How to Record Podcasts Remotely
It’s a great luxury as a host to be able to meet your guest, chat for a few minutes in person, sit down at the same table, and record your podcast together. Unfortunately, even at the best of times this isn’t always practical.
Recording remotely is now an essential skill that every podcaster should have in their toolkit.
But, you may be asking yourself, "How do I record a podcast remotely?"
What if you’ve never recorded a podcast remotely before? Or, you want to improve the quality of your remote recordings but aren’t sure how to do it?
In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about getting a great sounding interview when you can’t be in the same room as your guest or co-host.
The idea of recording a remote interview can seem daunting, especially if you haven’t done it before. But fear of the unknown shouldn’t stop you from recording high-quality audio.
Any good podcaster knows that the best quality audio usually
comes from recording alongside your guest, in the same room. However, that’s
not always possible.
The good news is that many of your favorite podcasts include interviews that were recorded with the host and guest miles apart. With a few tools and techniques, and good editing, a well recorded remote interview can be indistinguishable from one recorded in the flesh. Or at the very least, good enough to make a professional sounding show.
We’re going to walk you through what works best for our clients to get consistently good sounding podcast interviews that you can take into your next recording session.
Why Record a Podcast Remotely?
We know that recording a podcast remotely isn't ideal. There's a reason why many podcasters love co-hosting and interviewing guests in a shared area such as a studio. Not only do you have access to the same recording equipment, but there's also less scope for technical difficulties. In-person interviews are also more effective at drawing out deeper conversations and keeping things flowing -which often garners the best content.
When it comes to the technical side of podcasting, face-to-face interviewing means you're not relying on internet connections, recording environments, or equipment (and whether your guest knows how to use it.)
But, with all that in mind, there are some great reasons for recording a podcast remotely:
- Your guest is in a different country or location
- Record long-distance and global guests for interviews
- Easily record multiple people with minimal setup
- Go beyond just audio and capture a video podcast from the remote call
Remote Podcast Equipment Checklist
If you’re striving to create the most professional-sounding podcast possible getting the right equipment is essential. Your setup (and your guest’s) should strive to match your podcast goals. Ensure that your guest is made aware of these suggestions before it’s time to record so they have a chance to prepare. Below is a list of basic equipment any podcaster and guests, needs to record remotely:
First, invest in a microphone. The two main class of microphones are:
Dynamic Microphones and Condenser Microphones.
- Dynamic Microphones are ideal for most podcasters and especially their guests, as they don’t pick up a lot of background noise. The Samson Q2U is a great example of a dynamic microphone.
- Condenser microphones are great at picking up sounds occurring in or near the microphone. If you or your guest is in a quiet studio you can get high-end audio. However, in the wrong setting, such as an open room or noisy area, you could end up with really poor audio quality.
You may be tempted to use the built-in mic and speakers in your computer, but we say, DON'T DO IT
"The trick is to strike the balance between quality and ease-of-use to be sure your guest's setup is idiot proof. Nothing worse than spending an hour on a call trying to get complicated gear set up over a video call: "Okay, now hit menu. No, the button next to it. Okay now go to the option on the left. No the other left..."
Harry Norton, Founder of Lower Street
For this reason, we typically recommend a simple USB mic. Some great, easy-to-use options are:
- Audio Technica ATR2100
- Samson Q2U
- Audio Technica AT2005 USB
- Rode Podcaster (a bit pricier)
Plug it in and you're good to go. This isn't going to sound like a studio recording, but it sounds infinitely better than a laptop's built-in mic or a pair of AirPods.
The above mic options are all great for recording using Squadcast or one of the other platforms listed above.
Pro tip: DO NOT get a Blue Yeti mic. These are often recommended, but they're much harder to get good results with.
2. Pop Filter
The pop filter is an inexpensive piece of equipment that is amazing for your audio. It prevents the bursts of air known as “plosives” or “pops” from hitting the microphone as you speak. Plosives are those explosive sounds you hear when you say words with “p” or “b” in them.
Headphones are important because they stop your mic from picking up feedback during recording. Also, you become more awareness of the sound you’re recording (especially if you’re using over the ear, noise-canceling headphones), which provides with another level of audio control.
Pro tip: Make sure whichever mic or recorder you choose comes with a stand. You don't want your guest holding their mic in their hands!
How to Record a Podcast With Remote Guests
The Best Remote Podcast Recording Software
Since podcasts are mostly an audio experience, capturing the highest-quality audio is very important.
However, choosing the right software for your remote recording depends on your needs. You need to consider whether you want just audio-only or both audio and video.
"When recording over the internet, even the best software for remote podcasts isn’t perfect, and you may have to make some trade-offs. Keep your goals and your recording process in mind while looking over these options to see which one could be your best fit."
Harry Morton, founder of Lower Street
When recording over the internet, even the best software for remote podcasts isn’t perfect, and you may have to make some trade-offs. Keep your goals and your recording process in mind while looking over these options to see which one could be your best fit.
Riverside is the #1 choice for remote recording software. The platform is simple and intuitive, the recording quality is excellent, and you're even able to record high-quality video as well as audio.
