First audio book and is this too echoey? or spitty?

Hi all, I’m working on my first audiobook with an H1 zoom recorder, and pop filter. Am using audacity 3.1.3 and windows 11. I’ve followed some of the topics in this forum to get this file within the ACX check range and I tried to reduce echo by following more forum instructions which I’ve now forgotten (argh). But am not sure if what comes out on the other side is too echoey or too spitty. Does this sound good enough? or should I re- record?

The sibilance is too strong in places, (compression can exaggerate it).
Fixable with a de-esser plugin such as desibilator.

desibilator suggested settings.png

IMO there is too much room-reverb (echoey) for a profe$$ional recording.

https ://www.youtube.com/c/BoothJunkieVO/search?query=booth

What’s your room like? Fashionable polished wooden floors? We publish a Kitchen Table Sound Studio which can take most if not all the “announcing in a bathroom” sound out of a voice. They make pre-baked versions of this as well at higher cost.

There is no taking echo out of a voice in software later. Once you echo, you’re stuck.

first audiobook with an H1 zoom recorder

A Zoom H1n? My H1n has a clean, pure vocal sound, but there is one odd application problem. You shouldn’t use it as a microphone—but you can. You can set up the H1n as a USB Microphone and record your voice directly in Audacity in the computer. Do Not do that. The computer will apply all its corrections, filters, effects, and modifications to your voice and you will spend ages finding the distortions and turning them all off.

As an experiment, record a test on your H1n not connected to anything and using the on-board battery and memory chip.

Then connect the USB cable and copy the sound file to the computer and listen to it. You can pull the memory chip out of the H1n and move it to the computer that way, but I’m not a fan. The memory system is not designed for constant moving chips around.

If that sounds cleaner, you can leave the USB cable connected and that should make it so you don’t have to change the batteries. Continue to record to the H1n memory and transfer later.

If you have the largest memory chip (32GB), you should be able to record stereo for 48 hours before running out. This also gives you a built-in backup for your raw recording performances.

Fix your studio, record a test on batteries and post it here. No filters or processing. Raw recording.

https://www.kozco.com/tech/audacity/TestClip/Record_A_Clip.html

Koz

There is one New User Production note. It’s common advice to correct your mistakes as you go through a script. Yes, but not the way it’s usually recommended. They have you going into full-on edit mode in Audacity and slide the correction into the performance and then carry on performing. I don’t think that’s best. If you catch yourself making a mistake, pause, look back in the script to the next even sentence or pause (leave the recorder running), read it again correctly and then keep going. Some performers ring a bell or clap so they can find the error more easily later.

This is for theatrical reasons. If you correctly read the sentence immediately at full speed (without stopping to edit) you’re much less likely to mess up the rhythm, emphasis, and tone of the paragraph.

The H1n will allow you to connect sealed against the head stereo wired headphones.

That’s highly recommended as live monitoring will help even out volume and expression errors. It will make it so you don’t have to apply as many, or any volume corrections later.

Koz

Thank you all for your help. I was recording in my little carpeted spare room where I hang all my laundry under an umbrella covered with a flimsy blanket :laughing: But that kitchen studio design looks a lot more sturdy. Will try to build one and rerecord. I was using the Zoom H1 with batteries which is an older version of the zoom h1n and then transferring the file to the computer through the sd card . Maybe I need to upgrade that mic too.

Thanks Trebor for the Desibilator info and example :slight_smile:

Maybe I need to upgrade that mic too.

We’re not that excited about unconditionally recommending a microphone because we really don’t know what was wrong with the test performance.

We know the older versions of the Zoom recorders did have some problems. They didn’t all have to do with sound quality. I think it was the H2 that went through batteries very rapidly.

Did you apply any filters, effects, or corrections after you transferred the work to the computer? Some of the Effects can change multiple sound qualities. I believe you can get sharp, hissy speech if you apply too much noise reduction.

That’s an instant problem because many home microphones record quietly right out of the box > which makes the voice noisy > which makes you need Noise Reduction > which distorts the voice. You can’t always solve all problems later in software.


Found it.


That’s from Harbor Freight in California. This soundproofing thing doesn’t have to cost thousands.

I put two of those over my metal garage door when I did the Evening Messy Garage Voice Test.


Does the H2 have any processing or corrections? I don’t remember how I set up my H2n, but I would normally turn everything off.

How did you make it so you could see the volume meter? Mine is on top when I aim the H2n to my face. Let’s see. If I hold a mirror just right…

Do the first level soundproofing and cut and post a new test.

Are you using Shaka or Power Fist Spacing while you record?

