Too Many Podcasts Sound Horrible!
Why can’t you hear that?
Your podcast may sound like crap, and I’m hoping I can get you to notice.
Sound quality can severely hurt your podcast by forcing people to stop listening because it bothers them.
First, let’s talk about why you may not know your audio is bad.
Most people have trouble distinguishing sound quality. Maybe that’s you. Maybe you blithely listen to mp3’s on your bluetooth headphones or airpods, and think everything sounds great. This is despite the fact that mp3 is a lossy format, meaning the compression that makes the sound file smaller takes away parts of the audio in exchange. Mp3 is used because smaller files translate into easier to stream or quicker to download. Yes, this degrades the audio.
To add to this loss of sound quality, the bluetooth codec compresses the sound AGAIN, to make sure there is an uninterrupted data stream to your headphones, and again, the result is a reduction in quality.
Despite all this sound abuse, most people can’t tell. If you played the same song as a non-lossy format (such as AAC) and then as an mp3, you’re unlikely to be able to tell them apart.
Does a ‘trained’ ear matter? It can, but not necessarily. Does the quality of the headphones/speaker make a difference? Yup. Apple can squawk all they want about the quality of their improved iPad/MacBook speakers, but they still sound horrible. (Speakers are big, empty cabinets for a reason, they use the space to add resonance, and laptop speakers ain’t got no space. ‘Computational’ audio doesn’t help. Yet.)
So why am I telling you this?
I want you to stop shooting yourself in the foot. These issues go beyond your ability to tell if something’s an mp3 or not. And I can’t understand why the hosts don’t hear it.
What kind of problems?
I recently heard a podcast where one of the hosts was using his microphone correctly, but the other host was far away from his mic. One host sounded fine, while the other sounded like he was in an echo chamber. They tried to make up for the difference by compressing the bejeebers out of the audio. It did not help. It sounded BAD. They needed to re-record. Yet they went on to record and release more episodes with the SAME problem. If they can’t hear the issue, why haven’t their friends and family pointed it out?
Compression issues are rampant. So many podcasts sound like they were recorded in an iron lung. Background noises, bad levels, all are turned into a wheezing, almost shimmering sound. You don’t want this. Listening to this makes your ears ‘tired’ over time.
Some people don’t know how to use EQ. So much bass is taken out that it makes the audio sound like an old AM radio.
Why does this matter? We’re all used to home grown podcasts, right?
Maybe 10 years ago. At this point in podcast history, there are so many big players in the podcast space that overall quality has vastly improved, and we’re becoming used to it. If your podcast isn’t keeping up, it’s costing you followers.
I constantly hear podcast coaches proclaim you don’t need expensive equipment to do a podcast. They say you don’t need a $300 microphone, or an expensive interface. They brag that you can record an episode on your iPhone.
All of this is true, to a point.
You also don’t want the cheapest stuff, either.
A $40 microphone sounds so bad you might as well talk through cups on a string. And how can you even tell what your show sounds like through cheap Logitech computer speakers? Maybe that’s the issue. You’ve been listening to crappy audio through your crappy speakers or crappy headphones for so long you think crappy audio sounds normal.
If you truly can’t tell if your podcast sounds bad, get someone else to listen. Do you know someone you think is an audiophile? Someone who loves the latest high end headphones, or has speakers that are 20 feet tall? Get them to listen, and get them to tell you the truth.
Yes, the amateur feel is part of the podcast world, but don’t make it the reason for not even trying to sound the best you can.
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