How to make NPR-quality podcasts at home

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Preparing your recording space

Believe it or not, the acoustics of your recording space are probably even more important to the sound of your podcast than your mic and preamp. You can dramatically improve recordings made in your kitchen, den, or closet by improving the acoustics of the space.

A small number of well-placed foam panels can improve the sound of your recordings significantly.

Ideally, the space in which you record should be a dead space—that is, a space where most of the sound made by your mouth is caught by the microphone in front of you, and the rest is absorbed, not reflected, by the surfaces around you.

You can cover the hard surfaces in your space with foam tiles like Auralex to prevent them from deflecting sound. With $100 worth of this stuff, I was able to cover most of the walls above and around my microphone. Even if you don’t have enough foam to completely eliminate echo, it’s not hard to reduce it to acceptable levels.

Bass traps can be placed in the corners of the room to help absorb sound and reduce echo.

Much of the echo that may be heard on a recording comes from the walls closest to the microphone. This echo can be defeated by placing the foam tiles a couple of feet above and below microphone level on the walls at the sides and in front of the mic. Some podcasters (and singers) have had great success by buying or building a concave foam panel that curves around the back of the mic at a distance of about a foot. This very quickly absorbs much of the sound coming from your mouth, and prevents it from bouncing back at the mic, causing echo.

The corners of the your space are particularly problematic for acoustics. Sound waves naturally move toward the corners of a room and can bounce off in all directions. The answer is something called a “bass trap”—a wedge-shaped piece of foam that effectively fills in the corner of a room and helps absorb the sound.

Even just one piece of acoustic foam around the back of your mic can significantly reduce echo.

Foam is just one approach to deadening a space. Lots of other materials and methods exist—far too many for this article. You can read lots more about room acoustics and sound isolation here.

As a final note, YouTube videos can be your best friend if you get stuck and don’t know how to do something. Any problem you run into will probably have been encountered by someone else before you. You can find all kinds of hands-on gear reviews and how-to guides to help you with everything from microphone selection to speaking style to recording software tips and tricks.

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