5 Tips For Great Podcast Quality

Hey everyone. This month I have an amazing guest blogger. His name is Remi Lavictoire, and he is the host of The Sci-Fi Movie Podcast, and he's absolutely brilliant. Before we get into it, I will request that you do yourself a favor. Once you finish soaking up the wealth of knowledge that Remi has provided us, go check out his podcast and follow him on twitter. Alright, enjoy.

Radio and Television have the benefit of decades to establish standards and best practices for sound quality.  Many Podcasters have limited experience with audio standards.  Fortunately, we have more tools and knowledge than ever, and with a bit of effort, we can make great audio that will keep our listener coming back for more.

Here are 5 tips to make your Podcast sound great!

1. Subscribe and listen to your own Podcast

I’m always amazed when Podcasters don’t listen to their finished Podcast. What’s wrong? Don’t have time? Don’t like the sound of your voice? Too bad, suck it up. You’re a broadcaster now, and that means you need to know exactly what your audio sounds like when it reaches your audience.

Once I’ve published an episode of The Sci-Fi Movie Podcast, I check the Apple Podcast App and PocketCasts to ensure it download correctly. Then I listen to the whole show on the little iPhone speaker. Why? To make sure the file plays properly, the levels are good, the show notes look ok, and I uploaded the correct file (Yep, I’ve uploaded the wrong file before)

2. Listen to your Podcast like a Listener

One of the advantages to Podcasting is the ability to listen anywhere. In the car, at the Gym, on a run, at work, on a plane, wherever you go, your favorite Podcasts come with you.

Since you’re a regular listener of your own Podcast, try listening in different environments that will be popular with your audience. Typically, we listen on a computer, smart phone or tablet, or in the car. We can also use Earbuds, Headphones or the car stereo.  Each of these environments can highlight your audio quality or point out the flaws.

Here’s an example: I listen to a Podcast based on a TV show, and when I listen on my iPhone speaker, it sounds fine.  If I play that same Podcast through my BlueTooth car deck, the woofers pick up and amplify the plosives (Popping P’s) from one of the hosts.  I had to turn off the episode in the car because one host was popping p’s constantly.

So, how do you know your listener enjoys your Podcast?  You’ll ask them, and that’s our next tip.

3. Ask your listener what they want

Back in my Radio days, one of the points my Program Directors kept drilling into my head was, ‘Think about your listener’.  And now I can hear you say, ‘But wait, this is my Podcast and I can do anything I want, right?

Sure you can, to a certain extent.

The key here is finding a balance between the fun you have creating a podcast, and considering your audience. I love talking about Sci-Fi Movies, and I’m blessed to have Ian Fults and Jonathan as my co-hosts.  We can sit around for hours talking about movies, but does our listener want 2 hour podcasts?  Our polling says no. Good thing too, because editing a 2 hour Podcast would be brutal.  We asked our audience how long a show they would like, and they indicated 45 minutes to an hour would be very nice.  Now, we structure our Podcast to run about an hour.  That means we don’t always include all the content we have, but we get in the best stuff we in that time frame.

Think about the questions you’d like to ask your audience and conduct regular polls to get feedback. Facebook and Google Plus both have polling functions, so you can ask quick questions like:

  • Do you listen on an iPhone or Android

  • How many episodes of The Sci-Fi Movie Podcast would you like to hear per week?

  • What is the ideal podcast length?

    • 30 Minutes

    • 60 Minutes

    • 90 Minutes

    • 12 Hours

Drop a quick question into your Social Media once every few weeks and make it something your listener can answer in under 10 seconds.  That’ll give you valuable insight into what your listener likes about your show and would like more of in the future.

Invite your listener to email you with feedback and ideas for future Podcast. These are your listeners, take their feedback, thank them, and make them part of your Podcast.

4. Make your audio the best it can be

Now, more than ever, broadcasting is becoming more democratized.  Podcasting allows everyone to become a broadcaster, and that’s a great thing. Couple this with affordable microphones, mixers and audio editing software, just about anyone can start a podcast.

Photo By: Sophie Gamand

Photo By: Sophie Gamand

And, that’s where things get a bit tricky.  With all these options, we find a myriad of styles and techniques for creating audio, some quite good, and some that would scare the hair off a dog.

How do you make Podcast audio that will keep your listener coming back every show?

Record the best quality audio you can with the equipment you have.

Every Podcaster has their own constraints, and it’s usually time or money. If you’re constrained by money, you might have to choose less expensive gear. But that’s ok, you can make great sounding audio on a limited budget. The key here is to do the best you can with what you’ve got.  If the room you’re recording in has a lot of echo and sound reflection, try putting up a blanket around your microphone, or record in a closet. Your wardrobe will serve double duty and a sound dampener.

We always record in .wav format, and I mix the multi track with .wav until the very last step where I export  to a 96Kbps mono file.  Yep, working with .wav is a bit cumbersome, especially when moving them around with Dropbox, but it’s the highest quality, and there’s no loss of information in the file, like there would be in an .mp3 file.  

Got a persistent hum in your audio?  Record 10 seconds of room noise (no talking) and use Audacity or Adobe Audition to remove that hum from the entire track.

There’s a school of thought that says ‘take it out in post’, and while that can work, removing room noise can also remove voice frequencies too, and that’s not great.

I prefer to create the conditions where I can get the best quality audio and rely less on post processing.  I’ll close the windows, draw the curtains, unplug the fridge (and I diligently set my phone to remind me in 2 hours to plug it back in!)

When we’re recording The Sci-Fi Movie Podcast, I have a reminder in the show notes to ‘ask Jonathan about the cat’.  See, his cat wears a bell, and in earlier episodes, you can hear an occasion bell tinkling in the background.  It drove me nuts because I didn’t notice it until I was editing the mixed down file, so I didn’t know whose audio track the bell was on.  

But, I tangent….

And my last tip…

5. Learn from the Podcasting Professionals

Even though Podcasting is a relatively new medium, there are seasoned experts who can help you learn valuable skills and much of the content is free.  On Facebook, you’ll find several Podcasting groups where you can ask questions of the more experienced Podcasters, Cliff Ravenscraft and Pat Flynn have free Podcasting tutorials on YouTube with excellent information.  Also, seek out Dave Jackson from The School Of Podcasting and Daniel J. Lewis at The Audacity To Podcast. They’re super smart, love to help others and can save you hours of struggle.  

Happy Podcasting!

Remi Lavictoire is the Creator/Co-Host of The Sci-Fi Movie Podcast, which you can find at:

Twitter: @RemiLavictoire