Recording For Best Podcast Audio Results: What are the Tools You Need When Starting?
Are you a new podcaster and not sure how or where to start? In this episode, Tom Hazzard discusses the technical side of podcasting, specifically on the recording aspect. He goes into the decisions you will face when choosing recording tools and equipment, as well as the pros and cons of each. Tom talks about the advantages and disadvantages of doing plain audio or including video. He brings forward the issue of whether or not you should use a recording studio as well. Tom also shares some best practices in recording audio or video. Overall, podcasters need to remember that regardless of the equipment used, content is more important.
In this episode, I will talk about something on the tech side of things. I don’t want to get too techie. We have a lot of starting aspiring podcasters who are getting started. I thought it would be a good time to talk about the tech of recording and in particular, about the different options you have for recording. There are some of the pros and cons and also some of the decisions that you may need to consider for how you record because there are many different tools available. It’s very different than it was many years ago when I started podcasting. Even though this industry is fairly young, things move very fast in the tech world of podcasting and there have been a lot of changes.
Choosing Your Equipment
First, let’s talk about audio. You have more choices than ever. That’s part of why it can be so confusing. What is the best equipment to record with? What’s the best software to use? Software-wise, when I started, I bought $1,100 worth of equipment. In fact, my microphone is still connected to it and connected to my computer. I can record very high-quality audio in my recording space. It’s a bit overkill by this time’s standards. There’s no way you need to buy $1,100 worth of equipment. There are some situations where it’s true. I could record higher quality audio than maybe many of you could because you don’t have a big mixing board as I have.
The reason I did that is because Tracy and I are co-hosts. In the very beginning, we were recording most episodes with the two of us, sometimes a guest over the internet, but a lot more episodes that were the two of us. Tracy is a louder speaker than I am. The level of volume of my voice is a bit lower than hers. Her voice would be dominant in the conversation and that wouldn’t sound very good as a listener. We use this mixing board to bring me up and her down a little bit so that our relative volume levels of each of us are similar, which is ideal for having co-host and recording.
We also recorded for the most part offline to a digital audio recorder. This is a lot of different equipment to coordinate. There was a way to run the audio from the computer, from our guests when we had a remote guest coming all the way through the mixing board and into this digital audio recorder. It was a lot and pretty complicated. The quality was the best it could be at the time. The digital audio recorders record in a format called wav, which is a very high-quality audio format. It records very large size files, which are the best quality.
If you want the best quality possible, that’s what you can do. The reality is, at the end of the day, after it gets edited and exported for distribution in the podcast world, it becomes an MP3 file. The quality of an MP3 file is limited. It can only be so much. You might think, “It’s a bit overkill. I could plug a USB microphone into my computer. I can record with a simple program.” There are a lot of different programs that you can use to record your audio. There are some very simple ones. Even on your phone, there’s a voice memo app on my iPhone that I can plug my microphone into.
With that, a good quality microphone that may be perfectly good to record your audio. If you are recording yourself or traveling, you want to record, an episode that’s you or you could even use Zoom over your phone if you need to do that. The complicated setups for recording audio are not necessary for most people. The only time we set people up with a digital audio recorder and it’s different than the one I have. We’ll set them up with something called a Zoom H6 if the majority of their interviews are going to be conducted with their guests in the same room and they want to record multiple tracks. It’s the reason you may want to do that, meaning a separate audio file that gets recorded for me, the host and for you, the guest.
The reason is when you’re editing, if both of you happen to say something at the same time, if you’ve only got one file being recorded for both of you together, there’s nothing we can do in editing to fix that where you were both speaking at the same time. However, if you do have separate tracks where each of you is being recorded on a separate track. Let’s say one of you is speaking, the other was trying to interject but the main person who was speaking kept talking. We can get rid of that audio of the person that was trying to interject. To the rest of the world where they hear the podcast, they’ll never know they ever said anything when we have separate tracks. Meaning that my audio when I’m speaking, you’ll hear me, but when my guest is speaking, you’ll hear silence and the same thing for their audio track.
When they’re speaking, you’ll hear them and when I’m speaking on that other file, you would hear nothing. In editing, that’s the ideal situation. Back in the beginning, when we started a bunch of years ago, there were very few software programs that recorded on your computer that would do that and that would do it well. Even a tool like Zoom, there is a way you can set its settings and it’s in the recording settings. In Mac, it’s called preferences and Windows, it’s their settings. There’s a recording section or tab. When you go in there, you’ll see this checkbox next to something that says record a separate audio file for each participant. If you have that checked, anybody who is invited to come on and speak, it will record a completely separate audio file for them.
