This is part of Libsyn’s blog post series, “How To Start a Podcast — Step By Step for Every Kind of Podcast.” Check out the introduction to the series, including levels of podcasts and the previous post about planning your podcast.
Now we’re getting into the more technical side of starting your podcast. The good news is that, depending on what you’re trying to do, you can start today, often with minimal adjustments to the space you’re in or have available, and for free!
Let’s dive into the basics of setting up a podcast studio.
The Best Audio Setup for Your Podcast
For many purposes, almost any quiet space can become a podcast recording room. But there’s quiet, and there’s quiet. Listen for white noise that you don’t usually notice but could be audible on a recording.
One of the best ways to test your podcast sound quality is to record 1 or 2 minutes. Yep, just the room sound! You’ll be surprised by how much information about your podcast recording room you’ll gather just doing that.
The hum of a refrigerator, the whistle of steam heat, and rumbling traffic outside can all interfere with podcast sound quality.
Pre-Podcast Recording Tips
- Consider a room without windows, like a walk-in closet or other interior space with lots of fluffy furniture and low ceilings — that would have the added benefit of sound-absorbing materials and diffusion naturally present in those spaces.
- Carpets or plenty of rugs in a room make for a much better sound than hardwood floors!
Most Level 1 or 2 podcasters might not have access to optimal recording spaces, but nearly every home has bedrooms and closets. Generally speaking, those rooms would be your best bet for a homemade podcast studio. At times living rooms can do the job, particularly if there is lots of furniture and big, soft, cushy sofas, cushions, and drapes.
Home offices are also good choices for home podcast studios if they have a substantial amount of furniture, carpet, rugs, and curtains.
Home offices have the bonus of being used daily, making the podcast room setup and design worthwhile. You can consider adding some basic podcast soundproofing and diffusion elements to the room.
Kitchens and bathrooms tend to have the most echo, as there is no carpet and the furniture and surroundings are hard. Avoid recording in them if possible.
Acoustic Treatment Tips, Level 1
These tips use items you probably have available or can borrow:
- Surround yourself with pillows
- Put a blanket over your head
- Get in a closet amongst all the clothes
- Record on a bed or a sofa surrounded by cushions
Acoustic Treatment Tips, Level 2
I will suggest things that you can buy and use, so you can learn how to make your podcast sound better. Before you invest in any basic podcast equipment, as mentioned before, first try recording something.
Test your podcast audio quality using the Level 1 podcast recording tips first. Test not using anything.
Listen to the sound quality of the room, but also listen to the recording.You might find that the podcast recording space that you’re in sounds pretty good. You might find that facing one way or moving to a different part of the space is all you have to change to create good podcast sound quality.
Or, you might find that the podcast sound quality is echoey, or there’s too much reverb that you can hear absolutely everything that’s going on outside.
Once you have some test recordings, you can make an informed decision about recording your podcast as to what you need to do next, whether it’s finding another place to record or investing in some sound absorption and diffusion solutions.
Sound solutions are dependent on your needs for your own space.
These solutions are akin to you moving into a new house with a small closet or a huge garage. Whether you should invest in organizing a closet or garage is based on what will be stored there, what exists in the space now, and how you’ll be using the space. You don’t need to buy shelving units if your garage already has built-in shelves. You don’t need to buy a giant closet system with lots of organization if your closet will only hold evening gowns, and you only need a sturdy bar to hang them all.
Also, I want to clarify the difference between sound absorption and sound blocking.
There is no way to block the sound of everyday life in any of our living spaces. If you record in a regular life place, life will get into your recording. We will address this in upcoming blog posts.
The only way to fully block sound, meaning to soundproof a space, is to go Level 3. Most of us don’t need that. We need only do our best to create the best acoustic treatment for podcasting, to the best of our ability, given our circumstances.
80% of the time, choosing the suitable space and locating properly within that space will serve you well. The gift of podcasting is that it’s a verb, so you get to continue to adjust and re-adjust your podcast recording space as your podcast.
For the other 20% when you need to know how to improve podcast audio quality and make your podcast sound better, here is a shortlist of soundproofing equipment to help you:
- Acoustic panels: You can find all kinds of YouTube tutorials on how to make acoustic panels, or you can buy fancy ones, cute ones, and everything in between.
- Studio Microphone Shields: Fairly inexpensive, compact, and can be used in a variety of ways.
- Kaotica Eyeball: A super fun product that can be the right tool for the job.
If I were to leave you with ONE thing about setting up a podcast studio, whether it is for recording yourself or multiple people, it’s this: test, test, test! Test your podcast sound quality and your podcast recording space.
There is no magic piece of audio hardware or acoustic treatment for podcasting that will solve everything. You are the x-factor in finding the solutions to record the best podcast that you can. Record, adjust, try again, listen, re-adjust, change positions, add something else, take something away and do it again.
You will have clarity in what your problems are and also what really works in your space. Then, you can then invest in the right podcast recording tools that will give you the most bang for your buck.
Check back with why you create a podcast in the first place. Refer back to our Plan Your Podcast article to refresh yourself.
Multi-Person Podcast Recording Space
Everything in the last section also applies to a two-person podcast setup, but most of us aren’t going to record with someone else under a blanket or in a closet…unless we really want to.
In lieu of that, choosing a good podcast location is even more important for getting the best sound for a group: a room with lots of fluffy, cushy furniture, or at a minimum a thick carpet.
Most podcasters do just fine recording in living rooms, hotel rooms, conference rooms, and even inside of cars. (The inside of a car can have pretty awesome acoustics.)
At that point, it’s less about your location and more about your audio technique, which we will get to in an upcoming post!
One thing to note, recording more than one voice inherently changes the game. A space that works well for one voice may not work for more than one voice, so during your testing phase, make sure that you recreate what you will be doing during your episodes as best as you can!
Professional Podcast Studio Setup (Level 3)
It’s sound-proof recording studio time, lucky you!! That’s a real Level 3 professional podcast studio setup.
For most of us everyday humans, a soundproof podcast studio would usually not be in the home. However, some Level 3 podcasters (like Dan Sullivan from Strategic Podcasts) have invested quite a bit in setting up an amazing home podcast studio. On the same level, a business investing heavily in podcasting may choose to have a professional podcast studio setup in their office building.
A professional podcast studio setup merits hiring a sound and design expert who can advise you based on your needs. This is not a one size fits all solution. When you’re investing thousands of dollars, you need someone who is well versed in not only audio engineering and acoustics, but podcasting. Another option is podcast studio rental. In fact, for most Level 3 podcasters, this is the way to go. A lot of cities now have podcast recording studios that you can use and call home.
Next Up: Choose Your Podcast Equipment
In the next post in this “Starting a Podcast” series, we’ll talk about the essential podcast equipment you need to record and edit your podcast. Sign up to get an email when the next post is published.
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While you’re at it, check out our free podcasting quick-start webinars, The Feed: The Official Libsyn Podcast, our award-nominated podcast about podcasting, and our amazing podcasting knowledge base designed specially for people like you.