Have you ever spent days or weeks on a video edit… only for it still to feel amateur?
Do you feel like you’re missing some secret all the pros know?
Video editing has a lot of moving parts, but there is one essential thing that most beginner and intermediate video editors often overlook…
I’m talking about their audio.
Too many editors don’t give their sound the attention it deserves… and it’s hurting their video edits.
Lucky for you: I’ve been a professional video editor for over 20 years, and in this article, I’m going to show you how to improve audio quality in your video edits with 3 simple but powerful techniques a beginner video editor can utilize.
Video Quality is More Forgiving
There’s a common misconception—especially among the content creator/YouTube space—that a quality video production is mostly about the visuals…
But think about it.
We’re actually pretty forgiving when it comes to lower quality video.
I’ll watch an hour-long podcast of 2 people on a zoom-style video call (that was filmed on their 5 year old laptop’s webcam)—as long as there is substance in the conversation.
If someone is offering genuine value… I personally don’t care if they filmed it on a cell phone.
But if I can’t hear you clearly—that’s when we have a problem.
If there are pops or clicks, things that are cut off, tons of echo, or the music is too loud… it immediately screams amateur.
For this reason, I have a saying I feel more people need to adopt:
Audio is more than half of the video experience.
Demonstrating How Audio is More Important than Video Image Quality
Let’s do a simple experiment.
Go pick any video you’ve ever enjoyed. I mean it—any video you like…
Could be a nature documentary, a cinematic movie trailer, an educational video…
Now: Watch it on MUTE. 🔇
Sure, the visuals may be cool, interesting, or nice to look at…
But I want you to pay attention to what is missing—really try to tune in to how it’s making you feel.
Be honest: Is it making you feel anything?
Here’s the truth…
Audio is the soul of a video. It’s where all of the emotion comes from.
Need more convincing?
Watch that same video or clip—but this time… Turn up the sound and close your eyes. 🔊
Now, is this version making you feel anything? I bet it is.
I’m using a cinematic action scene to make the point more obvious—but know that this experiment works with any kind of video… it’s a fun way to illustrate how powerful and important audio really is in your videos.
But if that’s true—why do so many editors neglect this part of video editing?
Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer to that… but here’s what I do know:
By focusing on audio—we will make better videos and get more views.
And with that, here are some tips for better audio quality in your videos.
How to Improve Audio Quality in Your Video Edits in 3 Simple Steps
Now I’m sure you’re asking:
What are some simple steps I can take to get better audio in my video editing program?
This article is aimed at content creators (as opposed to feature film editors… who have more latitude with dynamic range—knowing their films will be played in a quiet theater), so I’ll assume that you have voiceover, narration, or dialogue that has the goal of educating or entertaining your audience.
With this in mind, here are 3 big ideas to always keep top of mind + useful techniques to make your audio 10x better—without any extra plugins:
WAIT! I almost forgot…
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Phew! That was close... Ok, back to the article. 👇
Most Important Thing to Remember: Dialogue is KING
I was contemplating ending the article with this—but it’s just too important to save for the end.
Dialogue, Narration, Voiceover, and whatever else you’d like it call it…
This is the substance of your content.
It should be treated with more care than your color correction, fancy transitions, and anything else you’re spending too much time on.
Want to dramatically improve audio quality in your video edits?
Focus on achieving CONSISTENCY and CLARITY in your sound design.
To help get you there, start by applying these effects to your dialogue and narration audio tracks:
1. Use a High-Pass Filter
- A High-Pass filter can be used to remove unnecessary/excess bass—it let’s the higher-frequencies pass through, while cutting lower frequencies… all at a specific level you can adjust.
- The human voice (and anything else coming through your microphone) isn’t doing anything but adding noise at 40Hz, for example… so, start with a High-Pass filter at 60Hz. And bring it until you start to hear it effect the voice.
- In extreme cases of poorly recorded audio—I’ve had to move this all the way up to 200Hz and higher. But in most cases, you shouldn’t have to go higher than 150Hz.
2. Use a Graphic or Parametric Equalizer (EQ)
- Sometimes a high pass filter by itself isn’t enough. Depending on your microphone or how your audio was recorded, it might need more bass, or more high end to improve the clarity.
- Some EQs have a high-pass filter inside them (like the parametric equalizer screenshot below), so you might be able to skip the above step—but not all do.
- Working with EQs is something you get better at as you do it more often, so don’t be shy—experiment with each dial to see how it affects the sound.
