A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Frank Eriksen, who produces the All Things Boulder podcast (which is a really cool show, by the way). In the email, Frank asked me if I had any ideas why my podcasts sound “so much better sonically (louder/cleaner)” than his show. I listened to a few of Frank’s episodes, and here’s what I found.
Although Frank is using an impressive list of equipment (Audio Technica 4033 mic, Grace Design mic pre-amp, Pro Tools, etc.), I did find what I think was the issue. From my email to Frank:
The major problem I found is that you are not compressing/limiting your audio files. If you were to open any of my audio files in a program like Audacity or Adobe Audition (or any other audio editing software), you’ll find that the amplitude of everything is exactly the same. It’s set to -1.0db, which is just below distortion.
I provided Frank with a couple images–one that showed what his show looks like and one that shows what one of our Polycom on Demand episodes looks like.
Frank’s Show (as seen in Adobe Audition):
Polycom on Demand (as seen in Adobe Audition):
See the difference? It’s that roller coaster effect (LOUD. . .quiet. . .LOUD. . quiet. . .LOUD) that’s causing the problem.
Here’s the rest of my email to Frank:
I have a custom built Digital Audio Workstation I use for all my audio recordings (and audio feed to the Tricaster). For the main outs of my recording software (Cakewalk’s Sonar. . .which is the same software I used to record all my music CDs), I use a VFT plugin that is a mastering limiter. It adds gain when needed and at the same time limits the output to -1.0dB. That way, all content (me, my co-host, phone-based guests, Skype-based guests, audio-clips, sound effects, bumpers, songs, etc.) all are played at the exact same level. Also, because my voice is pretty deep/boomy as it is, I also add a 5.3dB gain of EQ at the higher end (1980Hz). This is done within the DAW software as well.
If you’re wondering why your audio isn’t as rich/full as you’d like, take a look at your waveform. . .are you seeing a roller coaster? If so, create an even better sounding file (and make it easier for your fans to comfortably listen as well) by applying some limiting/compression yourself!
(Thanks to Frank for allowing me to blog about this!)