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

trying to learn mastering on the fly.

We got actual mastering—producing a technically perfect product—down to three tools. As long as you announce well in a quiet room and nothing is broken, that will always produce an acceptable product.


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That’s a short form excerpt from the longer official instructions:

You do have to pay attention to Everything Else. I think I mentioned there have been postings from people who were rejected by ACX for putting the wrong number of seconds of silence around the chapters. I’m not making that up.

https://www.acx.com/help/acx-audio-submission-requirements/201456300

And it’s not “Silence,” it’s Room Tone. The sound your room makes when you’re not announcing or moving. That’s different from Audacity > Generate > Silence. Some readers keep a sound sample of their room tone as a file in case they have to add a little without the correction sounding funny. Being obsessive here is not the worst thing.

One or two notes about sound files. Export WAV sound files of original readings and keep them in a safe place. There’s just nothing like the computer going into the mud and taking your only copy of a chapter with it.

Even though ACX requires submission in MP3, it is very highly recommended you also Export a WAV copy of each chapter as your archive. You can’t fix an MP3 without causing sound damage, but you can fix a WAV.

Koz

The last posting is quieter. It’s also major fourth higher in pitch (four white piano keys). Are we experiencing a fan speed change with heat?

It doesn’t matter because the steady, gentle hissing of the microphone system is now relatively louder than the fan whine and they’re both very quiet. I mastered it and the result is very close to the first clip. I think either one will make it past at least the hardware tests (ACX Check), but if you have an obsessive choice, pick the last one.

Since you won’t be watching the screen, there’s another test you should do. Select View > Show Clipping. When you finish a reading, select the whole reading (Control-F).

If you see any red marks in the blue waves, then those are places where you got too loud and distorted the sound. They will need to be read again a little quieter. If you’re up to fancy editing, you can record that one whole sentence and try to patch up the chapter. It’s not fun.

Koz

One last try with re-arranging my setup, and if this doesn’t work, at least I can stick to smothering my mic with pillows. My laptop is parked outside the cupboard again, but put to the other side of the room and using another laptop (Chromebook) that’s synced to it to record. Any better, worse or no difference?

That sounds usable to me, but IMO needs de-clicking & a little noise-reduction …

I can’t identify any particular noise other than a gentle background hash. I applied the mastering tools and the clip easily came in passing the technical requirements. Noise is in the -70dB range with no Noise Reduction which should be fine.

The only thing left is theatrical tests. That’s where you get into sibilance, gasping, rhythm, meter and performance considerations.

In My Opinion, you leaned too hard on the second character in that clip and you got hard to understand. Also as a possible consideration, what are you going to do if you have three or more characters? Experienced actors do rip the story apart and plan how they’re going to vocalize each individual character.

One of the posters advanced a way to display the script that allowed markups such as underlines, circles around words, etc. I would be doing this on paper where I could use actual colored Sharpies, but if you’re on a “Device,” what are you going to do, if anything?

Koz

This was just a quick audio sample test, the real challenge is the book itself, which I have sorted out the main and minor character’s voices with coloured highlights. You’re right though, I was literally reading off my mobile of the current book I am personally reading right now. If you had heard my earlier readings (not sharing here), I read way too fast and sounded so monotonous . I don’t know how or when it suddenly clicked, but maybe after listening to myself so much I learnt to slow down and try and enjoy the text, and only speed up if there was an action scene.

I don’t know how or when it suddenly clicked, but maybe after listening to myself so much I learnt to slow down and try and enjoy the text, and only speed up if there was an action scene.

That’s all theatrical and between you, the client and ACX. Audacity doesn’t have an acting filter (frequently requested).

There is an effect that many new readers experience. They finish a book experienced performers and realize how bad the first few chapters were and go back and read them again. There’s a movie item here as well. Many people can act a scene. Trained actors can act it exactly the same way multiple times.

Koz