Hiss question

I got some new equipment and a new portable Snap Studio for my closet. Things were going really well. My noise floor was between -56 and -59, nice and quiet. That was a few weeks ago. In the last couple of days, I hear a faint hiss, and my noise floor was -46. I haven’t changed anything. I did a noise reduction in Effect in Audacity, and that got it into a good range, but I shouldn’t have to do that. Any idea what I’m doing wrong?

Sara Moser Bartlett

portable Snap Studio

Descriptive link?

What’s the show?

What’s the computer? I’m typing this on a Macbook Air.

Is this a general purpose machine? Do you also use it for Skype, Zoom, Meetings, and Games?

Is it on-line while you’re doing this? Do you have your WiFi connected?


Did your voice stay the same volume while the background noise went up?


Could you go back to the way you were doing it before the Snap if you had to? That’s an important production rule. If you have something working, hold onto it with white knuckles.

That’s not going to work if you’re announcing an audiobook. All those chapters have to match.


portable Snap Studio for my closet.

Got it. I was ready for you to describe the microphone and recording connections and you’re describing the soundproofing.

So what’s the microphone and connection system?

Still need the rest of those answers.


Hi Koz,

Sorry. I couldn’t find the replies to my question.

I have an AT 2020 USB Plus microphone, which I’ve had for years. I have a MacBook laptop. I only use it for book narrating, so there are no videos/Skype/Zoom meetings, etc. (I have a PC for that.)

I got the Snap because the sound wasn’t good in my other closet studio. And the sound was good for a while with the Snap. I didn’t change anything before the hiss started happening.

My voice stays the same volume. The hiss may be there when I’m talking, but I only really notice it during the silences.

My WiFi is connected, but my computer is not using the internet when I’m recording.

I don’t know what you mean by descriptive link or what the show is.

Hope I answered everything.

Sara Moser Bartlett

I don’t know what you mean by descriptive link or what the show is.

I think you hit everything. I went down the Google Pathway to find out what a Snap was. You said you were narrating audiobooks. That’s your show.

Unless a failure is common and wide-spread, we have to build your studio in our imagination to solve problems. It’s nice to think we can just pull solutions out of thin air, but it doesn’t work that way.

I didn’t change anything before the hiss started happening.

…that you know of. Do you let your Mac do Auto Updates? It’s internet connected, right? I make my Mac notify me of updates and then do them when I’m at a good stopping point. If there is a possibility of danger, disconnect the internet, finish my job, reconnect, and do the update.

Nothing springs to mind immediately. Will you produce a ten-second sound test?


Some noises have signatures and we can tear them apart and identify them and sort what’s causing them. For one example, noises whose pitch clusters around 60Hz (in the US) might be traced to room wall power problems.

In your specific instance, a hiss sound is always produced by microphone systems. The goal is to make your performance so much louder that it doesn’t matter. 60dB (in English) is a thousand to one. Make your voice a thousand times louder than the hiss.

However, Macbooks do make very quiet noise and it’s possible to position a Mac such that its vents are pointed to the AT 2020 USB Plus which is a directional microphone.

And that’s why it’s good to know all about your studio. Is it possible to temporarily move your Macbook further away from the 2020 and see if the noises change?

Debby Downer wants to suggest that you could have a broken microphone. That’s another reason for us to analyze that brief sound test. You are correct. You should not suddenly need to use Noise Reduction.


It’s good to speak “dB” a little bit. 6dB is double or half, so your background noise doubled…twice. That’s significant, not a casual change.

The 2020 doesn’t have any volume controls that affect your show, and you said your recorded voice volume didn’t change.

Just to cover it, the 2020 is a side-fire microphone. You speak into the side grill just up from the company name. It’s also directional, so getting this wrong can cause problems.

Reaching a little bit: Can you change the USB cable? Or failing that, disconnect both ends and reconnect them. Yes, it is possible for a microphone to pick up trash from a digital cable.

How long can you record on your Macbook on batteries—without connecting it to the wall power? Is wall power required?


Sorry but I didn’t totally follow your dB speak. I haven’t changed the volume dials on my mic. My levels in Audacity are 65-67 recording and 100 playback.

I speak into the side of my 2020, and I have a little pink sock on it to prevent popped ‘ps.’

I just got a new USB cable when I got my Snap. I tried disconnecting one end to see if that might be the problem. It wasn’t, but I’ll try both ends.

