Audio critique? It sounds like I'm talking in a box.

Any advice for improving my recording quality (before editing)?

I’m recording on a USB mic, but I have it on a separate stand close to my face (and off the desk). My set up is in the corner of a small carpeted bedroom with furniture and lots of soft surfaces. Laptop isn’t in the picture, but I cover it with a sheepskin rug while I record. Attaching a picture in case it helps.

It doesn’t sound terrible, but it’s definitely not great. It’s especially jarring right after the intro music which is super clear.

setup for critique.jpg

You have conflicting symptoms. I think the voice track is just fine the way it is. It doesn’t show any signs of Windows Enhancements or room echoes.

If you hear it “funny,” you might go into Windows settings and make sure there are no playback filters or enhancements trying to “help you.”

There is one problem with that idea. That would affect the music, too, and you say the music is fine.

How are you listening? Over-the-ear headphones?

We have had problems with people trying to do critical listening with earbuds or wireless headphones. Earbuds can change sound depending on placement in the ear canal and wireless anything can change with the connection quality.


I cover it with a sheepskin rug while I record

They do need to breathe. Be super careful not to block any air or vent holes. My machines breathe around the hinge. If I use a flashlight, I can see inside to the heat radiators.


If you reduce the amount of your voice ricocheting off the wall closest to the mic, that will reduce the boxiness …

sofa cushion (leopard print optional).png

If you’re not going to soundproof everything, hit the surfaces closest to the microphone (leopard print optional), then the room’s opposing surfaces. Then, if you can, everything.

That’s my joke about once having an office with surgically perfect white walls and no rug. I could clap loudly once and go to lunch. The clap would still be bouncing back and forth between the walls, floor and ceiling when I got back.

This is where the closet recording studio comes in. Leave the winter coats in there and announce around them.

If you like the idea of a tiny studio, behold the Kitchen Table Studio.

That is the affordable Home Store version of a commercial product.

Most home stuff isn’t heavy or dense enough to make a studio. Most light, fluffy blankets let sound go straight through. Packing material doesn’t work—too light. Each of the moving blankets in that posting weighs as much as two gallons of milk.

Carpeting works. If you have a carpet store in your neighborhood, you can pay a visit after hours and dumpster dive.


And just to drag this back to the top. I think your posting was just fine and would work in a presentation. If you’re going to keep cycling through studio perfection, you could be there for a very long time.

Or working up to hiring an actual studio. We do get postings from people with a good studio track record deciding to record the next book at home. How hard could it be?


There’s a lot of acoustic foam on Amazon, but make sure it’s 2" thick, (not 1"), and fire-resistant.
You don’t have to cover the whole room, a just a square meter of the wall next to the microphone.

You could also try the furniture moving blanket on the wall. Whatever you decide, heavy is good. Sound has to move the panels or blankets for them to work.


You are replacing a “real” studio.

Note the acoustic panels on the two walls behind him and the heavy drapes. My studio has older acoustic panels (not lumpy) on all four walls and ceiling and heavy carpet on the floor. The kid in the family of the old owner played drums and that’s where he played them.


It still bothers me a lot that we have two very different opinions of what you sound like. You never responded to the question of using headphones to listen.


:smiley: Thank you Koz! Tons of info to look through. Sorry for the slow response, it was a really busy week.

I guess by “talking into a box,” I mean I sound muffled (feels like trying to describe a car issue to a mechanic…). I don’t seem to have any echos or sound bouncing issues, it just doesn’t sound as clear to me as I was hoping. There’s an episode here ( where you can hear the introductory music and then my voice.

I don’t actually listen to myself with headphones of any kind while I’m recording because that distracts me (I’m weird). It’s what I hear when I’m editing, and when I listen after-the-fact in the podcast apps.

My podcast isn’t a huge deal, it’s just simple help for my audience and additional marketing for my biz, so it’s not something I want to spend a ton of time or money on, I was just hoping there was something simple I could do to sound a little more clear. (And I’m claustrophobic, so unfortunately the closet wouldn’t work–it would just be me hyperventilating :laughing: )

I mean I sound muffled

OK. Got it. Talking through a blanket.

like trying to describe a car issue to a mechanic…

“When I speed up it goes ‘ting, ting, ting’.”

The worst thing that happens is if you accidentally use the words for a well-defined problem. That’s what all those blankets and foam blocks are. They’re solving a problem you don’t have.

As we go.


I’m recording on a USB mic

Which microphone? If you record using the oblique technique, you can’t be that far off. Half-way between your nose and ear is about the farthest around your head from straight-on you can be before it starts sounding—wait for it—muffled.

You can also get muffling if you’re not speaking into the front of the microphone. We can talk about that when you tell us what the microphone is.

And finally, you can get that if you’re not using your USB microphone at all. Does your computer have a microphone (most laptops do). Are you using it by accident? Start recording and do the scratch test.


It’s a Blue Snowball with a pop filter.

That might be it! I do have it very slightly off to the side so I can see my monitor. I thought I was talking directly in front of it, but I might be turning my head without noticing…and I didn’t realize it would make a difference.

It’s definitely recording with my mic. The computers built-in one is horrible, so I notice when I make that mistake right away.

Try a newspaper test. Take away the pop filter black tennis racket, start a recording and crunch up a full newspaper sheet in front of the microphone—about 2 or 3 feet away. We’re not after Academy Award winning recordings here. Just the plain sound.


If none of this produces a clear winner, you can try Effect > Bass and Treble… on your voice. Bump the Treble up 3dB to 6dB or so and listen.

That’s the home version of the much more complicated tone controls and custom corrections.


Try cutting the bass too …

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Alright, so I got a new computer (not because of the sound) and tried different angles, different distances from the mic, removing the pop filter, lots of stuff. The muffled sound is still making me twitch. Is it just time to upgrade from the Snowball? Would the Yeti be better? Or is there another affordable mic that does a better job?

Thanks guys!

Adjusting the bass & treble in Audacity can make it a lot less muddy …

Even the best mic money can buy will not get rid of the boxiness & reverb which are both from sound reflections in the room.
The (free version of the) couture plugin can reduce the reverb a little bit, but the real cure is sound absorbing treatment for the room.

Thanks Trebor! That does sound much better. Was there reverb my the recording too? I didn’t think that was a problem. As Koz corrected me earlier, I was using the wrong word to describe what was irritating me. It wasn’t a boxiness issue, it was the flat and muffled sound, like I’m talking into a blanket. So I should still be hiding in a closet to record? :slight_smile: