With so many podcasts competing for listeners’ time, having a badly recorded podcast will keep you from gaining the listenership you want and need to stay in the game. Investing time and money into building a recording studio space will make sure your recordings are clearer with less background noise and feedback.
Essential steps in setting up a quality bedroom recording studio include finding the right space in your home that will be able to be acoustically treated or soundproofed. Things as simple as picking a room away from the walking paths of your family members or one that is upstream from sounds coming from neighbors will help a lot. The right equipment for the job will also ensure that the quality of the audio once recorded is able to be adjusted for peak sound.
Picking the Right Bedroom
Designing your studio the right way will make sure that you are organized and have a setup that works for the type of recording you’ll be making. Selecting the right space is very important here. If you do not have an extra room to build out a recording studio, a bedroom serves as a great space for making recordings.
With that being said, you want enough space that is conducive to the type of podcast you’re making. Think about the amount of space you need for however many hosts or guests you plan to bring on. Will there be enough room for them? Do you have enough room for a table and chairs, as well as the recording equipment you’ll be bringing in? If not, you may need to shift things around or pick another space.
Another important factor to consider is everyday noise coming from inside and outside the space. Is there a lot of foot traffic above or next to the room? Are there birds right outside the window? Picking a room that is out of the way from noise where the rest of your home’s inhabitants tend to be will save you lots of headaches in the future.
Surfaces and Reverbs
Above all else, the space you record in should limit the amount of unwanted noise. Picking a space with hard surfaces such as a kitchen or bathroom will increase these sounds and keep you from producing a clear recording. Places like bedrooms where there are lots of soft surfaces – a bed, curtains, and clothing in the closet – will absorb sound and keep sounds from bouncing off hard surfaces.
With that being said, having a hard floor, such as tile, hard wood, or concrete, is ideal for recording. Though carpeting may absorb high frequencies, it does not affect the low frequencies, which are the ones to worry about in recording.
The walls and ceiling are also important things to look at. Though most homes come with parallel walls and low ceilings, the best option for recording is a room with high ceilings and asymmetrical walls. This helps to improve acoustics and decrease reverberation, or reverb. Reverberation is basically the persistence of sound, or an echo after the sound is made. Parallel walls help sounds to bounce off of surfaces which keeps the reverberation going and producing echoes that destroy your audio quality. That’s why you want to “confuse” the sound by keeping it harder for them to bounce off parallel spaces.
A simple desk or table works, as long as you place it to the side of a room and not directly in the center of the room.
Dimensions and Echoes
In order to keep echoes from forming, you’ll want to look for a room with high ceilings and avoid square, parallel spaces. A large, rectangular room with high ceilings and soft spaces will help you to record the best audio. Small rooms and spaces will increase reverberation and echoes and should be avoided.
Room Position and Ambient Noises
You’d be surprised once you start really listening to the sounds around you: how many ambient noises there are when you think it’s quiet. The noises coming from cars on the streets, your air conditioning, the fridge, and even neighbors who are quietly talking next door can all show up in your recordings.
Take a few moments to close your eyes and listen while you’re in the recording space to see how many of these sounds you hear. You’ll want to mitigate them by turning off unneeded electrical devices and soundproofing your windows, which we’ll get to in the next section.
So, you’ve selected a room that is a perfect (or as perfect as it’s going to get) spot for your home recording. There are still several steps you should take to ensure that the audio produced is clear and without any unwanted sounds. This involves soundproofing. You’ll want to enhance the performance of your studio by focusing on upgrading your flooring and walls to reduce external and internal noise.
Generally speaking, you want hard surfaces, or hard wood floors, as part of your studio. You may think that carpet helps to absorb noise, and thus is a good thing. That’s where you’d be wrong, for the most part. Though carpet does absorb high and medium frequency sounds, it reflects low frequencies, which makes carpeted rooms acoustically poor choices for your recording needs. The thin material that most carpets are made of is not conducive to the best sound. In order to best set up your studio, you’ll want to tear out any carpet that’s installed.
To avoid parallel, square spaces, you can set up your studio to enhance the acoustics. That’s where acoustic panels come in. These panels are made of absorptive material such as foam, glasswool, and rockwool. This helps to decrease the sound reflecting off the walls and ceilings. Once sounds hit these panels, the sounds become dissipated as heat, and therefore are absorbed and not a problem anymore. The thicker the material, the more it will help absorb low frequency sounds; thinner material will only help to reduce high frequency sounds.
Placing the panels in spots where sound is bouncing off and reflecting will help to absorb that sound and keep it from ruining your recordings. You’ll want to place these panels in the back of your recording setup, at the sides of the recording space, and between the speakers and your front wall. Even placing some acoustic panels in the corners will help eliminate some unwanted sound.
