EQ, compression, help/Audacity with iD14 preamp

In a desperate attempt to upgrade the quality of my audio to ACX standards, rather than ditch months of hard work with just Audacity USB’d with an audio technica ATR 2100 mic and achieving almost no results that met all the standards, and after watching a couple of tutorials linked to the ACX site I chose to upgrade my mic to a Rode NT1-A hooked into an Audient iD14 pre-amp. I know this will give better initial results but at the same time I’m very disappointed in that using any kind of effects from the Audacity menu seems to be frowned upon by the ACX people as detrimental to what one is trying to achieve. Are there any tutorials that combine all these elements in a way that locks me into the ACX standards while still using all the of music and effects that I need to achieve my artistic vision? I’m a newbie at all this and while receiving initial help in an overseas phone call from an Audient expert, he didn’t know anything about Audacity itself or how it actually fits with Audacity.
I have seen several YouTube tutorials that tell one how to save a ton of money on soundproofing materials and I have taken advantage of all of that to create a sort of recording “man cave” tent studio around my set up. I do need help arranging all of this so that I can only record within the ACX standards as an automatic pre-set so that I can get on with my work of producing this stuff.
My Dell laptop Inspiron 7000 series is a 64-bit machine using Windows 8.1 with a terabyte of storage (mostly unused) and 16 gigs of RAM. But it has no “line out” or “line in” exits or entrances into the computer except through a total of 4 USB slots. There is another slightly longer slot on the right side of the machine in addition to two USB slots that is labeled SD. I have no idea what that is or what it provides.
Currently the Audient iD14 is hosting the Rode NT1–A microphone as it must because you can’t connect it with the USB. The ACX expert on their site seems to think any sort of USB connection between the preamp and the computer is a source of unnecessary noise.
At any rate, no matter what I produce with this new set up, I come closer to the standards ACX wants, but not totally. I really feel my own ignorance is at fault here, but I haven’t found any tutorials that are of much help – what I really need is some sort of “Broadcast Engineering for Dummies” similar to what one can find in any computer store or bookstore for Windows PCs and Macs. Is there any help out there for this problem?

NOTE - I don’t do audiobooks so someone else will have to help with the details.

The ACX expert on their site seems to think any sort of USB connection between the preamp and the computer is a source of unnecessary noise.

Not necessarily… You need some kind of audio interface or soundcard (that includes a preamp and an analog-to-digital converter).

The mic input built-into a regular soundcard or laptop is the wrong interface for any good stage/studio mic, so its useless for quality recording. Sometimes the line input on a desktop/tower is OK, but then you need a microphone preamp or a mixer to boost the mic signal to line level and to provide phantom power if you have a studio condenser mic. Unless your interface is unusually noisy it should be fine. And it has a gain control which I don’t think your USB mic has.

There are some good studio-style USB mics (i.e. “podcast mics”) where the USB interface is built-into the mic.

Unless you are using a regular consumer soundcard, most of the noise is usually acoustic noise from the room.

There is another slightly longer slot on the right side of the machine in addition to two USB slots that is labeled SD. I have no idea what that is or what it provides.

It’s for an [u]SD card[/u], which is a memory card commonly used with digital cameras & video recorders.

What the ACX people DON’T want, is a bad recording that has been processed to death and forced into compliance with their guidelines. If the audio ‘sounds’ as if it has been processed, then it has been processed too much.

In audio production, as with any art form, there is no such thing as “cheating” - if you can produce a great sound by any means whatsoever, then you win. However, if you start with a bad recording, then no matter what you do, you will never achieve a great sounding recording. To achieve a great sounding recording, you need to start with a really good, clean and clear recording, substantially free of echoes and extraneous noises. You can then use the tools in Audacity to polish that performance, transforming it from “good” to “great”.

One of the most common mistakes made by people that are new to audio production is to over-process their work, applying too many effects, too strongly and too often, resulting in a recording that “sounds” processed. If the work is over-processed, then it will probably not be possible to correct that through more processing. It’s absolutely fine to enhance a good recording with processing, but don’t overdo it (and DO keep a backup copy of the unprocessed original - if you accidentally over-process your work, you will need that backup).

An “SD card” is a type of memory card, similar to a USB thumb drive / memory stick, but in flat rectangular form.

It sounds like you’ve got pretty good gear, and hopefully your “man cave” is quiet and substantially free of echoes. The next step is to make a short recording.

Set the microphone about 15 cm in front of your face, and ensure that it is pointing the right way (some mics pick up from the end, and others pick up from the side, so check the manual).

Place your pop filter (you do have a pop filter?) between the mic and your mouth.