Video Over Audio
Zoom when they added that, that made it much more easy for people to record higher quality and publish higher quality audio without needing complicated equipment like a mixing board or a digital audio recorder. However, for some people, it’s easier. I have a podcaster who’s in the setup process. The majority of his interviews are going to be conducted in person in his office and he wants the best quality possible and wants to have separate tracks. He’s got multiple microphones and an audio recorder that records a separate track for each microphone. That works great. When you’re starting a podcast, if you want to record audio, that’s a lot easier. You don’t have to worry about your appearance.
When Tracy and I first started, she wanted nothing to do with recording video. Keep in mind this is before Facebook Live and the social media incentives for going live on Facebook. When you make a normal written post on your Facebook feed, it will be seen by about 1% to 2% of the people that follow you. The more that it gets liked and shared, the more of your friends on Facebook will see it. It’s still relatively low numbers when it’s a written post. When you post a video, that will be seen by more of your audience initially, somewhere in there, maybe 10% to 13%. The more people that share it and like it, the algorithm decides to show it to more of your friends on Facebook. When you go live with Facebook Live, that will be pushed to about everybody who is a member of the Brandcasters group.
You would get a notification in your feed that Tom is live or Brandcasters is live on Facebook. Do you want to see it? It’s the same thing when you go live not a private group, on your Facebook feed. When you go live, your live feed will be pushed to the majority of your audience. In the very early days of Facebook Live, they were pushing it to 100% of your friends and followers. I believe that what I’ve read is telling me that it has changed a bit and it’s not necessarily going out to everybody, but it is still the method that will get the most exposure. You will reach the majority of your friends on Facebook if you go live.
Those are some reasons why we have more motivation to consider video than we did a number of years ago. In the beginning, Tracy wanted nothing to do with it. She’s like, “My hair is going to have to be right. I have to worry about what I’m wearing.” That’s true. Me, as a guy, I care less honestly. I don’t wear makeup. My hair, I don’t have that much of it anyway. I keep it pretty short. My clothes, maybe I could be wearing a nicer shirt. If you’re going to record a bunch of episodes in a row, you don’t want it to look like you recorded them in a row.
If I’m not going live and I’m still recording video. I will record back to back to back a whole bunch of episodes and I will change my shirt in between everyone because I don’t want it to look like I recorded a whole batch of episodes at once. That’s a recommendation from a lot of people when you record video or if you’re doing a course or a training video series. They’ll always recommend you bring multiple outfits or shirts depending on how much you use going to be in the scene that you can change it and make it look like these are each recorded at different times.
When you’re recording video, you want to consider light. Lighting is something you need to consider as is the background. I rearranged my recording space and I haven’t quite tweaked it to be perfect yet. Ideally, the background would be straight across the top of the screen and not at an angle. I got to work on it but at least I’ve got an intentional, deliberate background. That’s important if you’re going to record video. It’s definitely a lot more to consider when you’re recording video than audio. The goodness is the tech has gotten a lot simpler and a lot easier to use.
The capabilities are better, with a good quality USB microphone and a good laptop that it’s relatively new within a couple of years or three maybe at most. When you start getting older than that, your operating system maybe isn’t updated and you’ve got many files on it that you don’t have a lot of free hard disk space or maybe your RAM isn’t as low. I find all these software companies keep making updates to their software that requires more system resources. The older it gets, the more tricky or trouble you might have.If you're recording good content regardless of your equipment and environment, people want to hear it and you're going to get a lot of plays. Click To Tweet
As long as you’ve got a decent up-to-date laptop and a good USB microphone, there are many wonderful recording tools available. Whether you’re going to record video or audio, you don’t need high-tech and expensive equipment. Your computer would be the most expensive thing in this equation. That’s a great place that we’re at. We have many more options than we did. What I wanted to get into is the tech focus and we have a lot of customers who are starting that I want to talk about equipment. Your environment plays a bigger role in the quality of your recordings when you’re using less expensive equipment.
The environment is important. You want to have a room that has a lot of sound-absorbing surfaces. I took a deeper dive into your recording environment. There is an episode that you can read that’s been published. If we’ve provided you a fantastic microphone, which is by Audio Technica. It’s a commercial version of what one of the most popular mics that are out there. When we give you your mic, we brand it with your logo for your show, which is pretty cool. When you do record video, you’re always branding your show.