Bass traps are also good pieces of acoustic treatment to purchase. You can buy either porous or resonant absorbers. Porous absorbers are typically made from acoustic foam, rockwool, or fiberglass. They tame such things as flutter echo, speaker-boundary interference response, and room modes. They are effective at treating a range of frequencies, from low to high, and should be placed slightly off the wall to create the best trapping arrangement.
Resonant absorbers focus on the lower, bass frequencies, and should be placed against the wall where the pressure from sound waves colliding is the greatest. These absorbers come in two forms: Helmholtz resonators and Diaphragmatic absorbers. Together, these two types work to control the acoustics of the room. With more porous absorptions, you’ll be able to achieve a studio sound. Diaphragmatic absorbers will help you produce a more live, ambient sound.
If you’ve ever seen a movie about a recording artist, you’ve likely seen a vocal booth. Vocal booths are small, walled in booths that are lined with acoustic foam to keep out unwanted noises from the outside studio space. They are one-person spaces where a person can record their vocals separately to ensure that the best audio is produced. For podcast newbies, this is a large cost that may not make sense for your recordings. But it is an option for those who are looking to greatly improve vocal quality in their recordings and have the time and money to do so.
No matter the space you choose to record in, soundproofing the outside noises becomes a very important step to ensuring the recordings you produce are high quality. By using heavy curtains and drapes, you can help to eliminate these sounds greatly.
Listen to the space around you to determine any humming or soft noises that are coming from electrical devices. Turn off any elements that you don’t need to record your podcast. As far as other noises, such as other inhabitants moving about or talking, block any gaps in doorways to help shut these out, and ask kindly for these people to be quiet while you’re recording.
Choosing the right equipment to best record your audio is just as important as soundproofing and treating your studio space. The better the equipment is, the more you’ll be able to adjust your recordings to become exactly what you’re looking for.
Choosing between a laptop and desktop is really up to you. You may need the flexibility that a laptop affords, or want the heavy duty capabilities that a desktop can give. Regardless, having a solid laptop or computer to work with during the recording and editing phases of your podcast will help you greatly. To get the best bang for your buck, invest in a high performance computer that incorporates a 64-bit operating system. This will help you reduce any lag time from having a slow moving computer.
Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
A Digital Audio Workstation (or DAW) is essentially computer software that incorporates recording, mixing, and mastering your audio. If you’re new to the recording world, having a good DAW setup is crucial.
Though the better DAWs come with a hefty price tag, there are some that are free to use, including Audacity, Cakewalk, and GarageBand. These are good for beginners who don’t yet know how to record and mix audio, and maybe don’t have the money in place to move on to better, more expensive options.
Once you learn some skills from these cheap or free options, choosing a better DAW might be in the cards for you. The better options include FL Studio, Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, and Reaper. These offer better workflows and features that enhance the quality of your audio greatly.
Audio Interface/Sound Card
An audio interface is a medium between sound and your digital computer. The interface helps translate sound into digital data that can be then edited and mixed in your DAW setup. The inputs of an audio interface are the microphones or instruments that are plugged into the device. The outputs are typically your computer or speaker system. For a recording setup, this audio interface will primarily deal with your computer. Many audio interfaces come with a USB cable which makes them super easy to plug and play.
When choosing between audio interfaces, make sure that it will connect to your computer and input devices, such as microphones, before buying. The interface should have inputs and outputs that connect to the things you need it to. Some great interface options for those on a budget include the Behringer U-Phoria and the Peavey USB Audio Interface. Both involve simple setups; while the Behringer is compatible with popular software, the Peavey is great for portability in case you need to take your podcast on the road.
Before selecting a microphone for your recording, you need to know the two main types you can buy. Condenser microphones are made with a condenser capsule inside the piece that captures the smallest of noises. They are popular microphones for podcasts as they are more sensitive to sounds while avoiding lower frequency noises. They are not as plug and play, however, as other microphones, and require phantom power. You need a special XLR cable to carry the electricity to the microphones because of their active electric circuitry.
Dynamic mics are great when you are concerned with background noise, as they focus on sounds from the front of the mic and reject any sounds from the back. They are called cardioid microphones, which mean they capture sound that is directly in front of the capsule of the microphone. They are different than condenser mics in this way, as condensers are more sensitive and capture sounds that surround the mic.
For podcasts, condenser microphones are often the way to go. They pick up more details in sound and are appropriate for sound treated rooms with quiet spaces. With dynamic mics, you will tend to pick up a lot more background noise in your recording.
A recording setup is going to involve a lot of cords and cables going from your mics to your audio interfaces to your computer. Most audio interfaces these days have cables that hook directly from the interface to the computer. A condenser microphone will require phantom power that must be carried through a special XLR cable to your audio interface. Making sure you label and organize your cables will keep your studio space from becoming a mess.
