Does podcast sound quality matter? Yes. Why? In this episode of Feed Your Brand, Tom Hazzard discusses just how your audio impacts not just the quality of your podcast but also your message. Tom emphasizes that you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on professional equipment to get the quality you want. Tune in as he shares tips and tricks that will propel your podcast audio to the level you need it to be.
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Why Sound Quality Really Matters In Podcasting?
How Audio Quality Impacts Your Credibility
We want to talk about, does your sound quality really matter? As podcasters, some of us are putting out a video show as well but all of us are putting out an audio show. I want to talk about, “Does sound quality matter?” It is a question. There’s a spectrum of audio quality. There are different considerations but I’m here to tell you, absolutely your sound quality matters but that doesn’t mean we have to go spend thousands of dollars on equipment or we have to have a dedicated studio. What I want to talk to you about is all the considerations around audio quality. Does it matter? One of the things I want to share that helps friendless a little bit is there has been some scientific research done on the subject.
There was a research study done by USC and also the Australian National University. They did some studies, took video programming and put it in front of 100 people. This was statistically significant. When it had good audio quality, the message was understood and more importantly, what was being shared with them was believed more by the people watching. When they altered the audio quality to reduce that audio quality and make it less than what it should be, something not the best audio quality, it’s amazing. As soon as they reduced the audio quality, all of a sudden, the scientists and their research for what was being presented lost credibility.
People didn’t believe the research and science that was being presented. It was no different than what was presented with better audio quality, but when it had poor audio quality, people didn’t believe it. That is important to understand and believe about your audio quality. This is just one piece of research. The research was done a couple of years ago at USC and I keep this article. I share it with people a lot because it hasn’t changed even though it’s a few years later.
I have always believed and said it. I’ve always told the people we work with that the audio quality matters but having that actual research study and the results speak for themselves is important to understand. It puts an exclamation point on what I’m here to share with you in this episode. There is certainly a range of opinions. Even understanding audio quality is important and that when you are bringing your message to the world, you want the message sent from you to be the message received by your listeners. The audio quality impacts that might. The message might not be received as well as you want it to be if your audio quality is poor.
How Much Does Good Quality Audio Cost
There is still a range of acceptable audio quality and there are choices to be made. I often meet people that come from old-school radio experiences. They’re like, “Nope. You got to have a soundproof room. You got to have a $600 microphone that is plugged into a serious engineering system with equalization or it’s not worth doing.” That’s a limited situation that most podcasters either don’t want to take the time to go out to a studio, pay for the time to use the studio with an engineer who’s there mixing and saving your stuff all the time or simply can’t afford it and it’s not practical.
For those people that either want to go to the time and effort to set up a dedicated studio or make it as soundproof as possible, that’s awesome. More power to you. Go for it and do it. Do you need to have thousands of dollars of equipment? In my experience, I’m going to say absolutely not. I am someone that from my very first podcast, went out, did the research and bought $1,200 or $1,500 worth of equipment.
I have used it for many years. I got value out of it but later came to realize that the software’s improved a lot over the years of my podcasting, the microphones have improved that while they could be plugged into a mixing board and a sound system, they can also plugin through USB to your computer and do as good a job. It isn’t necessary to have this more expensive equipment.
I went to study a lot of different microphones. I did it for Feed Your Brand episode that aired a couple of years ago and it’s still relevant now. I tested every microphone that anybody would consider using and recorded live on edited clips or on each pros and cons of each price range of each. You can check that out. What I found is an $80 microphone is my go-to. I’m using it and it’s plugged into my computer via USB. You don’t have to have incredibly expensive equipment to produce good sound quality either.
How Environmental Factors Affect Sound Quality
There are environmental conditions that can impact this and make it so that it’s hard to use an inexpensive microphone. I’m going to give you an example. If you’re recording at home, you may have a very quiet room most of the time. I was recording episodes every single day at my home but if I recorded on Wednesdays, I had to watch it. I eventually stopped recording on Wednesdays.
I certainly didn’t schedule any guest interviews on Wednesdays because Wednesday was trash day. As wonderful as my environment was, if that trash truck and there were three trash trucks that would come on Wednesday, one to pick up trash, recycling and green waste. You’d have three trucks that are coming and dumping. Imagine these recycle cans full of bottles and all sorts of glass. It makes a racket.
It’s distracting to me and it also could be heard over the podcast because where I live comes pretty close to the building. In the room I’m recording, even though the windows are shut and there are drapes across it, you can still hear it. Environmental conditions play a role in this. The same thing with the doorbell for your house. I ended up getting to the point where I disconnected the doorbell because every time I would be having a great interview with a guest, FedEx or somebody would ring the doorbell.
