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3 September 2021

High quality audio makes you sound smarter.

By tristan

Since we are going through a massive shift to video content across multiple channels, one area that often gets forgotten is audio quality. This study out of University of South Carolina shows, just how important audio quality is.

Recommendation

Ensure audio is of high quality in call, online meetings, interviews, podcasts, and videos. At the bare minimum, the use of AirPods or alternative should be used at all times.

For example, in a Video for social media you should:

  • Use a podcasting or other high-quality microphone in an office situation.
  • For a more spontaneous recording using high quality ear buds.
  • Minimize background noise as much as possible.

People will perceive you as smarter and more likeable. If you are in a situation in which you can’t control the audio quality, (e.g. live event) mention it. Your audience will be less negatively biased towards you.

Effects

  • When audio quality is high, people judge the content as better and more important. They also judge the speak as more intelligent, competent, and likable.
  • People rated a physicist’s talk at a scientific conference 19.3% better when they listened to it in high quality audio vs low quality distorted and echo-prone audio.
  • Similar results were scene with NPR’s Science Friday interviews. High quality audio we received much better than bad phone line audio.

Why it works

  • Messages that are difficult to process are less compelling. For example, we’re less like to:
    • Think a message is true if it’s written in a hard to read font (e.g. yellow font on a white page)
    • Believe someone with a hard-to-understand accent or hard to pronounce name
    • Think an author is intelligent if their handwriting is hard to understand.
  • Because we associate the message with the messenger, a hard-to-understand message lowers our impression of the person as well.

Limitations

  • This study focuses on how scientist and their research were perceived when they spoke at recorded conferences or phone interviews. This experiment did not test the effect in business context (e.g. salesperson pitching on Zoom while having a lot of background noise).
  • However, there is a solid foundation for this effect (there’s extensive research that we dislike hard to understand messages and messengers), so it’s all but certain that similar effects would be found in other situations (e.g. business meetings, podcasts, videos).
  • Our own small-scale tests have proven that higher quality audio is far more important that higher quality video.

Steps to implement

  • Consider a good quality microphone. Something designed for podcasts.
  • A simpler solution that increases audio with minimal effort are high quality earbuds, for phone recording.
  • If you’re interviewing people, it’s best to request that use at the very least a set of earbuds.
  • Watch your background noise.
  • Amazing things can be done with software, in making your audio sound more polished. While it might take a bit longer the results are worth it.

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