Robb Wenner of Auralex Acoustics discusses why sound quality matters and explains how podcasters can tackle acoustical treatment in their recording space
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who understands the importance of sound quality more than Auralex Acoustics Marketing Manager Robb Wenner. His life has been occupied with audio, from his time at Berklee College of Music, to his post-production work at Warner Bros. and the Jim Henson Company, to his current position at Auralex.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been passionate about sound and fascinated about sound,” Wenner said. “I’ve been fortunate my entire life to be involved in working in something I really love, and good acoustics is part of that.”
In this episode of Brandcasting, we sat down with Wenner to discuss the ins and outs of acoustics, the pivotal role of sound quality in podcasting, and what podcasters can do to address their audio issues.
Clarifying audio to engage listeners
A good podcast captures listeners’ attention and draws them into a compelling story.
“A podcast is about sound. It’s about a message. It’s about a story,” Wenner emphasized. “Your number one goal is to make sure that the listener is engaged, that the listener is paying attention to your message and is listening to the story.”
However, low sound quality or ambient noise is one of the most common barriers to the kind of audience engagement podcasters aim for. Just like deciphering a hard-to-read font can distract readers from a great story, difficult-to-understand audio can distract listeners from the message of the podcast.
“That’s probably one of the first comments someone makes: ‘Great interview, but you know what? It was really distracting to hear noise in the room,’” Wenner said.
With a lot of distracting sound, listeners aren’t able to focus on the message you’re trying to get across. The more they have to work to tune out background noise, the less bandwidth they will have available to focus on the story being told — especially if they’re multitasking while listening.
“If you’re trying to listen to a podcast and you hear this weird room noise, you’re just using a lot more brain power to filter all of that out,” said Wenner. “At a certain point, you may lose people because it’s a consistent annoying issue that the sound quality is not good.”
That’s why Wenner says it’s important to view your sound quality as a way to uplift and amplify your story. After almost 30 years of working with audio, Wenner sees himself and other sound producers as storytellers first.
“If you can’t understand the message, if you can’t understand the story, then you haven’t done your job as a sound producer or sound editor,” he said.
Finding the right acoustics
When Wenner walks into a room to record, he doesn’t simply set up his audio gear and get started. He does something that all podcasters have to learn to do: listen attentively.
“It really comes down to just being aware of what you’re recording, listening to the sound quality,” he said. “When you walk into a space that may not be your normal space, pay attention to what it sounds like.”
Once you begin to train your ears to the world around you, sounds like the buzz of an air conditioning unit or the trill of … start to stand out. All of which will be noises you’ll be competing with while you record.
While it can be tempting to just “fix it in post”, a common phrase among podcasters, this isn’t always a good idea when it comes to noise reduction.
“There’s a whole trickle-down kind of thing that happens when you hit that button and say, ‘reduce the noise,’” he said.
In fact, excessive post-production noise reduction can actually detract from sound quality and result in a podcast that sounds far from natural.
“If you’re not careful and you rely on it too heavily and you’re processing very heavily, you get weird artifacts,” Wenner explained. “You start eliminating a lot of high frequency information that makes someone’s speech more identifiable.”
On top of that, the process is simply time-consuming. The more time you spend trying to enhance your audio quality, the less time you have to incorporate music and other creative elements into your podcast.
“If you start with a really good recording and you don’t have to worry about all of the noise reduction issues, it’s just a faster process.”
Improving your sound quality
For podcasters looking to take their sound quality to the next level, Wenner points to the industry-leading educational and diagnostic resources offered (often for free) by Auralex.
“There are a lot of do-it-yourself things to do,” he emphasized. “If you’re on a tight budget or you just want to experiment, there are certainly ways to do that. We have a lot of information on our website geared to educate people about good acoustics.”
One of those resources is the free RLX app.
“It’s an easy way for someone to put in their room dimensions, put in the type of recording that they’re doing and based on the room dimensions and the data that we have from all of the years of experience we have doing this, it will give you three different options of sound treatment,” Wenner explained.
With the right tools and the right knowledge, Wenner says it’s entirely possible to bring your podcast set-up anywhere in the world.Don’t miss a single episode! Follow Brandcasting wherever you get your podcasts and for more content like this, subscribe to our newsletter. Ready to build your own branded podcast? Let us help you get started with a free consultation.