You and your guest will need to use Chrome to connect for now, though very soon Riverside will release a mobile app, making it even easier for you and your guests to record your podcast - wherever you are in the world.
The quality of Riverside's recordings are very good as it records each participant client side. Meaning it isn’t compressing your audio like Skype or Zoom, but recording at source at full quality and then uploading the final audio file after the call in WAV or MP3 format (we recommend WAV).
One thing we particularly like about Riverside is the management of backups. If your guest's internet connection drops, or they leave before you've finished recording, the platform makes it easy to recover any lost audio or video files and the support team are fantastic and super responsive. Highly recommended.
Squadcast is another solid option, and while it doesn't record video (yet - but the feature is coming) you can see your guest on screen while you record. When you can’t sit face to face at the same table, being able to see one another on a conference call is the next best thing.
You can see facial expressions, and make a much more human connection than a simple voice call.
Squadcast makes things very simple for your guest. You simply send them a link and they can connect to the call right in their Chrome browser.
This browser-based podcast recording suite is used by some heavy-hitters including the BBC. It does compress the audio a bit, but it’s not something that the average listener will ever be able to differentiate in this case, especially using computer speakers and consumer headphones.
On a set of studio monitors with a trained ear, sure, you can hear a difference… but the trade-off is a much more reliable experience that’s still very easy for your guest to use.
The interface is simple and straightforward - which is always a plus, since guests aren’t always the most tech-savvy. It has some fool-proof features, too. For example, if your guest loses their connection or experiences a crash, you won’t lose anything.
One drawback to Cleanfeed is a lack of video, but if this isn’t a big deal for you (and it isn’t for the BBC, apparently!) then it’s a great way to go.
This is one option, but it’s not the best option in my experience. It’s better than trying to wrangle something together on Skype, but we’ve had issues in the past where clients have lost their recordings so it’s not the most reliable.
There have also been issues in the past with ‘audio drift’, where the two or more recorded files don’t sync up properly in post. This isn’t an issue for any audio editor worth their salt, but if you’re editing your own show and want things to be as efficient as possible, it can be a pain. Zencastr reports they are reducing this or fixing it entirely, but it’s hard to recommend it over other choices.
If you’re using Zencastr, we recommend also having a backup recording (this is a good idea regardless).
This is a decent tool to have in your back pocket, but once again it suffers some serious issues. The key feature here is that it allows a guest to call in via telephone, which is very bad for audio quality but sometimes that’s the best you can get out of a guest who doesn’t want to use (or doesn’t have access to) a computer or internet connection.
There’s not a ton you can do to take super-compressed audio recordings from a phone and make it sound great, but a good editor will be able to touch it up a little bit and if the host is well recorded, you can often get away with it for shorter segments.
Ringr is a great solution for anyone who is trying to figure out how to record podcast interviews over the phone, but if using a phone isn’t at the top of your list, there are better solutions to try first.
Why Isn't Skype On The List?
Although Skype and Zoom are amazing long-distance communication tools, they're not great for recording a podcast.
Here's why they didn't make it onto our top remote podcast recording solutions:
- Audio is not reliably high quality: Although both Zoom and Skype save audio as m4a's, often the end result is still sounds like it's recorded over Skype, which isn't great for the listener experience.
- Skype and Zoom compresses your audio: As soon as you have finished recording, the final track is compressed into mixed-down mp4 file (basically one single audio lump). This means that the audio for individual speakers can't be separated making it hard to make audio adjustments during the editing phase.
- Inconsistent audio quality: You can have the best internet connection know to the digital world, and you'll still have segments that sound "tinny" or distorted.
- Lost Files means lost audio: The audio files are converted and saved only after your Zoom meeting has finished. Compared to other software, this makes accidentally losing files a real risk.
Pro tip: The best route is to use software that’s actually designed for the purpose of remote podcasting and has relevant features such as separate, local audio recordings.
Admittedly, Skype and Zoom were great back in the day to avoid long distance fees and to keep in touch with family, but they were never meant for podcasting. If you have to do your podcast via Skype, it’s still possible to end up with acceptable (ish) quality, but it requires a little more effort on your guest’s behalf and ensuring you have a reliable internet connection on both ends. This can create extra work for some guests, but most will be happy to contribute to a much better end-product.
Use Skype as a visual prompt, and not as your sole audio recording device.
The one way you can conduct the conversation via Skype and get professional results is if both parties are also recording a direct feed of the audio on their own end. Then you can take both audio feeds and edit them together, so you’re hearing the recording directly from each party’s microphone rather than the audio that was transmitted over Skype.
The Zoom H1n
So, for example, if your guest records themselves using a Zoom H1n while on the Zoom call with you, and meanwhile you record yourself using your regular set up. Your guest can send you their H1n recording and it can be stitched together with your audio in post-production.
This is like a cheap version of what's known in the industry as a tapesync or double-ender. Something we'll explain later on.
In this case, Skype is used solely for the purpose of hearing one another while recording the podcast, but the Skype audio is not the audio that gets released. If you’re going to have your guest record their own audio, however, there are more streamlined ways to go about this.
