One of the best features of podcasts as a medium is that you can record them almost anywhere and create top quality audio. You don’t need a fancy studio to make something that sounds great.
With the right equipment, some pro techniques and a topic you’re passionate about, you can put together a podcast that sounds just as good as shows that have huge budgets and professional studio time.
There are major benefits of recording a remote podcast — other than cost and getting to wear your pajamas while you do it. For one thing, you can record whenever you want. For another, guests are more likely to say yes to an hour-long video call they can do from wherever they like (in their pajamas), versus an interview that requires them to travel to a studio.
That said, there are definitely dos and don’ts for recording a remote podcast. But none of them are so complicated that you can’t overcome them, once you have the inside scoop.
From where to record to what to use and how to set it up, here’s how to record a podcast remotely in four steps:
Step 1: Buy the right equipment
Step 2: Soundproof your environment
Step 1: Buy the Right Equipment for Remote Podcast Recording
Before you can release your podcasting genius to the world, you have to make sure you can record your remote podcast at the highest quality possible. Let’s talk about the equipment you’ll need for that.
Possibly the most essential — and most overanalyzed — piece of remote podcast recording equipment is the microphone. If you’re serious about putting out a show, you need to invest in a microphone that will make your voice sound good.
There are A LOT of microphones on the market. You can spend A LOT of money nerding out about them. However, if you just want something that does the job well enough to please everyone but the most intense audiophiles, you can easily find one for less than $200.
Start with a USB microphone. They’re simple to set up and use, relatively affordable, and perfectly capable of capturing a decent recording (especially if you know some good techniques.)
One spec you should definitely take into consideration is the transducer type. Basically, is it a dynamic or a condenser microphone?
Most podcasters need a dynamic microphone. Condenser microphones produce a richer sound, but also pick up more background noises. Dynamic microphones, on the other hand, produce a less detailed sound, but don’t record so much ambient noise, which makes your vocals stand out more clearly. If your podcast is just people talking, you need a dynamic microphone.
Say the sentence: “Percy Bumble bought a pack of pumpkin pie.” Notice those little “pops” you make when you say “P” or “B”? Those are called plosives, and they sound like mini explosions when said into a microphone.
To minimize these, you can use something called a pop filter: An inexpensive screen that, as the name suggests, filters out these popping noises.
You’ll also need to make sure the microphone you’re buying comes with a stand. Otherwise you’ll be awkwardly trying to hold it still for every session!
The reason you need to wear headphones or earbuds to record your remote podcast is to reduce feedback. If the audio plays straight from your computer, your microphone will pick up on it, and either record it as an echo or try to filter it out, which dampens sound quality.
You also get a much clearer sense of the quality of your audio and your guest’s when you can hear it through headphones rather than speakers. This means you can address it while you’re recording, rather than trying to correct it during editing.
Headphones are another essential piece of equipment you can geek out about or go minimal on. However, there are only two technical specs that make a significant difference:
- If you’re bad at remembering to charge batteries, consider choosing wired over Bluetooth. That way, you don’t have to worry about awkward interruptions in the middle of recording when your headphones run out of charge.
- Look for headphones with a frequency range between 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Speaking voices don’t stray much beyond this, and sets that go over these limits are usually more expensive.
A top tip from Buzzsprout: Noise-canceling headphones aren’t necessarily a better option while making a podcast. When you’re the audience, you want to filter out annoying external interruptions. But as the creator, you need to be able to listen to the rawest version of your audio, so you know what your audience will hear.
A strong internet connection
Remote podcast recording relies on the internet. If your connection or your guest’s is weak, your recording and conversation quality will suffer. No one wants to listen to “Hello? Can you hear me?” Or audio that cuts out.
SquadCast requires a minimum upload and download speed of 5mb/s, and we recommend at least 10mb/s. If you’ve never thought about your upload speed before, it’s time to dig out your contract with your internet service provider (ISP) and check how many mb/s you’re paying for. Then run a speed test to see how many you’re actually getting.
Step 2: Soundproof Your Environment (As Much As You Can)
Even the best equipment in the world will turn up poor results if you don’t set up the area where you’re recording correctly. Here are a few factors to consider:
Soft surroundings deaden sound
Hardwood floors and tall ceilings might be an architect’s dream, but they’re a podcasting nightmare. You want to limit sounds’ ability to echo, as this will create a distracting, hollow quality in the final audio.
Somewhere with lots of sound-deadening fabric and low ceilings is ideal. There’s a reason lots of professional podcasters turned closets and even comforters and indoor tents into remote podcast studios when COVID-19 forced them to record at home. If Ira Glass is doing it, it’s good enough for us.
