In this post I'll go over what Sound-Proofing is, what Acoustic Treatment is, and how to get the best possible results when recording.
There's a difference - Sound-Proofing & Acoustic Treatment
First off, Acoustic Treatment and Sound-Proofing are not the same thing. All sound-proofing is to do with acoustic treatment, but not all acoustic treatment is to do with sound proofing.
Sound-proofing prevents the transmission of sound from one space to another - walls, sealed windows and doors provide sound-proofing.
Open a window and have a listen, then close it and listen again - the difference can be significant. When it comes to recording your podcast, you don't want that loud traffic or neighbour's dog in the background.
Professional studios spend $$$, even $$$$$$ to make a space completely sound-proof by building rooms-within-rooms, having floating floors and suspended ceilings, decoupled walls, heavy solid doors, and double or tripled glazed windows.
Most of us don't have that kind of budget - but there are simple and affordable solutions that can yield good results.
Acoustic treatment affects the properties of sound in a space, such as echo and reverb - hard surfaces reflect sound, soft materials absorb sound, and objects disperse sound.
Think of a tiled bathroom with a lot of hard reflective surfaces - sound echoes around and around... Now think of a carpeted room with couches, chairs, books and stuff hanging on the walls - sound is absorbed and diffused by the soft materials and objects.
Effective acoustic treatment is fairly affordable, and there are commercial products and DIY solutions that can be easily applied.
Close all windows and doors. And close the windows and doors in adjacent rooms. If you can, use a rubber or neoprene seal that can be fitted around the frame of any doors and windows to reduce the amount of sound coming in & going out.
• Floors can be "floated" - a secondary floor is built upon the structural floor of the room, and is supported by vibration-dampening materials.
• Ceilings can be suspended - a secondary ceiling is put in place, either hung from the structural ceiling or integrated into de-coupled walls.
• De-coupled walls - secondary walls, with an air gap between them and the structural walls, built of brick/cement block, or heavily insulated.
Carpets, curtains (closed), cushions, wall-hangings and soft furnishings - foam and fabric will absorb sound waves and dampen them to some extent. Having a felt table cloth on the table that your recording equipment is set up on will reduce immediate reflections.
• Absorption - whether commercial products like foam panels or DIY panels of rockwool, increasing the amount of sound absorbing materials in a room helps to reduce the amount of echo and reverb.
• Diffusion - having objects and angular surfaces helps to distribute sound waves and thereby weaken them, the more the sound bounces around, the sooner it dissipates.
Auralex is one of many companies that produce sound-proofing and acoustic treatment products. They also have a very nice PDF that explains these concepts in depth, here's a link.
Various forums and websites also provide guidance for the DIYers out there - the John Sayer's forum is a good place to start.
There are products for those on a budget or who do not have the luxury of a good space to record in, or those who record on the move in difference spaces in different places.
Aside from good mic technique and positioning, you can use portable booths that will partially isolate the mic from its surroundings, whether its a screen like in the image above, or a foam ball like Kaotica's Eyeball, or a DIY foam box that can be easily taken apart. These are by no-means foolproof, but can improve the recording.
And lastly, there's the good ol' blanket-fort/record under the duvet technique. Just be aware of any rustling of fabrics...
It's cool, I'll just fix it in the mix...
While there are some amazing audio repair tools available, nothing quite beats good, clean, well recorded audio.
A few minutes of preparation will save hours of tears and gnashing of teeth, and even the recording itself.
Thanks for reading!
Audio Editing software is designed specifically for the purpose of recording, editing, processing, and mixing digital audio.
In this post I'll go over some of the terminology, and look at some of the most popular Audio Editors when it comes to Podcasting.
Let's start with DAWs. Pronounced like, "door" with a New Yorker accent, DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation.
A DAW is basically any computer with a hardware audio interface (whether it be a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, or an SSL Duality), and Audio Editing software.
The software allows you to record the digital audio to your computer's drive, edit it, apply processing (EQ, compression, effects, etc...), mix the levels, and more.
Not all Audio Editors are equal
DAWs can vary in their abilities and functionality depending on what they're intended for and the cost.
Destructive Editors make changes to the actual audio files as you edit them in the software - if you cut a chunk out in the editor, that chunk of data will be removed from the audio file immediately.
This can be great in that it is immediate, and can be time saving. But, it also means that if you make a mistake, there's a risk that you won't be able to undo it.
An example of a destructive DAW is Audacity.