- If, after experimenting with it, you aren’t sure if you’re making the audio better or worse… turn the entire effect on and off as your audio plays back.
- Sometimes the best way to judge your sound is by comparing it to a separate professional video (more on that later in the article).
3. Use a Compressor
- A compressor does what it sounds—it compresses the audio… narrowing the dynamic range. Put simply, this means it makes the loud sounds quieter while making the quiet sounds louder.
- This improves the overall consistency of the volume that’s being output.
- BUT: The real trick to using a compressor is not to OVERUSE it.
- On my dialogue/narration tracks in Adobe Premiere Pro, I use the multiband compressor and start with the “Broadcast” preset.
4. Use a Limiter
- A limiter effect on a dialogue audio channel acts as an automatic volume ceiling—it stops your narration from exceeding a set loudness threshold.
- This also helps maintain more consistent audio levels, and ensures your volume doesn’t peak (which can cause distorted audio).
- Again, similar to the compressor—you don’t want to go overboard with this effect.
- In Adobe Premiere Pro, I use the Hard Limiter with the “Medium” preset… and tweak it from there.
A few important things to note about the steps above:
You don’t have to add these effects to each individual audio clip on your timeline.
In Adobe Premiere Pro, you can open the Audio Track Mixer and apply all 4 of the above effects to a single audio track (Audio Track #1, for instance). Then, you just have to make sure the audio you want effected is on that track in your editing timeline.
But—this is important: You should add these effects in the order I have them listed.
The reason for this may not be obvious… but to explain it simply:
If you compress the audio before adding a high-pass filter and EQ, then you are just compressing low quality, unwanted frequencies. You want to “shape” the sound first, then apply a compressor and/or limiter.
Does all this sound like too much work?
Save yourself a ton of time with this technique:
Create a sequence with these effects pre-loaded on a dedicated dialogue audio track and turn it into a reusable video editing project template… 👉 This article shows you how.
Fix Your Background Music Levels/Volume — They Should NEVER Be Too Loud vs Dialogue
This can be tough for beginner editors—because your background music being too quiet is also not helping your video.
Finding the right balance of your background music takes practice, but here’s a simple trick to make sure your music isn’t too loud:
When you play back a section of your edit with dialogue or narration… turn the volume of your computer speakers WAY down (almost all the way to 0).
With the volume this low… you should not be able to hear any background music—but still be able to hear and understand the dialogue being spoken.
This audibly shows that your narration is clear and not overwhelmed by the background music.
If your edit passes this test—nice job!
Listen to Your Edit’s Audio Mix vs a Professional Video
When you’re getting closer to finalizing your video edit, and you’ve been working on your audio mix for hours…
You start to lose objectivity in what you’re seeing and hearing.
You’ll convince yourself that it sounds great… but in reality:
You’re overdoing something or not doing enough of something else.
At this point, the best thing to do is take a break and come back to it later.
And when you do, if you think your mix is getting close—another simple trick to gain perspective is to listen to your edit’s audio mix vs a professional video… one that you feel has a great sound quality about it.
This is called A/B Testing.
Listen to their dialogue/narration—does your recording sound muddy (bass-heavy) vs theirs? How about their music and SFX volume levels?
If you feel yours is lacking in an area… make adjustments to the effects we added above to get your sound closer to theirs.
I’ll say it again:
Audio is more than half of the video experience.
It’s the soul of your video, and it deserves your attention.
Enhancing your audio quality will without a doubt make your video better—and help it stand out from the crowd of amateurs.
Remember: This article was focused on adjustments that can be achieved in most professional editing programs—without the need for additional plugins or add-ons.
There are many more ways to enhance the audio in your videos when you go deeper into the world of audio post-production and start diving into more advanced plugins, effects, and techniques.
But that’s for another day…
For now, here’s a quick TL;DR breakdown of audio editing best practices for content creators:
- Dialogue is KING, and your goal is clarity and consistency. Start by adding these effects to your dialogue audio tracks (in this order)…
- A high-pass filter
- A graphic equalizer
- A compressor
- A limiter
- Fix Your Background Music Level—it should NEVER compete with your dialogue
- Listen to Your Audio Mix vs a Professional Edit. See how your mix stacks up against a professional, and make adjustments.
Follow these steps, and you’ll be on your way to clearer, more professional audio… and in turn: more views and growth.
Are you running into audio challenges on your videos? Was this article helpful?
Do you have any questions for me about how to improve audio quality in your video edits?
Is there something else you feel is holding your video quality back?
Let me know in the comments below!