How To Create The Perfect Podcast : Gain the advantage

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So you’ve taken the first step and decided to record a Podcast. You’ve got the microphones, the guests, you’re ready to go – right?

Or are you?

Whilst content is king, quality comes a close second. Any Podcast worth listening to needs a clean crisp sound with no distortion at all, loud enough to hear clearly without lots of air noise or loud spikes.

So what is Gain and how can it help?

‘Gain’ typically refers to ‘Transmission Gain’, or rather an increase in signal power – its all about voltage, not volume.

Normally measured in Decibels (dB), its the increase in the raw audio before it goes through any other electrical components.

Ok, so where do I find Gain and why do I need it?

Basically nothing more than a little knob or dial next to where you plug your mic in. Often confused with volume, its much more than that. Often found in different places on different bits of kit, they essentially do the same things in electrical terms, but they all serve different purposes on each piece of kit.

On a guitar amp, the Gain dial distorts the sound, giving it a rocky sound by adding extra power or voltage to the guitars output signal so that the sound/ signal naturally breaks up on the speaker cone and distorts.

On a mixing desk or audio interface, there will also be a Gain dial/knob and it acts as the first control for the raw mic audio signal. Its there only to boost the signal to an optimum level enabling the rest of the controls to work as they should.. When you have different mics plugged in, or different guests speaking, your Gain dial events out inconsistencies and helps to record all of them at a similar level.

But can’t I correct any issues in Postproduction?

Ideally not. When it comes to postproduction mistakes make whilst capturing sound are much harder to rectify.

If you set the Gain level (or, as some mixing desks call it, Trim) level high enough you should optimise the level of signal from your mic so that it’s clear as a bell. Get it too high and you’ll find everything distorted. The opposite of a Guitar amp, fundamentally.

Give your Level Meter a bit of Love…..

Hang on, what’s my level meter and what does it look like?

They are consist of a set of two bars, next to each other, and often made up of green, yellow and red LEDs. Or just a bar that goes from green at the bottom to yellow then red at the top.

Most recording devices or computer programs have an in built Level Meter to help you get those gain levels right. Yes you can do this by just listening, but to err is human. To really nail your sound quality with precision use your level meter as well. It lets you see the actual signalsstrength, and you ideally want a signal that stays in the green and when it spikes only ever goes into the yellow – red is BAD. You never want it to go into the red – that way lies distortion or clipping in your recording.

Easy as 1,2…well that’s it.

So that’s it, in a nutshell. Set your Gain to a good position, where it boosts the signals strength and you can hear voices well. Never let it reach distortion point or hit that red danger zone area on your level meter

Follow the above steps and you’ll guarantee that perfect Podcast sound, clean, crisp and distortion free. It will even work for the capture of vocals on a music track.

Toby Askey


Audio and Graphic Designer

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