How to Record Long-Distance Podcast Interviews
If you have an interview podcast or record with a co-host, chances are you will sometimes need to record your podcast from different locations (if not all the time). What is the best way to do that?
In this article, we’ll cover the three all-in-one software solutions we both like and recommend, some honorable mentions that might be worth looking into, and what you can do to get the absolute best audio quality possible.
Zoom has become one of the go-to online interview platforms for podcasting, primarily because of its above-average audio quality and ease of use for remote podcast interviews.
When you’re trying to get a guest on the line, it’s in your best interest to make that process as simple as possible. Most of your guests are not seasoned podcasters, so anything you can do make it easier to jump on the call will help them feel more at ease.
Zoom gives you a wide range of options for conducting the actual interview with a live video (similar to Google Hangouts). You can join a Zoom call on your phone, iPad, computer, or dial in with a land line.
While some software solutions limit your settings and options, Zoom lets you customize everything about your recordings. You can have it start recording automatically as soon as you start the interview (never worry about hitting the record button again) and records each person’s audio to a separate file, making it easier to edit your final episode. Zoom also records the video from your online interview, so you can use the video recording to promote your episode on social media or upload it to YouTube for greater reach and distribution.
While it’s ease of use is unquestioned, Zoom’s main drawback as an all-in-one platform is that the audio quality is only above average. Zoom compresses the audio files to make the video streaming experience seamless, so you’ll notice a drop in quality compared to recording locally on your computer. (There are some workarounds which we’ll get to in a second).
You can start using Zoom for free if you only need to record yourself and one other person. If you find yourself needing to bring in three or more people, you can upgrade to their basic plan which, right now, runs at $14.99/month.
Squadcast is the newest kid on the block but has quickly gained a lot of traction with seasoned podcasters.
Its greatest strength? Squadcast records lossless audio AND still gives you video conferencing. Being able to see your remote guests helps you establish a connection with them and makes the interview feel more like a conversation between friends rather than a formal job interview. Just note that Squadcast does not currently record the video from your interview, only the audio.
Before you join the session, Squadcast will show you which microphone, camera, and headphone devices it has selected for you, so there are no surprises later on. There’s nothing worse than conducting a fantastic interview only to find out the guest was recording on their laptop microphone instead of their external USB microphone!
Once you join the session, you’ll see each person’s video (if they have it turned on), details about their time zone, the strength of their wifi connection, and where their audio levels are peaking (no more clipping surprises!).
When you start recording, Squadcast “progressively uploads” each person’s lossless audio files to a cloud server, so if one person’s internet connection goes down, you won’t lose the recording. Those audio files are then available to download and use in your favorite recording software.
The main drawback for Squadcast is that it’s currently only available using Google’s Chrome internet browser. There are plans to start supporting other major internet browsers, but as of now, your guest will need to have Chrome installed on their computer before joining. This also means that your guests cannot enter your recording sessions by calling in on their phone (something Zoom allows you to do), but if your focus is on getting superior audio quality chances are you don’t want your guest calling you from the back of an Uber anyways.
Squadcast offers a 14-day free trial, so you can test drive it and see if it meets your needs. After that, you can upgrade to their singular paid plan, which allows you to record four people at a time, for $20/month or $200/year.
*Update 7/22/19 - Squadcast released V2 of their recording software with full support for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Brave on Desktop and Mobile on Android. They've also introduced a "Dabbler" payment plan which is $5/hour with all of their standard features.
Zencastr was among the first to introduce lossless audio quality to the online interview software ecosystem when it launched in 2016 and is still a favorite by many podcasters. It has an intuitive dashboard that makes inviting guests, recording episodes, and viewing each person’s audio waveforms easy and straightforward.
Like Squadcast, Zencastr progressively uploads each person’s audio file while the interview is taking place, so there’s no need to have them send you the file after the fact. When the interview is finished, just hit the button to stop recording and wait for Zencastr to finish uploading your audio file. (Make sure you see the pop-up that confirms your upload is completed before closing out of the window. This applies to your guests as well).
With paid plans, you can also unlock features like “Automatic Postproduction,” which automatically mixes and enhances each audio file based on algorithms designed specifically to make your podcast sound pristine and professional.
In an effort to focus all of its attention on getting the best audio quality possible, Zencastr does not have a video option. For some podcasters this isn’t a big deal, but if you like being able to see the person you’re interviewing you’ll want to look at other options.
Zencastr has a free plan which allows you to record up to 8 hours of audio each month with up to two guests and a $20/month plan for unlimited guests, unlimited recordings, and 16-bit 44.1k WAV audio resolution (that’s really good).