I was like, “Forget it. I don’t want to answer the door anymore. You can leave me a note on the door or whatever it is. I’m focusing on podcasting. That’s more important to me,” but understanding you’ve got things like this that are outside factors that you want to make sure you control and prepare for that can impact your audio quality too.
Returning to the spectrum of sound quotas. I talked about the radio DJ situation where you might be in a soundproof studio with very expensive professional equipment. It’s wonderful if you can do that. In most homes or home offices where a lot of podcasts are recording, as long as the environment is decent, carpet on the floor and soft surfaces, you hopefully won’t get too much echo.
If you do, you need to fix that and either move to a different environment or change that environment to be more sound-absorbing, more friendly, to sound or reduce echo. A USB mic and your computer is perfectly good for the vast majority of podcasts. At the other end of the spectrum, remember we had the radio DJ to the computer and USB mic, you’ve got a lot of people who are just doing live streams from their phone, out in the world and using nothing more than the microphone built into their phone.
That is not going to be the best quality audio for sure. Out of any of these scenarios, that’s going to be the worst. There are microphones that you can plug into your phone. When I use my phone for something I do, I plug in the same microphone. I’m talking to you now with a cord right into the phone, the phone recognizes it and we’ll use it for most apps. The little caveat there, you want to check on that on most apps to test it. There are a lot of mics that will just plug right in the bottom of your iPhone or Samsung phone and give you a higher quality microphone but still, if you’re live streaming somewhere from the trade show floor or out at any kind of event, you can have a lot of background noise and that audio quality is not going to be up to your normal podcast standard.
It may still be worth using a clip of that, if not all of it, but people tend to put things like this out on social media live streams and then they repurpose it as a podcast. Is that always a good idea? If the content is good and you already have an established show, it’s worth providing that content, even though the audio quality would not be up to your normal standard.When you are bringing your message to the world, you want the message sent from you to be the message received by your listeners. The audio quality impacts that. Click To Tweet
Why You Should Not Use Airpods For Podcasts
I would record a little intro at the beginning addressing the elephant in the room, letting your listeners know, “Welcome to the show. I’m going to share with you the last year’s recording I did out in the field. You’re going to hear some background noise. I know that’s not ideal but the content is worth it. I hope you’ll forgive it and benefit from the message which is worth hearing.”
If you frame it that way, they’ll be fine with listening to it but it’s not every episode. If you’re going to annoy people every episode with poor audio quality, people are going to switch away and not come back. You’ll lose credibility. It’s the weight of your message that the USC study proved that audio quality has a big impact on the message being received the way you want it to.
I’m going to share with you one of my pet peeves. It drives me nuts. This has happened in the last years from recording this, starting in early to mid-2020, as we’re all on lockdowns during the pandemic and we’re all probably watching too much TV at that point and other things because we’re not getting out.
You watch any news program, especially on all the 24-hour news networks. I don’t care if it’s you’re watching Fox, CNN or MSNBC, whatever, it doesn’t matter. All of them were trying to fill their 24-hour news cycles with all kinds of correspondence and/or contributors, people that are no longer able to come into a studio. Usually, they might have a panel of people right there around the table. They weren’t doing that, keeping everybody at home isolated. If you’re lucky, you have one person in the studio, but a lot of times, there are none. You have all these other people contributing and you have the boxes on the screens, which are not all that different from a Zoom call.
They’re all using whatever equipment they have. What would drive me nuts is you have correspondents or contributors who are regularly coming on every day and they couldn’t take the time to buy from Amazon an $80 mic prime, get it home and plug it into their computer so that they’ve got good quality audio. They’re using that dumb little microphone that’s built into their laptop and that’s it or the worst that drives me nuts is using the AirPods. You can hear perfectly good with those. The mic quality on them is lousy.
We always recommend our podcasters, “Do not use AirPods as your microphone.” There are a few reasons why. Number one, they have troubled batteries. When they run out in the middle of an interview, then you’re stuck, you got to change and it’s unprofessional. You got tech problems now. There are a lot of reasons not to use AirPods but talking about sound quality, the audio quality is lousy. When you ever see somebody at one of those correspondents doing it on a news program, a lot of them use those AirPods. I hate listening to it and it makes me switch off. I’m like, “Forget it. If you don’t care enough about your audio, the message you’re trying to bring and you do it regularly.”
