Podcasting is really no different then Narration or recording music really, when it comes to proper input levels. So why is this a critical step? The two main reasons are noise to signal ratio and clipping. You need to understand that this is just one step in the "Recording Properly & Master Lightly" theory I adhere to. Before you can properly setup your input levels, you need to make sure that your mic is in the proper place as well. Moving your mic just 2 or 3 inches can take you from perfection, to disaster when you hit record. So after you have your mic set up properly, you want your input levels to be between a -12dbs and a -18dbs.
The -18dbs is the lowest you should go. Remember that the closer you get to 0dbs, the louder or stronger your audio signal will be. This is the best signal to noise ratio you can achieve, according to the major audio interface manufactures. Signal-to-noise ratio (abbreviated SNR or S/N) is a measure used in science and engineering that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise. SNR is defined as the ratio of signal power to the noise power, often expressed in decibels. If you CAN NOT achieve proper audio levels, you will need to adjust your mic or adjust the amount of gain you are using. Sometimes you may have to do both as well as use other means to add more clean gain to your recording system. If you wonder why your recording has a lot of background noise when everything around you is very quite, this is where I would start checking.
The -12dbs is to make sure you have plenty of headroom. In digital and analog audio, headroom refers to the amount by which the signal-handling capabilities of an audio system exceed a designated nominal level. Headroom can be thought of as a safety zone allowing transient audio peaks to exceed the nominal level without damaging the system or the audio signal, e.g., via clipping. Standards bodies differ in their recommendations for nominal level and headroom. In digital audio, 0dbs is the loudest you audio can ever get, without clipping and causing distortion.
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This forum is the place to discuss all things concerning podcasting. As far as audio loudness, we follow the recommended standards from the Audio Engineering Society, (AES).
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