Here are three other software solutions worth considering if you’re not a fan of the first three on our list.
Ringr is another audio-only online interview solution (like Zencastr), which utilizes Voice-over-IP (VoIP) to record high-quality audio from each person’s device. You can join the interview from a modern browser like Google Chrome or Firefox, or you can dial in on your mobile device using the RINGR Mobile app available on iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.
Ringr offers a 30-day free trial and two payment plans. For $7.99/month you get unlimited calls, with decent audio quality, but Ringr mixes each person’s audio into a single, mono audio track. If you want to get their best sound quality and separate tracks for each person, you’ll need to use their $18.99/month plan.
Cleanfeed is an internet browser application that allows you to record multiple people simultaneously. It functions similarly to Ringr in that there is no video, but unlike Ringr Cleanfeed enables you to record each person’s audio on a separate track on their most basic plan.
If all you need is a high-quality audio recording, you can stick with Cleanfeed’s free plan for as long as you podcast. Jump up to their PRO plan at $22/month to unlock advanced features such as audio repair, channel mix control, and higher bitrates.
Cast is another online software solution that allows you to record high-quality audio, alone or with guests around the world, with no extra software. Where Cast sets itself apart is in its editing and hosting capabilities.
Once you finish recording your interview, you can edit the final episode in Cast’s editing dashboard and then publish your podcast. All Cast plans include hosting, RSS feeds, and basic analytics.
Cast offers a 1-month free trial of their “Hobby” plan, which includes 10 hours of recording time per month at $10/month. If you need more, you can upgrade to their “Pro” plan for $30/month.
What about Skype?
You’re probably wondering why Skype didn’t make our list of suggested remote interview solutions. Well, there are a few reasons.
#1. Poor Audio Quality
For a long time, recording over a Skype call was the best option. But, that was back when its only competition was recording someone on a phone call. VoIP will beat Cellular’s audio quality almost every time.
But times have changed. Every single solution we suggested in this article will give you better audio quality than Skype. And when you’re recording a remote podcast interview, sound quality is THE most critical factor.
#2. Inconsistent Audio Quality
Not only is Skype’s audio quality sub-par by modern standards, but it’s also really inconsistent. Even with a reliable internet connection, you’ll notice segments of your audio that sound like you’re recording in a cave. This is because Skype is ramping up or toning down the amount of information going back and forth between you and your guest to “optimize” your call (Those are sarcastic air quotes).
This inconsistency makes your interview sound like you stitched together a hodgepodge of different takes and detracts from the listening experience.
#3. No Elegant Recording Solution
Skype recently rolled out the ability to record your Skype sessions directly within the app, something you had to use third-party software like Call Recorder or Audio Hijack to accomplish previously. Unfortunately, Skype exports that audio as a mixed-down mp4 file, which means that every person’s audio is lumped together into a single audio track.
If you want the flexibility of editing each person’s audio separately, Skype’s new recording solution leaves a lot to be desired.
How to get “the best” quality possible
If you and your co-host record your podcast episode remotely, or if you’re interviewing someone with some technical know-how, there is one thing you can do that fools your listeners into thinking you’re in the same room - record a double-ender.
Double-ender (def): A type of recording where each person records their own audio locally on their computer or to an external device.
In essence, each person in the interview records their microphone directly to their computer, mixer, or field recorder so you can edit their uncompressed, high definition audio recording into the final episode.
There are two ways you can perform a double-ender recording:
#1. Hardware Solution
The first way to record a double-ender is to run each person's audio into a mixer or a field recorder like the Zoom H6 and record directly to an SD card. Once the interview is over, every person uploads their audio to the host using Dropbox or Google Drive for the final episode.
#2. Software Solution
If you don’t have an external recording device, you can achieve the same “in studio” effect by recording directly to your computer. You can use programs like Audacity (Mac and PC) to record your audio in the background while you conduct the online interview. Once the interview is over, every person exports their audio and uploads the recording to the podcast host for editing.
Which solution should you choose?
There is no perfect remote recording solution, only the right fit for what is important to you. If ease-of-use with video is most important to you, go with Zoom or Squadcast. If you want the best audio quality possible, pair a video conferencing tool like Zoom with a double-ender using hardware or software.
Just remember, your listeners care more about the content in your podcast than how professional your audio sounds. Do the best you can, but don’t let remote recording hold you back from creating your best work!
Travis Albritton is the Head of Content for Buzzsprout and host of "How to Start a Podcast."