Making your voice sound great for podcasting

“You have such a great radio voice” I was told often during my stint in live radio, and now that I’m podcasting “you have such a great voice for podcasting.” But here’s my secret… I cheat! I use technology that enhances my voice and a few vocal tricks that make my show sound polished. Because I get this comment often, I figured it was time to tell you how to make your voice sound better while podcasting.

I partially credit my audio quality for the growth of The Justin Brady Show. The cheaper your audio quality, the less authoritative your show sounds. For the same reason you dress well for an interview, you should “dress” your voice if you want to be taken seriously. Let’s go!

How to make your voice sound better while podcasting

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While it’s true genetics play a role in the sound of your voice (duh) you can enhance the listen-ability of your voice by leaps and bounds. To make your voice sound better while podcasting, I’ll cover a few basic requirements. Purchase a great mic, compress your audio, treat your room, and use software to further enhance the listening experience. You might even consider utilizing a vocal coach—they’re surprisingly effective at helping train your voice.

If you want to start a company podcast, or have questions on starting your own show, media is still entertainment at the end of the day. The slightest thing can turn your audience off, losing you listeners or preventing them from signing up at all. If you’d like to make your voice sound better while podcasting, there are several steps you can take.

Train your voice to enhance podcast audio

Do not skip this. Vocal training is the most often overlooked, and most important aspect of incredible podcast audio. To make your voice sound better while podcasting, there are lots of technical things you can do, but you should take your voice seriously. Nervous ticks, talking in your proper register, smacking your lips, and managing vocal fry are important—these things can drive listeners crazy.

You can start today by simply listening and critiquing your own recordings. Are you breathing too heavily? Are you smacking your lips? Can you hear crackling sounds from a dry mouth? Are your plosives causing pops in the microphone? You can fix all of this by taking paper notes as you listen to the full length of your show. Do this for every show, no exceptions. You will notice the act of writing down corrections, aids in your ability to manage those errors in real-time. If you have vocal quality issues or need additional help, get voice lessons!

I’m married to a vocal coach, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. You can reach out to your local music university and get recommendations on vocal coaches. They’ll help you speak in your proper register (some people speak unnaturally high or low) and they’ll help cure you of bad habits. Many vocal coaches are quite affordable.

Use a great microphone to enhance podcast audio

Using a high-quality microphone really does make your voice sound better while podcasting. When starting out, I used a Yeti Blue USB microphone. For $100 it was the perfect balance of quality and cost. It served its purpose well, but I eventually upgraded.

Today, I use a Heil PR40, but there are other great options. During radio, I was introduced to the ElectroVoice RE20, and honestly, I prefer it—or its upgraded sibling the RE320—over my current setup. The most popular microphone you see is the Shure SM7b, most likely because it’s the microphone Joe Rogan uses. All are great choices.

The benefit of a great microphone comes down to its sensitivity and ability to “pull” audio from your voice. In the case of the Heil PR40, it pulls the low resonate frequencies out of my voice, that other microphones completely miss. This is one reason guests and listeners think I have a great voice; because they’re hearing deeper frequencies and tones that are typically lost on the phone, or even in person.

Microphones, like all tech, have a wide price range. In my own opinion, over the $500 range, only audiophiles and audio engineers will notice the difference. Heck, most listeners probably don’t even hear the difference between my first show and my most recent show. I will caution you, before dropping the cash, be certain if you will stick with podcasting.

But the Yeti Microphone
Buy the Heil PR40 microphone
Buy the SM7b microphone

How do you EQ your voice for podcasting?

If you’re using a soundboard, you likely have EQ settings. You should be adjusting your EQ (equalizer) settings to make your voice sound natural and clear, not to change your voice. Also, don’t stop at EQ, but use compression and gate-settings.

I have my on-board compressor dial turned all the way up (COMP) and then heavily compress my sound in Adobe Audition as well. These settings make it sounds as if you are listening to me in a very quiet private room, and I’m talking right next to you in a very pleasing volume to your ear.

To EQ your voice for podcasting, the goal is to sound natural and audible, able to cut through the noise your listeners may be experiencing, like road noise or the train. But at the same time, you shouldn’t be loud, ear-piercing and irritating. Compression and gating can help.

Uncompressed audio VS compressed audio.

What does audio compression do?

In simple terms, compression brings down the high volume spikes and increases the low, typically inaudible, parts of your voice. It balances everything and makes listening easy. If you’re listening to a podcast in the car and notice you have to keep adjusting volume, it’s likely the producer didn’t compress the file.

To make your voice sound better while podcasting, this is an easy hack. To describe this visually, compression takes an audio wave and flattens it. Typically, the low resonate parts of your voice are lost, but if you use compression those beautiful lows in your voice aren’t lost, but are amplified.

Just a quick note, be careful compressing in noisy environments or untreated rooms. More on that later.

Should I be using AutoGate?

Adobe audution settings to make your voice sound better in recording
Adobe audition settings to make your voice sound better in recording

Using an audio gate (or AutoGate) is also a simple way to increase your audio quality by chopping out distracting background noise, like breathing. Anything below a decibel level you set, is automatically removed from the audio if you know how to set it correctly.

For my shows, I run all my audio through a process in Adobe Audition in “Effects » Amplitude & Compression » Dynamics.” It automatically gates, compresses and refines my audio in a few seconds. You can see the settings to the right.

After recording with on-board compression, and full treatment and processing in post, the final audio clip in the video demo below is what the result is.

How to treat soundproof (treat) your room for podcasting

Sound treating your room, sometimes incorrectly referred to as “soundproofing,” is another often overlooked way to make your voice sound better while podcasting. This might strike you as odd. Most believe the purpose of treating a room is to eliminate background noise, but cleaner audio is a benefit too.

When sound treating a room, audio engineers have two goals: Eliminate noise from the outside and eliminate echo within the room itself. Eliminating sound from the outside is difficult and can be expensive. You can move into a basement or to an interior room of a building, but if you have the budget, you can pay to professionally soundproof. Anyone can reduce echo in their recording room.

You can buy professional sound blankets, OR buy the same product in a different market category. They don’t look as nice, but I clamped moving blankets to my ceiling, covering all hard surfaces. It works like a dream. Treating a room makes editing easier because echo and audio bounce is removed, and therefore when cutting segments of audio, there are no audio remnants.

I also encourage treating the room when using compression. Because a compressor brings “up” the volume of sounds, it will also amplify any subtle echo of your voice, your HVAC system, or even a computer fan running in the background. You can hear this on remote radio segments. When hosts stop talking, you may notice a slow amplification of background noise.

Chat services like Skype, Zoom or Microsoft teams also use a virtual form of compression. Have your friend run a noisy fan or air conditioner, and tell them to stop speaking. You’ll notice the background sounds slowly increase because many of these systems use a basic form of compression to help level audio volume.

Listen to side-by-side comparisons of audio settings and equipment.

Final Notes: Make your voice sound great for podcasting

If you take these tips to heart, you will easily make your voice sound better while podcasting. The demo above is a great example of what various levels of production can sound like.

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