Ready to get stuck into the world of podcasting but want to ensure you start as you mean to go on?
This is the article for you!
How to set up a podcast studio that will impress, on any budget!
If want to join the ranks of the podcasting elite and share your unique voice with the world, you need to understand something first.
You’re competing with around three hundred thousand other podcasts.
It’s no longer good enough to just plug in any old microphone and get started.
That’s why before you hit that record button, you need to set up a podcast studio that sounds fantastic in your recordings and that will make your podcast stand out from the crowd. In this run down, I’ll walk you through the process of building a podcast studio that fits your budget, whether you’re just starting out or looking to upgrade your existing setup.
From choosing the right space to selecting the best equipment, we’ve got you covered in this article.
By the way, I’m in a very alliterative mood as I write this, so you’re just going to have to deal with that.
If alliteration brings out your allergies, find another less imaginative article with my blessings…
Step 1: The inner sanctum of sound – perfecting the set up of your podcast studio
Here’s a truth bomb – every sound, whether it’s the chirping of the birds outside, or the hum of your refrigerator in the kitchen nearby, WILL get caught.
Is your intended recording space near the street? Baaaad idea.
Closer to the garden? Better.
Basement or loft? Oh, ok now we’re talking!
Battle of the echoes:
Remember the empty sound in an un-rented house?
That’s NOT what we want.
Wooden or tiled floors bounce sounds off ’em, creating a reverb mess.
A nice thick rug, soft furniture, or hanging blankets can be a quick fix.
Here’s a quick tip; the more things you have in the room, the better it absorbs sound.
That’s your excuse for a mini studio-shopping spree!
I can recommend Studio Spares, and have furnished many a recording space with their products!
Step 2: Gear Up!
It’s not just a piece of equipment; it’s the bridge between your ideas and the audience.
While the Shure SM7B is the golden standard, for those on a budget, the Samson Q2U is my go-to recommendation.
A lot of people recommend the AT 2020 which is a good mic, but it’s a condenser. More on this in a moment.
If you want to think longer term, then an audio interface could be a wise investment since you can then get yourself an XLR microphone which you can plug into your friend’s mixer, or invest in one yourself as your show grows and you start getting bigger and better guests. Brands like Focusrite and Rode have really made moves in terms of their quality advancements in recent years.
Your ears deserve the best. Closed-back headphones prevent sound bleed, so what you hear is pure, unadulterated audio. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x or the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO (the radio industry’s favourite!) are highly recommended if your budget allows.
A pop filter isn’t just for those ‘p’ and ‘b’ sounds. It prevents saliva from hitting your mic (ew, but necessary!).
And a mic stand? It’s the unsung hero, providing stability and ensuring you’re not hearing cable clunks during your recording sessions.
Your studio should sound like a studio, not a bathroom. Foam panels, bass traps, and diffusers guide sound waves appropriately, preventing them from bouncing around and ruining your perfect take.
A high-speed, reliable computer is the engine behind the magic. Couple it with software like Adobe Audition or Audacity for advanced noise reduction plugins and tools.
Step 3: Microphone set up
Dynamic vs Condenser debate:
Microphones come in many flavours, and you need to know the difference between dynamic and condenser options.
Dynamic mics, like the Shure SM7B, are robust and excellent for loud environments.
Condenser mics capture more detail, but they’re super sensitive. And if you’re not recording in a pro studio, you might want to go for a dynamic unless you want to spend longer on removing background noise in post production!
Know your environment, choose wisely.
There’s an episode all about microphone options and use on my podcast titled “Your Business Needs A Podcast”.
Omni-directional mics pick up sound from all around, while cardioid mics focus on what’s in front of them. If you’re having a round-table discussion, the former might be better.
Solo show? Go cardioid all the way.
Audio ‘B roll’:
Room tone is a podcaster’s hidden treasure.
Record 30 seconds of “silence” in your newly built studio just in case you need it for some post production fixes like a sudden interruption or a smoother transition between words.
Your software will show you waveforms.
Avoid ‘peaking’ if you can help it.
That’s when the waveform hits the top or bottom of the track.
This means your audio is too loud and might distort.
Keep an eye on your levels and always try and listen to a few seconds of a test recording before you start to ensure everything sounds as it should.
What’s your EQ?:
EQ, or equalization, is an art form in audio production.
Human voices usually have a frequency sweet spot between 80Hz to 250Hz.
Use EQ to slightly enhance these frequencies.
Also, if your recording sounds muddy, a slight cut around 250Hz-500Hz can add a bit of clarity to the voice track.
Step 4: The Post-Production PC
Every recording environment has some background noise. The best way to solve this is to have a modern powerful computer that can run CPU intensive audio editing apps.
There is fantastic software available that can all but eradicate it. But even some of the basic tools like Audacity have noise reduction modules built into them. Use that room tone you recorded earlier to help finesse the algorithms and remove that bloody hum and hiss.
Compression is like an audio safety net, ensuring volume consistency.
Voices can vary in loudness.
Compression ensures the quieter parts are lifted and louder parts are tamed. But, don’t go overboard! Over-compression can cause ear fatigue and sound ‘washed out’.