Podcast Coach: Give Your Recording Space the Royal Treatment

podcast studio

In the last blog post, we talked about the need to “treat” your room or soundproof it for better recording results. If you properly treat your recording environment, you can save a lot of money on gear.

Last year I interviewed another podcaster who professionally built a small room in his basement to serve as a truly soundproof studio for recording his podcast. He’s more than your average hobby podcaster, so the investment was worth it. When we started to test out our connection, I couldn’t get over how good he sounded. I asked him what mic he was using.

He said he was using the condenser microphone embedded in his laptop – the worst possible mic you could use for an interview. That taught me that if you properly treat the room around you, you can get away with using a sub-standard mic.

That said, for our purposes here, I have to warn you, “Don’t do this at home.” I’ll be even more clear. Don’t think if you build a home studio you can get by with a cheap mic or any old condenser mic.

Treating the Room

When you select a dedicated space for recording, make sure you can do the following:

  • Close the door and windows for recording.
  • Place your microphone above the work surface using a microphone arm mount so that when you shuffle papers or inadvertently tap on the table/desk the mic doesn’t pick that up.
  • Make sure to treat the wall in front of you and the wall or door directly behind you. Sound will travel directly from your mouth to the wall in front and then bounce directly to the wall in back, which will then bounce right into your mic. This is how you get that hollow or echo sound.
  • You don’t necessarily have to put foam or insulation permanently on the wall. While there are companies that sell excellent wall treatment material specifically for recording spaces, a good thick curtain or even a blanket will do. And the material doesn’t need to be all that close to you.  The main thing is that something thick and soft intercepts the sound of your voice in both front and back.

You can set this up on a temporary basis just for when you record, or you can leave it up in your dedicated recording space and improve it as you go.

Of course, it also helps if the room has a carpet on the floor and softer surfaces around the room, like upholstered chairs and couches. But these are all secondary.  The point is, the more you can deaden the sound, the better off you’ll be.

And if all of that is too much, you can always try recording in a closet that’s big enough for you to work, where you’re surrounded by the clothes hanging all around you.

What If I’m at Work?

If you’re recording your podcast in an office environment, and your space is not dedicated for podcasting, the first thing you need is a dynamic mic to filter out background noise.

The next thing you need is a room where white noise, HVAC systems and other building noise can’t interfere with the quiet of the space.

More than likely you’ll find yourself in an office or conference room for the purpose. I’m going to assume that you may even be recording the podcast on video, so you want the surroundings to be aesthetically appealing. No blankets or cheap curtains. If the room has a window with shades, you may want to close the shades to keep sound from ricocheting off of the glass while you record.

If possible, try to make sure the room is carpeted and that you’re in a big enough room where sound has a better chance to dissipate before hitting the wall and bouncing back off of it. The closer you are to untreated hard surfaces like walls and doors, the more likely that echo or hollow sound will find its way to your mic and into your final recording.

One other trick is to have a soft pad, tablecloth or blanket to cover the table for the interview. I have a thin black fleece blanket for just this purpose. If you’re interviewing someone, across a table, you minimize the chances of your sound from bouncing off of the table and into the mics.

Do you have any questions about podcasting? Get in touch. I’d love to talk.

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Tim O’Brien started his career as a TV and radio producer. Since then, he’s become a nationally recognized communications advisor who’s worked with clients of all sizes. He has conducted media training for CEOs and a range of spokespersons for decades. Since 2018, he’s produced well over 200 weekly episodes of his award-winning Shaping Opinion Podcast. And he has helped podcasters take their podcasts to the Next Level.

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