Tips on Improving Sound Quality

Adjust Microphone Positioning

If you have a stand-alone mic, not a headset, then setup everything so that your microphone is not too far away from your face. Three to six inches (10-20 centimeters) might be a good distance. The further away the microphone is, the quieter the sound is, and the more we have to crank up the volume on our end. Cranking up the volume in this way also makes any background noises, hisses or artifacts much louder. And you'll sound far away — like you are in a tin can, or in the other room. You want to be nice and close to the mic. It should be square in front on you. Many microphones have a front, back and sides; make sure you are talking into the right place.

It's also possible to be too close. If your mouth is too close, the P sounds can POP in the recording, or you might get weird distortion. How close is "too close" varies from mic to mic. With vocal mics designed for singing, you can put your lips on the mic and you won't be too close. With condenser mics designed for filmmaking, 15 inches (40 centimeters) can be too close. It all depends. The best way to know how close is too close for your microphone is to wear headphones. You can hear your own voice, and hear when it sounds distorted or is popping — and make an adjustment.

Don't Bump the Mic

If you bump the mic with your hand, the sound will be picked up as a loud thump. If you have the mic in a simple stand, sitting on your desk, and start tapping your desk, the sound vibration will carry through the desk and mic stand into the microphone. The easiest way to prevent such a sound is to use a shock mount — basically a basket that holds the mic by hanging it from elastic bands. The soft, bendy elastic zone absorbs any bumping sounds.

But you don't need to run out and buy a shock mount to do one show. Instead be aware of your body and of what furniture will transfer sound into the mic. You could place the mic on a second table, separate from your computer keyboard, where you won't touch it. Or be aware so that you don't bump your desk during the show. Wearing headphones helps with this awareness. A few bumps here and there is no big deal, but sometimes people wiggle their feet nervously, and bumping their desk legs {tap} over {tap} and {tap} over {tap} and {tap} over — it's this kind of sound we want to prevent.

Reduce background noise

Close your windows so the street traffic noise doesn't come in. Turn off your window air-conditioning unit. Anything you can do to reduce background noise will help. It's cute to hear kids traveling by in the background for a few seconds, or an occasional chirp of a bird. It's the background hums and the noises that happen over and over that listeners find tiring. Any kind of constant droning — the kind most people don't even notice in person — will drive them crazy on a recording. Fans, running water, buzzing hard drives, highway traffic are terrible. There's no need to pretend we are in a professional radio station booth. I like hearing the flavor of people's real life. We just don't want sounds that make people want to turn the show off, or that make it hard for them to hear what you are saying.