cons of these three different options, headphones versus earbuds versus AirPods. Also, some recommendations and things for you to consider regarding this.

Headphones Vs Earbuds Vs Airpods

It is a very personal choice at the end of the day which one you want to use. As I said, there are pros and cons. If you’re a serious podcaster looking to create the best quality audio, I do highly recommend that you use some kind of headset when you’re recording an episode that involves a remote guest interview. It’s very important and here’s why.

FYB 160 | Podcasting Audio Equipment

 

When you’re recording somebody remotely using tools like Zoom, Riverside.fm, Skype, Zencastr or Squadcast, a lot of you would rather not have anything in your ear. You can hear people through your computer speaker. Why do you need to wear a headset? Here’s the reason. When you’re listening to someone from your computer’s speaker, their sound is going into the air and you’re hearing it in your ears, but what can also hear is your microphone.

When I am listening through these earbuds in my ear, that sound is not out in the environment. It’s going directly into my ears and the microphone that I’m speaking into cannot possibly hear them. It is separating what I’m hearing from what the microphone is recording if you think about what the microphone is hearing. This is very important. I could listen with one ear. I can pull one out. That’s not going to matter. I’m still hearing it in this little speaker in the earbud is too quiet. The microphone can’t hear it.

FYB 160 | Podcasting Audio Equipment

 

A lot of you women out there who have your hair just so and right, and I’m including Tracy in this, she does not like to wear any headset if she can avoid it. She’ll even wear earbuds, which pretty much won’t bother her hair and are pretty unobtrusive visually. Sometimes she may have one which is less noticeable than having two in her ear but still provides the function. If you pull one out, then you could hear some ambient noise if you wanted to or somebody else in your environment who might mention something to you.

Personally, I like to have both in so that I don’t hear anything else in the environment. The point is audio quality. The quality of the final product of your podcast will be better if both you and the other guest or other participants are using a headset. We always recommend that to our guests when we prepare them to be interviewed or being recorded on the podcast. That’s why you’d want to use them. A lot of people think, “Why do I need it? I don’t need it.” I understand that initial thought, but I’m here to tell you that it’s very important for audio quality.

FYB 160 | Podcasting Audio Equipment

 

Audio separation or audio quality is the number one reason. The second reason I hinted out is focus and less distraction while you’re recording your episode. As I said, I like to have both ears have a headset going into them so that I don’t hear potential other distractions in the environment. As much as I always try to make sure I’m recording at times when there aren’t going to be distractions or no lawnmowers going on right outside my office window.

I have a way I can switch off the doorbell for my building so that when Amazon delivers a package, they don’t hit the doorbell and that gets my dog barking. A lot of time, when I’m recording my dog is right at my feet because she’s attached to the hip with me most of the time. You want to minimize the number of distractions and that’s important too.

Alert Sounds

One other thing that’s very important that just happened to me, because I’m using Zoom on my computer, was there are alert sounds that a lot of time go off on your computer when you get an email or text message. I got an alert from my CRM, customer relationship management, software with a task for me that someone in the company assigned to me. It could be Slack or some other alert on your computer.

 

If you’re not using a headset like this, that sound goes off on your computer and your microphone hears it. Now, that’s in your podcast audio and there’s nothing we can do to remove it unless it happened to occur at a time when you weren’t saying anything, but it usually doesn’t happen that way. It usually happens while you’re speaking. It is not making the most professional impression when you have a podcast that you’re trying to be professional and very serious or even if it’s fun and lighthearted, but to have all these computer alert sounds going off.

There are ways on your computer to mute those sounds or make sure the alerts get turned off when you’re recording, but let’s say you forgot to do that. If you’re listening with a headset, I’m the only one that’s going to hear those alerts sound in my ear. What I hear is separated from what my microphone is hearing. That’s another good reason to use a headset when you’re recording.

That’s a little bit about why you want to use a headset when you’re recording a podcast. I will admit if you’re recording a solo cast and it’s just you, and you’re not communicating with the guest, there’s no reason to have any headset in your ears unless you wanted to have no distractions. You don’t want to hear other ambient sounds in your environment so you can concentrate, you still might want to wear it. You don’t need to hear anyone, so you wouldn’t need to wear it, but you can either still have them plugged into your computer and pull them out if you’re recording a solo cast or you could mute your computer’s sound if you want so that you make sure that sound doesn’t happen and isn’t recorded over your mic.

