Setting up your recording space

As important as — in some cases, more important than — the hardware and software you use, is the space you record in.

Where to record

Find a room in your home or office that you can dedicate to recording in. Ideally you want to setup your equipment and treat the room once, so you’re not moving things around constantly and causing disruption. If space is a premium, you might want to factor that into your equipment purchasing decisions.

All you need for the bare minimum setup is a desk to place your microphone on. We covered stands, boom arms and shock mounts in a previous section, so make sure you’ve got enough space to fit your equipment, as well as anything you might use to read or take notes.

A smartphone or a tablet is fine for reading notes, but if you can, put it on airplane mode, as radio frequencies from your phone will get picked up by your recording equipment.

About reverb

When you speak, the sound of your voice is carried via sound waves to nearby ears and microphones. When sound waves hit solid objects, they bounce off, losing a little energy and then heading back in the opposite direction until they lose energy completely. Reverberation (reverb) is the effect of sound waves bouncing back off hard surfaces and into our ears or into a microphone. As listeners, we prefer to hear as little reverb as possible, as it makes the sound feel warmer, and closer to us, so as podcasters, our job is to setup our recording environment to reduce reverb as much as we can.

If you remember the discussion on dynamic vs condenser mics, you might recall that dynamic mics are better at noise rejection. That means they pick up fewer of the sound waves that have bounced back off solid surfaces. So if you’re recording in a room with a lot of hard surfaces and you can’t change how the room is setup — or you’re going to be recording in lots of different locations — a dynamic mic is a better choice.

Your choice of mic, and how close you are to it will dramatically affect how much reverb is picked up. We’ll cover mic technique later, but a good rule of thumb is to be as close to the mic as you can be.

Dampening sound

Sound dampening, deadening or baffling is the practise of adjusting your recording space to minimise unwanted noise, like reverb.

Rooms with soft furnishings (carpets, rugs, curtains, bedding) absorb sound waves much better than rooms with bare walls, wooden floors, metal blinds and so on. That’s because the energy from sound waves gets trapped in the soft fabric, so far less of it make it back out to the listener. You can buy squares of acoustic foam and stick it to your walls, which will help trap some of those sound waves. If you do so, take care to place the foam on the opposite wall from where you’re speaking, and roughly at eye level, since sound travels in a straight line. You don’t need to cover your entire room or even a whole wall with it; just enough to trap the sound waves that travel from your mouth to the opposite wall.

If you’ve got a choice as to where to record within your room, a corner is a good place to setup, as there’s less opportunity for sound to bounce around areas you don’t want it.

Many podcasters and professional voice artists have recorded in linen closets or even under duvets, as these are perfect for sound dampening. Being under a duvet isn’t always practical, but the more soft surfaces you can surround yourself with, the better your audio will sound.

Pre-record prep

Put any nearby devices into do-not-disturb mode, close the door, and if you share a space with someone else, consider hanging something on the outer door handle, or sticking a note to the door, to let others know you’re recording, and you shouldn’t be disturbed.

Bring a drink with you, but take care not to make too much noise if you’re picking it up and putting it down a lot. We’ll cover drink options in a later section, but if in doubt, stick with water.

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