How To Make Accessible Podcast Audio In 5 Easy Steps

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No, you do not have to compromise your artistic vision when making your podcast’s audio files accessible for those with hearing loss. Today: tips from professional audio engineers that show you exactly how to get it right on every episode of your show.

Step 1: Clean up the noise.

Audio tracks, especially those recorded in less-than-perfect conditions, often have some noise on them. Background noise, lip smacks, iron-lung breathing… Clean as much of that out as you can before you do anything. Yes, that probably means a noise removal filter, so hopefully you’ve a high-end noise removal tool such as the one comes with Hindenburg Journalist Pro. I also use a magical tool: iZotope’s Voice De-noise. Do whatever you can to get rid of as much noise from the vocal tracks as you possibly can, because there’s no reason to process noise, right?

Step 2: Control the dynamic range.

Dynamic range refers to the difference in volume of the really, really, loud parts of a vocal track and then really, really, soft parts. You don’t want to eliminate dynamic range, of course. But you do want to exercise some control over that range. You can exercise that control a couple different ways. One is quite manual, where you go in and adjust the volume of each and every word or phrase in an attempt to lift and/or lower the volume to make that bit more even compared to the rest of the track.

Step 3: Tweak the EQ.

Now you’ve a clean vocal track that doesn’t have a huge swinging, dynamic range, and it’s time to sweeten the sound of that voice with a little equalization. With EQ, you can fine-tune the voice you’re working on. If someone’s really bass-heavy, you can take out some of the low-end with an EQ. If a voice is way too sibilant, taking out some high-end will knock that down. You can adjust each voice to make it as clear as you can by going into each frequency band and adjusting as you like. Mastering EQ takes a deft touch, and you can spend hours trying to get a sound just right. That either excites or terrifies you.

Step 4: Compress to impress.

Compression gets a bad rap, but I find it an invaluable tool to make vocal tracks sound amazing and accessible. Also, people have a misconception about what compression does. I thought up a good analogy this morning as I was in making coffee with my Aeropress, actually compressing the coffee to make an amazing cuppa. That’s what compression is, only for audio instead of coffee. There’s a myth out there that compression will actually make quiet parts of your audio louder. It won’t. Compression squeezes down the track. No, that’s not the same as controlling the dynamic range, which we did in step #2. It’s a very different process, and it’s a good step to add. Can you over-compress? Probably, and that’s why compression has a bad rap. But there are way too many under-compressed podcast episodes out there. For accessibility — and just listenability in general — compression is good. You probably won’t overdo it.

Step 5: Mix well and export at -16 LUFS.

The final step, once you have a cleaned, controlled, EQ-d, and compressed vocal track is to… do that same thing to the rest of your vocal tracks! Yes, individually. Because every voice is different.

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Podcast philosopher. Professional contrarian. On a mission to make podcasting better. Hip he/him. คุณ | http://PodcastPontifications.com | http://Simpler.Media

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