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Have you ever wondered how your favourite youtubers and podcast series produce high quality audio? In the industry, “audio is 50% of your production” is probably the most repeated phrase—and there’s definitely a lot of truth in it. People would rather watch a low-quality video than having to listen through a bad audio. In the context of podcasts, audio is literally 100% of your production. Therefore, an appealing and unique content cannot survive without high resolution audio to deliver its message.
So how do we achieve high audio quality? Let’s start with the basics:
Understanding your YouTube or Podcast Audio Recording Environment
The importance of owning a good recording room is it gives you the control of your environment and helps you get high quality audio. It allows your listener to focus on your words without being distracted by background noises like hissing, buzzing, honking, crowd sound, etc. Therefore, investing in your recording room will be beneficial to start your recording journey.
Check your Acoustic Room
The way sound waves interact with the space around them is called acoustic. Sound waves can bounce or be absorbed and when this effect accumulates on different surfaces of the room, it creates an acoustic sound unique to that room.
Easily test the room acoustics of your recording place by standing in the room and snap your fingers or clap your hands. Pay attention to the echoes and reverberation of your sound. If you find that your sound is loud and echoing, then the room will likely be difficult to work with acoustic-wise.
You can also try through speakers, play a song that is well-balanced and exhibits the full audio spectrum. Walk around the room while listening to the song, and notice how the volume and frequencies differ in various places in the room. This may be subtle or it may be quite noticeable. This gives you an idea of how the surfaces in the room reflect or absorb sound.
Room Recording Setup
Choose a space that is minimally affected by external noises, like rooms that are on the opposite side of the street or rooms that don’t share walls with common areas of your home. Finished basements are often great because they don’t share walls with other rooms.
You can add soft surfaces like rug, blanket, curtain, pillow, and upholstered furniture to absorb sound and cut down on echo. However, if you decide to do outdoor recording you can use some acoustic panelling or a reflection shield to keep your sound clean.
Invest in Professional Equipment
The access to an acoustically treated recording and mixing environment also could be benefited by investing in good quality recording equipment. There are tools that could add up the acoustic of your recording room, such as:
Diffusers are three-dimensional shapes that are designed to scatter sound. They are an excellent alternative or complement to sound absorption because they do not remove sound energy, but can be used to effectively reduce distinct echoes and reflections while still leaving a live sounding space. You can either use diffusers in place of or in complement to sound-absorbing treatments.
This is where those acoustic foam tiles come in. Acoustic absorbers prevent sound waves from reflecting off hard surfaces. These reduce resonating frequencies within the space, increasing the quality of your audio recordings. Their open-cell or porous structure allows them to take in and trap—rather than reflect—sound waves.
This is often an expensive endeavor, however, as you can wind up needing a lot more tiles than you initially thought. You’ll want to consider how you attach these to your walls, there are temporary, semi-permanent, and permanent options.
Bass traps are designed to capture low-frequency sound waves that tend to collect in the corners of a room. They’re usually made from either fiberglass or foam and can help reduce the low end in your recordings. Placed in the high corners of the room to absorb the frequencies that tend to collect in those areas.
If you truly want professional-grade sound treatment, you can go even further with ceiling clouds, Helmholtz resonators, and extra insulation in your walls. But if you’re a weekend warrior with a limited budget, there’s nothing wrong with hanging some moving blankets on the walls and calling it good.
Proper Recording Equipment to Get a High Audio Quality
Investing in good quality recording equipment will make your journey in recording easier to achieve high-quality audio. The right tools will help minimize time and advance your production in order to achieve the desirable result. Now, where do I have to start? and what kind of equipment to focus on to improve our audio quality?
Computer / Laptop Specification
There are a lot of options to choose from when it comes to recording audio, but here is the general rule:
A computer or laptop is essential to podcasting because you’ll want to use a recording and editing software to make the final episode sound cleaner and more professional. Choosing between them involves a mix of how you plan to use them, your budget, and personal preference. Few things you want to consider between computer or laptop are:
Laptop allows you to record, edit and publish on the move. It is easier to utilize anywhere and everywhere you go with your other portable equipment. Meanwhile, a desktop computer is more suitable for a home studio, especially for long-term setups.
If you’re looking for a machine that can handle both audio and video editing at once, a computer is preferable. Video editing requires considerably more processing power than audio editing (particularly 4K or 8K), which requires a more powerful CPU.
When it comes to purchasing a new computer or laptop for your podcast setup, you might want to look for:
Most audio and podcast editing software runs with at least 8GB of Random Access Memory (RAM). If you have more space in your budget, you might want to consider 16 GB or more to maximize performance. The more memory your computer has, the more it can handle larger tasks.
A processing unit is the brain for your computer/laptop, it handles the complex computational tasks that enable editing. Look for a model that will remain functional for at least 5 years to come. For Apple computers, an in-house processor like the M1 processor is up to date and very common nowadays. For Windows machines, recent versions of Intel i5 or i7 chips should provide ample power for podcast softwares. If you’re going to do video editing as well, you probably need an i7 or i9 chip for more overall processing power.
