Fledgling voice artist seeking counsel

Thanks, Trebor.

Since ACX says “all mono” or “all stereo” do you think I ought to use the pseudo? Any of you have a preference when it comes to audio books?


Recording in Stereo can indeed improve some things such as the signal to noise ratio.
The idea is to use a stereo microphone and only use the sound in the center. This eliminates equipment noise and reverberation. Those are to a great deal independent from one another in both channels.
The following example is a (faked) stereo recording with bath-room reverb and pink noise. The second part is after center isolation. This is no longer a stereo track, only dual mono.

However, doing it with a monophonic mic isn’t that advantageous. It might remove some low-level noise but there will also be some noise be added due to calculation/quantization errors.
Your RAW example shows this clearly:

This is what the isolation process would eliminate. It is heavily amplified (original + 33 dB, and another 17 dB after isolation).

Regarding microphone position:
The distance should be between 10 and 30 cm. The most important thing is to avoid direct air pressure. You can lay a finger on the mic and do some nonsense articulation with all kind of letters.
There are essentially two sweet spots where you feel less pops on your finger, slightly below your mouth or slightly above.
Your favourite spot will be that where you’ll sense the balance between normal and nasal contribution optimal.
It seems already quite good, but decreasing the distance might alter things.
We don’t want to have your pops reinforcing the already strong boominess of your environment.

The general rule is: The narration is always mono, regardless of direct or indirect speech. Dramatized scenes can be stereo.

Pseudo stereo is pretty annoying when listening to it over some hours. The same is true for dialogs where each speaker is panned individually.

Don’t worry to much about female voices. They can be done without extensive pitch-shifting. The voice alteration should come natural and easy to you, don’t force it to where you don’t feel comfortable. Female Voice actors do not lower their pitch by 4 semi-tones for each male character that makes his appearance in the novel. Let the voice be supported by physical and facial expression. A rascal might have a permanent grin or snear on his face, the innocent child go through the world with an O-shaped mouth and wide open eyes.

Make a list of all (main) characters and try to assign them individual speech attributes.
Take some test recordings for each one. We tend to change these voices during a audio book production. Thus, re-listening to the test takes is essential for each chapter in order to catch the right pitch, stretch or nasality.
But you have already a teacher that probably tells you such things, so no need for me to repeat it all over.


once again, thank you.

I shall restrict myself to mono then until I upgrade to another microphone later on down the line. :slight_smile: Wow, what a difference in those samples.

I am going to experiment a little more with the distance. At the Edge assessment class (the only one where I was physically at one of their studios and in the booth) they told us to use the trick of stretching your hand from the pop filter to your mouth. Other sites have recommended at least a foot, some even more.

Judging by everybody’s feedback here, however, I definitely need it at least a little closer. :slight_smile:


Good to know.

And I shan’t worry too much (particularly as my first client isn’t too bothered) but I think we all want to stretch our palette to what we can achieve. Definitely good tips on the expressions and I have been trying. Also I do them standing up as the whole body language can help. I’ve just found that I have to be careful not to move too much, though as it gets picked up.

I shall also definitely make the list and the tests for the characters. Thank you.

As for my teachers… well I don’t want to disparage the studio but it was not at all what I was expecting. The initial hands-on experience for the assessment was fantastic. There were only three of us students and it was my first time in a professional booth. I signed up. It was only after that I discovered that the rest of the course we’re basically on our own. Reading, studying and perhaps joining in on conference calls if we could get on the schedule for them and these could have thirty students on them! I was very disappointed. I’ve postponed the course now, anyway, not only due to the aforementioned but when finances were becoming tight before I started my own venture.

So with all that said, I am still a sponge seeking to soak up knowledge and I truly appreciate it.

Cheers. :slight_smile:

Short answer. Mono.

