Recording a Podcast from Multiple Locations

Two people wearing headphones. One is speaking into a microphone while reading off a laptop

Yep, we get it.

It’s super tempting to try recording podcasts from multiple locations on Zoom.

It’s convenient. There’s no travel. You even get a self-editing, speaker-focused video to go with it. And while all of that sounds lush – it comes with a heavy list of downsides.

We’ve already covered why you shouldn’t record podcasts on Zoom, no matter what kind of show you run. Zoom is optimised for live conferencing, not for audio recording and playback. And so, the results of recording a podcast from multiple locations over Zoom are at best a little weird, and at worst – totally unusable.

Swirly or boxy sounding voices are common. Reflective, boomy rooms make it difficult to hear what’s being said. And the inconsistency between speakers can become genuinely unlistenable to some people.

You can’t get a pro result – even with all the pro gear in the world, or a ton of post-production magic. Whatever goes in is what comes out the other end.

Sure, a good microphone and audio interface will go a long way to making things better – but your guests probably won’t all have access to the same calibre of gear (or have the skills to use it). And the captured audio from a Zoom call will be heavily compressed and filtered, and recorded at a variable bitrate, depending on the quality of each speaker’s connection.

Basically, you cannot guarantee quality. There are too many variables. And even on a good day, recording a podcast from multiple locations through video conferencing tools is a far from ideal way to produce a show.

It might be fine for a punt, or even as a last resort. And if the content is absolutely amazing, then it might just survive a ropey delivery.

But for a company getting into podcasting, and looking for a great start?

Or a long-running show with great content and an active audience?

Or for a podcaster pushing for wider reach, and taking their podcasting work more seriously?

You need to get serious about quality. Because quality shows deserve better.

“Alright then”, you might be asking – “so what’s the alternative? “

There are a ton of self-touted Zoom-killers for podcasters out there. But again, even if you have all these tools at your disposal, it’s the knowledge of how to use them that counts.

The problem with dedicated podcast platforms

When we covered the top alternatives to recording podcasts on Zoom, a lot of them were centred around digital platforms purpose-built for recording a podcast from multiple locations. And these are great, but they still rely on good captures at every point.

Like we said earlier, whatever goes in is what comes out the other end. So, even if your purpose-built podcasting platform is recording high resolution audio from all speakers, you’re overwhelmingly likely to end up with your guests recording on their AirPods.

AirPods might be great for listening to music and making calls over a phone network – but for podcasting, they introduce a hefty latency penalty, and the audio they produce from the is staggeringly low in quality. Literally any other wired microphone is better.

Don’t believe us? Here’s the proof.

This has nothing to do with the mics themselves. It’s because the data transmitted from the AirPods (or any other wireless earbuds) has to be encoded, compressed into a tiny format, sent through the air in a narrow frequency band, and then decoded at the receiving end. This causes massive losses in quality, and adds a barely perceivable (but still important) time lag.

And then there’s the room. If your guest speaker is sitting in their utility room, with no treatment, it’s going to sound echoey and reflective. If the tumble dryer is going and the dog’s barking in the background, well then the recording will still have all the same problems as before – just captured in a nice, crisp 24-bit 48 kHz audio file.

Every other speaker will have different hardware, different rooms, and different acoustic challenges. A ton of problems will arise in each that you’ll either have to face in post, or learn to live with.

This isn’t going to sit well with your pristinely recorded host vocal. So what do you do? Our favourite solutions take some work – but trust us, they’re worth it…

1. Hire a studio on location

The ideal solution to all of this is to do the session in-person, at a purpose-built recording studio that suits as many speakers as possible.

2. Road trip!

Or, to reduce carbon emissions and travel costs for guests, have the host travel a low-emissions route (using public transport wherever possible) to interview each guest in person. This way, a pro-grade portable podcasting setup can be used – or studios can be booked at each location.

This obviously requires a bigger budget and loads of pre-production – but the quality and the quantity of your content is elevated to stratospheric levels.

3. Hire a freelancer

If travel for either you or your guest is absolutely out of the question, then do what journalists do – and hire an on-the-ground correspondent. This remote interviewer could act as a guest host, or be edited out for the main host in post.

4. Um… Use Zoom?

Okay, not exactly… but you could still use Zoom, just not for the audio.

Instead of your guest doing the interview from their spare bedroom, the interview happens in a studio near them. And, instead of recording the audio in Zoom, the speaker is captured professionally by an audio engineer in a studio, through pro equipment, and in a well-treated room.

The final edit can then be made seamlessly, with no degradation in quality.

Of course, all of this is a lot of work… But the results are head and shoulders above what you’ll get with Zoom. For serious broadcasters taking on the podcast game, or shows with a significant following, then it’s obviously worth it – but in reality, any kind of podcaster will benefit from a professionally produced show.

So, if you’re looking for support with podcast production at any stage of the process, get in touch with the Bengo Media team.

Full-service audio production

Do you want to get your podcasts up to pro standard? Learn more about our podcast services. Get help with full podcast production, or just recording and editing – from our team of audio recording and production experts.