— Ira Glass (@iraglass) March 22, 2020
If you can’t see yourself crouching in a closet while interviewing VIPs, you can buy relatively inexpensive soundproofing panels that go on the wall, and screens that go around your microphone, both of which can help deaden sound. It’s not pretty, but your audio will be.
Choose a quiet room
You also want to find a room that doesn’t have a lot of background noise to begin with. This might be less obvious to decipher than you think. Our brains are very good at filtering out ambient noises that will show up on audio recordings.
The kitchen is almost definitely out: Have you ever listened to a refrigerator or a dishwasher? And if possible, choose a room that doesn’t back onto a road. Furiously honking horns, screeching sirens and reversing garbage trucks are not an ideal audio backdrop. If you have inquisitive pets or children, consider a room with a lock.
There’s also bad news for the temperature sensitive. Heaters, air conditioners and even fans all show up on audio recordings. Choose a room that stays relatively temperature stable — or be prepared to sweat or shiver for the length of the recording session.
With all that said, it can depend on the type of podcast you’re making. If being scrappy is kind of your thing, or you like the idea of sharing the intimate sounds of your life with your listeners, by all means embrace the rustling of the fan and the sweet serenade of your neighbors arguing.
Step 3: Practice Correct Microphone Technique
You can make up for many equipment shortcomings by using what you have carefully. Here’s how:
- Get close to the microphone: Give your microphone a fighting chance at picking up your vocals without causing distortion by speaking into it from the right distance. The space between your mouth and the microphone should be about the size of a fist.
- Don’t move your head: To make the pitch and volume of your voice consistent throughout your session, you need to keep your head as still as possible while you’re talking.
- Don’t make any sudden movements: The rustling of your shirt, shifting in your seat or tapping on the desk will all come through on the microphone. Resist the urge to fidget to avoid unwanted background sounds.
Combined with a quiet, sound-deadened environment, these techniques will help you get the best results out of your equipment, without having to spend more money.
Step 4: Set Up Your Guest For Remote Recording Success
You can absolutely record interviews for your podcast remotely. In fact, no travel requirements will probably make it easier for your guests. Studios are nice and all, but nothing beats the comfort of your own couch, no commute necessary.
Not being in the same room as your guest does make it trickier to guarantee the quality of their audio. Here are a few ways to mitigate those issues:
Send them a microphone
Obviously this will depend on your budget. But if you can afford to send your guest a microphone of the same make and model you use, you’ll have a much better chance of getting their part of the interview to sound as high quality as yours.
Have them use a headset with a built-in microphone
Most people you interview will have headphones or earbuds with a built-in microphone. These aren’t quite as good as using a USB microphone — but are infinitely better than using the built-in microphone on a laptop. Just to be sure, you could send them a set to use. Again, it depends on your budget, but it’s a more affordable option than paying for another microphone every time.
Record their vocals locally (SquadCast does this automatically)
A major benefit of recording your remote podcast with SquadCast: You can rest assured that your guest’s vocal track is being captured at the highest quality possible, because the software automatically records their audio locally. That just means through their computer, not through yours. It’s the difference between listening to a song that’s playing on your computer, and listening to a song played over a phone call with someone else.
Set up their audio before the main interview
Interviewing guests can be nerve wracking, and you might be tempted to launch right into your main questions the moment you get them on the call. Instead, when you’re arranging a time to talk, incorporate a buffer you can use to make sure their audio is working properly.
Record a short sample with them and play it back to make sure you’re happy. If they’re talking to you from somewhere that’s echoey or has a lot of background noise, ask if there’s somewhere else they can go.
Let guests know that you’ll need to walk them through some audio tests in your early communications. Most guests will expect some sort of set up process anyway. This is also a good opportunity to warm up to each other, and to show them that you take your podcast seriously. If anything, the extra attention to detail will likely reassure them that their interview is in good hands. And if you follow this guide, it will be.
Final Thoughts on Recording a Remote Podcast
Hopefully by the time you’re reading this, you’ve learned enough about how to record a podcast remotely to bring your brilliant show idea to life. With relatively affordable equipment and working knowledge of what makes a good sound environment, you can get high quality recordings from your own home (specifically, your closet.)
When you’re ready, share it with us: We love hearing our users’ remote podcasts come to life.
Natasha Lavender is a writer, editor and podcast nerd. She has a BA in English and American Literature from the University of Birmingham in the UK, which proved especially useful when she moved to Chicago, IL, in 2016. This content was produced collaboratively with PodReacher.