Proper podcast mastering can be the difference between your podcast sounding professional, or sounding just amateur. Mastering is a form of post-production in which adjustments are made to audio, be it a music release, film sound effects, or anything else. It gives the final product that professional “polished” sound or “shine” that people associate with a high-quality product. If you edit your own podcasts and have ever wondered “why doesn’t my podcast sound as good as other podcasts on iTunes?” then keep reading!

We’ll get into the details below, but the first step to catch your attention and explain how mastering helps your podcast is to simply listen to this sample. Click play on the video below.

Characteristics of unmastered podcasts:

  • Volume too low.
    • When compared with other podcasts, an unmastered one may seem much quieter and the user’s volume has to be set louder than normal.
  • Inconsistent volume levels.
    • Some parts may be loud, and some may be soft. A sudden laugh or shout may be startling to the listener if they had originally increased the volume to hear properly. Conversely, softer passages may be inaudible in noisy environments such as when listening in a car or on a subway.
  • Noise or other imperfections.
    • Hiss, fans, traffic noise, distortion, or other unwanted sounds are audible in the recording.
  • Poor tone / audio character.
    • Harsh, lacking clarity, muffled, unable to obtain broadcast-quality style sound.

Characteristics of mastered podcasts:

  • Correct volume level.
    • Audio level sounds normal and comparable to other content and podcasts.
  • Consistent volume levels.
    • No need to adjust volume over and over, no sudden loud passages from yelling or laughing, and no soft passages that are hard to hear.
  • Little or no noise.
    • Audio is clean and free of any background noise. No imperfections such as distortion.
  • Professional sound quality.
    • Podcast is easy on the ears and not harsh. Everything is clear and audible, comfortable to listen to, “professional” rich, shiny sound.

The mastering process is done through the use of various tools as selected by the audio engineer for that specific application. These would include ones that reduce noise and repair imperfections, gates, compressors, equalizers, and more. Don’t worry if this sounds complicated – leave the details up to us!

Why is mastering important?

If you’re still not convinced that mastering is important, here are some things to consider:

  • A properly mastered podcast will sound trustworthy and authoritative. It provides a good impression.
  • Inconsistent volume levels can be frustrating to the listener, causing them to not enjoy the podcast and perhaps stop listening.

It’s not just about mastering

An important thing to note is that mastering should be thought of as a way to optimize and bring out the best in your recorded audio. It is not a process to make poor audio great. Things like an echoey or noisy room, distorted microphone, etc. are always best fixed at the source. Mastering is not magic. If you start with poor audio, the end result will still be poor. If you start with good audio, the end result can be great! To learn more about recording great podcast audio, see our blog post.

If you’ve been editing episodes on your own and aren’t even sure what mastering is, there’s a good chance you could benefit from it! Get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to do a free assessment of your podcast.