ACX audiobook: hiss / whine from my laptop's wheezy fan

I’ve had a similar problem with the ACX Plugin with it reporting that it was all passing the checks. The author I’m currently working with had an audio sample reviewed by an ACX team member and reported that the noise floor is too high. I’ve sent an email request telling them what my process is (maybe I did the audio-book suite out of order or something else. I recently discovered how to use ‘chains’ for stringing commands, which I’m kicking myself for not learning sooner, hehe.

I’m wondering if I can use a gentle noise reduction (either the 6,6,6 or 9,6,6, rule) to get rid of the hiss / whine from my laptop’s wheezy fan (had it since 2013) that happens from time to time. Still waiting to hear back from them, but any advice would be appreciated.!49IDSYTC!8BSC4uNhs5y30eGEc2MhQy7O2XJaOFReL8OT7XlUX7Q

[ Using Audacity 2.2.2 on Windows 10 ]

Still waiting to hear back from them…

Chances are terrific you will wait forever. ACX is not in the business of adjusting your studio.

hiss / whine from my laptop’s wheezy fan

Can you tell that your computer is on just by listening? Kiss of death. If you can tell if your refrigerator is on just by listening, that’s not good news, either.

that happens from time to time.

It’s not always noisy? Maybe that was their real objection. They hate chapters that don’t match.

ACX Check will only tell you if your work meets technical standards. The passage has to be comfortable. Noise should come in around -63dB to -65dB. Not -60.5dB. Particularly if your noise is irritating to the ear, you will have to do better than just squeak past.

When your work goes to ACX, it also has to pass Human Quality Control where they judge you on your reading ability. Nobody wrote you can’t have two or more problems. They will only report the worst or first failure. See: They’re not in the business of fixing your studio.

Your recording room has to be dead quiet. My little third bedroom is very quiet and but I still have to wait for the Los Angeles Metrobus to go by before I start reading. VROOOOOM!

Record and post a sound sample according to this formula. Do not adjust anything. Record, export and post.

Go down the blue links. They’re very short and they will give you hints how to complete each step.

There is a way around the noisy computer thing. Stop using the computer. This is a Zoom H1n stand-alone sound recorder.

That’s my photo studio. Replace all the wood with my quiet but non-photogenic third bedroom.

People have used Zoom H4n and Zoom H5n. Other people such as Tascam make good recorders. National Public Radio used to use Tascams for their field recordings. They may still. The H2 and H5 can use external microphones.

There are ways to quiet down a small room, too. This is a kitchen table sound studio.


Did this when my laptop was behaving and not at it’s worst wheezy self. I would love to upgrade my equipment, but currently short on cash. I am trying to make do with what I have.

Before I get into the thunder and lighning, you need to separate yourself from the computer noise. Even with it doing well, and normally mastered, I can still hear that whine in the background. If it gets worse you will need to stop recording until it gets better again.

I have played tricks with blankets and towels such that there is a blanket fort around the computer and I can’t hear it running. Do Not block any ventilation or air holes. If the room is big enough you may be able to put the laptop on a chair, throw a blanket or heavy towel over the back of the chair and face the whole thing away from you. I did that once on an empty warehouse recording (when there wasn’t any other place to record).

Even if all you do is reduce that harsh, piercing whine, that may be good enough.


Your voice is very low.

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The tips of the little blue waves should be closer to the 50% mark on occasion. Occasional 50% tips say once a minute or so. Approximately. You should get in the ballpark with the raw recording or you will spend tons of time chasing volume and noise problems. More like this.

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After mastering, it’s going to be even higher.

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I applied simple Audiobook Mastering followed by Noise Reduction of the Beast (6, 6, 6). The noise passes technical testing easily, but if you listen in a quiet room, you can still hear that fan whine back there. And this was a good computer day.

You need to somehow deal with that. If you’re using a USB microphone this can be a double whammy because you can’t separate the computer from the microphone by much more than about 6 feet (2M). One normal USB cable. If you try to extend it, you may run into The Yeti Curse noise troubles. Those microphones don’t much like long USB cables.

And no, noise reduction isn’t a universal solution. Noise Reduction can make your voice sound like a poor cellphone—and ACX is listening for that.

Many home recording artists have noise problems.


Which microphone are you using? Directional microphones can have a nice, dead spot directly behind the place where you talk. Make sure the computer is in that dead spot. Throw towels or blankets on the desk to avoid slap reflections and comb filter effects.

You can ignore everything but that folded-over blanket on the table. I’m not making this up.

If we know which microphone it is, we may be able to suggest other solutions.


I think it’s almost 100% certain that’s why you failed noise. You didn’t fail technical testing, you failed human quality control which comes later. The human heard that whine and said…No.


