Can you hear me now?
November 28, 2017 6:46 PM   Subscribe

How do some podcasts get such good audio from call-in guests?

I listen to a lot of podcasts now. And one of the biggest distinguishing characteristics of the more successful podcasts is great audio recording. One of the most difficult audios to record is the call-in guest. Yet I listen to some podcasts with call-in guests that sound as if they are in the studio. An excellent example is this conversation with Elizabeth Warren on Pod Save America.

How is that possible? Are calls made and recorded using land lines? What the secret to great (phoned in) audio recording for podcasts?
posted by Mike Mongo to Technology (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
As I understand it, each end of the conversation is recorded separately. The call-in guest records the audio from their side of the Skype/whatever call and sends the file to the producer, to be edited-in with the host-side recording. Thus producing a finished podcast with no lag, stutter, drop-outs, etc.
posted by mumkin at 7:04 PM on November 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

They’re not. Sounds to me like they’re doing a double ended—both sides record their audio locally, then they’re edited together.

You can hear this in the one cohost’s audio—it’s definitely got some EQ on it, but it sounds tinny still. Definitely recorded directly from Skype or something.
posted by Automocar at 7:04 PM on November 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

It is hard to say definitely for every podcast but the best ones have people recording their half of the conversation separately and then the audio engineer combines them together. I've heard this setup referred to as Mix Minus but perhaps someone more knowledgeable can shed details.
posted by mmascolino at 7:05 PM on November 28, 2017

My understanding is a lot use Skype, with each person recording only their own audio, using quality equipment. Then the separate tracks are edited together into a single podcast with some expert editing. As i understand it this is how ATP does it (all 3 hosts are in different cities) but Marco Arment is an audiophile, podcast audio perfectionist and basically insists all three have good equipment and he does the editing well with I presume top of the line tools. For a one off interview i can totally see him mailing his guest an approved microphone :)
posted by cgg at 7:11 PM on November 28, 2017

Yes, you can listen to ATP (Accidental Tech Podcast) live as they record on Wednesday nights, and hear how the podcast would sound if they just used the Skype audio. Then download the final product a day or two later, and hear how much better it sounds after Marco has combined and edited the three discrete recordings into the published show.
posted by good in a vacuum at 7:50 PM on November 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

In many cases I think it's Skype or Google Voice -- some sort of direct line. I've been a guest on podcasts and radio shows and they've always been happy with how it sounds and have said it sounds clear. Once I tried my cell and I suggested we do Skype instead and they were like, "Oh, this is way better." That's what this Elizabeth Warren interview you linked sounds like to me.

It's also possible for guests to use local radio stations (and their fancy equipment) and have that sent to where ever the host is. I did an interview for the BBC and they said they prefer to have their American guests go to local NPR stations, back when they had an agreement for that sort of thing, because that gives them the best sound. I actually recorded myself on my computer and sent them the file and they used that and, I presume, spliced it together with the audio on their end. But in the many guest spots I've done on podcasts and radio, that's the only time I did it that way. Otherwise it's always Skype.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:58 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I did an interview on a podcast related to my field and they actually shipped me a huge microphone (and a shipping label to send it back). I recorded my audio locally and sent it to them, and stitched mine and theirs together!
posted by caitcadieux at 8:30 PM on November 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Some radio shows (and I assume podcasts) use Report-IT to record simultaneous high quality audio. I assume there are other apps that can do this, too.
posted by cushie at 8:49 PM on November 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Mr. Moonlight said several of the podcasts he listens to use Discord.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 6:04 AM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

I used to use Garage Band and route the audio from Skype directly into it. That's highly dependent on a good connection though. Ryan Haupt of the podcast Science Sort Of recommends this software which sends a link to your interviewee/guest and records separate tracks on each person's machine. It's not cheap but there's a discount code in the first link. A good quality mic, as others have pointed out, is also key.
posted by runcibleshaw at 1:27 PM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I produce a magazine, music and arts radio show/podcast and my lovely Art Histiographer in the UK records his half of our skype chats on on a decent microphone into Audacity and then Dropboxes me the mp3 audio file which I edit together with my audio to get a product which sounds a lot like we're both in the same studio.
I always make sure to record the Skype audio too as a backup in case of button pressing problems.
posted by merocet at 1:52 PM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

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