Koz

Ah thank you for that. I’m heading to the Australian version of that hardware store today! Will try and build the contraption then will record the test on my current h1 zoom to post it here again… It’s insanely difficult to see the volume meter, I had it on input level 80 then had to do this to get it to comply with ACX check:


Effect > Filter curve… > Manage > Factory Presets > : Low roll-off for speech > OK.
Effect > Loudness Normalization…: Normalize RMS to -20dB > OK.
Effect > Limiter: Soft Limit, 0.00, 0.00, -3.50dB, 10.00, No > OK.
Analyze > ACX-Check.

Then I followed some other advice somewhere on this forum to reduce echo but I can’t remember what and it didn’t do much.
I tried the fist distance from the pop filter, but it sounded too mouthy, so then did the shaka from the pop filter.

And yes , I transfered the file to my computer first before doing all those things with Audacity. I had recorded with the mic on batteries then used the sd card to transfer to the computer.

It’s not a good goal to try and read directly into ACX standards. The fuzzy goal is to have the voice peaks at -6dB to -10dB. In Audacity that’s the tops of the blue waves at about 50%.

This is from my Zoom manual.


-12dB is right in the middle of my Zoom sound meter.

You can easily get your voice from there to any sound standard without damage. You can get a little louder without clipping or overload damage and quite a bit quieter without additional noise.

Avoid having the sound meter go up to 0dB and the Audacity blue waves go to 100%. That’s where the recorder stops following your voice and starts making up its own trash. The distortion is immediate, severe, and non-recoverable.

but it sounded too mouthy

That’s a production decision. Closer is usually thought to sound clear and intimate, but not if it doesn’t work for you. The goal is you telling me a story over cups of tea, not cellphone or ratty Zoom voice. That’s why ACX has a failure called “Overprocessing.” My stupid joke is my tea is getting cold because I’m too busy listening to your story.

Koz

I’m going to fire all this up again and try it, but my H1n has a place to plug in wired headphones and listen to myself while performing. That can help set the recording volume (after you get used to it). Since you can’t see the Zoom sound meters, you can go with how your voice sounds in your ears during the reading. That can be amazing effective in keeping your volume constant.

This is Chris Pratt reading for Emmet in “The Lego Movie.”

Screen Shot 2022-07-23 at 9.36.40 AM.png
Koz

Yeah, that works. You can set your own voice volume in your ear so it’s comfortable while the sound meter is peaking and bouncing about right.

One other note. Instead of aiming straight ahead, you can move the recorder opposite your cheek instead of your lips (B).

If you do that, you may not need the tennis racket pop and blast filter, you can get closer and louder if volume is a problem for you, and it has the advantage of getting out of the way of reading your script. It does change your voice tones a little, so that is totally a production decision, and note whatever you do, your whole book has to match.

And that brings us to the recorder mount. The paper towel mounting technique didn’t quite work for me, I needed to add a toilet paper roll to get it high enough. That does give you tip-over problems. But by far the better method is a boom microphone mount.

Ignore everything but that little orange microphone and the three-legged stand. the performer on the right has to talk to the interviewer on the phone and reference papers in front of him, so this was a natural.

The H1n has a socket in the bottom to connect to a tripod or other mount. But now that I critically inspect it, the screws and connections don’t match, so stick with the paper towels or whatever you were using before.

Koz

Again, I understand I’m referencing the wrong recorder, but you should know about these settings.

There is an Automatic Level setting which sets recording volume by itself. Full Stop. The operator recording controls stop working. This may be OK for surveillance recording, but it’s not good for entertainment production. It can produce noise pumping. Hello sssssssssss. How are you sssssssssssss.

There is a limiter which doesn’t do anything until the volume gets too close to overload and permanent damage. Then it reduces the volume. This can be handy if you’re recording outside or in an uncontrolled environment. Jury’s out on using it for your studio. I will have to mess with it and see what it sounds like.

There is a button on the front called Low Cut. That steps through several values each time you push it. It’s a rumble filter. There’s one of these built into Audacity Audiobook Mastering and most broadcast and movie sound mixers.

80Hz can help with wind and breath noises and most other times stays out of the way. It may make it so you don’t need the tennis racket pop filter. 120Hz does all that plus it “tightens up” your voice and can affect deep-pitched male voices, taking a little of the “broadcast” quality out. Use sparingly. 160Hz can affect most voices and should only be used outside and only if you absolutely have to. It changes tonal quality of most voices.

The one in Audacity Mastering is 100Hz.

I turn all the other effects and corrections off.

