Where Do I Get Soundboards and Sound Effects For My Podcast?

podcast development podcast equipment podcasting tools Jan 25, 2018

Today, I am answering a viewer question from John Ramirez of LeadGen TV.

John's Question:

“My question was, in radio space, they have soundboards where you can do audio clips or sound bytes, I guess, I mean, back in the day, I remember watching The Howard Stern show, and when Gary would come in, somebody in the studio would push a button and would go “Baba Booey”, “Baba Booey”, “Baba Booey.”

There was probably hundreds of others, but that’s the one I remember, and I think that I wanna have some of that, I want a machine, I want a piece of equipment, I want an app or a software that will allow me in my video and in my podcast to be able to add those sound bytes to add some flavor, add some brand.”

This is a great question that I get asked quite a bit. 


When John talks about soundboards, what he’s talking about--in radio terms--is something called “hotkeys”, or an instant replay machine.

Hotkeys are basically sound effects that you load into a machine and they are easily accessible to the podcaster at a moment's notice.  Whenever you’re doing podcasting, you’re actually injecting or are inserting sound effects in real time.

Let’s say, for instance, you had a machine that was next to you that had a bank of sounds in it.  While podcasting, you can go ahead and tap on a particular sound and it will show up in your podcast recording. In radio, most morning shows use an instant replay hotkey machine.


Pro #1 - Hotkeys Give You Confidence

First, there's always some cool things when it comes down using a soundboard or a hotkey machine adds a different layer of creativity for your podcast and gives you that extra bit of confidence.


Hotkeys can serve as a crutch for your podcast.  You may rely on it too much for your program, but it really is going to depend on the type of podcaster or broadcaster--depending on their humor, depending on how well they are able to communicate over into the microphone.

Pro #2 - Hotkeys Make Listening Entertaining

Soundboards also keep the listener engaged.

If you’ve ever heard Howard Stern, his producers are using these hotkeys a lot. And if you've ever listened to Howard, you know that these sound effects keep the listener engaged.  Sound effects from these machines add theater of the mind to the listener on the other end. And if you ever get a chance to watch a talented morning show use a machine like and instant replay machine, It’s just wildly entertaining to see them use and hear over the air.  

Hotkeys are definitely something to have in your arsenal, if you have a little bit of money, and you have the patience to learn and hone your craft as far as a live presenter’s concerned, because that’s what you’re doing, you’re doing these all in a real time and live, and it can be difficult, and you have to think on your feet a lot.


Con #1 - The Sounds You Use May Be Licensed And You Could Be Subject To Legal Action

When using a soundboard machine, you have to be careful which types of sounds you are putting into it.  Some of those sounds may be licensed. 

Let's say you may want to use the lightsaber sound from Star Wars movies.  I would suggest thinking twice before even taking that sound down from the internet.  I know that people are using these sounds on Facebook videos for their memes, but it's important that your sounds might be violating some type of creator protection. 

I'm not saying that you can't take these sounds, but if you're not paying some type of fee to have access to certain sounds, then it's probably illegal.  I would recommend consulting with an attorney before you start thinking about putting sounds into your podcast. 

Let's put it this way:  the more original the sound of your podcast is going to be, the less likely you're going to find yourself in trouble.

Again, this is going to be at the discretion of how comfortable you feel about putting specific sound effects into your podcast.

If you’re ripping sound effects off from the TV, off of movies, out of music, you might be subject to being fined, or get a Cease and Desist, or you’ll get in trouble.

Con #2 - Hotkey Machines Are Expensive

A brand new one can cost anywhere between $3,000, maybe even $4,000.

Of course you can find used ones that are  somewhere around $200-$500.  The problem with anything used is that you're getting what you pay for.  Something might not work on the machine or it's not compatible somehow.   

Con #3 - There Are No Great/Existing Tablet Or Phone Apps 

There was a software company called Ambrosia Software that made a Soundboard app years ago when I had my very first podcast. 

Soundboard allowed you to turn your iPad into a hotkey soundboard.

Back then it was compatible with iOS 4, but here we are at iOS 11 and I've tried to get this app to work seamlessly and it's just clunky now.   

Ambrosia hasn't updated that app in years and it doesn't look like it's going to be updated anytime soon.

If you look on their website, there's a web version, but it's for Mac only.  And, who knows how well it will work with the latest OS update for your Mac. 

"What about Android?"

There really aren’t any Android apps out there for soundboards where you can upload sounds into your tablet, and utilize it and plugin into your mixing board.

Con #4 - Using Hotkeys Is a Secret Talent of Thinking On Your Feet And Memorization

Lastly, the learning curve in using hotkeys actually is a talent. What you see here at the radio station is that I only handle a few levels here on the music board. But whenever I incorporate something like hotkeys--which are on my screen--it takes practice learning how to put those in specific parts of your program.   

It took me a long time to get really good at, to learn a rhythm. 


One more thing I wanna talk about is something that John had brought up in his video.  He mentioned that he's had a mental block because he feels he needs to have this added element into his podcast. 

I would like to push back and say, "John, I believe you ARE ready."

John has the ability to get on his podcast and just start.

When I first started in radio and took on any other thing in my life--whether that be playing the guitar, learning how to play the drums, hike a mountain, explore a brand new skill--I just started.

I dove in head first and didn’t worry about what the result was later on down the line.

What I did know was that I was going to be practicing over time and that I would be getting better every single time.

Whatever is holding you back right now, you need to pull that aside, and never think about it again. 

You need to tell yourself, “I can do this, and when I start my podcast, it’s going to grow over time.”

I’ve been on the radio for 17-years, and 11 of them have been mainly practice. I’ve had to grow overtime and I’ve had to learn new things with radio and with the social media landscape.

Things are always changing and there is never a perfect time to start a podcast.

Challenge yourself and just start today.

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