Help getting dialed in for ACX specs

Hello Audacity people.

First post here. I’m a pro VO dude trying to get my home setup dialed-in.

SM7b → cloudlifter → PreSonus Studio 24c to USB-in on my mobo for a Windows 10 system using Audacity 3.0.0. Attached is the raw audio recording per the guidelines.

Goal: Dial in all settings to get the audio as clean as I can in spite of room tone (dry/open/slight echo; using NoiseGate to help with this), all while falling within ACX guidelines for audible/itunes/etc.

Open to suggestions in any regard aside from changing hardware. Happy to video call to help show setup. Happy to tip/exchange VOX lesson for your help/teach you about wine/record VO for your indy project.

I feel like the hardware can deliver what I need, and audacity can help make it sound pro. I feel like I’m getting close, but balancing ACX specs with RMS normalize feels like I’m chasing my tail and doing too much editing due to lack of know-how with the DAW.

Thanks in advance. I love you. Happy Easter.


VERY SORRY. Please refer to the attachment on this post for the audio sample, the gain was turned up on the track in the last recording.


I can’t listen at the moment…

balancing ACX specs with RMS normalize feels like I’m chasing my tail

The [u]Recommended ACX Mastering Process[/u] will nail the peak & RMS requirements every time. The “trick” is limiting… Regular linear volume adjustment changes the peak, RMS, and noise flor by the same dB amount.

Note that these are the ACX requirements and for most voice-over work is should be OK to peak at 0dB so you may be able to change the limiter to 0dB and possibly increase the RMS level by about +3dB also.

slight echo

You might need to add some sound absorption to your “studio”.

using NoiseGate

Don’t over-do it. If the noise floor is too low or if the gating is audible ACX will reject your for “over processing”.

Appreciate the reply. Regarding the mastering page, I’m definitely following it as much as I can/learning at the same time. I’m sure I have a lot to learn/test with the limiter.

I really need an ear to help me avoid exactly what you point out re: having submissions rejected due to overprocessing. Any tips there will be appreciated.

I’ve got some absorption materials but the room is large, may need more. I realize I’m asking for a real consult here, which is why I’m totally happy to compensate in turn, however I can.

Thanks again


Should have left it alone. The first post passes ACX with the appropriate mastering steps. This one doesn’t. Its volume is too low.

Your work blue waves should be filling the timeline about half-way as your first effort was. It still needs to do that.

Also see: your first post.

I need to drop in and out.

SM7b. Yes, that’s the voice I had in my head when I wrote that. There’s an Easter Egg in the commercial. There are few if any dairy farms in the Catskill Valley (and it’s “Hudson Valley”). They’re all on the other side of the Catskill Mountains in the Southern Tier. Little known facts. Amaze your friends.


This is good to know. I’m still working to understand and resolve the gain on the preAmp and the gain on the track. I think the gain was +16db on the track. Seems like it’s not messing with the quality of the recording when I up the gain on the track. I also noticed upping the gain on the track allowed the first sample to pass ACX and not the second. Progress.

I now need to work on quality of the sound. I appreciate your time. I love reading random scratch copy for practice, bring it on. My brain kept wanting to say Hudson River Valley. Ha. Yay NY/PA.

Our conundrum is why the volume slider affected the noise like that. Where did the additional noise come from? Anyway, you have a process, if a little odd, to produce valuable work.

Make that original clip again and post it.

You are warned against editing existing forum postings. We are now having to go back and clean up your deletion. On longer posts recursive editing can create very entertaining chaos. You should have said, “Ignore that one, here’s a new one.”

As we go.


Thanks for the head’s up regarding editing. I certainly don’t mean to screw anything up. Will address edits in subsequent posts from now on.

Attached is the original audio sample.

Feeling closer to getting dialed in to ACX at least.

Yeah. See?

Screen Shot 2021-03-30 at 7.19.09 AM.png
This is that exact post after Audiobook Mastering (see DVDdoug, above).

It passes Peak and RMS (Loudness) as expected, but also noise. The ACX limit is -60db, the practical limit is -65dB and you come in at -68dB.

The truly obsessive will want to apply Noise Reduction of the Beast (6, 6, 6) to produce a commercial grade sound clip.

Screen Shot 2021-03-30 at 7.22.29 AM.png
Note, I haven’t listened to it yet. I’m just throwing tools around, but this process was designed to sound exactly like you with no tonal craziness or distortions.

I like the voice. Makes me want to run out and buy milk.

As we go.


“Catskill Farms…”

Yeah, there’s a little “room ambience” in there. You can cure that easily with a Kitchen Table Sound Studio. No need to wallpaper the room with expensive acoustic tiles.


I bet you’re wondering how I listened to your voice without listening to it (two postings up). I heard it when you posted it the first time before you deleted it. See the fun you can have with forum editing?

Thanks again. The good thing about my voice is I can just switch the product out, and people still want to buy it.

SO. My recording volume was set to 0.50. I believe default is 1.0.

Cheers for the Noise Reduction of the Beast note as well.

