Beginner Question on Recording Settings and General Advice

Hey everyone,

I’m on Windows 10 using Audacity 2.2.2.

I recently ordered the Samson Go Mic—it’s a portable USB condenser microphone. It has three different settings: omnidirectional, cardioid and -10 dB. I’ll be using this for tutorial commentary, and from what’s been suggested, the best solution would be the -10 dB with the microphone close to your mouth. I’ve already ordered a stand and a pop filter, but ideally I’d like to record as soon as possible, and the package won’t be coming in until next week.

So I’ve been wondering: In the meantime, can I do anything to still make this sound decent? I’ve been looking through some tutorials, but since I’m a beginner, it’s all a little overwhelming. I’d either have to clip the mic to the laptop (that’d be around 50 cm distance) or at my left, but somewhat closer—not sure what the better option would be.

The mic, if not set to -10 dB and close to your mouth, is said to pick up a lot of noise, and I’ll have to use the keyboard and mouse (whilst recording) at times, so I’d like to know if there are some settings to somewhat counteract that. As I’ve said, I did try to do some research, some people say, “Have the gain settings lowered during the recording,” others say, “Add -10dB on in post processing,” (that one doesn’t seem to make too much sense to me, but again, I’m an amateur), so I’d love to hear some more advice. Plus, if there’s any other settings I should consider to make the sound better in general, I’d appreciate it, too (just keywords, I’ll look details up myself).

Anyway, sorry for the long post and the questions, but I’ve seen some pretty helpful replies on this forum, so I thought I’d give it a try!

can I do anything to still make this sound decent?

Yes. Soundproof the room. The sound quality that separates higher end recordings from some kid fooling around is echoes and noise.

I saved a clip from this presentation. They had been using an actual studio for their promotional announcements. They had to make a change to the work and decided a studio was a waste and they wanted to record it at home.

I don’t know what they did after this, but that’s the famous “recording in a bathroom” sound. It’s permanent. Unfortunately, modern houses with polished, bare-wood floors are aggressively hostile to sound recording and there isn’t a lot you can do short of putting in carpeting and wall treatments.

I use furniture moving blankets and I designed wooden sticks to hold them up.

This is them in an actual shoot.

Note there’s pads on the floor.

You don’t need wood. I was being obsessive.

This poster used home store plastic pipes.

It’s not glue. They’re just pushed together. Both of these studios collapse to a little pile in the garage. I know you were picturing sitting down at your desk and batting out some podcasts. It’s a little more complicated than that.

You can do this much smaller. Some people line a large cardboard box with towels or quilting and put the microphone inside. I don’t have a good pix of that.

Can you tell your laptop is on just by listening? There’s a reason most laptops in the studio are Macs.

They’re quiet. Your first struggle is going to get getting the fan noise out of your voice. Depending on the laptop, it may not come out.

The microphone -10dB setting is for playing your trumpet into the microphone without distortion. If you don’t have a trumpet, you don’t need that setting. Most home style microhones have trouble making high enough volume. This is a manufacturing decision. Overload sounds terrible and makes you want to send the microphone back. Low volume sounds OK and can usually be made to work with a little post production effects, but most important, the performer thinks it’s his fault and keeps the microphone.

Microphone spacing should be about a Hawaiian shaka without a blast filter…

… or a power fist with one.

That roundish black thing in front of David Greene is a blast filter.

To close the loop, you want the cardioid setting.

Yes, I know it’s the wrong microphone. That produces a dead spot behind the microphone to help suppress room noise. And since it’s a cardioid, you have to speak into the front. That’s usually the side with the maker’s name.

When you get that far, desirable recording volume is when the Audacity bouncing sound meter peaks just start to turn yellow and the blue waves reach up to about half-way.

So no, you can’t entirely ignore Audacity while you’re recording. You are the recording engineer. If you have a presentation on the screen at the same time you’re recording, you should be sure the Audacity Hot Keys don’t conflict with your work.

You can check out parts of this by setting up the whole thing with the laptop built-in microphone. The goal here is mechanical coordination, not quality sound.

Let us know.


Here’s one.
Screen Shot 2018-08-14 at 05.54.34.png

Please note the rest of his room is also padded.

You don’t need special sound deadening panels for the box although they work just fine. Heavy towels or layers of any heavy cloth works. I have used 12" by 12" cardboard egg separators.

Packing material isn’t that good. The goal of the box is heavy and dead. The goal of packing material is light-weight and take up space. They’re different.


Thanks for the elaborate answer!

I will definitely keep the cardboard box option in mind. My laptop only gets somewhat loud under heavy workload, so if I have multiple programs opened during the tutorial, there’s a possibility of the fans getting louder. Is there anything I can do in terms of noise gating, or is that not going to work in this case?

Noise Gate reads good on the tin, but isn’t all that useful in real life. It can produce words with little tails on them or clipped, bad cellphone sound. If you get Gating to work, it will only last until you change your voice volume. Like when you get tired. Then it starts covering up words.

Sometimes you might be able to get Noise Reduction to work, but not if the computer is going to change noise. There is no rescue for that. Moving noise is deadly.

You don’t need to pass AudioBook standards, so you can offer whatever you want, but the higher quality you have, the more believable the show will be.

Note in most of those illustrations, the microphone is hanging in front of the performer. That’s not an accident. That allows you to get close to the microphone and still read or see the work on the screen. It also allows you to fudge if your noise is just too high and your voice too low. I’m betting clipping the mic to the top of the screen isn’t going to work well. If the computer makes any noise, it’s going to be the lead performer.

Did you try recording with the built-in microphone and rehearse the performance? If that fails, you should sort why. When the Go Mic gets here, all you’re going to do is swap microphones. If you couldn’t get the built-in to work…

I predict hotkey problems. The Audacity “P” key pauses and restarts recording or playback. What does it do in your applications?

I haven’t been gloomy enough yet: You know you’re in trouble when you plan on rescuing the damaged performance even before you shoot it.

I’m just sayin’.


Are you doing game commentary? If you have any application with sound support, you may easily run into sharing problems. Audacity doesn’t much like sharing sound with other apps, and Audacity is not recommended at all to record Skype or other chat applications.