The surge in podcast popularity over the last decade has been dramatic.
In 2006, only 22% of the adult U.S. population was aware of the emerging phenomenon of podcasting. That figure rose to 78% by 2021.
And it’s not just about awareness anymore. In 2023, roughly 209 million people in the U.S. (or 73% of its 12-and-older population) have tuned into some form of online audio in the past month.
All these facts and figures point to one conclusion: the power of the spoken word relayed over the internet is a powerful medium for connecting with people.
The convenience of listening to podcasts has led to a steady rise in the demand for online audio content. As opposed to video content or text content that needs your complete attention, podcasts can be listened to passively while doing other things, for example, while driving or playing with your pets.
And podcasting is just one of the ways in which governments, businesses, groups, and individuals are using audio to reach out and make more intimate connections with their audiences.
Producing a podcast, working with a voice-over artist, or engaging in any kind of vocal work comes with its own set of quality parameters and technical challenges. This article explores simple steps you can take to improve the quality of your audio content.
General audio recording tips
Research has shown that good audio quality molds perceptions about both the speaker and the standard of their content. Audiences are likely to judge a speaker as smarter, more competent, and likable when sound quality is high. Conversely, listeners are likely to evaluate the same content less favorably when the audio quality is low.
In other words, people are likely to be more receptive to your thoughts and ideas if they come across in high-quality audio.
With that in mind, let’s focus on a few general tips about recording audio optimally.
- Cut out ambient noise. Recording audio in the quietest environment is important, even if you don’t have access to a sound-proof recording space. If you’re recording at home, choose the room farthest from the street. Carpeting is a good sound dampener, so try to use a carpeted room. Finally, eliminate all electronics like clocks, refrigerators, and fluorescent lamps that make subtle noises. If you’re working alone, a great place to record audio is a closet filled with clothes. That way, you will have the least amount of echo or background sounds.
- Use the right gear. Besides the recording environment, audio quality is largely determined by the type of microphone you use. Using the right microphone is vital to audio success. While every desktop and laptop computer comes with a built-in microphone, it’s not great for serious vocal work. You’ll need at least a headphone mic, but a shotgun or lavalier mic is ideal. A quality headphone mic should be enough for single-speaker audio recordings. You can fix a shotgun microphone on a boom to record audio in the direction it points. A lavalier microphone fixes to the speaker’s lapel. All of these options are ideal for interviews or multi-speaker recordings.
- Enunciate each word. Diction and enunciation are vital for any sound recording. Professional speakers like television news presenters, sports commentators, and orators usually undergo speaking classes to master the art of speaking clearly and eloquently. But there are ways to master it on your own. The best is to hear a playback of your own speech to identify words and phrases that are mashed up in everyday speech. Some practice is necessary to avoid slurring, stuttering, and noises caused by breathing and swallowing while speaking.
- Set up multi-speaker recordings effectively. Recording more than one person speaking adds another layer of complexity. The first rule in this scenario is to state names clearly so the audience knows who is speaking. Second, plan your recording session so only one person is speaking at a time. The aim is to avoid interruptions and speaking over one another. A little rehearsal time should be enough to get things going smoothly in the group. Finally, ensure you have enough microphones to pick up each speaker’s voice distinctly.
- Use software to refine and create better audio. No matter how well your recording went, your audio sound files will require some post-production editing. There are several great options for digital audio workstations, podcast editing software, and other tools available on the market. Choose one in keeping with your budget and skill level. You can smarten up your audio by using software to suppress certain background noises, eliminate misspoken words or sentences, and generally polish your audio for a better listening experience. Some editing software comes with complex technical features that are for professional use. Choose one you’ll be comfortable using.
Recording perfect audio for a podcast or voice-over involves multiple factors, some of which you can’t always control. Outdoor events, recordings near the ocean or other water bodies, and unavoidable background noises are just some of the challenges you’ll face. Overall, audio recording is a discipline that requires the best of both worlds: creativity and technical expertise. If you need help with a larger project, you can even hire a professional audio recorder to help with the entire process.
Podcast recording tips
Multimedia products like videos have overlapping channels of communication—video, text, and audio. Viewers enjoy videos even if one or more elements are less than perfect.
Podcasts offer no such grace.
With just a single sensory input, you need to be as clear as possible so that your message is understandable. Too many crackles, distortions, or echoes can be deeply off-putting for subscribers.
That said, producing and editing a high-quality podcast might seem overwhelming, even if you have the right microphone and equipment—but it doesn’t have to be.
Here are our top tips for producing podcast audio recordings that resonate with your audience.
