How to Improve the Quality of Your Recordings (Podcast or Spoken Audio)

What you’ll need:

  • A decent quality microphone.  The microphone on your laptop or built-in on your desktop will not suffice. Sometimes they are almost good enough. But, a better microphone will give you more consistent results and improve the quality of your voice. If you’re just starting out, plan to spend $50-200 on a decent microphone. I started with the Blue Snowball. I’m still using it. I will probably upgrade soon. But, this is a great start.

    I’d classify it as a pro-sumer microphone, professional quality at a consumer price. The link below will take you to it on Amazon. If you buy using this link, I’ll get a small commission.

  • Audacity– free software for both PC and Mac. Depending on what you’re trying to do, you’ll probably have to download one or two free software add-ons.

Yes, you’re going to need a decent microphone. My podcasting platform has an app that lets me record from my phone. I have one word about that – don’t. Garbage in, garbage out. Unless you’re doing podcasts from remote locations, record from a good microphone.

You should try to find a quiet place where you’ll have a minimum of disruptions. The room doesn’t have to be completely silent. A good microphone will not pick most of the background noise because of the directionality. We’ll go through an initial step that will remove any ambient background noise. Learn the settings for your microphone’s directionality and take a look at the tips as to where your mouth should be positioned relative to the microphone. Invest in a pop filter. I got one for my microphone for less than $10. These little things will make your podcast sound professional.

Step 1: Record 5+ seconds of silence.

First of all: Before you begin to speak or sing, you should always make sure that you record at least 5+ seconds of silence with your Blue Snowball microphone. This “silence” will allow you to generate a profile of the background noise around you.

Step 2. Noise reduction.

Because it is possible that the microphone picked up some ambient background noises, we will need to remove these noises by using the Noise Reduction effect:

  1. Highlight and select the silence at the beginning of your recording (click and drag your cursor).
  2. Go to the Effect menu at the top of Audacity.
  3. In the Noise Reduction screen, select the Noise Removal / Noise Reduction option.
  4. Click on Get Noise Profile.
  5. Highlight your entire track. You can do this by double-clicking the track.
  6. Go back to the Effect menu and click on the Noise Removal / Noise Reduction option again.
  7. In the Noise Reduction screen, click on OK.
  8. Delete the silence at the beginning of your track.

Step 3. Normalize.

After removing our background noises, we will use the Normalize effect:

  1. Highlight your track.
  2. Select the Normalize option in the Effect menu.
  3. In the Normalize screen, set the dB value to -1.0 and make sure that the checkbox beside Remove DC offset is checked.
  4. Leave the checkbox beside Normalize stereo channels independently unchecked.
  5.  Press OK.

Step 4. Compressor.

Once you’ve normalized the track, you will use the Compressor:

  1. Make sure that your Audacity track is completely highlighted.
  2. Select the Compressor option in the Effect menu.
  3. Do not change any of Audacity’s default Compressor settings unless you know what you are doing.
  4. Press OK.

In the past, I have had success changing the Threshold value to -18 dB, so you might want to test that out. Just try it, listen. If you don’t like it, undo the effect.

Step 5. Equalization.

Now, we will add bass boost and treble boost to our recording. This is where the magic happens.

  1. Highlight your track.
  2. Select the Equalization option in the Effect menu.
  3. In the Select Curve dropdown menu at the bottom, choose Bass Boost.
  4. Press OK.
  5. Make sure that your entire Audacity track is still highlighted.
  6. Select the Equalization option in the Effect menu again.
  7. This time, in the Select Curve dropdown menu, choose Treble Boost.
  8. Press OK. Equalization is done.

Step 6. Normalize again.

After applying the bass boost and treble boost, you will need to Normalize your track again. To do this, simply follow the exact same directions that were listed in Step 3.

  1. Highlight your track.
  2. Select the Normalize option in the Effect menu.
  3. In the Normalize screen, set the dB value to -1.0 and make sure that the checkbox beside Remove DC offset is checked.
  4. Leave the checkbox beside Normalize stereo channels independently unchecked.
  5.  Press OK.

Step 7. Limiter.

Finally, you can use Audacity’s Limiter effect to reduce limits that exceed a certain threshold:

  1. Highlight your track.
  2. Select the Limiter option in the Effect menu. On some versions of Audacity, this effect may be called Hard Limit.
  3. Choose Hard Limit in the Type dropdown menu at the top.
  4. Set Input Gain (dB) mono / Left to 0.00
  5. Set Input Gain (dB) Right channel to 0.00 as well.
  6. Limit to (dB) should be set to -4.00
  7. Hold (ms) should be set to 10.00
  8. The dropdown menu for Apply Make-up Gain should be set to No.
  9. Press OK.

Listen to your track again. After each step above, you might want to listen to a sample to get to understand what each step does and adjust to your liking. You might like more or less bass or treble boost for example.

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