Koz

This is where you throw some blankets around, make any other changes you wish, and post another Catskill Cows sound test. Pretend you’re trying to get me to buy that milk. There was a forum poster who sounded like this was the most boring thing he’s ever experienced in all his years on Earth. Maybe this isn’t the line of work for you.

There’s a technical trick here. My H1n records in stereo—two tracks, left and right—but posting to both ACX and the forum is best in mono, one track. That is one more thing to worry about, and you can do everything in stereo. It’s up to you.

If you do production in stereo, you have to make sure you stay in the middle. There is no waving your head left to right to look for a pencil or your coffee. That left to right head waving will appear in the chapter. If I’m listening to you while running on the beach, your voice will go whipping back and forth, left to right in my headphones. ACX doesn’t like distractions like that.

Mono is easier to store than stereo. Twice as easy. It’s half the size. Edits and corrections are easier and faster and transmission to ACX is twice as efficient. There’s a magic advantage, too. While you’re editing and producing your final chapters, Audacity has to make protection and UNDO copies of The Whole Show at most of the actions. That sounds a little weird, but say you created an effect on your chapter. When you apply it, Audacity saves the entire old chapter as backup. If you need to Edit > UNDO, it just finds and posts the old chapter. So your computer isn’t just saving your work, it’s saving many multiple copies of your work.

So you’re twice as likely to run out of room on the machine in stereo.

In case I didn’t hit this yet, only do production on your home, internal hard drive. Not USB Drives, Not Network Drives, and Not Cloud Drives. You can push work to any drive you want as long as Audacity is closed when you do it.


Do you remember when somebody said all you had to do was set up a microphone on your kitchen table, record audiobooks, make a fortune, and retire to a cottage on the Côte de L’eau?

Koz

lol. eek. Have made my new studio and will try recording the test today…


Ok here is my test with my new moving blanket studio. Recorded on Zoom H1 (old) at input volume 75, mono. Nothing has been done to it. I recorded it without the pop filter and at a fist distance away from the microphone. Can I work with this? Thank you for your help…

Can I work with this?

I have some notes, but it needs to wait for daytime in this time zone.

Do you like the quality of your voice?

Koz

I recorded it without the pop filter and at a fist distance away from the microphone.

You picked the wrong combination. Can you hear the bumps and thumps in the sound? Like hitting yourself in the ear with a pillow. That’s probably your breath because you’re too close.

– Hawaiian Shaka spacing (roughly 8") with no pop and blast filter.
– Power Fist spacing with a pop and blast filter.
– Power Fist Spacing with no pop filter and microphone opposite your cheek.

The good news is I don’t hear any room echo or ambiance any more. So that part is licked. No more announcing in a bathroom.

Everything is connected to everything else, so when you back away to avoid the thumps and bumps, the volume is going to be too low. I would adjust and speak so the bouncing sound meters on the front of the H1 tip up to about -12dB (I downloaded the manual).

H1-Record-Level-2022-07-27.png
I guess a mirror until you get everything set and then depend on your headphones to keep you at even volume through an actual presentation. I know you want me to say adjust the volume knob to some number, but it doesn’t work that way. Human voice volume can move around more than most recorders can deal with. That’s why there’s a bouncing volume meter on the H1.

And when you back up, your close, intimate tone is going to go away.

A quick note on your actual theatrical voice. What’s the book? This is the perfect voice for a Romantic Novel or Pot Boiler. "Liddia didn’t know what Bruce had in mind, but one good strong cup of tea and she was ready for anything! "

Less so for a Law and Order novel or Shoot-Em-Up. Everybody knows you need a low, gravely voice for those.

But it’s up to you. I don’t remember if I mentioned one of my favorite readers is Sarah Vowell. She has an odd, wacky voice I can listen to for hours. I think I have all of most of her works. This is from “Assassination Vacation.”

Koz

your close, intimate tone is going to go away.

You can play to that. That’s part of being a voice actor. I once played two completely different people by changing spacing. One man and one woman. Close, quiet, and intimate for the woman, further away and harder for the man. I’m a bass. I surprised the Producer and he decided to keep it in the show.

Lauren Bacall’s voice was lower pitched than Humphrey Bogart. “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve?”

Koz

Thanks for that. I’ll back up, but just wondering when I turn up the input volume the ambient noise also increases- is there a way to deal with this afterwards? Is that where this comes in:

Effect > Filter curve… > Manage > Factory Presets > : Low roll-off for speech > OK.
Effect > Loudness Normalization…: Normalize RMS to -20dB > OK.
Effect > Limiter: Soft Limit, 0.00, 0.00, -3.50dB, 10.00, No > OK.
Analyze > ACX-Check.