When producer Matt Dwyer sits down to mix and master an episode of the podcast Eric Krasno Plus One (Osiris Media), his ears are searching for the sweet, compressed sounds he heard on the airwaves in the 1980s.
“I grew up in the era of great FM radio,” he says, “so I have in my head these amazing-sounding FM radio voices from the Eighties, really smooth-talking people without much variation [that] come through loud and clear wherever you are.”
Achieving that aesthetic can be a challenge, he says, especially considering the variety of input sources he encounters on the podcast. Krasno, a GRAMMY-winning producer/songwriter who talks shop with artists and producers like Don Was, Dave Matthews and John Mayer on his music podcast, tracks with a Telefunken AK-47 mic and a Universal Audio LA-610 preamp. But his guests’ audio can be a wild card.
“Primarily, we’re doing [interviews] over FaceTime,” says Dwyer, “and then he’ll feed the audio back into Ableton. We’re trying to get guests to record themselves locally and then send the track to us, [but] we try to make do with the remote audio the best we can.”
Passing the files over the internet adds some initial compression, but Dwyer doubles down to tighten them up before sending the tracks through a limiter and boosting the gain. “It’s a lot different than producing music, because you want a really steady sound from the voice with very, very little dynamics,” he says. “People are listening to these things in their car, in the gym, and you want to serve the conversation rather than focus on an audiophile experience.”
Dwyer has a reliable formula for equalizing the tracks, and there’s a night-and-day difference between how he handles the audio sources. The audio files he gets from Krasno and his guests are often adjusted in opposite directions.
“Eric has a nice, deep voice, so I’m doing a lot of rolling off of the low end, maybe around 200 Hz, to take a little bit off the low end so it’s not so boomy,” he says. “To the contrary, if I’m looking at a FaceTime recording or something like that, I’m probably boosting a little bit more in the mid-range, maybe like the 400-800 Hz range, because you don’t get as much of that coming into those recordings.”
Dwyer doesn’t impose a heavy hand in the mastering stage, he says. His primary concern is to bring out an overall frequency shape if he didn’t get it in the mix, and to work on loudness.
“When you’re talking about podcasts, especially when you’re going to get into a platform that serves up dynamic ads, you’ve got to be very conscious about your loudness measurement. For example, with the platform we’re on, all the ads are served up at -16 LUFS. I try to master for an average of -16 LUFS, and do kind of a QA inspection of the overall file.”
As a confessed music fanatic, Dwyer can be hyper-critical of albums that come out with “squashed and poor dynamic range,” he says. Podcasts, he recognizes, are a different beast.
“The unfortunate nature of the podcast space,” he says, “is that the end result is going to be a 128 Kb MP3 that people are going to get served up. You have to keep that in mind, particularly in the mastering stage, and make sure that it’s going to sound varied to somebody streaming it to their phone coming through their earbuds. It’s a lot about problematic frequencies and making sure that the loudness is intact and where we want it to be.”
Eric Krasno Plus One • https://www.osirispod.com/podcasts/eric-krasno-plus-one