One of the great benefits of being located in a music center like Nashville is access to some very talented audio engineers, many of whom have transitioned from music to podcasting.
Marcus dePaula of Me Only Louder is one of those engineers.
Marcus started working in audio as a live engineer and road manager, amplifying artists’ live performances through large sound systems for thousands of people to hear. Today, he works with businesses and independent creatives to send their messages to thousands of people via podcasts. In addition to his podcast production work for others, he is co-host of the podcast, Book Marketing Simplified, with his wife, Jenn Hanson-dePaula of Mixtus Media.
I asked Marcus about some simple and easy things podcasters of all levels can do to make their podcasts sound better. I also got his thoughts on where to start when it comes to buying great podcast equipment as well as what to do when your budget increases.
What is the most important (highest-leverage) thing podcasters can do to make their podcasts sound better right now?
The most important thing podcasters can do to get great audio is getting close to their microphones! Get your microphone right in front of your mouth, so you capture more of what you want (your voice) and less of what you don’t (room echo or ambient noise).
What's the most common thing that podcasters do to screw up their sound?
This relates to the previous question… The most common problem I hear on podcasts is thin, echoey, distant voices.
If you have a dynamic microphone, like a Samson Q2U or Shure SM7B, it is made to be right on it. I almost touch the microphone to my lips, making sure I am using an adequate windscreen and/or pop filter to also prevent plosives. Just make sure you adjust your preamp gain accordingly so you don’t get distortion from clipping!
What makes a great podcast when it comes to audio quality?
Having a good understanding of how your audio equipment works so you can get the best sound possible is of utmost importance no matter what type of gear you have.
If you know what you’re doing and you have the best, most reliable audio equipment you can buy, your podcast will be one of the best sounding shows out there.
If you need to learn about audio, don’t just watch random YouTube videos. Get tips directly from professionals (like me) that have podcasts you know sound great. There are a lot of hacks out there that offer advice that can get novices into big trouble. Don’t believe everything you read/watch online about audio recording, editing, and mixing
What's one piece of recording equipment you can't live without? Why?
I really - I mean REALLY love my Sound Devices MixPre-6 II. It’s rock solid and has never failed me yet (knock on wood). The mic preamps make my Shure SM7B microphones sound absolutely fantastic, and with gain for days without needing a Cloudlifter or FetHead to boost their low signal. I also love how I never have to worry about clipping or distortion since it has both analog limiters and I can record at 32-bit float (which is impossible to make recordings clip). In addition, it allows me to record my computer’s audio when running Cleanfeed.net recording sessions with guests (and also hosts) in different locations.
If all of the podcast subjects are in the room with me, I don’t need a computer at all to record. Since it’s a dedicated professional digital multitrack recorder, which many TV and film productions also rely on all over the world, I don’t have to worry about having any problems with glitches during the recording (as long as I’m using their tested and approved SD cards with it).
What's one piece of editing equipment you can't live without? Why?
Oh man - I have to pick just one thing? I guess that would be my Contour ShuttlePRO v2, which I use for my left hand while editing to control zoom, scroll, undo/redo, varispeed, select to end, and delete - all the essential commands I need for editing in Logic Pro X, Adobe Audition, and iZotope RX7.
Wait - probably more important is what I use to listen as I edit and mix: my new Ultimate Ears UE18+ custom in-ear monitors, which sound amazingly accurate in the full-frequency range, and allow me to work all day comfortably since they are custom molded to my ears. My wife also likes them so she doesn’t have to hear my noise in our shared home office/studio.
If you only had $100 to invest in podcasting gear, what would you get and why?
I would get a Samson Q2U plus a pair of decent yet affordable closed-back headphones like the Tascam TH-MX2. The Samson Q2U is hands down the best microphone for recording speech under $100, and sounds better than many mics three times the price. And since it has both XLR and USB connections, it’s a fantastic value that I can also use with my nice audio interface or my MixPre-6 II, which makes it sound even better. It also has the lowest handling noise of any mic in that price range, and it comes with both a windscreen and a tallish (yet somewhat unstable) folding desktop stand along with an XLR mic cable and a USB cable. Nothing else comes close to the value for just $59!
If you had $1000 to invest in podcasting gear, what would you get and why?
From all the mics I’ve tried specifically for podcasting, I like the $400 Shure SM7B the best. Not only does it sound great for speech with the high boost filter on and low cut off, but its form factor is better than other professional dynamic broadcast mics like the EV RE20, Audio Technica BP40, or the Heil PR40 since it has an integrated yoke and a best-in-class internal shock mount and double windscreen. The only tradeoff is that it needs a ton of gain, which forces you to use it with a decent preamp - which is a good thing.
The latest $200 entry-level USB audio interfaces have gotten so good at offering plenty of clean gain without any hiss and great sounding analog to digital converter chips. Probably the best value USB audio interface for the money in my book would be the brand new Solid State Logic SSL2+.
Get a good/comfortable pair of professional studio mixing headphones like the Audio Technica ATH-M50x, Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro, or Sony MDR-7506 and you’ve got the perfect podcasting and VoiceOver setup.