Slightly longer answer:
As the final show will be 192 kbps MP3 format, mono will sound virtually identical to the WAV original, stereo will suffer a little quality loss. The difference in quality is not much, but there is a slight difference. During the publishing trail, your final MP3 will be re-encoded at least once, perhaps more. With each re-encoding there is additional sound quality loss, so the difference in quality of your MP3 will be exaggerated by the time that “the book reaches the shelves”.

True stereo can be easier to listen to on headphones, but you need to be very careful to avoid lateral (side to side) movement. When "close mic’ing, just a slight movement will sound really weird when listening on headphones - like the speaker is moving through your head. That’s a problem best avoided.

Definitely not fake stereo for an audio book. After 5 minutes it will probably be tiresome and annoying. Fake stereo usually sounds a bit “echoey” and tends to “colour” the sound, which adds another layer of technical difficulty to getting good clean sound.

Final point - don’t use effects for the female voice, just act it. BBC Radio 4 agree with this point :wink:

you need to be very careful to avoid lateral (side to side) movement.

In the early days of Stereo FM, the stations all ran out and bought stereo microphones for their presenters. Then took them out. The effect is disorienting when the person with which you’re speaking suddenly leaps to one side or the other. That and too many people were driving off the roadway. Also see: including a fire siren in your presentation or song.

In a surround movie with soaring music and dramatic effects, most if not all dialog comes from straight ahead.

Exactly. When you speak, most of the breath pops and air blasts go straight forward or down, so having the microphone slightly up helps. As does including a 100Hz High Pass Filter. Unless you’re doing music recording, there is little or nothing of valuable below 100Hz. That’s where room rumble, large lorrys and P pops live. Although on Olympic, you probably have trucks.

Wow, what a difference in those samples.

The goal is for us to pack up the exotic tools and go home. We should not need to “rescue” your performance. Also note, that the more work we do, the more work you are going to have to do — each and every performance.

Microphone separation is about a foot. What’s that …[calculating]… 1/3 meter or so? For speechifying, a pop and blast filter is generally used and that can define the separation distance.

If you like to move around and have a noisy, hostile environment, you pretty much wrote the book on headsets (illustration). They follow you around and are close to your face (adjustable) and generally have good to excellent environment rejection. Their down side is cost and quality of voice. They don’t always sound exactly like you because the goal is different. On the other hand, how many sound-proof studios do you have? I’ll wait while you count.

You should not wait for fancy soundproofing to try out your closet. Arrange your “English Winter” garments around you, double up carpets or towels on the floor Hang the microphone from the tie rack and try it. Between that and the 100Hz high pass filter, you may find you can record in daytime. Do it in chapters so you can come out and gasp for air. This is an obvious place for LED lighting and not roasting yourself with a 60W tungsten bulb.

It’s not right to hand, but one of the ads for stand-alone sound-proofing devices shows someone recording in a very tiny closet. It was meant for comedic effect, but in fact if you don’t have the fancy sound-proofing device, that’s not a dreadful way to do it. I have friends who record musical vocal performances that way. Well, too.

The microphone on the right this time has one of those devices. I don’t remember who made it; that wasn’t my property. Rode made the microphone. My stuff is on the left. We double recorded the performance for safety. Didn’t need the safety.

Is there another location to record? Between the Snowball and the laptop, the equipment is completely portable.

I need to come back when I can crank through the other postings. I haven’t seen your studio pix.

Screen shot 2014-04-17 at 12.08.47 PM.png

I know people who have made perfectly presentable recordings in their car.

“Wait, I was using the conference room. How did you shoot that?”
“In my Toyota.”

That means you can drive to somewhere quiet and record any time you wish. Probably not stand up unless you have a very unusual car.



No effects for female voice. Can’t argue with BBC 4 (or Steve). :slight_smile:

Ah, Koz, you do make me chuckle.

As for the closet it was more about power than soundproofing. There are no sockets so I have to either get a long extension cord and a way for my room-mate not to trip over it or work from the single bulb in the ceiling. I’ll get it figured out.

As for “another location”, you are in my 'hood, matey, why don’t you come by? Oh and I got yet another friend request, was THAT one from you? Have you sent any at all? Because the first one would be very surprising if it is you and the second is just called “Meathead”. hehe.


