Best Sites to Find Free Podcast Sound Effects

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Best Sites to Find Free Podcast Sound Effects

Podcast sound effects can be a great way to add creative sound design to your episodes. In this blog post we are going to show you some of the best libraries where you download them for free. πŸ€‘

May 30, 2023 β€’ About 13 min. read

podcast-sound-effects

Before we do that though, we are going to give you some tips about how to best use sound effects in your podcast content. We are also going to give you examples of podcasts that use sound effects well. πŸ₯‡

By the way, in this blog post we are talking about sound effects in terms of bits of recorded sounds, not editing processes to change quality of the audio.

If you want, you can skip straight to our individual review of the features on each site, by clicking on its name on this list:

Ready to launch into this audio galaxy? 3… 2… 1… Blast off! πŸš€

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. πŸ¦¨πŸ˜–

But do not worry, we are going to walk you through everything you need to know here.

Where to Use Podcast Sound Effects

Intro

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. πŸŽ™οΈ

Transition

Transitions can be a great spot for podcast sound effects. The transitions may be from music to speaking, 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. πŸ€“

Game

Podcast side effects can really shine in the context of a game segment. In podcasts, game segments can be great time to bring levity to podcasts 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. πŸ“š

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 process. Essentially, you can integrate them in two different processes: recording or editing.

Recording

You can add podcast sound effects during the live recording of your episode if you want. Typically you would use a soundboard mixer for this. πŸ‘©β€πŸŽ€

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. πŸŽ›οΈ

There is also computer software that functions as a soundboard (and a mixer).

Of course you can also just click play on any kind of audio media player on your computer if you want. These sounds just do 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. 🀫

Editing

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 that already takes a lot of time: adding music, clipping interview content, mixing audio, maybe even editing video. But on the that to-do list you would add “inserting sound effect tracks.” πŸ˜…

Sound Effects Double Meaning

We mentioned this in the introduction, but wanted to spend a little more time explaining it here: Sound effects, or sfx, can mean two different things in audio world. ✌️

Sound effects (sfx) 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. πŸ“Ό

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 library websites in this guide all have the recorded clips kind of sound effects so you do not need to worry about getting confused as you spend time on them. However, if you are searching other places, it might not be the same story so just be sure to double check.

Examples of Podcasts Using Sound Effects Well

Let’s take a look at some podcasts that use sound effects well. After all, it can be hard to work from a blank slate. Hopefully these examples will help you think about how you want to incorporate sound effects in your episodes.

Ausha’s Tips

Not to toot our own horn, but we literally do a good job of tooting a horn in our podcast. In our episode “How to Transform an Unknown Listener into a Loyal Listener” around the 00:23 time stamp, listen for the horn. 🎺

This sound effect acts as a transition between the intro and the heart of the content. It incorporates our branding of being fun and approachable. It adds audio depth in a way that just plain music can’t.

ESPN’s Around the Horn

Ok, maybe this is cheating a little bit, but you can’t talk about awesome use of sound effects without talking about ESPN’s “Around the Horn.” Sure the sound effects are built into the TV show itself, BUT notice how well they translate to a podcast. πŸ€πŸˆβšΎ

The side effects add a whole other layer to the show. You can tell how the host feels about what the guest is saying, without the host interrupting them. It creates a game show layer to an otherwise typical sports podcast. The sound effects also act as an indicator of when the guest needs to be done talking, keeping the pace of the episode hopping.

Wondery’s Tides of History

Sheeps baa-ing, tents flapping, hammers striking anvils— Sound effects put listeners in the shoes of ancient people in Wondery’s Tides of History. πŸ‘β›ΊπŸ”₯

Each episode starts with a scene that puts listeners right in the heart of what it was like to live as an individual during the time period the episode will cover. We hear what a normal Roman, Ottoman, or Persian would hear on an average day.

This usage of sound effects amplifies the immersive experience of the podcast. It envelops listeners in the audio and keeps them tuned in. Its a calling card for the show– you hear real life sound effects in the first minute of the show and you know you are in the right place.

Now that you are inspired by these examples, let’s starting looking at free library options where you can download free podcast sound effects! ⬇️

5 best websites for free podcast sound effects

FreeSound

FreeSound_sound_effects

Freesound.org is not a flashy, beautiful website, but it is an excellent source for free podcast sound effects and basically any other sounds you can think of. 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 sounds 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.

➑️ For all the information you need to understand terms like license, royalty, copyright, etc. check out this blog post we wrote. It is a 15 min read. ⬅️

Pixabay

Pixabay_sound_effects

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. πŸ€—

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. πŸ”

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 on podcasts, with no attribution, and even in some commercial cases. πŸ‘

ZapSplat

ZapSplat_sound_effects

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. πŸ§‘β€πŸŽ¨

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. πŸ™

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 audio WAV files and bypass the 3 downloads per 10 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. πŸ§‘β€βœˆοΈ

BBC

BBC_sound_effects

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. πŸŽ₯

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. Need background sounds from a Thai airport? A three min clip from the Don Muang airport is ready for you! ✈️

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). πŸ›’

YouTube

You can’t leave YouTube out of any list you make about audio libraries. YouTube is huge and growing video by video, audio track by audio track every day. Whatever you are trying to design, create, or record, you should at least check out YouTube for inspiration. πŸ’»

One of the main features of YouTube, at least from the creator’s side, is YouTube Studio. This is where the free sound effects come in. In it, YouTube has one of the biggest libraries in the world: music, sounds, everything. It is all free. With one catch. You cannot use it in content outside YouTube.

The good news is that YouTube is getting into podcasts. So it is a great place to distribute your show. However, it is probably too much of a pain to create one track for YouTube with its free sound effects and one track without them for other platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, etc. πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ

So, while it may seem like a good idea to pull sound effects from YouTube, you probably want to think twice.

Getting Started

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 your options! πŸͺ

Click around and see what works for you and what does not. Every podcaster is different. πŸ§‘β€πŸš€

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 intro/outro music and the main content of your episodes.

Brainstorm. Think about how you can podcast sound effects in your own show. Do your transitions between segments need a little more umph? Can you use sounds effects to add another layer of audio depth to your show or to help with the pacing? How about adding real life, immersive audio to draw in your listeners? Think big!

And as always, enjoy the podcast journey! πŸš€ πŸ’œ

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May 30, 2023

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