It’s a little different when they’re interviewing someone on the street. Although they usually have a mic to hand to them, if you have somebody who’s not a regular participant, you can understand maybe they don’t have decent audio quality. Oftentimes I hear a one-time participant with much better audio than one of these regular contributors who are being paid by this network to be on the show every day, big pet peeve. If you can’t tell, I know I’m ranting a little bit here.
Balance Sound Quality And Ease Of Use
Here’s what I want everyone to understand and consider. Aside from me talking about the spectrum of sound quality, you may be thinking, “What should I do? If I like live streaming and repurposing that, should I do it?” You should. Here’s what I had to say about figuring out what’s best for you. You’ve got to strike a balance. All of us who are podcasting regularly should be striving for the best quality audio possible because we want our message to be received. We want it to be trusted. We want people to believe what we’re saying. The better audio quality, the better it’s going to be in terms of achieving that goal.You don't have to have incredibly expensive equipment to produce good podcast sound quality. Click To Tweet
There’s a balance to be struck if you are not a highly technical person because we experience people at all ends of the spectrum. I’ll use my sister as an example, who’s starting a podcast. She’s going to use Zoom to do her recordings and she’s like, “I did this session, I recorded it and there’s no sound on it. There’s no sound at all.” I got on a tech call with her and figured out she was not used to using Zoom very much. Zoom comes up and says, “Join with computer audio or test your equipment.” She was hitting the, “Test your equipment.” She wasn’t joining her own zoom meeting with her computer.
This is a tech issue and tech challenge. There’s nothing wrong with the mic but she just was hitting the wrong button. My point is if you are someone that is not as tech-savvy or you get frustrated with it, you don’t want to deal with it. The radio dedicated audio studio model is not going to be for you because the equipment is more complicated to set up. It’s more complicated to connect with the computer if you’re going to use a computer for remotely connecting with someone.
With that kind of equipment, you might need to be recording, not the computer but with a separate recording device. I’m talking about a pretty high bar of tech in order to record. Whereas plugging a USB mic into a computer using a tool like Zoom, which for most people is not such a challenge where you’re going to send somebody a single link. They click and get into it.
There are other recording programs in Zoom, like a Riverside, Squadcast or something like that, that also gives you a single link. There’s nothing wrong with any of those programs but my point is to use what’s easiest for you and for your guests if you have guests to get the best audio quality possible. Best audio quality possible within reason but balance ease of use and user experience with sound quality and achieve the best audio quality that you can.
It doesn’t take a microphone with hundreds of dollars or spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on an environment. Home environments can be fine but be aware of your environment. Test, record, listen to yourself. Don’t just listen to what you’re saying. Listen to what you’re not saying. Listen to that background noise. Is there any? Is there white noise?
You can test and say, “While I’m recording, can you go in and out the front door and shut it? I want to see if I can hear that on my microphone. Ring the doorbell. I want to see what’s that raw thing going to be. Is it that big a deal to have to worry about it?” Report something if you’ve got trash trucks coming by or something equivalent. Record while that’s happening and see if you can hear it. Don’t have it be unintentional and try to reduce the amount of unexpected things that might happen to make your audio quality the best that it can be.
If you’re not editing your own stuff, you’re going to be doing your audio editors a favor and helping them do a better job for you. If you’re editing your own stuff, you’re going to save yourself a lot of time in trying to deal with it and fix it when something happens like that. Does your sound quality matter? It does.
That’s the overall message but don’t necessarily jump through all kinds of hoops thinking you have to be like a radio DJ, spend that kind of money and deal with that kind of tech. There is a solution that’s going to be the right balance for you of audio quality and ease of use in tech. Anybody can do it. I no longer use that $1,500 for the equipment.If you're going to annoy people every episode with poor audio quality, people are going to switch away and not come back. You'll lose credibility. Click To Tweet
I’ve got an $80 USB mic plugged into my laptop and my environment is prepared. It’s not got a lot of echoes, that’s fine and that’s it. In a Zoom recording, I could record higher-quality audio. I just don’t need to. You tell me if you have an issue with my audio quality. I’d love to hear it. The other thing talking about the circumstances, any animals, barking dogs, things like that are not professional. Fortunately, my dog is sleeping at my feet, but if she heard something, she would wake up, bark and ruin part of this recording. Expect it, deal with it when it happens or prepare to have a time. I think I got lucky with this recording.
I hope you find this helpful. Next time we’ll have another great topic for you. Hopefully, we will both be here or another member of our team. We’ll always be trying to provide you a value. We’d love to hear from you what you would like to hear in future episodes. You can always reach us at Podetize.com. There’s a form there and some emails. Feel free or anywhere on social media at Feed Your Brand. Thank you so much.