If you can’t accurately gauge your podcast sound quality, you’re deaf to the product you are putting out.

What if I rubbed slime in your eyes and asked you to drive in rush-hour traffic? The results may not be so great even if you’re an exceptional driver.

The problem is rather obvious here: Your eye sight is the major way you take in information and make adjustments to your driving.

But with podcasting, what you hear is the major way experience what you’ve recorded. And you’ll use this input to make course corrections. So let’s examine.

How you listen to your recording during the recording, editing, and mixing process will impact podcast sound quality. If the room you work in has bad acoustics, you’ll hear the room along with the recording. If you use bad headphones, you’ll miss what others on better headphones or stereos will hear.

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, though. Let’s go over the three primary means of listening.

Ways to Listen

There are essentially three main ways you’ll monitor the audio during the session and listen to the recording:

  • Built in factory computer speakers
  • Headphones
  • Auxiliary computer speakers or professional studio monitors

Before we get into these options, know that these options usually don’t matter if you’re only editing. This is important if you are mixing. For the purposes of this article, we’ll use editing to mean what you cut out and mixing to mean what changes you make to the sound. (Podcasters have a tendency to wrap editing and mixing into one term: editing.)

Moving on…

Using the built-in computer speakers isn’t advisable. They’re designed to deliver the minimal amount of audio fidelity. If it’s all you have and all you can afford, don’t let it hold you back from putting out a show, though.

Your audience will be listening through either car stereo speakers or consumer grade headphones. At a minimum, this is the level of audio fidelity you should be using to work on your show with.

Caveat: If you’re producing a show for audio engineers, they’re listening through better equipment. And this is one of the few instances where audio-snobbery makes sense. Video guys and gals tend to not care much about audio quality, but do appreciate good podcast sound quality when they hear it.

Using Headphones for the Best Podcast Sound Quality

It’s advised to use headphones one step up from your audience, though. This helps with the outliers and ensures a high standard of audio quality. What this also means is you’ll want a pair of studio headphones or “studio cans”.

What this also means is you’ll want a pair of studio headphones or “studio cans.” These are headphones designed for audio mixing. They deliver a flat uncolored representation. Most consumer headphones are EQ’d for music listening and artificially add bass.

Most consumer headphones are EQ’d for popular music listening and artificially add bass. Since most podcasts are primarily spoken-word and should be mixed with podcast sound clarity in mind, the added bass is a bad thing.

I would not recommend using desktop computer speakers for working on a podcast. For the same reason, I’ll explain in a moment, I also would suggest using studio monitors.

The Trouble with Studio Monitors in an Untreated Room

As discussed at the top of this section, speakers and studio monitors will put the sound into the room. What you hear will then be colored by the room’s acoustics and you won’t get an accurate representation.

In my new studio, the treatment isn’t finished yet. So I hear a lot of added bass when listening through my studio monitors. For this reason, I use the studio monitors for editing and switch the headphones during the mixing phase of podcast post-production.

If you’re working in a well-treated space, then monitors are great. And you’ll want to use studio monitors in lieu of consumer speakers. Speakers are EQ’d for music just like headphones. Monitors have a flat frequency response and give the truest representation of what the audio sounds like.

The Dark Rabit Hole of Podcast Sound Quality

Once you get into professional audio gear, prices soar. And it’s easy to become consumed with how a show sounds. The most important thing to focus on is that all voices on a podcast are easily heard.

And getting golden buttery smooth sound is an expensive and time-consuming venture that doesn’t produce more listeners. Every time you find yourself swooning over equipment thinking it will make you sound better, just tell yourself, “Perfection is the enemy of good enough.”

So focus on achieving a clear sound and producing content your ideal listener will share with their friends.

Next up…

Part 4: Podcast Editing: Secrets to Make People Love You