The aforementioned example is only good if your guest insists on using Skype, but ideally, you’ll go with one of the following solutions because they work a lot better when you’re trying to figure out how to record a podcast from two different locations. And the bonus is they’re still super simple for your guest to use.
How the Pros Use Zoom for Podcast Recording
Okay, I said don't use it, but actually there is one way Zoom can work that actually gets really great results.
Afterall, everyone is comfortable with the platform, so if you don't want to overcomplicate the setup for your guests, this could be the option for you.
A simple, yet fairly effective method is to have your guests record themselves using the Voice Memo app on their phone. Most modern smartphones (certainly iPhones) have super high quality mics built in - much better than, say, your laptop mic.
So, you connect to your guest using Zoom, get them to open up their Voice Memo app and hit record, and then hold the phone up and speak into it like a mic. Then, once you're done, have them email you the file. You can even record via Zoom as a backup just in case.
Super important to keep in mind though - the guest must be wearing headphones connected to the Zoom call so that their phone picks up their voice only.
You'd be amazed by how many top-notch shows have been recorded this way during lockdown, so consider giving it a try.
How To Get the Best Recording From Your Guest
These are the things that will have the biggest impact on the quality of your guest’s recording. Ensure that your guest is made aware of these suggestions before it’s time to record so they have a chance to prepare.
Your Guest Needs to Wear Headphones
Without headphones, your podcast recording will have problems with feedback since their microphone will also be picking up your voice from their speakers. Headphones help them focus and zero-in on the conversation.
If your guest doesn’t have a professional microphone, then a pair of headphones with a built-in mic (like Apple Earbuds) will still pick up the audio much better than a mic built into their laptop.
Encourage Your Guest to Record in An Ideal Location
Your guest should be in a quiet place that doesn’t echo. If they’re at home, a bedroom works great. There’s a lot of soft furniture, blankets, and pillows to soak up the audio reflections. A hotel room also works great for this same reason.
On the other hand, an empty basement is not ideal because the open space will be much more prone to echoing. A meeting room at a hotel or a glass-walled boardroom are poor choices for the same reason.
Eliminate Background Noises
If your guest has a fan on in the background, an air conditioner, or if they’re chewing food, this will all get picked up by the microphone and will be a huge distraction to your listeners. It will cause many people to stop listening on the spot.
You should also prep your guest about closing browser tabs and apps ahead of time to avoid any unexpected notifications (but headphones help with this, too). Remind them to put their phone on silent if they don’t mind, too. Let them know that any humming sounds, or tapping on their desk, or even breathing loudly into the mic will all get picked up.
Remind them to speak clearly into the microphone before you get started, and during the interview as needed. You can always edit that part out (more on that in our how to edit a podcast guide here), and it’s worth the brief interruption for a better finished product.
The Conventional Wisdom is Wrong
There are methods that have been around for years and have been used by countless podcasts to record countless episodes remotely, yet despite that, they are a terrible way of doing it.
They’re popular because it’s the only method that many people know about, but they leave you with terrible quality audio, skips, disconnections, and dropouts - an editor’s nightmare and a bad experience for the listener.
We’ve all heard podcast episodes, even from very popular podcasts, where the sound is just subpar. Whether it’s a one-off due to unexpected technical difficulties, or the earlier catalogue of a podcast that’s gone on to grow and upgrade their quality since then, these early growing pains can be avoided.
This is one area where it truly pays to get it right as soon as possible. Because for all the magic that can be worked in post-production, audio quality is fixed at the state it’s recorded in. Nothing has a bigger impact on the overall sound of a finished podcast interview than the way it is recorded. Luckily, with a few simple tools, you can get great results right out of the gate.
Another option: The double-ender (also known as a tape-sync or simulrec)
For VIP guests that you can’t travel to, another approach if you have the budget is to find an audio engineer who is local to them and can meet up with them to record the conversation on their end. You simply connect to the guest on the phone or Skype, and then record your end at high quality, with the remote engineer doing the same at the guest’s location.
It’s the technique used by all the major podcast networks. If you’ve ever listened to This American Life, the BBC or Gimlet and wondered how they got an Alaskan fisherman or some other remote character into their NYC studios, they almost certainly didn’t. A local reporter would have gone out and recorded a tape-sync.
Harry Morton, founder of Lower Street
This is likely less costly than travelling yourself, but a talented engineer isn’t going to be too cheap (industry rates are typically $150-200 plus travel). You still miss out on the face-to-face element, but it’s a good middle ground if you want that professional sound.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, your best bet is always to record with your guests in person. When that isn’t possible, like right now, it becomes a matter of balancing convenience and getting something good enough, with the extra effort it takes from both parties to achieve something closer to perfect.
It’s never a great idea to rely on one single method of capturing your conversation, either. It’s good to have a backup recording, just in case, even if it never ends up getting used, or if it’s only used to fill in the blanks here and there. Your audio engineer will thank you.
But if you are recording a podcast remotely, hopefully, this guide helps you find the option that’s best for you. In most cases, we recommend Squadcast or Cleanfeed.
We would love to chat with you about putting together a solution that will best fit your needs. We can also help you grow and promote your podcast, figure out the right monetization strategy, and even land better guests.