Can’t argue with BBC 4 (or Steve).

You can, but it’s usually not fruitful. Fruit-free?

Ah, Koz, you do make me chuckle.

I’m sometimes introduced at work as “the one with the emails.”

As for the closet it was more about power than soundproofing.

What power? It’s a laptop and the Snowball is powered from the USB. A sound test is free. If the “studio” fails the test, that saves you the cost of an extension cord and orange flares.

you are in my 'hood, matey, why don’t you come by?

Did you figure out where yet?
I’m only on Linked-In and I haven’t logged into that in months. It’s either depressing or eerie depending on how you count. It’s like phoning someone and have your phone demand your driver’s license number and shoe size before it will connect.


Facebook Studio.

See, that should have worked — at least I think so. There’s enough sound deadening around the microphone to eliminate reflections and slap — and yet, there it is. That’s pyramid-shaped shipping foam, Correct?. Not AcoustiFoam®. That may be some of it. You may be better served with bath towels and blankets.

There’s a rule about that. Walk into a noisy environment and smash the sound proofing against your head — around your ears. If the noise doesn’t dip significantly, then you need to do better. Remembering that echoes have to go through twice, but dogs barking and lorrys lorrying only have to go through once. So whatever you pick works much better with echoes. I think the packing foam is going to fall apart pretty quickly.

You’ll find that Chihuahuas are a southern California curse. While adorable animals, we have a lot of them and they have the same vocal tone range as infants on jets/blackboard fingernails.

And I see you’re already using a pop and blast filter.
Blast. I thought that would have been an easy fix.

I’m only through the first chapter of comments.


If you post enough on the forum without trying to sell us Male Enhancing Drugs or Appliances, then the moderation falls away.


One more. I removed your email address. The forum is a magnet for software collecting email addresses for SPAM.

We can generally do with maybe a half-minute or so of test monolog with silences so we can test noise levels and type of noise. It’s not necessary to crank through a whole chapter of the performance. The forum system only allows one or two seconds of WAV, so 30 seconds is heaven. Koz

Headphone clunk.

In case you were wondering why we go on about that loud clunk when you were managing your headphones? Some of our tools work on the loudest sound in the performance — only. That’s OK when the loudest sound is you artistically stressing a portion of the monolog, but a good deal less well when the loudest sound is a gunshot, thunder, or you dropping your headphones against the microphone. You should remove those before either submitting for testing or certainly before applying effects or filters.

If timing is critical, you can drag-select the clunk blue waves and silence with Control-L. They’re easy to find. They stick up. If you don’t care about timing, just Delete.


Perhaps I’m too far away from the microphone

You should be watching the sound meters in Audacity. The red recording sound meters will tell you the digital volume of the performance.

Note that the meters are very much bigger than the default meter size. Click the right-hand edge of the meters and pull sideways. You don’t have to stop there, either. You can Undock the meters and magnify them further (silly example).

The bouncing red lights should reach between -10 or -6 during a live performance. That’s how you know during the performance what your sound level is. Meters going all the way up (to the right) is to be avoided. One or two of those can be patched, but several in a row can kill your performance See: Horsemen #2.


Trebor, I quite like the padding inside of that box but it all seems very close to the microphone and a tad rickety.

That’s not just foam. It’s “Sonex” (I can’t read the label)."

Here it is. Auralex. Purpose-build foam for acoustic use. Everything behind that box, as rickety as it seems, acoustically vanishes. Then you put the quilts and blankets on the wall behind you and you’re good to go.

It’s probably a bit more than the $3 USD for shipping foam. I can’t find that box as a product. It might have been a custom design. Auralex does make a wrap-around design that leaves the top and bottom open. I like the box.



ps I love the names.
“My Dead Cat wasn’t enough so I decided to use a Mudguard as well.”
“… What…”

Acoustic foam is borderline magic. They show up at trade shows and build a workable recording studio smack in the middle of the deafening convention floor. It’s made only of their acoustic foam and it doesn’t even have a door. It has a free-air entranceway where you have to turn a corner to enter. When you do, it’s like someone turned off the convention floor with a switch.


