Mixing podcasts - How to get great sounding voice
In this blog post, we will take a closer look on how to mix your recorded voice for the purpose of a podcast.
This guideline directly follows our recent blog post Tips for recording and mixing podcasts pt.1. Please be sure to check out the part one, too.
Now, let't get to the mixing tips theirself:
- Clean up your session or a project. This may seem trivial, but you want to start mixing in a clean project. You want to see only the tracks you want to use and not the other unwanted "mess", such as test tracks and so on.
- Create a hierarchy - bus the tracks. This will come handy in latter stages of mixing. Send all voice tracks (different speakers) to a common bus, or in different words a submix. Especially if you are using music tracks in the podcast as well. In this case, work on the spoken word bus and the music bus separately.
- Do your editing. There may be parts you want to leave out or edit. Do it first and then mix the compiled tracks. If needed, cut out or mute extremely distracting noises or use some kind of noise eliminating plug-in or a gate. But remember, there is nothing bad on a natural low level non-disturbing room sound. It can give your podcast a context and a character.
- Level out your tracks. Listen and/or look at your tracks and hear/see, where they are louder or quiter. This will happen inevitably. Either across different parts of the discussion, or from one speaker to another. You want every track to be at approximately the same loudness level. So the listener won't be distracted. You can do this by various ways. Manually, by adjusting DAW's post input gain of certain parts, or semi-automatically by creating the post or pre volume automation envelope. Or by using some type of a gain or volume levelling plug-in. (But beware, this adjustment may affect the reactivity of your noise reduction plug-ins, depending on the particular order of your signal flow and everyone's setup.)
- Equalize each voice track. Every voice is different and every speaker will need its own attention regarding mixing their unique voice. But there are some common frequency areas, you can focus on. We have mentioned some of them in our recent blog post Surgical face masks and mixing speech. Since you are not mixing music, you would probably get away with not high-passing your tracks. But it is still a good idea to listen to each track and set the high-pass filter at 80 or up to 150 Hz just for clearance, depending on the actual speaker. Move the frequency parameter slowly from 20 Hz up and stop when you will start hearing a loss in bass. Hi-pass the track slightly below that point. Next possible problem can be found from 200 to 500 Hz. This is a common area, where you will find a lot of "mud" in the recorded vocal track. You can either notch it down or use a negative low-shelf filter here. Somewhere between 1000-3000 Hz again depending on the speaker, you can probably find and boost the articulation point of one's voice. But keep it subtle, so the voice won't start sounding too nasally or lo-fi. Last but not least, 3000 Hz and higher is a good place for introducing some high-shelf boost. This is useful for bringing the imaginary presence of a speaker closer to the listener and for adding overall crispness to the voice.
- Compress and saturate each track. There are many great compression and saturation plug-ins out there, and there are multiple Audified tools for efficient compression and pleasant analog like saturation, too. "Wink wink" ;) ...When working with a spoken word, you do not need to compress the tracks a lot, but it is still a great step to do for levelling the percieved dynamics and punch of the voice. Use the compressor carefully, but effectively. We would advise to target a gain reduction about -3 to -5 dB on each track, with a somewhat mild ratio. Ideal attack and release of the compressor can be dependant on many things, but in general a quicker attack and a slower release should work fine on a spoken word. Saturation can help greatly with bringing up a character of the voice and making it sound more fresh, crispy and urgent. Particularly the tube saturation works miracles, but remember to use it with taste. You don't want to over-distort your vocal tracks and make them sound like an old FM radio. Or do you? :)
- Mastering your podcast. It is a good idea to throw a very slight compressor on the spoken word bus as a final touch. It will blend the natural room sound together, and it will give you more of a realistic feeling of speakers being in the same space. At this stage, you can add a tiny bit of a room reverb as well (before the compression) and if needed, you can introduce a slight overall EQ. Then you may try to use a limiter on the master bus and give your podcast a final volume push, too. But this could be tricky, so be careful. Especially when the podcast includes previously mastered music tracks. Do not use any type of limiting or compression on these.
- Render / export your master stereo bus track. It is important to do this with care, and choose the appropriate format and settings needed to work properly with your prefered podcast service.
So this is it. Here are our tips for recording and mixing your podcast releases. Hope this guide will help you to get the most professional results possible.
Take care, and stay healthy.