During the production you will need a lot of space to store your DAW sessions, music, plugins, audio files, and any other media. A Solid-State Device (SSD) offers faster reading and writing speed and helps you when you need to back-up your sessions and source files. Most computer’s internal drives are either too small in storage space or too expensive to upgrade, so increasing your storage space by having a 1TB or higher SSD is a really good long-term investment.
An audio interface converts the analog audio signals from microphones into digital signals that computers can understand. It allows you to process the audio track in post-production with your preferred editing software.
These interfaces require cables to communicate with your computer, microphones, and speakers. Microphones generally require XLR cables, and the most basic audio interface nowadays has at least 1 input for these cables. For your speakers, they use TS/TRS cables to connect to the stereo outputs of the interface. You can also connect your headphones to the monitor outputs by using a 3.5mm to ¼ inch converter.
Make sure that your audio interface has enough numbers of analog input for your needs. A multi-channel audio interface with multiple microphone inputs allows you to connect to multiple microphones, and they will be useful if you’re going to record multiple podcast speakers at the same time.
Digital Audio Workstation
A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is your most valuable tool in processing any audio work. Any DAW has the ability to record, edit, and mix your audio. Choosing a DAW can be confusing since there are various DAWs made by different companies created for different operating systems. Here are some references for further research:
For Apple-based computers, there are DAWs exclusive on the iOS such as GarageBand and Logic Pro X. For Windows-based computers, there are options such as FL Studio and Studio One. There are also DAWs that are available on both systems such as Pro Tools, Ableton Live, and Cubase.
Whichever DAW you choose should have all the tools and plugins you need for the most basic audio work. They mostly differ in the features, workflow, UI, and compatibility, which are the main reasons people choose their DAWs. You should also make use of free DAWs and demo versions available on the internet to get a feel on any you might prefer.
A good headphone allows you to monitor your audio during live sessions and to help you listen to any audio clearly. You may want to avoid using headphones with noise bleeds (noise that leaks out of the side) since it might leak into your microphone and degrade your recording quality. For audio work, a wired headphone is preferable rather than a wireless Bluetooth since any connection problems can cause unwanted lags or audio delay.
A quality microphone will make a big difference to your audio recording. Every microphone is made differently; but to simplify your decision-making, there are two types of microphones that you must know:
Condenser mic uses omni-directional polar patterns to capture sound from all directions (sensitive). While it is good for recording instruments and vocal choirs in the same room, it does not perform as good for a podcast, as they can pick up unnecessary background noise.
This mic uses cardioid polar patterns to capture sound directly in front without picking up any noise from the sides or behind of it. This type of microphone is the way to go if you want to have that in-your-face sound, which can be heard on the majority of good quality podcasts around the world.
Watch Your Recording Technique
The microphone is an instrument that requires proper technique for best results. In the recording phase, if you capture great recording sound right off the bat, the easier the editing work you need to do to elevate it into proper high audio quality. Here are some general rules of thumb to get you started:
The mouth, throat, and vocal cords work best when you warm it up. Before recording, take some time to practice while reading your script, to avoid mispronunciation while warming up.
Positioning technique of a microphone is crucial for better audio quality. You can start by getting rid of unnecessary things around your recording booth. Place your microphone on a solid microphone stand with roughly the same height as the speaker. For podcasters, sit comfortably close to the mic (closer is louder, farther is quieter).
The key is to have a good distance so that you can hear a warm quality to the voice without your signals being overwhelmed from your loud speaking level. You can reduce plosive sounds (“b” and “p”) by placing a pop filter between the speaker and the microphone. You should also control the gain on your audio interface with proper gain staging technique so that you don’t record too much noise from your breaths and body movements.
Gain describes the input volume in decibels (dB) of the recorded audio signal. You can access the gain of the microphone on the audio interface channel you used for the microphone. If you use a condenser microphone, remember to turn on the Phantom Power (+48V) or else you won’t receive any signal. To adjust the gain properly, stand in front of the microphone and say a few test phrases at the loudest volume you expect. Check the levels in your recording software to make sure you’re not hitting the red “danger” zone, also known as audio clipping. These clips cause distortion and will be very hard (if not impossible) to remove post-production, so make sure you take some time until the gain is just right (no missing words on low volume and no clips on high volume).
How an Excellent Post-Production Approach Can Enhance Your Podcast Audio or YouTube Audio Quality
Audio post-production is a process that includes chopping audio files, removing noise, changing frequency content, compressing dynamics, rebalancing tracks, adding sound effects, audio samples, sponsor message & theme song, the list goes on. It is an essential process of finalizing the audio to achieve the desirable result and checking the recording quality. The process in a post-production for audio includes:
An editing process usually involves several processes. Editing dialogue, removing background noise, smoothing audio transitions between segments, and creative elements such as sound effects are a couple of processes necessary to polish any raw audio into great quality.