You see people walking in and out several times and looking around for “The Trick.”


Bah, we need a multiquote capability here. :stuck_out_tongue:

Nope, I shan’t be selling you male enhancement pills. I mean, they haven’t worked on me so… err, oops, TMI? :wink:

As for where you live, you told me already, silly. That’s why I know you are close.

The headphone clunk wouldn’t usually be there, it was just that I didn’t want to touch the recording at all, I wanted it to be completely raw and hadn’t realized that would make such a difference. I took them off to make sure I could hear when there was traffic noise so that I could this time PURPOSEFULLY leave it in for the test. And I shan’t do such a long one (are we back on the enhancement pills subject) again? I just wanted you to be able to compare apples to apples.

The foam I shall definitely look into. Now that I’m having a trickle of income again it shouldn’t be as much of a problem.

And d’oh! Of course I could do that test in the closet. What a fool. I was thinking, no, I have to take out the chest of drawers in there, the clothes, this that and the other, get power in there, etc. I shall try to get that test tonight. Of course, if it works (as I suspect it will, unlike those bloody enhancement tablets, arrgh, see what you started?) then I’ll be even more keen to get it all set up. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the comments on my box. It is actually mattress topping and was $20 I’ll have you know. None of your $3 rubbish here. :wink:


I didn’t want to touch the recording at all

Perfectly correct. We can take them out as we work on the clip. You need to know that you need to take them out as well if you try to duplicate our work.

I was visualizing a closet full of jackets and maybe a clutch of shoes. A box of Christmas ornaments, perhaps? Something easily unhooked or pushed to one side. If you have to move furniture around, OK, that’s a little harder. The object is not so much to have a small room as it is to have a room with fuzzy, soft surfaces. It’s just that a closet is simple to soundproof — usually.

I wouldn’t mind a brief sound test with no help at all. Just the microphone and you in the middle of the room with no foam and no baffles and no walls. We’ve been working on the assumption that the microphone is in perfect working order. If you have the short desk stand that came with it, mount that and hold it by the stand about a foot away and do a five second silence and “one, two, three” voice. That should give us everything. Noise floor, room echoes, Room Tone, etc.

Just before dark I did a microphone test with a headset microphone and it failed. No clue why, but I got very wrong sound files out of the deal and it’s too dark to do it again until tomorrow. I’m sure I missed a step in there somewhere.



Auralex is now on my Amazon wish list (well it is my birthday soon, hehe).


As for the closet, I’m fortunate to have four in the hallway, one of which is quite large (obviously, since it has furniture in it, heh). The entire project would require me sorting out my bedroom closet (the one place I allow to be messy) so that I could transfer clothes, etc. from the hall closet. Then it would require ditching the chest of drawers and shelving unit in there and a few other bits and bobs. Then it would most definitely be a comfortable size for studio. Again I’d have to figure out power. There is a light socket but I hear those can only carry a small amount of electricity so it would likely be the long power cord which, unfortunately means, across the hall unless I can get it underneath the hall carpet.

I’d also want another computer in there ideally so I’m not dragging my gaming laptop back and forth. My $3k gaming rig died a while back and my other desktop isn’t powerful enough for games.

Speaking of carpet, the closet isn’t so I’d likely have to figure out a good way to insulate the wooden floor too.

The LED bulb was a great idea so I’ll be incorporating that. I do wonder how hot and stuffy it will get so yes, I’ll likely have to be coming up for air now and then. heh.

So yes, not a completely simple project. :slight_smile:

Oh and which microphone SHOULD I be aiming for at a later point? This is what I have on my wish list at the moment:


In the meantime, I’m too tired tonight to take apart my mini-booth for the two tests but will do them tomorrow.

Now, why is the dark making a difference to you? Do you not have lights?