Why Not Using Headphones Can Kill A Podcast

One of the common questions I get asked is “what’s the best microphone to use?”

Of  course the answer varies greatly depending on individual requirements.

But one question I am NEVER asked is “what’s the best type of headphones I can use?”

I am serious, NO-ONE ever asks me this….

To be honest, as a professional broadcaster, I find it baffling that someone who sits behind a microphone doesn’t think headphones are important.

I’ll go on the record here and say that a good pair of headphones are JUST AS important as your microphone. Whoa – I know…controversial. But here’s why:

 Headphones Let You Monitor Your Audio

…this means that you can fix up any weird background noise, hums etc at the point of recording so no nasty surprises. I’ve heard nightmare stories of podcasters recording for an hour and then playing back their recording only to find the mic picks up the traffic noise from the 6 lane highway at the back of their house more than their voice. Such a shame, but easily avoided if headphones were used.

Wearing headphones during recording also helps with microphone technique. By hearing what is being recorded as it’s happening you have complete control over your sound. if it’s sounding too muffled you pull away from the microphone or draw closer if you sound too distant.

Headphones Can Help Your Sound

Notice how both of these things can have a huge impact on the quality of your sound? Yet people think that it’s the fault of the microphone, when it’s just bad microphone technique (easily fixed with some headphones).

Also if you have a co-host who’s beaming in on Skype or the phone and you don’t wear headphones –  how will you hear them?

Oh ok I see. If you said “the computer speakers” then we need to talk…

Listening to a person that you’re recording through computer speakers while your microphone is still recording will cause a horrible noise.

Much worse than the sound of the dentists drill, much scarier than the sound of a police siren, much more debilitating than the sound of a telemarketer calling you in the middle of dinner….

I’m talking about FEEDBACK. Not the “oh nice job on that” kind of feedback. But the awful noise that you hear at most amateur concerts or live shows.

Feedback comes in a variety of ear bleeding noises, the most common one is the high pitch “squeal”.

Here’s a really simple reason why feedback occurs.

When the sound that’s being recorded, plays out of the speakers and is picked up again by the microphone that picked it up the first time (this all happens in a split second or so).

So not using headphones to monitor that audio could be giving you some unwanted feedback. If you have some funky echo or other weird noises going on, this could be why.

Headphones Help You Edit Accurately

….if you even bother editing your audio (and you should :)) then you need headphones to do it properly. While it’s easy to edit using your computer speakers it’s not effective and the result is pretty poor.

Built in computers speakers are low grade at best and certainly aren’t accurate in representing everything that  was recorded. You just won’t hear those weird mouth noises or awkward jump cuts. But as soon as a listener checks out your latest episode with headphones, they will hear ALL of these amateur glitches. Yuck.

The other problem with editing audio through speakers is that sometimes it’s hard to distinguish what noise is in the recording and what noise is in the environment you are editing in. Was that bird tweeting in the background of the recording or is it tweeting now? Believe me that type of internal conversation can drive a man to the brink 🙂

This is where a good set of headphones step in. Especially closed ear headphones (not earbuds). They project the sound directly into your ear cavity, so you literally hear the recording and nothing else. This allows you to focus on editing the noises, or bits of audio you want to remove.

So when it comes to getting a decent pair of headphones, here’s some quick tips….

4 Fast headphone buying tips!

Here’s my advice to you if you’re in the market for some headphones.

  1. Invest in a pair of good quality closed ear headphones (you can spend over $20 and under $100)
  2. Make sure your headphones are light weight (wearing them for an hour can weigh your head down)
  3. Make sure they have padding around the ears (comfort factor is super important!)
  4. Get a standalone pair of headphones (stay away from headphone and mic combo’s)

Dan recommends a pair of Sennheiser HD 202 headphones. Check them out here. To get a ton of other helpful tips for your podcast download a copy of Dan’s new FREE report “Podcast Like A Radio DJ”. Get it here!


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