Do You Need a Recording Studio?
You can’t always do that if you’re in a different location and your microphone will help you do that. Thank goodness for software and modern technology that’s made this easy where you don’t need to go into a recording studio. We do have a few customers who are recording every episode in a recording studio. For whatever reason, they like that environment. They don’t mind paying a little extra for it. It’s going to be recording incredibly high-quality audio. May be overkill for publishing it. It’s more important to use a recording studio if you’re going to record like an eBook series or something.
For instance, when we ship you a mic, it’ll have your cover art on it. Here’s a new show called Purchasing Truth with Bill Stierle. It’s going to be a fun one and my show, Feed Your Brand. We create a version of your cover art that’s in proportion, put it on the mic and ship your mic with all that when you launch a podcast with us. If you have a recording studio, some of our customers, they’re so serious about using their podcast to market and grow their business. They’re recording many different episodes every week, literally multiple episodes a week. Some of them do as many as five a week they’re publishing and recording so often that they’ve built a recording studio into their office space so that they have the best environment possible.
That’s awesome if you can do that. It’s not necessary. Scott Carson is a great example of somebody who’s recording 3 to 5 episodes a week. He doesn’t have a special recording studio. He has an intentional place that he does it because he’s recording video also. He has a background that is promoting his brand everywhere but he doesn’t have a special recording studio. The microphone probably isn’t the highest quality. He’s got a lot of background noise. Going on there, we fix it as much as we can in editing, but it’s the content that is the most important thing. It’s part of what I want to mention. Regardless of your equipment and your environment, if you’ve got good content, you’re recording, people want to hear it and you’re going to get a lot of plays.
Scott had 35,000 plays of his episodes. That was a record for him. He’s killing it marketing and growing his business that way. From a tech perspective, it’s gotten a lot easier. That’s what I wanted to share. A lot of people have apprehension about doing video and having to do it. You don’t have to do it. Start with audio, it’s always easier. Do the occasional video recording, do the occasional live stream, get used to it, get your feet wet, get comfortable with it. Get your lighting going so that you have a good quality of light. Tracy would say, “I’m going to do this regularly. I got to go and have my hair blown out before I do a recording.” Some of them may want to, but all of them, she doesn’t need to. People want content.
Question And Answer
As far as tech is concerned, that’s what I wanted to share with you. I want to open this up to any questions anybody might have specifically about their tech, their equipment, their environment that we can help them with. We have a lot of people. Scott commented that he needs to upgrade his Blue Yeti mic. Yes, I would agree. The Blue Yeti microphone is marketed intentionally for podcasting years ago. I did a lot of testing on mics. I looked at them all again and I found the Blue Yeti to be not a very good quality microphone. The only thing it’s good for is if you are recording a bunch of people in a room and you’re only going to have one microphone. It picks up pretty much everything in the room. That’s part of why I don’t like it because you get a lot of noise in general.
We were with Scott and did a live episode from his location in Texas. We were in a hotel, a large open space. With the three of us talking to Blue Yeti would be ideal for that situation because you’re going to pick up everybody. A microphone like I have is great for a single person. When you have people sitting back far away from it, it might not be the best mic for that situation. In general, I wouldn’t use the Blue Yeti. It’s all technology. The microphone that we send to people that we stock is an Audio Technica AT2005. It’s a commercial one. You can buy it on Amazon. It’s available. It’s about $80. It’s not a killer price-wise. We have a question from Mitch Russo about headphones.
I noticed that people are using the ATL 2100 along with a pair of earbuds for listening. I have used Bose headsets for many of my recordings, but I stopped using them. I was told that there’s no difference in sound quality. The only reason I was wearing the headphones before was to prevent leakage from my speakers back into the microphone. What are your thoughts on that?
In the earlier days of our recording experience, we were using Skype as a tool to record most interviews before Zoom was as mature as it is. Especially with Skype and some of the tools that recorded, we did have problems with leakage. We always made sure we were using a headset of some kind. For the readers, to understand the concept, if you’re recording over your computer without using a headset. You’re listening to your guests from the speaker built into your laptop. Even if you’re speaking into a higher quality microphone or even if you’re not, the very speaker phone nature of a computer and how it works, there was a tendency for the sound of your guest to come up through your speaker from your PC and also get recorded back into your microphone. It would create a bit of an echo and that was a bad situation.
