Inviting guests onto your podcast is a great way to bring value to listeners. Remote recording technology allows us to conduct interviews with guests located virtually anywhere in the word. The challenge with remote recording is that the podcast guest audio quality can be affected by many of variables which fall outside of your immediate control.
Quality audio is important to keep listeners happy. Bad audio will cause listeners to tune out and reflect poorly on your guest. Even worse is if the audio recording is so poor that the interview can’t be released, resulting in a total waste of your guest’s valuable time.
You can make your guests shine by setting them up for success and helping them capture great audio with you.
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There are numerous affordable platforms available for recording podcast interviews online. Our top recommendation is Squadcast.fm. It has proven to be reliable and deliver great results. It sounds great and is simple for guests.
In a lower-league for sound quality, but gaining points for usability, is Zoom.us. Zoom has taken the world by storm for online audio and video conferencing, and offers a built-in recording function. While the sound quality isn’t as great as Squadcast, many people already have the apps installed and are familiar with Zoom. For this reason, it is a very common option for recording remote podcasts. We don’t advocate for its use, but it’s hard to ignore. For those who also require a video recording, Zoom is especially useful.
If using Zoom, we recommend enabling the setting to get a separate audio file for each speaker. This will help achieve better results in editing.
With the abundance of internet connectivity available to us, it’s recommended to not conduct podcast recordings using traditional phone connections. Low-quality conference call recording platforms should also be avoided.
For top-notch audio you can do what’s called a double ender. This is where you and your guest or co-host connect through a platform like Zoom or even Skype to conduct the interview, but the actual recording is done locally.
What does this mean? Instead of transmitting your voice through the internet before recording, which lowers the quality due to the use of codecs, you can record a full-quality copy of each voice to your computer locally using a software such as Audacity or GarageBand.
This is much easier to implement if you’re recording online with yourself and a regular co-host, since some guests may not be as tech-savvy and capable of doing this.
While you can choose the recording platform, you’ll have much less control over the audio equipment used by your guest.
As podcasting and interviews from home have become commonplace, you may regularly encounter guests who already have some sort of decent microphone. The Blue Yeti is a common choice.
Some podcast hosts even go as far as mailing their guests a microphone and headphones to use for the interview, which they mail back afterwards. This is neat and ensures optimal results, but is likely not practical for most of us.
Understanding how to optimize what your guest has available, and knowing what type of recording setups are not acceptable, will be a great help in optimizing podcast guest audio.
Importance of Headphones
The importance of all parties using headphones cannot be understated. You’ve likely heard the repercussions of making this mistake.
When conducting remote interviews, the host’s voice will need to be heard by the guest. If the guest is not using headphones, this means the host’s voice will be produced from the guest’s computer speakers. When this happens, the host’s voice can then be picked up by the guest’s microphone. This results in voices being heard twice, like an echo.
To combat this problem, most recording platforms incorporate a feature called volume ducking or echo cancellation. What this does is effectively silence the guest’s microphone while the host is speaking, and vice-versa. Squadcast has a help document on this. The problem with this feature is that when headphones aren’t worn, when two people speak at the same time or in quick succession, the voices will drop out and become garbled.
Using headphones is the solution. This is by far the most common audio issue we see in podcast recordings. It’s a shame since it’s one of the most easily fixed!
The type of headphones generally have no affect on the resultant audio quality. It only matters that they be used.
It goes without saying that if your guest already has a decent microphone since they already podcast or frequently do interviews, you would have them use that.
In the event your guest does not have a proper microphone, and you’re not able to send them one, let’s look at the next most practical solution.
You’d be hard pressed to find anybody who doesn’t have something like the pictured Apple Earpods. As is common with most consumer headphones these days, the Earpods have a built-in microphone.
Even the more advanced wireless Bluetooth headsets such as the Apple AirPods have microphones built-in for voice recording.
Are these the best option for recording? No. Do they sound pretty darn good? Even that’s a stretch, but are they better than no headphones or using a computer’s built-in microphone? Definitely.
All headphones with built-in microphones will vary in quality. Some may sound great, others may not. But in almost all cases, they’re better than nothing if you’re after optimal podcast guest audio.
Our only recommendation with using these types of products is to ensure the guest isn’t moving a lot or rubbing the area near the microphone. Even the sound of a beard rubbing against the mic can be loud and distracting, so be extra mindful. If you notice this happening, feel free to stop your interview for a moment and try to resolve the issue with the guest. The pause can be edited out and you avoid the risk of ruining the interview audio.
More Audio Tips
What else can you do to help ensure great guest audio on your podcast? In addition to using headphones and a good microphone, here are a few more reminders for the guest:
- Record in an area with low echo and low external noise.
- Be mindful of any noise sources such as tapping, playing with a pen, or squeaky chairs.
- Turn off or silence all cell phone and computer notifications.
- Let others around you know that you’re recording and should not be disturbed.
- Use a wired internet connection rather than WiFi if at all possible.
Podcast Guest Audio Prep Sheets
This is a lot of info, and we’ve only covered the audio portion of how to help your podcast guests shine! There are additional things you’ll want to make them aware of as well. These can include a bit of background info about your podcast and its audience, along with topics and questions you’d like to discuss.
We recommend having an e-mail or document template that you can customize for each guest and share it with them leading up to your interview. That way they can be properly prepared and have the chance to ask questions or sort out technical issues ahead of time.
We’ve prepared a sample guest prep sheet that you can customize and provide to your podcast guests before recording. There are two versions: one with instructions for Squadcast and the other for Zoom. Additionally, both have general audio setup guidelines and other tips to note before recording.