Wearing headphones is a staple in the audio recording industry & for good reason. While not always comfortable for long periods of time, headphones are a simple solution to a number of issues that can arise while recording – some of which can have a negative impact on audio quality. Recording podcast interviews with remote Guests is no exception to this best practice, but convenience can sometimes take priority over quality. We believe this decision is best made by the podcast Host, which is why we are excited to announce the addition of a new setting within the SquadCast Studio called Echo Cancellation.
What are Echo & Bleed? Why Cancel Them?
Echo can be a nebulous term within the audio world, so let’s start by defining it. When you hold a microphone up to a speaker it creates a feedback loop between the two, causing the speakers to screech loudly – this is what we mean by Echo. If a Host or Guests are not wearing headphones, then their output device is likely speakers & Echo from the feedback loop can negatively impact the conversation & recording quality.
Echo has a slightly less abrasive cousin called Bleed. Everyone is wearing headphones (go team!), but they can leak or “bleed” audio out that is then picked up by the microphone. This issue typically arrises with some combination of earbuds as the headphones & a sensitive microphone, like the Blue Yeti. While Bleed is slightly more tolerable than Echo, it can also negatively impact the conversation & recording quality. It can be distracting for the person speaking to hear themselves after a slight delay & the resulting recording can have multiple people speaking in them, which is not ideal for editing in post-production.
Echo Cancellation can be extremely helpful to resolve both of these gnarly issues. Thankfully modern Web browsers feature native audio processing designed to recognize Echo or Bleed & cancel it out by subtracting it from the audio coming out of your speakers or headphones (Yay!). If Echo Cancellation is the prescription that fixes Echo & Bleed, are there any potentially negative side effects that impact audio quality?
Volume Ducking, the Side Effect of Echo Cancellation
Echo Cancellation has solved our issues in the conversation, with or without wearing headphones, but how does this magic “audio processing” effect the quality of our recordings? It compresses the waveform for a short time while two+ people are speaking or, more commonly, laughing at the same time. While only for a short time, compression does reduce audio quality & can negatively impact your listeners experience.
Why would we ever want to reduce quality, isn’t that why we’re recording with SquadCast? Yes, absolutely, but if your Guest doesn’t have headphones available or their earbuds are bleeding into their microphone it is your choice to utilize Echo Cancellation for the sake of convenience.
Quality and or Convenience? The Choice is Yours
We’ve experimented with both enabling & disabling Echo Cancellation on SquadCast. v1 featured Echo Cancellation turned ON which was convenient because you didn’t “need” headphones to record, but our audiophile friends were not stoked by the resulting Volume Ducking that would sometimes arise. In v2 we wanted to solve the Volume Ducking “issue” to provide pristine audio recordings, so we turned Echo Cancellation OFF. This was a win for the audiophiles who know to record with headphones, but sacrificed the convenience of being able to record with or without headphones. We’ve learned that there is no “right answer” to this question, that this is not our choice to make, & that the Host should have a setting to choose for themselves.
Our latest update features a new toggle button within the SquadCast Studio for the Host to choose between Echo Cancellation being ON or OFF. We’ve set the default to ON, ensuring that new podcasters have a great first experience while recording, without the “need” for headphones. As people learn more about audio quality & the value of headphones, they can choose to turn Echo Cancellation OFF to ensure Volume Ducking doesn’t negatively impact the recording quality. For our audiophile friends, you can turn Echo Cancellation OFF right away from inside your Presence Menu within the SquadCast Studio. Win Win Win.
How Do the “Other Guys” Handle Headphones, Echo, Bleed?
Telephone, Skype, Zoom, etc. all prioritize the convenience of not “needing” headphones over quality audio & they do that by choosing to have Echo Cancellation ON whether you want it or not. With SquadCast, the choice is now yours. A simple framework we recommend to help you make this decision is to ask yourself, “how does this impact my listener’s experience?” Prioritize your listeners experience over you & your Guests & all of your podcast dreams will come true. Quality audio is the number one factor when it comes to your listener’s experience & if you’re interested in improving it, then sign up free for SquadCast now.
Zachariah Moreno is the co-founder, CEO, & CTO of SquadCast. He is also a podcaster, author, developer, and designer. He and his team are on a mission to amplify collaboration.