Having high quality, durable microphone stands for your studio setup will keep your microphones from toppling over during recording sessions. You will need a stand for each microphone that you are recording from, though some microphones come with stands as part of their package. Types of stands include tripod stands, desktop stands, and overhead stands. Overhead stands are the priciest option and the more advanced to operate, but they are perhaps the best stands for podcasting, as you can push them away and pull them in as you record your vocals without much sound being produced.
Adding a pop filter to your microphone is a must-do, as these help limit the amount of unwanted sounds emanating from your speaking, such as plosive ‘p’ and ‘s’ sounds. These are relatively cheap items that most of the time come with the microphone packages you buy.
Pop filters help with eliminating the sounds that come from our mouth, including clicks and pops. As pop filters are made with nylon mesh and foam material, they help to filter out clicks and pops. However, no matter how many filtering devices you use, these cannot eliminate all unwanted mouth sounds, especially when you have dry mouth. Drinking a lot of water to eliminate dry mouth and also being mindful of how you’re breathing and articulating your words will go a long way to naturally filtering your mouth sounds. You can also help filter out unwanted sounds by talking to the side of a microphone or beneath it, as speaking directly into it will ensure more of these unwanted sounds get through.
Any good studio setup will require all people involved to wear headphones during recording sessions. This helps those who are both taking care of the recordings and those who are speaking limit unwanted noise, as they’ll be able to hear themselves and others better. Choosing a pair of headphones that seal tightly around your ears will keep out the sound from traveling to the microphone. You also want to make sure they are comfortable on the ears for long recording sessions. Some of the best studio style headphones include the Audio Technica ATH-M50X and the Sennheiser HD 650. These all come with great cupping headphones that are essential for limiting sounds emanating from the headphones.
Related: Why Podcasters Wear Headphones
In order to best hear your audio recordings and determine its level of quality, you want to have some studio monitors in your studio space. These may not be critical to producing podcasts, but if you want the audio quality to be at its best, having studio monitors ensures this.
Studio monitors are basically speakers that have a flat frequency response which allows you to listen to your recordings exactly as they are, with no changes produced from other listening devices like speakers or headphones. For new podcasters, choosing near field monitors is your best bet, as they are cheaper and more suited to podcasting.
As a general rule of thumb, small to medium sized rooms need monitors with 5 to 6-inch drivers; larger rooms over 12′ by 15′ require a 6.5 to 8-inch driver. Sizes above these are not recommended for first-time recorders as they are considerably more difficult to adjust for the right sound.
Make sure that you turn these monitors off when not in use and recording to keep any sounds from emanating from them.
Whether you are recording one person or several for your podcast, knowing the right ways of setting up and treating your studio will keep you from dealing with audio issues in recordings later.
- Picking the right room, with few if any windows, high ceilings, and asymmetrical walls, will help you to limit echo and reverb so that your audio sounds better.
- Listening in for ambient noises coming from electrical devices or from outside sources such as cars on the road will help you mitigate the noises by either turning them off or shutting them out.
- Acoustic treatment helps you to soundproof your recording space by adding in acoustic panels where needed and placing curtains and drapes by windows to keep out unwanted sounds. Things such as bass traps allow for porous and diaphragmatic absorption of sound that will be essential in eliminating all frequencies of sound that reduce the quality of your recordings.
Just as essential to your recording studio is your equipment.
- A high-performing, quality laptop or computer along with a great DAW software system will help you produce quality audio without the headaches later.
- When choosing between condenser microphones and dynamic microphones, remember to consider the sensitivity of each. While condenser microphones pick up more subtle sounds, dynamic mics limit background noise. Also, condenser mics require phantom power through an XLR cable, one of several cable types you may come across during your recording journey.
- Audio interfaces translate analog sound into digital sound which allows for digital manipulation via your computer if you need to edit or mix sounds to produce your podcast.
- Pop filters and headphones help to limit the sounds we make when speaking, and studio monitors will help you to listen closely to any sounds you didn’t catch while recording.
- During the recording, simple steps you take yourself can eliminate speaking sounds as well, such as drinking plenty of water before and during the recording – though quietly – and being aware of and articulating your speech wisely to suit the sensitivity of the microphones you’ve chosen.
- Mic stands help vocalists to keep their microphones steady as they speak, which is another great way to keep unwanted noise out.
No matter how much money or time you spend, setting up your bedroom space for recording podcasts is a good idea. Even just following some of the above steps will help you improve your home studio. Simply being aware of the sounds in and around your recording space will help you to greatly improve the audio, as long as you then take steps to mitigate them.
As you add more to your studio to enhance the audio, you will soon learn industry standard techniques that the most professional recording studios use. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to compete with the quality of the most seasoned of podcasts.