Getting Started

I am just getting started with audiobook production and I want to be sure I’m not going down the wrong path. Here’s my setup:

MacOS 10.9.5
Audacity 2.0.6 (no plugins yet)
M-Audio Fast Track Ultra
Microphone: AKG Perception 170
Playback: semi-decent quality Logitech USB headsets

I’m currently holding it by hand just to get started. I have floor mount mic stands somewhere, but they’re being elusive. I also have a pop filter.

Studio area: yet to do

Do I need to acquire a shock mount?

Inputs on the Fast Track are set to the 3-o’clock position (input source one and main output). Each input has a little LED next to it, and when I speak into the mic, I get green or sometimes red light. As I understand it, red is bad. (Yes, total newbie here.)

Currently it’s noisy. (The dryer is running.) I recorded a “quiet” sample and then did a plot analyze, and it’s showing peak noise around -54 db. Either I don’t understand what that really means or that seems impossibly low given that it’s currently pretty loud. If I turn the output volume to max, I can hear rumble. That’s expected, and I would make the space quieter for real recording.

Have I got the right equipment so far?

Do I need to acquire a shock mount?

Yes. If you don’t, the mic will pickup noises from the floor. I recently did a sound test without one and I found floorboards that make mic noises but aren’t apparent to the ear. Also the pop filter.

I recorded a “quiet” sample and then did a plot analyze, and it’s showing peak noise around -54 db.

Yes, that’s hard to believe. You should do it this way: Set up for a good voice recording with peaks on the Audacity meters of -6 or so. That’s the fuzzy target. You can make the meters very much bigger by clicking on the right-hand edge and pulling sideways.

Speak the test, then stop talking, hold your breath and stop moving for two or three seconds. That silent portion is the noise. With a formal mixer, the noise is likely to be traffic outside or jets going over or wind outside the house. On direct digitizers, it’s likely to be hiss (fffffff) from the Microphone Preamplifier. You should pay attention because hiss is rough to get rid of.

M-Audio Fast Track Ultra
Appears to only be available used. That makes it rough to get the operating instructions and spec sheets.
Where did you get yours from?

Here’s one I shot yesterday. The silent part is at the beginning. Raw shoot and filtered for ACX conformance. I have a hum in my “studio” that I need to run down.