Before we do that though, we are going to give you some tips about how to best use sound effects in your podcast content. Feel free to skip this section if you already consider yourself a sfx (sound effects) pro.
You can also skip straight to our individual review of each site, by clicking on its name on this list:
- Best Search Details: FreeSound
- Simplest: Pixabay
- Highest Trust Score: ZapSplat
- Coolest Collection: BBC Sound Effects Archive
Ready to get started? 3… 2… 1… Blast off! 🚀
Podcast Sound Effects Tips
Sound effects are like cologne: Use high quality ones well and they will take you far. Use not-so-great ones poorly and… not great, not great at all. 🦨😖
But do not worry, we are going to walk you through everything you need to know here.
Where to Use Podcast Sound Effects
Your podcast episode intro can be a good place to integrate sound effects. Typically an intro has a short music track and the host says the podcast’s name a brief description. You can mix sound effects in with the music to get the sound design just right, or use them as a transition out of the music. 🎙️
Transitions can be a great spot for podcast sound effects. The transitions may be to/from an advertising spot, between content segments, or just to give listeners time to process a concept before moving on. Sound effects can help guide listeners through an episode’s complicated story, giving them structure. 🤓
Podcast side effects can really shine in the context of a game segment. Game segments can be great opportunities to bring levity and build relationships with the audience. They also are great opportunities for advertisers and sponsorship opportunities. For example, a history podcast could have a quiz section sponsored by book shop. 📚
How to Technically Use Sound Effects
Ok, so let’s say you have decided where you want to use sound effects in your podcast. Now the question is where exactly do they fit in your production. Essentially, you can integrate them in two different processes: recording or editing.
You can add podcast sound effects during the live recording of your episode if you want. Typically you would use a soundboard for this. 👩🎤
A soundboard is basically a bunch of buttons that each are programmed to play a specific track— in this case, a short track of a sound effect. You can buy a stand alone soundboard, but often they come as part of an audio mixer setup. 🎛️
There is also computer software that functions as a soundboard.
Of course you can also just click play on any kind of media player on your computer if you want. This just does not always get picked up well by production microphones during recording, plus you will probably have to edit out the “click” sound from when you clicked play. 🤫
The other way you can add sound effects to your episode is to do it after recording, in the editing process. You probably have a long to-do list for your editing: clipping interview content, mixing audio, maybe even editing video. But on the that to-do list you would add “inserting sound effect tracks.” 😅
Sound Effects Double Meaning
Sound effects, or sfx, can mean two different things in audio world. ✌️
Sound effects can mean recorded sounds. That is is how we are using the term in this blog post. Some examples: background chatter of a social mixer, sound of a horse pulling a cart, a video tape clicking into an old video cassette player. 📼
But sound effects can also mean audio editing effects that you apply on recorded tracks in post production software. You know how you can make someone’s voice sound like they just sucked the helium out of a balloon? That is an example of this kind of sound effect. 🎈
The websites in this guide all have the recorded clips kind of sound effects so you do not need to worry about getting confused on them. However, if you are searching other places, it might not be the same story so just be sure to double check.
Now that we have all that covered, let’s starting looking at free libraries where you can download free podcast sound effects! ⬇️
Freesound.org is not a flashy, beautiful website, but it is an excellent source for free podcast sound effects. University students and researchers in Barcelona, Spain first created it in 2005. The university still supports the site, but it also depends on individual donors. The website has almost 600,000 recorded sounds. 🤩
Probably the best aspect of this site is that the sound listings are very thorough in their descriptions. That makes it easy for you to search and find exactly what you are looking for. It also gives you the opportunity to find podcast sound effects that work perfectly even though they were not exactly what you were thinking of originally. 🧐
Be sure to check out FreeSound’s forums if you need inspiration or if you have any questions. For example, a tour through the “The Coolest Sounds on FreeSound” tab will open your podcasting imagination like never before. 🤯
Just remember, always, always, always, check the license listed with the track to make sure you have permission to use the sound effect in the manner you want. Many podcast sound effects on FreeSound have a Creative Commons 0 license which means you can use them however you want, no attributions or anything. However, some have other kinds of Creative Commons licenses that require you do a source attribution (like listing the creator in your show notes), or only use it for non-commercial purposes, etc.
➡️ For all the information you need to understand terms like license, royalty, copyright, etc. check out this blog post we wrote. ⬅️
Pixabay is another great site where you can find free podcast sound effects. It has a whole tab dedicated solely to sound effects. Searching and downloading sound effects is super easy and the interface is pretty and clean. 🤗
Two Germans started Pixabay and the company is still currently located there. Besides sound effects, it also has a library full of royalty free images, music, and videos.
In the search bar, enter your search terms and then be sure to click “sound effects” in the drop down menu. You will then see a list of search results. 🔍
Alternatively, you can go to the “sound effects” tab on the website. On it you will see the top “Editor’s Choices.” If you go to the small drop down menu, you can select to instead see the “Latest” or “Trending” sound effects.
Once you click on the name of a track, you will be taken to its page. There, near the very top, you can see the license info. All of them are covered by the Pixabay standard license. This license lets you use the sound effect for free, with no attribution, and even in some commercial cases. 👍
A Brit, Alan McKinney, started Zapsplat almost ten years and it is now one of the largest libraries of sound effects in the world. It has about 123,000 sound effects with one hundred being added every day. Two million creatives have used its sound effects in their projects. 🧑🎨
To search for a sound effect, go to the “Free Sound Effects” tab at the top of the home page. A search bar will pop up at the top. You can either use that to find you perfect podcast sound effect, or you can browse the categories it lists below the search function.
All sound effects on Zapsplat are free. All media on its site falls under its standard license. The license specifically says you can use the sound effect on your podcast (as well as listing other projects types), even if it is a commercial podcast. All you have to do is attribute the source, Zapsplat. 🙏
However, if you do not want to attribute the source, you can pay for a Gold membership for about $5 per month and then still use the sound effects. With the Gold membership you can also download higher quality WAV files and bypass the three downloads per ten min. rule on the website. All of the sound effects are royalty free.
But for your average podcasting project, you do not need the benefits of the Gold membership and you can just stick to the super easy and totally free option. 😍
ZapSplat is highly trusted by creators as shown by its 4.8 star score on TrustPilot. 🧑✈️
The BBC, the British Broadcasting Company, in general is great about making its archival content available to the public. This also goes for its library of sound effects. 🎥
The BBC Sound Effects Archive has 33,000 clips from over 100 years of recording across the world. They include tracks recorded during the World War II Blitz in London, recordings for their natural history shows, and many other sound effects you will not find anywhere else. 🌍
The website is very simple and easy to use. It just has a search bar where you put in your key terms. You can narrow your findings with three drop down menus: Categories, Duration, and Continents.
As for licensing, as long as you are using the tracks for non-commercial purposes and you credit the BBC, you can use them for free. If you want to use them for commercial purposes, you will need to purchase a license for them (it will redirect you to the Pro Sound Effects Online Library where you just need to click ‘add to cart’ and buy it). 🛒
Now that you have read through this guide, you might feel a little overwhelmed and not sure where to start. Like most things with podcasts, we suggest you start by exploring! 🪐
Click around and see what works for you and what does not. Every podcaster is different. 🧑🚀
In fact, the more you can freely explore, the better. With podcast sound effects, often there are better options out there than you can imagine. People record and create all sorts of sounds that can add texture and depth to your episodes.
And as always, enjoy the podcast journey! 🚀 💜Independentsprofessionals
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