It’s never been easier to share clips of your voice online. Commonly, this happens in the form of recording and releasing a podcast (or even a “micropodcast”) or participating in live social audio (happening now on all major social media networks, and also in a variety of ways on other platforms).
First, for fun, a brief history of podcasting (with an important point at the end): “In podcast lore, the form was born in 2004, when the MTV VJ Adam Curry and the software developer Dave Winer distributed their shows Daily Source Code and Morning Coffee Notes via RSS feed.” They designed a program called iPodder to download radio broadcasts to Apple iPods — thus, “podcasting”, from iPod and broadcast.
“Or maybe it was really born in 2005, when the New Oxford American Dictionary declared ‘podcast’ the Word of the Year. [...] In any case: They’re here. What’s more, these humble chunks of audio have emerged as the most significant and exciting cultural innovation of the new century. In an age when we were promised jetpacks, or at least augmented-reality goggles, it turns out what we’ve really been craving is the companionship of human voices nestled in our ears,” Adam Sternbergh writes. Ah, there’s the important point we mentioned earlier. Following suit, the other form of sharing your voice online that we also brought up at the beginning — social audio — has helped people connect in quite similar ways the past year and a half, too. Voices have a deep emotional impact.
And how can you make sure your voice is having the most impact? By having clear, immersive audio in your recording. (After all, high quality audio actually makes you sound more credible — check out the research.)
Improve the Audio Quality of a Recording
One quick note before we jump into improving the audio quality of recordings: The number of apps and services there are now to help people with their podcasts has exploded, too, and we’ll reference a few in this article. In addition to the tips provided, these new platforms may be helpful.
1. Choose the right recording equipment and software
Granted that this one is obvious, but nonetheless important. We’ve actually written a previous blog post that includes headphone and microphone recommendations (and you can read more here in point #3 to learn more about the different types of microphones) but that’s not all you’ll need.
In that post above, we briefly cover pop filters, but if you’re looking for a more in depth explanation, head over here. You’ll also find information about mixers, which is important… you’ll see why soon in tip #3 below.
You’ll need a digital audio workspace (DAW) to capture and then edit your audio, and that’s where the software comes in. Check out these six options in point #8, ‘recording and editing software’. “Our top picks are all beginner-friendly and won’t break the bank. Which one you go with depends on how many bells and whistles you want, plus which operating system you use.”
You could also try Anchor.fm. It has “built-in uploading, recording, and editing tools so you can easily create and publish episodes.” (They also have “advanced analytics and insights to help you understand and grow your audience, and can distribute your podcast to the most popular listening apps, and host unlimited content free.”)
2. Choose the right recording environment
We get it — clearly not everyone is going to have a perfectly quiet environment or sound booth to record their podcasts in. So what can you do to make your recording environment into the right one?
Firstly, close doors and windows. Minimize background noise as much as possible. Make sure any other machines nearby are turned off, along with phone notifications. Keep an eye out for random noises — fans (computer fans, too), air conditioning units, etc. — although some may be difficult to switch off, and you’ll need to keep in mind for editing after. If possible, don’t record in a room with pets or children, and let anyone else in the house know you’re currently recording so they can minimize noise.
To reduce reverb, DO try to incorporate lots of soft materials like couches, rugs, blankets, and carpeting in the room. Honestly, record under a blanket, or in a closet if you have to. It’s a small place with many softer materials that will absorb unwelcome sounds.
3. Record in spatial audio
Our third and final tip is the less obvious one — and also the most interesting. While it’s crucial to implement the first two tips, and some would argue this last tip is a ‘nice to have’, we think this improves the experience for listeners so substantially that it’s worth trying. Although this tip will only apply when you have either a co-host(s) or guests on your podcast, when there are multiple people contributing, record your podcast in spatial audio.
We’ve actually written an entire post on how to specifically do this right here: How to Record Spatial Audio to Level Up Your Podcast or Virtual Meeting.
(Here’s a good article for additional tips about recording with multiple people, too. This is where having a mixer comes in — to record people on different channels.)
Check out an example below to hear what it sounds like: An episode of Team Human, recorded by Douglas Rushkoff with four others. Their conversation flows naturally, and they reminisce about the “magical explosion at the intersection of art and technology in the early-1990s rave scene.” Listen with a pair of headphones for the full effect for even just a few minutes to hear the difference. It seems like Douglas is walking around you as he introduces the episode, and it feels very comfortable to listen to the group chat throughout the podcast.
Why is that? Spatial audio actually reduces cognitive load when listening, and improves speech intelligibility. It’s easier to understand.
The beauty of listening to podcasts recorded in spatial audio comes back to the “companionship” feeling described in the introduction. The natural flow of conversation mimics the feeling of real life, and helps you feel more immersed. We also mentioned social audio — speaking of that, Clubhouse, a social audio app that has rapidly gained popularity since April 2020, recently integrated spatial audio, too.
Continuing with the idea that people are appreciating audio that encourages closer virtual connections (understandable, given the state of COVID-19 the past year and a half), there are new apps that give podcasting even more of a built-in community experience to begin, like Cappuccino. “Cappuccino is a fun way to share audio stories, life updates, and jokes with close friends and family. Record a short voice memo (‘bean’). Listen to your Cappuccino (mix of your friends' beans + background music). It's like a podcast with your friends,” they write in the app store description.
So next time you’re recording a podcast with your friends… give recording in spatial audio a shot.