The way you eliminated that was to use a headset to separate what you hear from what your microphone can hear. Mitch, I’ve found as software improved, this happens less and less. In fact, Scott Carson records the majority of his episodes. He doesn’t use a headset. He’s listening over his PC speaker and he’s still using a mic. We don’t see that echo. It’s less of a concern than it used to be, but we still do recommend people listen with some headset, whether it’s earbuds or not. The microphones like the Audio Technica, most of them have a headphone port so that if you plug a headphone, you can hear your guest that’s coming through your computer. It’s separating what your mic hears from what you hear. I still think that’s best practice, but I find it’s not completely necessary in a lot of situations. Is that helpful?
Very much so, thank you.
“What would you recommend for the microphone?” I said that, AT-2100. Paul is asking, “Do I know where you can get a cone of silence?” No, that’d be awesome. You can set up an environment in your home or in your office that is a better condition for recording, where you have a lot of soft surfaces. I would recommend a room that has either wall to wall carpeting or you want to get a thick area rug and put one down. If you’ve got curtains you could pull a couple across windows that will help. Hard surfaces that are not your friend.
The best way to test this out is to set up your equipment wherever you want to record, do a test recording and listen to it. Listen to the background noise, how much echo is there and have other people listen to it. Send a clip to us. We’ll listen to it and give you some feedback. I would recommend you do that. A cone of silence would be awesome. If you have a place you’re going to record often, you can set that environment up to be ideal and not bounce a lot of sounds. I don’t know if I’ve done a tech colonist, but I’ve recorded a video.
Tim Bush, one of our Brandcasters who is on Facebook has asked, “How do you go live on Facebook from Zoom?” I do have a video that I’ve recorded as a tutorial on how to do that. You cannot go live on Facebook with the free Zoom account, Tim, that’s one thing you need to know. You have to upgrade to a paid account, but it’s not very expensive. You can either go live on Facebook or YouTube Live. Scott Carson has a lot of experience at this. You have to start the Zoom call first. There is a place at the bottom of your screen, there are three dots in the Zoom window that says, “More,” and you click that.
It has a selection to go live on Facebook and you click that. What it does is it opens up your default web browser. What it does is you leave Zoom. The reason I had to do that is it opens up your browser or a new tab in a browser if it’s open, it takes you away from Zoom. It brings you into Facebook, where it says, “Start a live stream.” It gives you a little box where you say, “Where do you want to do it? Do you want to post it to your timeline?” In my case, I wanted to post it into our private Brandcasters Facebook group because this is for clients only.
I had to select that group and it opens up a window where I have to enter a title and a description of the post on Facebook and then click go. It starts bringing you live on Facebook and you jumped back to Zoom. The Zoom window in the upper right corner where it says I’m recording this, it has the place where you can pause or stop the recording, but it also has a status button with a big red live on Facebook indication, so you know you’re live on Facebook. There is a little delay of ten maybe fifteen seconds. It’s live on Facebook until you stop it.
You can stop the live from Facebook and still be in Zoom and still conduct a meeting if you only want to go live for a portion of the meeting. You can end the meeting and it will also then end the Zoom. Zoom records everything for you. I have my Zoom set up that every time I start one of my webinar sessions, it’s automatically set to record it. That’s very important because there have been times when I forgot to hit the record button and that’s ugly, especially if you’ve done it with a guest. You can’t convince that guest to do it all over again. It’s a big facepalm moment.
I highly recommend whatever recording software you’re going to use, especially if you’re going to use Zoom, you set it to automatically record. If you don’t want to record a session that you start, you hit the stop button and stop recording. That’s easy enough. Scott says that live sharing to Facebook or YouTube has saved him when he forgot to hit the record button in Zoom. That’s true because I’m going live on Facebook, what it’s done is it configures itself. It’s not immediately available once I stop it, but five or ten minutes later it is.When recording a podcast, hard surfaces are not your friend. Click To Tweet
You can go into your own Facebook account and download it right out of Facebook or download it right out of YouTube if you’ve gone live to YouTube. It works as a backup recording. It’s very important to realize that because the worst thing in the world is losing a recording, especially if you had it with a guest. I prefer Zoom recording. Keep in mind, if you’re going to download the YouTube recording or the Facebook recording, you’re not going to get separated audio tracks for all participants. Only Zoom is going to do that.
