Podcasters: How to Improve Your Delivery

It’s time to survey the burgeoning Podcast scene, now that two of my three friends have started one, too. 

Audio quality of many podcasts ranges from awful to barely listenable. Muffled, distant, or hyper-compressed vocals - some pods are hovering near AM-radio quality - a multitude of sonic sins are committed, mostly by print media veterans or other stone-cold novices with no prior audio engineering history.

A few of the hosts of nationally-distributed podcasts have actually taken my suggestions, changed their setup, and improved and fine-tuned podcast quality and delivery.

I am sharing a few of these suggestions:

1. Pay attention to your mic and the rest of the recording chain. Throw that plastic mic that came with your uncle’s Wollensack recorder back in the carton, and buy any of the reasonably-priced dynamics made for podcasting, like the Shure SM7b, or EV RE20, or step up to one of the entry-level Audio Technica or Neumann condensers (AT40330/TLM103). 

So why not use any old mic, you ask? When lots of podcast listening is done while driving, jogging, biking, and other situations with a high level of ambient or background noise, every bit of extra detail and added mid range resolution helps fight noisy environments and prevents listening fatigue.

2. Bypass your laptop's analog audio input with its low quality mic pre and A/D and hook up your new mic to one of the surprisingly cheap, high-res A/D pre amps, like the Universal Audio Volt, or Scarlett Solo and plug them directly into your computer’s digital input.

3. Likely you won’t have money to spend on good room acoustics, so make it a habit to keep your mouth within 5 inches from the mic.  Zoom and Skype interviews done via laptop have proven that there is nothing more annoying than excessive amounts of room sound when podcasters speak several feet away into the computer's built-in mic. Apple EarPods or AirPods are a decent start on the way to a dedicated podcast mic down the road, as long as you stay away from blank walls and other reflective surfaces when you speak.

4. If you have a guest or two on the pod, make use of at least a slight stereo spread, panning the three to, say, 11:00, 12:00 and 1:00 (i.e. half left, center and half right), which still sums nicely to mono. Spreading and separating the speaking voices keeps each distinct and intelligible, especially when they have similar sounding timbres, or when they speak over each other. 
Here is a great example of how that is done well: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qykl/episodes/downloads

And if you cannot remove reverberant, ambient background noise from your vocals, check out Goyo (https://goyo.app). It's a new AI plug-in miraculously eliminating reverberation and background noise from vocals, currently $29 for its Beta testing model.                           

The advice above should be a good start towards a more professional-sounding, impactful podcast, as long as the contents are equally exciting.