We are in the age of amazing home studio technology that allows complete amateurs to sound like professionals. The catch is, you need the right tools and you must know how to use them. In this article, we explain the easiest and simplest way to achieve great sounding vocals for your YouTube videos and podcasts.
To start, you need the right hardware. At a minimum you need a smart phone and a good mic with an adapter to fit your phone or computer. There are countless options on Amazon. Here’s one for $25 and it includes adapters for all devices: Lapel mic. Of course you can spend a ton of money and buy something like the Shure SM7b, but that is overkill for most people.
Some people might scoff at the sound quality of a $25 lapel mic, but believe it or not, this mic can produce a great sound. How? Like this:
First, make sure you get a clean recording that does not clip. Set the recording resolution to at least 44.1 kHz, 16 bit, then set the levels. My rule of thumb is to ensure the levels never surpass the yellow indicator of the LEDs. Test your voice from loud to soft before recording; only a primal scream should drive it into the red. You need a hot level, but not too hot. Your levels should hit in the are of the purple circle in the image here, around -18db to -12db. By the way, always do a couple rehearsals before I start the official recording.
Second, make sure you are close enough to the mic so it picks up the lower frequencies of your voice. You don’t want to sound muffled or boomy, but you don’t want to sound thin either. Keep the mic no more than about 6 in. from your mouth. Also speak in an even tone and try not to trail off of turn away from the mic. This is another reason a lapel mic is a good choice, especially for those who are new to recording.
Third, once your video recording is complete, if you want the best possible sound, you will need to process the audio file to ensure all your words are clear and at the same gain level. This means you will need a video editing program that has audio processing capability. My vote is for Filmora. It is everything that iMovie and Final Cut should have been, and easily the most user friendly video editor out there. Notice all the audio controls. You can equalize and remove low and high frequencies, remove background noise, hiss, hum, and even reverb. It also allows you to normalize the audio so it is all at the same level and even offers an AI speech enhancement feature. This is the simplest option for most people. If you want to get more involved, you could use Vegas Video or Final Cut Pro, which offer VST plugin capability, in which case you could download more advanced free de-essing, compression, and EQ plugins and get an even higher quality sound. Check out all the free plugins here. The learning curve will be steeper if you go this route though.
Fourth, process your voice with audio controls in the video editing program so it is CLEAR and FULL. This means using the EQ to set the various frequencies so all of the various frequencies of your voice are present, and some don’t stick out more than others. You will need to use your ears for this. It’s best to reference a professional audio vocal in someone else’s video and adjust your EQ to match it. Make sure you filter out everything below 110 hz and make sure the highs are not to harsh or dull. You are going for clarity and fullness here.
Also, if you include music or other sound with your voice, make sure it is at the same level of your voice or even softer. It’s best to ensure the levels are good prior to recording, or else you run the risk of your voice being drowned out. Good news is, Filmora offers a ducking feature that will make background sound quieter every time you speak. But again, this assumes that the other noise is a lower volume to begin with. So it’s important to set the levels upfront.
Fifth, when you render your video file, make sure the audio is set to stereo, 48khz. The computer rendering process compresses audio and you lose quality. This is another reason why you should capture the highest possible audio quality upfront, so you don’t lose a lot when it is compressed through the video rendering process.
That’s it. If you follow these steps you will get a professional sounding recording every time.