I would suggest, do yourself a favor and set a Zoom to record automatically. Make sure you’ve set it to properly check that box to record a separate track for each participant. David is asking, “If you’re doing a Zoom session and you’re recording it if your computer crashes, does it save the recording?” My understanding is Zoom is pretty good at being able to recover recordings even if you have a crash in the middle. However, if you know that your computer is perhaps unstable or the software for whatever reason, the Zoom software is unstable on your system, I would highly recommend you use the Cloud recording option because Zoom gives you a couple of different ways to record.
This is where tech tools like this can get confusing, especially for new people. I know it can seem overwhelming. By all means, reach out to us if you have questions about this stuff because we do know it and we’ll get you where you need to be as painlessly as possible. Zoom gives you an option to record on your local computer or to record it in the Cloud. Keep in mind, when you’re doing a Zoom recording, you’re connected to the internet. You need to be if you’re connecting with anybody to record them as a guest. If you could select the Cloud recording option, everything’s being recorded in the Cloud. Even if your computer crashes, whatever you did record is going to be there in the Cloud.
I tend to like the local recording option because it does give you some more choices. I don’t think the Cloud recording option lets you record a separate audio track for each participant. If you are recording on your local computer, you get the option to record a separate audio track for each participant. I don’t think Cloud recording lets you do that, but it’s better to have some recording than none at all. I know that with certain sessions, certain lives that we do. We do tend to Cloud record versus record locally. That’s up to you and your personal preference. If you have an unstable computer, probably Cloud recording would be your friend and probably a better choice.
Another example of how Zoom has become such a versatile tool, it’s become a standard. Most of our clients that are recording guests remotely are using Zoom. Some people are using SquadCast. That only records audio, not video. It’s a great tool otherwise. You get to see your guests in a thumbnail but it’s not recorded the video. If you want to record the video, you don’t want to consider that tool. I hope this is helpful. Scott and Mitch are very seasoned podcasters with a lot of experience. Thank you for participating. It’s good for everyone to get caught up on the software options and some of the tech but you are seasoned podcasters and maybe some of this is redundant for you.
Thank you for your patience and thanks for participating regardless. Mitch, you asked a question about headphones. We have a microphone that we’ve developed. It’s not on the market yet, but it records to an SD card within the microphone. I’m remembering that we’re including a pair of good quality earbuds in the box with the microphone. We still think it’s a good idea to use them as best practice, but it is probably less necessary than it was. Regarding recording both in the Cloud and on your computer, we have to choose one or the other. You probably cannot do both. When you do it in the Cloud, it will not record separate tracks. It only records the combined track. If that’s what you need to do, do it.
Our audio engineers will edit the episode regardless of whether you have split tracks or not but there’s a limit to some of the things they can do. They can’t take out one of you if you talk at the same time without taking out both of you. It’s either a decision to cut something completely or leave it completely at that point. That’s why you might want to record locally as long as your computer is stable and can handle that. I did have some strange things happen with recording Zoom were in the middle of a call with a client. We’re recording it because it was a bit of a tutorial type of thing where Zoom crashed in the middle of me recording. I had ended up having three different recordings for this session.
It’s very unfortunate. I never had that happen before. What I found was my computer was almost out of hard disk space. When your system resources get low like that, that’s where you can run into certain tech challenges with the software and things don’t work out quite how you want or expect them to be. Keeping your computer in top shape and in good health is highly recommended. When you push the edge of the envelope or have an older computer that maybe is on some of its last legs, that’s where you’re going to run into other problems and challenges in your tech.
At that point, I might move over to my phone if you’ve got a newer phone. My phone is not even a few months old and there’s a great voice memo app on there. There’s a Zoom app. I got an adapter that will plug a USB microphone right into the iPhone. They have similar things for Android phones. As a backup, you can always do that. In fact, we ran our whole office off of personal hotspots generated from our phones because our internet in the office went down. It was not ideal, but we went along and it worked. You can do a lot with your phones. It’s a pretty powerful computer these days.Keeping your computer in top shape, in good health, so to speak, is highly recommended when recording. Click To Tweet
If you’re not getting the emails reminding you about this, you can get on this calendar of ours to be notified of every one of these because they occur once a week. We’ve changed the day of the week and the time of the day to give some people that can attend in the middle of the day. Others need later in the day. We’re doing some weeks at different times to try and make sure everybody has the opportunity to attend, depending on their unique schedule. Email Alexandra at Podetize.com if you have any questions about that. You may want to reach out to Alexandra and make sure you’re on the list and get the calendar invites to remind you. Thanks so much. We will talk to you next time.
- Purchasing Truth with Bill Stierle
- Feed Your Brand
- Audio Technica AT2005