- Get up close with the microphone. While this may sound elementary, it makes a lot of difference to the end quality. The amount of air sound travels through before hitting the microphone windscreen determines the richness of your recorded voice. It may seem a little awkward for beginners, but sound technicians will tell you that getting close to the recording device is key to capturing a warm and full-bodied voice. Make sure you don’t overdo the closeness because too short a distance will result in the microphone capturing voice sounds that are not audible in natural settings. The ideal distance between the microphone and mouth should be between 6 and 12 inches, preferably closer to the lower limit.
- Remove the echo. Echo is the enemy of every sound recordist. Eliminating it entirely might be impossible. All you can do is lessen it. Echo happens because microphones capture your voice as it is reflected from walls and other room surfaces. Try to eliminate all hard surfaces from your recording room and keep soft furniture like couches, which absorb echo. You can also add carpeting, curtains, and blankets to the room because of their sound-absorbing qualities. If you want to go a bit more professional, you can opt for acoustic foam or sound-dampening panels. Both are expensive propositions usually reserved for recording studios and require professional installation and testing.
- Stay still. The problem with microphones is that you can’t calibrate them to capture just human voices. The more sensitive your microphone, the more noises it’ll pick up. Most of these noises go unregistered by the human ear. For instance, shuffling in your seat, a mild scratch on the head, the movement of your clothes against the chair, waving a bunch of notes in your hand—all these activities make subtle sounds that microphones pick up. Some movement is unavoidable, but you want to keep it to a minimum. Professional noise-canceling microphones automatically suppress some of these noises, but they can be expensive.
- Know your topic. The substance of what you’re saying in a podcast plays a significant role in audio quality. Subject research, preparation, and rehearsal are important if you want to keep things free-flowing. Avoid stopping mid-sentence, changing the topic, repetitions, mispronunciations, or indecision about where to go next. All these can result in subtle negative perceptions about your competence as a speaker. It’s always better to work off a script. Also, spend some time warming up before recording and reviewing important points to cover.
Recording amazing podcasts isn’t just about the tech. It’s about passion. No amount of technology or preparation can substitute that. You can produce warm, engaging, and enlightening podcasts that strike a chord with your listeners and subscribers as long as you’re passionate about your topic.
Thinking about starting a podcast? Get going today.
Voice-over recording tips
Whether you’re recording a radio ad or an explainer video, a voice-over is an element that will help you connect with your audience and trigger emotional responses in them.
Voice-overs add personality to an audio or video project. They tell stories, animate plotlines, and offer a peek into the minds of characters.
An accomplished voice-over artist is nothing short of an actor breathing life into characters with little more than their vocal patterns.
Because of these factors, recording professional-sounding voice-over audio can be challenging. Here are our top tips to help you with voice-over recording.
- Record multiple takes. You don’t always get the perfect shot in the very first take while shooting a movie. It’s the same with voice-overs. Capturing the right tone, tenor, urgency, and personality of a voice-over may not happen at the very first go. Be prepared to roll back the tapes and start over. It may be the equipment or the voice-over artist that’s not sounding right. Whatever the case may be, recording perfect voice-overs takes patience. Start with a few test recordings to see if everything sounds just right.
- Give yourself some room. Emoting is a key part of doing voice-overs. Unlike podcasts or narrations—where serious audiences expect dramatics to be kept to a minimum—voice-overs require the full range of human expression. You can’t sit stiffly in a chair while trying to voice a particular character. Recording voice-overs, therefore, requires a little more physical space so the artist has enough room to move about and play out the actions that go with the voice they are trying to deliver.
- Pace it out. Pacing is saying it naturally—not too fast and not too slow. You want to get the right delivery speed, depending on the particular emotion or tone a voice-over needs. The best voice-overs have a subtle urgency and deliberateness. Learn to modulate your speech according to the requirements of the script. Exciting parts can be spoken in a rush, followed by a pregnant pause for effect. You’ll be fine as long as you avoid speaking monotonously or too fast. Keep going back to your audio file to make adjustments.
- Invest in quality. You’ll need to consider purchasing some essential tech if you want your voice-overs to stand out. We’re not calling for bankruptcy-level expenditure, just smart equipment. You must have a pop filter that blocks the plosive sounds we make during speech. You’ll also need a shock mount to dull sounds from traveling up a microphone. Neither is too expensive, and they’ll make a huge difference to the quality of your audio.
Voice-overs have a lot of scope for creativity and out-of-the-box execution. Follow up your recording session with careful editing and post-production to refine and add value to your final output. Finally, test your voice-over with friends and family. Incorporate common sense feedback on your work before publishing it.
Get expert help with your audio recordings
While you can use our audio recording tips to get high-quality audio recordings, it’s always a good idea to consider expert help. After all, professionals know everything about the art of audio recording.
Hire audio recording professionals and voice recording professionals from Upwork. Browse through our catalog to find experts and agencies from around the globe to help you with your audio recording project. Get started right away!
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