Should I Wear Headphones to Record My Podcast?

Headphones... To Wear Em Or Not To Wear Em

Why do you see podcasters wearing studio headphones when they're recording an episode? I don't get it.

Are you listening to yourself while you're talking? Or do you only have them on to listen to post-recording editing?

New Podcaster

This is a great question! We so often see pictures of podcasters with headphones on that we forget to ask "why?"

There are some very good reasons for wearing headphones.

And some very good reasons for NOT wearing headphones!

Sometimes it's nice to hear your voice in the headphones while you record because it can sound bigger than life.

Perhaps you really like that radio DJ sound!

Wearing headphones is a good choice when you are recording a solo show or during an interview if it makes you feel more comfortable to hear how your voice sounds on the mic.

If you are doing a Skype interview then you will definitely want to wear headphones.

Headphones will allow you to hear your guest. You won't hear your own voice back from Skype in your headphones though. So closed back headphones can sound weird. You may prefer to use open headphones or ear buds.

This can present a new problem though. If you have your headphones up too loud then the sound coming through your headphones will "bleed" back into the mic and cause your final sound to be phasey or swishy sounding.​

And you wont want to record with your speakers are on, because like headphones that are too loud this will cause the speaker sound to feed back into the mic. Feedback can even create a high pitched squealing noise and low up your speakers if they are turned up loud!​

However, When I do an in person interview with two mics I prefer no headphones because it feels more natural and personal.

People tend to open up more without headphones. Your may find your in studio guest more relaxed if they feel like they are having a normal conversation.

Watch out that you and your guest don't start drifting off mic though or you can lose that sweet spot and end up with a less than ideal sound.

Also if you are doing a solo show you may find yourself speaking in more of a natural voice and opening up more if you don't have headphones on.

Of course you must also keep your speakers off while you record to prevent feedback!

During post editing you don't need headphones either. But you might want to use them to check your edits and mix.

During editing its ok to listen on speakers. When I do the final mix I prefer speakers so I can tell what it will sound like when someone listens back over speakers later. 

Here is a checklist of when to wear headphones and when not...​

You might want to wear headphones if...

  • You like the sound of your own voice in the headphones.
  • You are doing a Skype interview.
  • You are editing and really want to hear whats going on.
  • You are editing or mixing in a loud environment and cant hear your speakers well enough.
  • You want to hear what your mix will sound like in earbuds or headphones like your listener might.
  • You want to get an endorsement from a headphone company. Lol!
You might want to NOT  wear headphones if...
  • You are doing an in studio interview and want to have a natural conversation.
  • You are interviewing someone at an event or "In The Field"
  • You feel self conscious hearing your voice through the headphones when recording your solo show or intro and outro. And want to feel more open or relaxed when recording.
  • You are mixing and want to check the mix through speakers like the iPhone speaker. (I highly recommend this!)
  • You are concerned that your loud headphones might bleed back into the mic while you record. (Sometimes the background music will bleed through as well).

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    Lij Shaw

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