Helping naming and fixing my audio recording issue


New to the forum and Audacity.

Audacity version: 2.1.1 (latest, I believe)
Windows: Windows 7 Professional

I’m unsure what the problem I’m trying to solve is called, so I’m unsure how to search if this question has been dealt with previously. Therefore, apologies in advance if it has.

Please listen to the audio sample attached. It was recorded on a lav (I believe) mic over skype. The audio lacks ‘presence’, is almost a bit…echoey or distant or something?

I’m hoping someone can 1) tell me what to actually call this issue so I can search for it and read up, and 2) to suggest how I might tackle it in Audacity.

Thanks very much in advance.

Either you or the person on the other end (or both) were not wearing headphones.

You are listening to Skype do its echo cancellation and balancing act. The process is not perfect. It’s the same honky, bubbling sound you get when someone is trying to talk to you face-to-face cellphone chat on a crowded street.

And no I’m not making that up. This terrible “podcast” was done across four time zones. We sound like we’re in the same room, right? We’re not, but we are both wearing headphones, real, big ones in my case, earbuds in the case of Denise. She’s not even using a “real” microphone. She’s on the microphone in her Mac.

how I might tackle it in Audacity.

You don’t. Once you have “that sound,” you’re pretty much stuck. It’s a cousin to MP3 compression damage. Number three.

The Four Horsemen of Audio Recording (reliable, time-tested ways to kill your show)
– 1. Echoes and room reverberation (Don’t record the show in your mum’s kitchen.)
– 2. Overload and Clipping (Sound that’s recorded too loud is permanently trashed.)
– 3. Compression Damage (Never do production in MP3.)
– 4. Background Sound (Don’t leave the TV on in the next room.)

Headphones is the easy way. You can also record the show as a high-quality recording at each Skype location. Do the show recording locally, each person saves their own high quality recording and nobody records Skype. Everybody sends their high quality show to you and you lay it all together into one production.

I’m not making that up, either. That’s how Josh Turner did this four-way.

Much easier to all wear headphones (note they all are).


That’s not to say you can’t have a dull-sounding microphone. I have a lavalier which works like that, even though they’re not supposed to. You can brighten it up with either Effect > Bass and Treble or if you really want to mess with it, Effect > Equalization.

Switch Equalization to Graphic Eq and it will look like a music system equalizer with volume sliders for all the different tone pitches. But for the best accuracy and control you should use Draw Curves. The green line in the middle is a rubber band and you can slide tones around however you want.

Be careful not to boost some tones so much they overload. Check View > Show Clipping and the blue waves on the timeline will turn red if they’re too loud.

If you do production equalization without fixing the honky echo/reverb thing, the echos may sound worse.

You will get the feel for which tones do what after a couple of passes. 20Hz is where earthquakes live. 440Hz is that oboe tone at the beginning of an orchestral performance. 3000Hz is fingernails on blackboard, Etc. If you can hear anything higher than 15,000, you must be a kid.

This is where you find out your speaker system may not be up to the job. The speakers have to be better than the show you’re trying to fix. If they’re not, you may produce a show with noises you can’t hear.

“What’s that thumping rumble sound in the background?”
“The what? I don’t hear anything…”

I have a fuzzy rule that you should not be able to pick up your speakers with one hand. You can use headphones. The Sony MDR-7506 headphones are the Hollywood standard.


Thank you Kowzikowski, that was very helpful, especially the Hz real life sound equivalents. Appreciate the help.