 

Over Ear Headphones

Let’s talk about the three different kinds of headsets. People might call headphones earbuds sometimes. For this episode, when I’m talking about headphones, I’m not talking about earbuds. For those of you reading this, I’m going to describe this for you. When it comes to headphones, I’m talking about over-ear headphones and I’m a fan of these. Personally, I like using them because to me over-ear does more noise canceling of my ambient environment. Often I hear less than I do when I’m using earbuds which are smaller ones, but they both work to limit distraction from your local environment. I like this.

Understandably, many women I know hate them because depending on their hairstyle, it can get in the way and mess up your hair. When you’re recording for an hour like this and take them off, you may have a dent in your hair. I don’t have enough hair anymore that it causes a dent in my hair. Maybe when I was back in college and I was recording a podcast, I had very long and wavy hair. It was a different day back then, but now I keep my hair super short. It never messes up my hair.

Over-ear headphones are one option. They are very good ones. I’m going to talk about the plug. It’s got a 3.5-millimeter plug for most of them, which will plug into the majority of computers, regardless of whether it’s a Mac or a PC. I do recommend a wired plugged-in headset. You physically plug it in. They do make wireless versions, but I recommend a plugged-in wired version.

The quality of the final product of your podcast will undoubtedly be better if both you and the other guest or other participants are using a headset. Click To Tweet

Earbuds are a little different and they would be very small and mostly in-ear, but I still like them being wired. The one that I’m using has a little microphone in it and that’s because people sometimes plug them into a cell phone and use it when they’re speaking to people over their phone, but this microphone, we don’t recommend you use to record your podcast with. If you can use a pair of earbuds that don’t have a microphone, it’s a little easier configuring your equipment because Zoom won’t necessarily pick up this microphone. You don’t have to make sure that the setting is set properly.

If there is a microphone in your earbuds, you can double-check your Zoom settings and make sure you’re using the microphone you want to. I’ve taken to wearing these earbuds more often than not because it’s easier, but I do like over-ear headphones. CNet.com has a review on a bunch of different over-ear headsets. I am not here to recommend any one and the reason why is there are hundreds of them and it’s a personal preference.

There is a classic version that most new podcasters bought, especially if you started several years ago, which was by Sony. That’s a pretty reasonable-priced pair and does well. I bought one when I started my first podcast and I’d recorded so many episodes that I wore out the leather padding right around the ears. If you got leather ones, they usually last better than if they’re a fake leather material. They tend to wear out but I think that’s a great thing.

Podcasting Audio Equipment: When something makes you face a major interruption and distraction, you lose your train of thought, and it’s just not worth it.

 

If you have a headset and you’re wearing out the pads, it means you’re recording a lot of episodes. You’re doing a great job. You probably have a very successful podcast. If you’re doing that well after a couple of years, splurge. Buy yourself another headset when it starts wearing out. To me, that’s all good. I’m not going to recommend a particular pair of over-ear headsets. There are some trial and error that needs to occur. I would probably make sure you’re ordering something that you can return if you don’t like it and that’s why I would buy it from Amazon.

I’m an Amazon guy and I know I can return something after I try it. It’s not the end of the world, but I encourage you to try different things. I still am going to come back to the wireless issue because some of those over-ear headphones are wireless or you have an option to have a wireless battery-operated version that’s not plugged into your computer so hold that thought.

Earbuds

We talked about the over-ear headsets and that CNet article. For the earbuds, I do have a recommendation. I’m only offering this one, not because I have any interest or benefit in sharing this with you. I don’t get any affiliate money from saying this. I’m telling you from my experience. I have a kind that I have used and it happened that I found this brand when I was at an airport traveling and I needed new earbuds because mine broke or got lost.

Sound separation is important because it helps you concentrate when you don't hear other ambient sounds in your environment. Click To Tweet

I was in an airport shop and they were very pretty. These are made of wood, a very small amount of wood. I liked that look and then when I tried them out, the quality was excellent and I’ve been using them for years. At one point, I ended up breaking them myself because I accidentally had them in my pocket and ran them through the laundry, and they’re not made to go through a washing machine, so I bought another pair. I liked them so much.

