How to make Audacity vocal mixdowns less muddy-sounding

Hi all, I am new here but have been using Audacity for years. I keep encountering a problem I cannot resolve, and I would now love to resolve it with expert assistance.

I have NOT updated to Audacity 2.x for Windows because I first want to observe how it works for other users and avoid any Vista-type problems that may occur while the bugs are sorted. Right now my current version suits me fine and that is:

Audacity 1.3x for Windows XP Professional
Mic used: Blue SNOWBALL
PC: Sony VAIO with highest RAM/processor speed you could possibly imagine. Just ridiculously high. I edit motion pictures on it - that is how high.

The problem: When I record and play back sung and spoken vocal tracks on Audacity, they sound fine. Once I perform a mixdown, however, the vocals without exception fall significantly back in gain and are difficult to make out. These are pop songs - the vocals need to stand out without pushing too loud over the music tracks. When I adjust the mix, either the vocals become too loud and drown out the music, or the music becomes too loud and drowns out the vocals.

Attempts to fix the problem so far:

  1. Mixdown to .wav instead of .mp3. This helped a little, but not much.

  2. Equalizing to Decca 78 rpm. This helps tremendously on certain songs, but most not.

  3. Equalizing to a new custom setting with higher significant midrange and treble. This helped most of all, but then the vocals became too loud and pronounced for the music behind them. Adjusting gain is not helping.

  4. Audacity dynamic range compression. An absolute must, but still did not solve the problem.

  5. Wavepad dynamic range compression (a separate, non-Audacity program). The biggest help of all. When I set Wavepad to compress at “TV/Radio vocal” settings, this ALMOST solves the problem completely.

These tracks are being used in movies and sent out as production demos. Is there something simple I am missing on Audacity that can keep mixdowns from sounding so muddy and murky? I suspect it’s something in Audacity and that it may have to do with THE BITRATE.

Any ideas?
Thanks folks,
Heather :confused:

Audacity is not a Microsoft product. The reason that it has been so long for 2.0 to be released is because the developers would not release it with any known serious problems. The 1.3.x series were all “beta” versions that were working up to the new “release” version that is Audacity 2.0. Hence it is recommended to upgrade to Audacity 2.0 as it contains important bug fixes - other than the bug fixes it is the same as the previous 1.3.14 beta.

After capturing a clear and undistorted vocal (the most important step), Equalization and dynamics compression are two of the most important tools for achieving clear vocals that stand out but do not overpower a “pop” mix.

There are different “types” of compression. The Audacity “Compressor” effect is a relatively “slow” compressor. For the vocals you will probably need to set the Attack and Decay (Release) settings to minimum so as to achieve a “faster” compression. Also select “based on Peaks” rather than the default “based on RMS” option. There are lots of different compressors available so it’s worth experimenting. I’d also recommend doing a bit of research and reading up on “vocal compression” because getting this right is a bit of an art.

WAV format is better quality (but bigger file size) than MP3, so I’d recommend that you export in WAV format.