Room Design Considerations for Optimal Podcasting
Madeline Didier – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jaffe Holden, 114-A Washington Street, Norwalk, CT, 06854, United States
Popular version of 1aAA2-Podcast recording room design considerations and best practices, presented at the 183rd ASA Meeting.
Podcast popularity has been on the rise, with over two million active podcasts as of 2021. There are countless options when choosing a podcast to listen to, and unacceptable audio quality will cause a listener to quickly move on to another option. Poor acoustics in the space where a podcast was recorded are noticeable even by an untrained ear, and listeners may hear differences in room acoustics without even seeing a space. Podcasters use a variety of setups to record episodes, ranging from closets to professional recording spaces. One trend is recording spaces that feel comfortable and look aesthetically pleasing, more like living rooms rather than radio stations.
Figure 1: Podcast studio with a living room aesthetic. Image courtesy of The Qube.
A high-quality podcast recording is one that does not capture sounds other than the podcaster’s voice. Unwanted sounds include noise from mechanical systems, vocal reflections, or ambient noise such as exterior traffic or people in a neighboring room. Listen to the examples below.
More ideal recording conditions:
Media courtesy of Home Cooking Podcast, Episode: Kohlrabi – Turnip for What
Less ideal recording conditions:
Media courtesy of The Birding Life Podcast, Episode 15: Roberts Bird Guide Second Edition
The first example is a higher quality recording where the voices can be clearly heard. In the second example, the podcast guest is not recording in an acoustically suitable room. The voice reflects off the wall surfaces and detracts from the overall quality and listener experience.
Every room design project comes with its own challenges and considerations related to budget, adjacent spaces, and expected quality. Each room may have different design needs, but best practice recommendations for designing a podcasting room remain the same.
Background noise: Mechanical noise should be controlled so that you cannot hear HVAC systems in a recording. Computers and audio interfaces should ideally be located remotely so that noises, such as computer fans, are not picked up on the recording.
Room shape: Square room proportions should be avoided as this can cause room modes, or buildup of sound energy in spots of the room, creating an uneven acoustic environment.
Room finishes: Carpet is ideal for flooring, and an acoustically absorptive material should be attached to the wall(s) in the same plane as the podcaster’s voice. Wall materials should be 1-2” thick. Ceiling materials should be acoustically absorptive, and window glass should be angled upward to reduce resonance within the room.
Sound isolation: Strategies for improving sound separation may include sound rated doors or standard doors with full perimeter gaskets, sound isolation ceilings, and full height wall constructions with insulation and multiple layers of gypsum wallboard.
In the example below, the podcast studio (circled) is strategically located at the back of a dedicated corridor for radio and podcasting. It is physically isolated from the main corridor, creating more acoustical separation. Absorptive ceiling tile (not shown) and 2” thick wall panels help limit vocal reflections, and background noise is controlled.
Figure 2: Podcast recording room within a radio and podcasting suite. Image courtesy of BWBR and RAMSA.
While the challenges for any podcast room may differ, the acoustical goals remain the same. With thoughtful consideration of background noise, room shape, finishes, and sound isolation, any room can support high-quality podcast recording.