My MacBook battery is really good. It can go for 4 to 5 hours without having to be plugged in. I haven’t tested it any long than that.


but I didn’t totally follow your dB speak.

That is a little geeky. Your background hiss went from -59dB to -46dB (louder). That’s 13dB difference. Noise doubles in volume every 6.

I haven’t changed the volume dials on my mic.

They should not make any difference. One adjustment is simple headphone volume and the other is the headphone balance between your live voice and a backing or rhythm track playback should you decide to overdub or layer your singing voice multiple times. So if you ever get the insane desire to sing all three Andrews Sisters parts, one after the other, this is totally the microphone for you.

My MacBook battery is really good.

That’s too bad. That’s probably not it. I got two people out of trouble at work when it turned out their unstable Macs were caused by old, tired batteries.

I think it’s down to analyzing your short sound test if you can record that and post it. You don’t have to use Catskill Farms Cows. You can use any conversational text. Just don’t repeat one or two words for eight seconds.

Cut it off at ten seconds total. We’re after a sound sample, not a Grammy. The forum will reject you if it’s too long.


When was the last time you shut down your Mac? I don’t mean Restart. I mean Apple (upper left) > Shutdown… Go make coffee and then Start it. Newer Macs don’t ‘Chong’ any more. Yours still does right?


I’m attaching my 10-second sample. I also want to point out that I hear the hiss in my earphones, but the line before I speak is completely clear, no bumps or anything.

I do have a Boggie Woggie Bugle Boy in my rep, but I won’t be doing that any time soon.

I recorded this before I got your message to have eight seconds of silence. I did the Catskill Farms script. The first 2 seconds have the hiss, but I can certainly send you an 8-seconds of silence sample.


This is good. I’m getting a little concerned that we haven’t turned up anything evil so far.

Did you pull and reconnect both ends of the USB cable?

I need to change machines for the analysis…


Close. I need two seconds of silence and eight seconds of voice performance. I think I have an idea, but there’s not quite enough background there to dig it out.

I can listen to a story in that voice.

I won’t be doing that any time soon.

Eight to the bar? Can you do it without the bass and guitar, or they pretty much need to be there?



Thanks for your kind words. Always appreciated.

I have attached just 8 seconds of silence — minus the 8 to the bar, guitar, bass, etc.

Fingers crossed!


I’ll bet a lot of chocolate you’re not recording your 2020 microphone. I think you’re recording your MacBook built-in microphone. That will be significantly noisier and the noise will not “look right.”

Audacity might switch between the microphones by itself if it loses the connection to your 2020 at any time while everything is working. It might also do that if you start Audacity and then plug the microphone in. That’s backwards.

Make sure the 2020 is connected firmly on both ends of the cable and restart Audacity. Watch the windows next to the little microphone symbol. I’m betting it says Built-in Microphone.

Screen Shot 2021-09-27 at 5.00.40 PM.png
It’s supposed to say your 2020 microphone or whatever that microphone’s name is inside the Mac. USB Audio CODEC is one of my microphone systems as an example. It may even say “Audio Technica.”

Screen Shot 2021-09-27 at 5.01.07 PM.png
Select it and I bet your sound quality goes back to normal.


guitar, bass, etc.

You’re supposed to respond, “Can’t blow a note.”


We need that success posting so we know better how to help other posters. Remember, it’s a forum, not a corporate help desk. Users helping each other.



I totally agree that we need to post successes. I think I can report an 85% success, so you should get some chocolate. Here’s what I did:

I had previously quit Audacity.

I unplugged the mic cord and plugged it back in on both ends.

I started Audacity up and checked to be sure my mic name was in the windows next to the microphone symbol.

I made sure it was recording in mono.

I then made the attached 8 seconds of silence. It was a big difference. I couldn’t hear the hiss anymore in my ear buds.

However, the db was still pushing -54. That’s still too noisy, isn’t it? I guess I still “can’t blow a note” until it gets closer to -60.

Is it possible that Audacity might be switching between microphones by itself, like you said? I certainly didn’t see the mic name change in the little windows.

I’m really close. Is there something I can do to get to be the “top man at my craft?”


something I can do to get to be the “top man at my craft?”

Thanks for posting. I need to read through that again.

Just so your number doesn’t come up.