Even paid-for software is not curing the whine: can still hear intermittently breaking through e.g. on “pockmarked” …

I’ve been using a Blue Yeti to record. I’m working in a tiny cupboard with a duvet hanging on the back of the rail, a towel on the desk, with clothes either side of me, towels on the cupboard doors and a curtain hanging over the top. The only space I can think of to put the laptop is on the floor and use my Nexus to read the text. I’ll try and throw you a photo later when I setup. Really worried now, I’ve done about 80% of the book and they’re expecting it done soon. Should I even bother going on with this book at this point? I feel like I shot myself in the foot, but the pain is only now kicking in - hard.

Should I even bother going on with this book at this point?

My opinion is no. ACX has rejected your work and it’s a good bet we know why.

I was just now thinking about this as the sun came up. You were reading the work on the computer screen, right? You can totally do that, but not with a noisy computer. One of the early ACX instructional videos has a well-behaved Macbbook right there by the microphone. Those guys only make noise when they’re stressed.

That picture of the conference room with the blanket on the table? That’s my MacBook on the left recording a broadcast radio presentation. Successfully.

I don’t know anybody complaining about your voice, echoes or room noise. That part worked fine.


I know my reading voice can be rather low, but what if you’re voicing a character that is incredibly soft spoken? Would you have to normalise those parts?

Thanks for all your advice and help, even if it’s left me rather blue.

Also, as promised…

Would you have to normalise those parts?

All parts have to come up to loudness (RMS) specifications. Everything should be mastered. ACX needs chapters and sections to match.

You get various theatrical types through acting. Right about here is the split between radio drama and audiobook reading. It’s possible to get aside reading and parenthetical expression with pitch change and/or microphone spacing. Not ordinary volume change.

I should not have to reach over and turn my car player up to hear you through the course of the story, or mess with the player volume while hiking in headphones.

The ACX goal is to sound like someone telling a story over cups of tea. If someone wants to tell you a secret in real life, they also lean forward so the volume doesn’t change.

You hit the jackpot. I can’t think of any solutions to help. The recording space isn’t big enough to do sound deadening tricks, you’re using a USB microphone so there are electrical restrictions, and you have no dollars.

The noisy computer is pretty serious.

Somewhere on the back burner is experiments in making theatrical recordings with a cellphone, but early experiments are not encouraging.


The pictures didn’t come through. JPG files work OK, and some others. JPGs are pretty universal.

The forum will not accept everything. There are restrictions on picture formats, sound formats and file sizes. Nothing over 2MB.

Nothing we do for voice quality is going to clear the noise problem.


Yes, but.

The youtube shower artist doesn’t have a whiny laptop in there with him with no other option. He also doesn’t have laptop noise expected to get worse over time. The tests so far have been with the laptop on its best behavior.

a duvet hanging on the back of the rail, a towel on the desk, with clothes either side of me, towels…

The poster does have sound absorbing material in there and I can hear no evidence of echo, reverb or slap. I think the studio is fine (your ears may disagree, void where prohibited, licensed drivers only).

There is no “Go out and buy…” No money.

We keep reverting back to getting rid of the fan by whatever method.

I suppose there is the “midnight guerrilla” technique. Hit the dumpster behind the carpeting store after they close and get enough remnants to make a fuzzy tent for the laptop on the floor. Don’t cut off the cooling air supply, and you may have to stop recording if the fan picks up speed.


I don’t know if this makes much difference, but how does it sound with the microphone blocked in between two pillows? Can you still make out the whine of the laptop? I think the noise floor is better (?), but the ACX check tells me the RMS levels are ‘less than -23dB’. That seems to go away after applying RMS Normalise, limiter etc.

That seems to go away after applying RMS Normalise, limiter etc.

That’s what mastering does. You can’t announce directly into ACX—or you can’t do it more than once.

Apply the tools in order. They affect each other. The Equalizer pre-conditions the sound so the other two, RMS Normalize and Limiter, work right.

You may have hit it. The whine is so far down in volume that it’s not obvious even after mastering. This is you.

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See? Two limits and one range. Peak has to come in quieter than -3dB, and noise has to come in quieter than -60dB. RMS or loudness has to be between -18dB and-23dB. Everything is exactly correct—after mastering.

I remember from up the thread you’re doing all these tests with the laptop in good behavior. What happens when it gets warm and the fans pick up steam?

Also a note: It’s possible to send ACX a test. This is very highly recommended if this is your first work. No, it’s not a good idea to finish the book and only then find that they hate it. This is a partial commentary and user post:


Good to hear there’s some improvement. I’ve done one final sample and parked the laptop on a table outside the cupboard. My microphone is still sandwiched with pillows. Any better or little difference?

I’m in the field, so that will need to wait until I get home.

parked the laptop on a table outside the cupboard.

That’s a pretty common solution. The only down side to that is not being able to see how loud you are.

Has the client heard samples of your work? That’s the other reason not to get through a whole book before you check.


They’re a new author to ACX and whenever I submitted a chapter they said they were happy with how things sounded. Being new to ACX myself as well, it’s been a hard learning process. I’ve been slow on deliverance because of a few reasons, one being new to narrating books, secondly being a bit of a perfectionist and thirdly trying to learn mastering on the fly.