I just re-recorded another sample at 1.0 recording volume where I followed the mastering steps and it falls within acx spec no problem. I think I’m totally dialed aside from getting some advice on where to dampen sound in this room to make it warmer and more plush, and less brittle/stark.

Randomly, any chance anyone has experience with a reflection filter in conjunction with SM7b? That could be a solution.

Damn, beat me to it with the Kitchen Table Sound studio recommendation.

I totally noticed there was an extra download on my attachment, I felt bad, slightly panicked. Haha.

I really love this community and appreciate the help. Glad to support the software.

Where were we?

This is the short form of the Audiobook Mastering Suite.

Note it is a suite. A harmonious grouping. Do Not add tools in the middle or leave any out. They clean up after each other.

I bet you’re staying up nights wondering why the suite limiter stops at -3.5dB when the ACX limit is -3dB. Because conversion between sound formats doesn’t always keep the exact same volume. Wouldn’t you feel silly if your posting failed because you produced -3dB and the MP3 conversion and submission came in at -2.9dB. Fail!

And while we’re there, you should probably stay away from 0dB as a peak goal for commercial recordings. Again, any format conversion might exceed 0dB and that produces distortion. Stick with maybe -1dB if you insist on getting very slightly louder.

My recording volume was set to 0.50. I believe default is 1.0.

Wrong English Words. The goal is to get the Audacity recorded blue waveform to come in about half-way. The preamp knob setting is irrelevant. The only time you pay attention to the knob is if it seems happy all the way up or down. That can mean you’re doing something wrong somewhere else.


There are commercial versions of the sound studio. Ours was designed from an existing product.

Note our version is not $200 usd.


Awesome. Yeah, I have been following the mastering tools suite from the wiki. Really great stuff.

Great notes about the settings. I’m learning. My voice is big enough, amplitude is the enemy most times.

I’m definitely going to be looking for that recorded blue waveform to be coming in about half-way and work from there. There’s some tweaking to do, but I can feel the addiction take hold and I love it. I’ll get there.

I’m feeling much more confident about mastering vox for acx.

Definitely going to keep the peak goal as-is unless there is a request.

Cheers and please hit me up if you ever need some copy read.

There are some handy digital hygiene tricks.

Export your raw reading as a WAV (Microsoft) 16-bit sound file. Errors, fluffs, and all. There should be no “read it again” because the dog ate your computer power cable and Audacity Hindenburged on you in the middle of editing. Just open up the backup WAV file and keep going.

Also, there is no editing an MP3 file. That can create sound damage. Your Edit Master should be another WAV file and only then create the MP3 file at 192 Constant quality for the ACX submission.

The Edit Master should be in two places you can point to. Internal hard drive, external drive, thumb drive, cloud storage (point up to the clouds) each count as “1”. Two folders on your hard drive doesn’t count. I recently rescued some files from a computer because it had two separate internal drives. The main drive (C:/) went into the dirt, but the second drive ( D:) was still alive.


Again, good stuff. I currently backup to google drive and to the hdd. I pointed to the sky which is currently blue, and the desktop, which is currently also blue.

I’m stoked to get some submissions going. Thanks again x 185013

ACX Tricks.

More than one forum poster has crashed by not putting the right number of seconds of silence (Room Tone) at the beginning and end of their chapters. You do have to follow the rules.

There is a list of unsuitable books. No, you can’t read a cookbook, technical manual, or relaxation chant. Scroll down.

My fuzzy observation is your book needs to have characters, plot, and setting.

There is a new restriction that I need to be able to buy your book on Amazon in either paper or eBook. A recent poster tried to present both paper and audiobook at once and it wasn’t fun.

ACX used to offer actual full-process evaluation for a short voice test, and they don’t do that any more. That’s the one I failed. Technically perfect submission, sucky voice. They offer automated ACX Audiolab which is their version of Audacity ACX Check which is a version of their technical postings. Did you follow that? Audiolab won’t check background noise and Audacity ACX Check will.

No more test human evaluation, although in your case, I don’t think that’s going to be a big deal.

You have to read and submit the whole book. I can’t help thinking they did that to peel off all the New Users and to give their human evaluators, half of whom called in sick, a break.


If you’re wondering why this is beginning to sound remarkably like a tutorial, I’m probably going to go back (in violation of the rules) and put chapter headings in to make the hints and tricks easier to find. Yes, I do spend a lot of time typing that whole thing repeatedly.

The Sickness has pushed a lot of potential readers into actually trying it for extra bucks. What you’re supposed to do is walk into a sound studio and walk out with a pile of perfect quality files. Some forum posters actually started out that way and were successful, published readers, but decided to do the whole process at home. How hard could it be?


warmer and more plush, and less brittle/stark.

In general, the SM7b will take care of that. Its job is to be plush and smooth. Some of this work will appear on earbuds and cellphones, so you can’t get too plush or the voice will vanish.

If you’ve been following the forum, you know that a frequent complaint of home style USB microphones is harsh Essing and strident, gritty consonant sounds. There are actually some Audacity pre-baked tools to get rid of that effect. Those distortions should go right around the SM7b. I call the SM7b the Joe Rogan microphone. He sounds terrific in spite of his best efforts otherwise.