The company is called the House of Marley. I’ve had a good experience with these. They’re relatively inexpensive. It’s $25 or so for a good pair that’s got a nice braided fabric cord on it. It’s an older style but new and modern and well done. If you’re looking for a pair of earbuds and you would like to try out this brand, check that out.

AirPods

Let’s talk about AirPods. I have some very strong opinions about AirPods. I’m using that term generically. I’m not necessarily talking about the ones made by Apple. That’s their brand name, AirPods, and there are dozens of different companies making the same type of product now. I have one of them and there are a few things about it that I don’t like personally. One thing I don’t like is how they look.

FYB 160 | Podcasting Audio Equipment

Podcasting Audio Equipment: The last thing you want to happen is to be in the middle of a really good podcast interview, and then, all of a sudden, you cannot hear the person on the other side of the conversation because your battery dropped out.

 

These ones that I have are smaller than some and don’t look quite as goofy in your ears. There are some that are larger sticking out and look goofy. It looks like I was a reject from the set of Star Trek or something. Remember Lieutenant Uhura used to have this big thing sticking out her ear before these things ever existed. I don’t think they look good, but that’s not my strongest reason for not using them.

My strongest reason for recommending that you do not use any AirPods is that they are wireless and they are battery-operated. Meaning when that battery runs out, you’ve got to take them out of your ears and recharge them. The last thing you want to happen is you’re in the middle of a good podcast interview, your head is in the groove, you’re having an engaging conversation, and then all of a sudden you cannot hear the person on the other side of the conversation because your battery dropped out on your AirPods. You can’t just plug them back in and start recording again. You got to stop and put them back in this case, which can charge them and then resume. That’s my number one reason.

The same thing is true because I’ve had a pair of these over-ear headsets and tried them. I had a pair by Beats. Tracy had a pair and she tried and used them for a while. You don’t have to deal with a cord, but there are two other issues. You have to deal with a Bluetooth connection to your computer, which can at times be more complicated. It’s another level of complication of your tech, getting it set up properly with your computer and using in your recording software, which can have problems.

If you have a headset and you're wearing out the pads, that means you're recording a lot of episodes, and you're doing a great job. Click To Tweet

Let’s say that’s very stable. You still have the same problem with the AirPods. It’s that in the middle of that interview, if your battery runs out, you can’t hear them. It’s a major interruption and distraction. You lose your train of thought. To me, it’s not worth it and I do not recommend it. That’s why with either the over-ear headset or earbuds, I recommend having the plug with the 3.5-millimeter jack that will plug into your device. You never have a battery issue. That is why when it comes to wireless battery-operated headsets, I say no.

Personal Choice

At the end of the day, it’s your choice as a podcaster. It’s a personal preference. If you’ve got a good pair of AirPods or wireless over-ear headset that you know that battery is going to last all day long and it’s charged, go for it and do it. I’ll be surprised if at some point you don’t have difficulty using that. I just don’t want to tempt fate and have a problem when I’m recording, so I say no wireless.

Other than the battery issue, I don’t think it matters much if you like the over-ear or the in-ear earbuds. Whatever you want there is a personal choice. The other thing that is important that I mentioned about AirPods is they do have a microphone in them. In this episode, I’m not talking about microphones per se, but if you’re tempted to use your AirPods as the microphone to record your podcast, I would deter you from that idea in a more forceful way or stringent way.

FYB 160 | Podcasting Audio Equipment

Podcasting Audio Equipment: The audio quality of the microphone in the AirPods is not anything near as good.

 

I recommend that you do not use AirPods as the microphone you use, even if you are going to use them to listen and hear your guests. That microphone being so far from your mouth, in my experience and observation of others, the audio quality of the microphone in the AirPods is not anything near as good. I prefer you use this little microphone that’s in the wired earbuds than the AirPods. At least this is a little closer to your mouth or I can hold it out and make sure it’s closer to my mouth.

For your microphone, we would always recommend a high-quality USB microphone. That’s in the traditional sense, what could be a handheld microphone or you have a stand on the table in front of you or holding it in your hand either way. Even if you use the AirPods to listen, don’t use them to record your audio. The quality is not near as good.

I don’t have a recommendation for AirPods because I don’t think you should do it. If you’re interested in that, do some Google searching and check out some reviews on your own. Thank you for reading. I hope you’ve gotten some value out of this discussion about headphones versus earbuds versus AirPods. We’ll be back next time with another great episode.

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