Ensure that you are comfortable and can breath freely. If you prefer to sit, I’d recommend using a non-squeaky kitchen chair and, as my mother used to tell me, sit up straight :wink:

Set your recording level so that the waveform in Audacity is about half the track height.

When you are happy that everything is set up nice, record about 6 seconds, including 2 seconds of “silence” (“room tone”) and a few seconds of you talking, then export in WAV format and post it to the forum in your reply. (see here for details: https://forum.audacityteam.org/t/how-to-post-an-audio-sample/29851/1). Depending on how that comes out, we will then be able to suggest ways to improve your recording.

Some stuff in here may also be helpful: http://manual.audacityteam.org/man/tutorial_making_a_test_recording.html

While perusing the “Audacity builds” section of the Audacity forum, I was not only a little confused by that terminology, but by the restrictions on licensing from Steinberg (patent holders?). When I was setting up my preamp ( Audient iD14) and during my conversation with the Audient expert he led me to download a product called ASIO4all and install that to somehow bypass my laptop’s soundcard. He and I together could not get the thing going so he had me download a program called “Reaper” (similar to Audacity) to give it a kickstart on my machine. He then had me uninstall Reaper and said somehow Audacity could now use ASIO4all successfully. I haven’t the faintest idea why this was necessary but it was supposed to give me an enhanced sound quality and dynamic range that I couldn’t come up with using Audacity and a good mic alone.
I am assuming that’s the same thing – “ASIO” – that I saw on the forum posts which included the necessity for all kinds of workarounds for using ASIO with Audacity – something involving “widgets” and WXwidgets in some sort of conjoined configuration, all of which sounds like a witch’s brew of arcane terminology which only a post-doctoral broadcast engineer can decipher. I have installed ASIO4all on my laptop and from what I can see or understand is that somehow it just operates in the background. Is this all I would have to understand about it in order to get the benefit of it, or are there more steps that I must take to fully take advantage of this program?

Very briefly, this is the path (the “signal chain”) that the audio takes when recording:

Input (eg. microphone) → sound card (audio device) → sound card driver (device driver) → computer sound system (eg. MME / Direct Sound / WASAPI / ASIO) → recording application (Audacity) → data storage (hard drive).

On Windows, the released version of Audacity supports the following sound systems: MME, Direct Sound, WASAPI. It does not support ASIO (due to licensing restrictions).

ASIO4ALL is a “universal” driver to allow audio devices to communicate with ASIO. In the “signal chain” outlined above, it fits here:
Input (eg. microphone) → sound card (audio device) → sound card driver (ASIO4ALL) → computer sound system (ASIO) → recording application (???) → data storage (hard drive).

Note that I’ve replaced “Audacity” as the “recording application” with “???”. This is because the released version of Audacity does not support ASIO. Applications such as Reaper, Cubase, Sonar, and many other closed source programs do support ASIO, so there is a wide choice of available applications if you want to use ASIO. However, for most purposes you do not need to use ASIO.

I have seen a situation where Audacity ‘appears’ to be working with ASIO4ALL. I don’t understand what is actually occurring when that happens, but ‘somehow’ ASIO4ALL must be actually using MME, DirectSound, or WASAPI, even though it “appears” to be using ASIO. To me this looks like buggy behaviour in ASIO4All. My recommendation would be to ignore and not attempt to use ASIO or ASIO4ALL with Audacity. You should be able to use Audacity with the officially supported sound systems.

If you think your current settings may not be right, please click on “Help menu > Audio device info”. Save the info, and attach it to your reply (see: https://forum.audacityteam.org/t/how-to-attach-files-to-forum-posts/24026/1)

ASIO4ALL “shouldn’t” work with current released Audacity 2.1.2 - ASIO4ALL is meant as a way of letting ASIO-enabled audio applications work at fairly low latency with non-ASIO sound devices.

Is the situation you have seen Steve described online somewhere? I understand ASIO4ALL actually uses WDM/KS kernel streaming, so if Audacity has WDM-KS host enabled it is “possible” it could somehow see ASIO4ALL host. The only Audacity release that ever shipped with WDM/KS support was 2.0.4.


It was on a Windows machine at work, several years ago when I used Windows regularly at work. It ‘may’ have been Audacity 2.0.4, though I thought it was earlier than that.
Audacity did not work correctly with ASIO4ALL, but I was surprised to see it recognised at all. At the time I tried to reproduce it on another machine, but ASIO4ALL did not show up in Audacity on the other machine. The machine in question did have “special” drivers installed for running a “Digidesign Digi 003”, so it may have been something to do with that.