The majority of unprocessed audio usually contains distracting noises or harsh frequencies that disturbs audio quality. This process is very crucial if low quality equipment was used during the production or the recording was not done properly. Therefore, it is important to clean your audio by eliminating unimportant background noises and cutting unwanted audio by using proper software.
Noise removal reduces constant background noises (such as hums, whistles, whines, buzzes) and “hisses” (such as tape hiss, fan noise, or FM/webcast carrier noise. If the noise is quite tame, it may be sufficient to be processed and removed with an equalizer (EQ) available on most DAWs. If the noise is so loud that it is louder than the music or speech, you definitely want to reduce it with noise removal software and plugins. If you don’t have the resources to do it, there are services that offer audio editing and cleanup available on the internet.
Adding Theme Song & Sponsor Messages
Part of editing is also adding theme songs for your content in order to have distinct characteristics and personality from one another. Adding the theme song will ease the listener to identify your content. Putting sponsor messages in your content is also as important as the theme song, to gain more listeners and revenue to help your production.
Balancing is a process of adjusting sound levels and the panorama of different elements in a mix. This process helps various elements in a mix sound level, relative to each other, and translate well on different output systems. When the audio is well balanced, there is no need to rely on external components to achieve a cohesive sound.
Audio compressor helps in reducing the dynamic range of an audio signal by making the loudest sounds quieter and the quietest sounds louder. Compression keeps vocals at the right level throughout the song. It helps your audio to pop out of the mix without having to turn up the volume.
Every recording captures a wide variety of sounds and noises, which are not always pleasant. Equalizer (EQ) offers a simple solution; it is able to boost or cut (turn up or down) specific frequency ranges to improve the good qualities of a sound or reduce the bad qualities from a recording. As a creative tool, exploring your ideal EQ settings could really shape the character of your voice as part of the production style.
Use High Resolution Audio File Format
If you’re seeking the best audio experience, high-resolution audio is worth exploring. While file size becomes one of the downsides, it will bring you great audio quality. Playing with high-resolution audio also means choosing different audio file formats. Let’s take a look into the file formats below:
Difference between lossy compression music file, uncompressed music file, and lossless compression music file including MP3, AAC, MQ, WAV, AIFF, FLAC, DSD, and ALAC
The difference of each file format according to each format type.
Based on its file type, we could divide them into three categories i.e. lossy compression, uncompressed, and lossless compression. Lossy compression removes some information from the file because of the compression process, which results in lower audio quality but smaller file size. Lossless compression also goes through the compression process, yet has lost no quality and is considered as high-resolution audio. Uncompressed audio does not go into any compression process; therefore, it has pure & high-resolution audio quality.
Now the question is, which audio file format is the best for your audio production purpose? Here is the answer:
- If you seek for the best audio quality in your production, use lossless audio compression (i.e. FLAC, DSD, or ALAC). Please bear in mind you would need to provide more storage space for this file format.
- When you are doing the audio editing (or someone else edits the audio for you), use uncompressed audio format for the final files (i.e. WAV or AIFF). This allows you to have the most authentic audio quality. You can export it to different audio formats after finishing the edited version of the audio.
- If you prefer to save more storage or are fine with compressed sound quality, use a lossy compression audio format (i.e. MP3, AAC, or MQA). Compressed audio is especially handy for previews or back-and-forth feedback sessions, so use that to your advantage.
How to Keep Your Listeners Engaged Using Sound Effect (SFX)
Sound effect or audio effect is an artificially created, enhanced, or processed sound that can artistically emphasize specific content of a media. If you ever feel that your recorded audio is uninteresting, sound effects can be applied to help you create a specific storytelling or creative point. There are four different classes of sound effects in general:
An audio sample that provides a subtle atmosphere (e.g. thunderstorm, jungle, rain).
This audio sample includes the specific everyday sounds from real objects (e.g. barking, gun shots, doorbell, car honk, alarm sound).
Sounds that are digitally designed purposefully to create a certain characterized sound (e.g. lightsaber, space transporter, enchantment, monster sounds).
Foley refers to the reproduction or recreation of sounds in a controlled environment. In environments such as cinematic and film productions, there is always a possibility that the sounds from the actual video recordings have defects or can’t be heard clearly by the audience. This is where Foley comes in handy, as it can be made according to the needs of the visuals during post-production. You can implement this on smaller scale production as well, especially if you are producing visual-heavy content such as Youtube or Instagram (i.e. footsteps, keychains, and everything that’s produced post-production).
That pretty much covers the basics for achieving high-quality audio for your podcast or YouTube videos. Research which path and product are the right one for you, and take the time to feel out how each step helps to improve the quality of your audio recording in your studio.
If you have any questions, we’ll get them answered for you. We are a professional music and audio post-production agency that has been providing high quality production for creators in the past 10 years. Click the button below for further assistance in your production journey!
The article sourced from www.revesonicworks.com provides valuable insights and practical tips on achieving high-quality audio recordings for podcasting and YouTube production.