Non-Destructive Editors do not alter the original audio files, but rather apply the changes in real-time during playback - if you cut a chunk out in the editor, that chunk will just be skipped over, and if you want to make a change to an effect or undo a cut, it's usually pretty easy.
This sort of real-time processing does require more computer power, and the more processing that is applied, the greater the latency effect during playback. That said, most modern computers have the capacity to handle such processing with minimal side-effects.
An example if a non-destructive DAW is Avid Pro Tools.
Paid vs. Free
There are some excellent free Audio Editors available, such as Audacity, as well as free versions of paid for Editors like Studio One Prime.
The "free" free editors are only limited by the fact that they are made and sustained at no cost - so if the developers of Audacity decide to stop supporting it, it could disappear (unlikely, given it's huge community of users).
The "free" paid editors will have fewer features and capabilities than their paid-for versions, but are still very capable and in my opinion good enough for podcasting unless you really want the bells and whistles. A downside might be less tech support from the developers.
Paid for editors vary in their abilities, from one brand to the next, and even between different versions, for example Hindenburg Journalist and Hindenburg Journalist Pro - the basic version doesn't offer multi-track recording and has fewer processing features.
Some of the most popular daws
Other DAWs include: Studio One (see above), Mixcraft, Ardour, Cubase, Ableton Live, and more.
All of these audio editors will handle podcast recording, editing, and mixing. The best one is the one that works best for you and meets your needs.
I briefly mentioned Plugins above. If you're wondering, "What is a plugin?" they can be thought of as add-ons that give different processing functions to a piece of software.
All audio editors come with their own plugins which will apply EQ, compression, gating, and other various effect processes to the audio.
The effect is either applied immediately (destructively) or in real-time (non-destructively).
Aside from the stock plugins that come with the DAW, there are many third party plugins available. These come in different formats and may not be compatible with some DAWs.
Some of the formats include VST (compatible with most DAWs), AU (compatible with most Apple Mac DAWs), AAX (Pro Tools' own format).
Thanks for reading!
In this post I'll be taking a look at Portable Recording Setups - what might suit your needs as a wandering Podcaster.
Portable Digital Recorders
There are many brands of Portable Digital Recorders with various models out there - Tascam, Zoom, Roland, Sony, Marantz to name a few... which you get will depend on your budget and the features you need.
All digital recorders (that I know of) have a built in mic, many have a stereo pair. The built in mics work well for general use, but are limited by being attached to the body of the device. If you handle or move the recorder around while recording you'll get some movement noise issues, and if you place the recorder on a table, it'll be susceptible to bumps and variations in loudness as it sits still on the table while you and your guest move around it.
Most digital recorders will have an external mic input that you can plug a handheld mic into - usually a couple of XLR or more, but some might just have a single 3.5mm line-in connection. If the device only has one mic input, you at least can hold that mic and move it back and forth between you and your guest, reporter-style, or have the guest speak into the handheld mic and you talk into the built-in mic; if the device has more than one input, you can have more mics and get better separation of sound between the voices. The Zoom H6 with an add-on attachment can record up to 6 mics.
Digital recorders will record and save the audio file to an SD card, and may also have a USB connection so that you can plug the device into a computer and directly transfer the audio files from the device to the computer.
Some recorders can also be used as USB microphones. The Zoom H4n, for example, can be connected to a computer via it's USB cable and will be recognised by most recording software as a stereo USB mic.
Yes, that's right. Your smartphone can be used as a digital recorder!
There are many microphone attachments for the various smartphones out there, which will at the very least improve the quality of the recording over the phone's built-in mic.
Obviously there will be hardware limitations, but if ultra-convenience is top of your list have a look at Røde's SmartLav+, the Saramonic Smart Mixer, or Shure MV88/A. These are just a few, so have a look see at what works with your smartphone best.
Some of the attachments come with their own app, but otherwise there are many recording apps - too many to mention here. Free apps might only offer lossy recording formats (like MP3), or limited recording times; while paid for apps will have more features, formats etc, even basic editing capabilities.
If you do choose to go this route, then maybe get a good SD card for your phone to store the recordings on.
Here are some items that will help make your roaming recording setup a breeze...
A Blanket or Felt Table-Cloth to place over the table you sit at in order to reduce early reflections (acoustics) and also dampen bumps.
Thanks for Reading!
I'm Adam an Audio Editor & Sound Designer, with over 11 years working experience in the realms of Audio Engineering. I currently live in Cape Town, South Africa, with too many cats and dogs.