3 Ways Podcasters Improve Sound Quality Without Upgrading a Microphone

We’re going to talk about sound quality today, and I’m going to work really hard in not being nerdy. Wish me luck. I want to talk about this because so, so, so often I can on calls with clients or I get questions in my DMs or in my inbox around sound quality and microphone, meaning my quality needs to improve, what mic should I buy? The question should instead be how can podcasters improve sound quality WITHOUT buying a new mic (even if it’s what we’d rather do)?

Even the best quality mic can leave a little bit to be desired if we’re not taking some extra steps. And I think that oftentimes what impacts our sound quality the most has very little to do with the actual microphone.

None of the ways I’m sharing today are editing techniques. These 3 ways of improving sound quality are things you will do in the recording process. The bad sound quality in is bad sound quality out. There’s only so much you can do in editing to improve the sound. You have to, have to, have to, have to, have to be making sure that the best quality sound that you can manage is upfront.

I also don’t want you to live in a world where the quality of your sound stops you from recording at all. Meaning if there is a dog in the background snoring, it’s not always a bad thing. Well, I can’t record today. The dog is sleeping in the office. If there is a dog that starts barking in the middle of your recording session next door, I’ve actually had this happen in my house, and you have no control over that dog, frequently what I’ll do is pause, resay what I was saying in there, and then move on.

I listen to the podcast as I’m recording it to hear for those things, to listen for those things. I encourage you to be really mindful of what is an area that you can improve and what is something you are using as an excuse not to do the thing.

Improve Your Podcast Audio Quality By Knowing How Your Mic Works

The kind of mic you have and how your mic works are really important.

For example, something like a Samson Meteor mic or a Snowball mic, they’re really built to pick up all of the sounds in the room. They’re not directional in any way. You’re going to have the hardest time-fighting things like reverb and sound bouncing off the walls, ambient room noise, and the noise on your desk.

I have a RØDE Podcaster mic and it is built to be very directional. It’s built so that the sound it is picking up is the sound coming out of my mouth, just the front of it.

It doesn’t make one better than the other. The RØDE Podcaster to the Samson Meteor mic is certainly a price difference of about a hundred dollars. I prefer the RØDE Podcaster mic. However, I used a Samsung Meteor mic for the first 300 episodes of the show, and I just learned that there were things I didn’t do.

I didn’t touch the table when I was recording ever at all, because it was really loud in the Samson Meteor mic. Partially because I had a mic stand that sat on the table. Every time the table moved, that mic stand vibrated, which the microphone picked up, because that’s actually what your microphone is picking up.

If you’re having just room noise sounds, which we’re not really going to hit on today, but if you are having that, look at things like boxes, sound-proof boxes.

You can make them. You can buy them. A cardboard box with eggshell sort of soundproofing glued into the inside of it and then the microphone inside of there will go a really long way to helping ambient room noise. Just start with those kinds of things, but that can be really, really helpful. Things like putting a rug down in a room if you have hardwood floor or tile floor. A rug is going to be critical. I have some clients and friends who over the course of their podcasting have done things like put blankets over their computer.

When I had my Samson Meteor mic. I moved my computer away because what would happen is my mic was set up right in front of my computer. So when I was talking, my voice would bounce off my 27-inch iMac screen and back into the microphone. And so it caused a lot of echo. And so I moved. I just tilted my computer screen during then, and I didn’t record right in front of there. Being cognizant of where things can bounce and making those small tweaks can go a long way to helping that first and foremost. Now, with that said, I want to talk about three ways you can improve the sound quality. And by that, I just sort of mean how you sound.

Improve Podcast Sound Quality By Changing How You Position Yourself at Your Microphone.

Generally speaking, and this can vary a little bit between mics, but generally speaking, you kind of want there to be room for your fist between your microphone and your mouth. So if you can take your microphone and put your mouth in front of it and then fit your hand between the microphone and your mouth, that’s generally speaking a good rule of thumb.

If you’re still having some peak issues, meaning you’re maxing out your microphone, well, then I want you to do is I want you to do sort of the hang loose with your hands. You’re extending your pinky and your thumb and go that distance from your microphone to your mouth. It’s about like two fists, fist and a half, but that kind of extend that space. That’ll help soften some of those peaks. Generally speaking, if you’re maxing out and sort of distorting, your mouth is too close.

Improve Your Podcast Sound Quality By Standing Up

If you are finding that it’s really quiet or it just sounds a little low, oftentimes it’s more about your energetic output than it is the microphone or the sound or anything that was done in post-production. Oftentimes, it is… I love you and I’m sorry, but sometimes it’s a you thing.

If you’re finding you’re having a hard time really sounding energized and excited, stand up. I love recording standing up. When I got my standup desk, oh goodness, like two years ago now, it was one of the best things because it made it so, so, so easy for me to stand and record.

Going back to last week’s episode and talking about avoiding podfade and things like that, a great way for me to fo my excitement is to stand instead of sit. I will stand and it just helps me get through a little better. It helps me batch because I am more excited. Really be paying attention to your body’s positioning. Even if you’re sitting, are you sitting up straight? Recording is the place where I’m never like hunched over forwards.

Podcasters Improve Sound Quality by Breathing!

I know. You’re like, “I’m a human. I’ve been breathing for a lot of years now.” I get it. It’s a skill I’m well-acquainted with. However, what I mean by breathing is most often slow the heck down especially when I’m excited, especially when I’m talking about something that’s really fun. I speak rather quickly anyways. It’s real easy for me to get into a place where I just talk like this and I just tell you what I’m thinking about. And I just tell you, this is what you’re going to do, and you’re going to do that.

I pretty intentionally try and talk at like half speed, and I make my breaths as important as my words. Because if I’m talking like this and I’m trying to get you to understand something, and I’m trying to get you to buy into a concept, it’s really, really difficult for you to understand, but more importantly, it’s difficult to connect.

It’s easier to edit for your post-production team, because all of your words are not crammed together in one sentence. And also, there’s more room for connection and processing for your audience. It’s also going to slow down how the words come out of your mouth, which are going to make it significantly easier for you to enunciate.

If you’re feeling like the mic positioning is good, you already stand up, you already have great posture, focus on just slowing down and breathing and putting a little space between your words and your thoughts.

When I was in school (I have a degree in audio engineering), one of my teachers had a saying, “Shit in. Shit out.” It doesn’t matter how good of an editor you are, how quality your post-production staff is, shitty audio in is coming out the other side the same way. Be really cognizant of checking these things when you go to record.

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