How to record audiobook at home

The studio I used to go to is no longer here. I need to record books and booklets. I have good editing software, however, I don’t know what equipment I need to create a studio-quality sound. I don’t think going through the computer will do it. But I am on a budget. I can edit some intro music on afterwards, I just need to read the book. Thanks for suggestions.

I’ve recently bought a Zoom H2 and the sound quality is very good. You can either record onto the H2 then download via USB to your PC for editing, or use it as a USB microphone - very handy, very portable.

If you’re looking to make a studio-quality recording, then the easiest way to do that is to go to a studio.

It takes good equipment (which is expensive), a good quiet environment (which is probably expensive), and good audio engineering skills (which only come with practice).

If you’re not afraid of taking out a second mortgage, there’s a lengthy thread here detailing microphone basics that you will probably find useful:

And here’s a link that Prost mentioned in that same thread that you might miss, it’s quite useful as well:

Thanks. Right now, I’m thinking of the Samson C01 mic and the Firepod firewire with Cubase. I think the Firepod could be overkill, but I’m just not sure which other.

Actually, the Samson C01 comes in a USB version, the C01U. That would completely remove the need for the FirePod, since your audio will all be going through the USB port.

But make sure you check the return policy on mics like that. I used the C01U once and it sounded nice, but the noise floor on that thing was much higher than I wanted it to be. I also would avoid buying one online for that purpose. If you buy from a brick and mortar store, you’ll get to test it out, and you’ll get to return / exchange it much more quickly. They’ll also be able to answer your questions better than any online store.

I totally agree about the store and will just pay a bit more to go to Sam Ash. I’m concerned about the noise from the computer, so won’t I need a card at least, even if I use the USB?

Boy, if I don’t need a preamp, that would be great, but it seems like it will enhance the quality. I read that going into a closet to record will help with any external noise. I’m more concerned with noise inside the computer. Is the “noise floor” meaning external noise?

I do want the best quality possible. A Sam Ash rep is the one who told me about these items.

I’m concerned about the noise from the computer, so won’t I need a card at least, even if I use the USB?

Not if you’re using a USB mic. If you use a USB mic, the existence of another sound card or mic pre-amp won’t make a bit of difference since the mic won’t ever be plugged into either of them. It might well be that USB mics don’t offer the quality you need though, I’m not certain.

I read that going into a closet to record will help with any external noise. I’m more concerned with noise inside the computer. Is the “noise floor” meaning external noise?

Recording in a closet is a good idea, as long as it’s actually quieter in there than outside (beware of A/C vents, or appliances that might be in the closet).

I’m not quite sure what you mean by noise inside the computer. But I think you’re talking about electrical noise that is inherent in all electronic devices. In audio circuitry, this often becomes audible and will add what is called a “noise floor” to your audio. It usually sounds like a static hiss, but not always. Most lay persons would call it the background noise. That link is to the wikipedia article, it’s a pretty good read.

The general idea is that the noise floor is the lowest practical level that you can still hear a sound in a signal. Anything lower than the noise floor will be lost. Ideally, the signal you want will be louder than the noise floor by as much as possible. This is known as having a “high SNR” and is the hallmark of a professional sounding recording. Thankfully, Audacity 1.3.x has a nice Noise Removal function that can serve to really lower the noise floor of a signal to make it sound “cleaner” and more professional.

The overriding factor that you will most likely run into is a microphone’s self-noise. That is the amount of noise floor the microphone generates by itself. This was my biggest complaint about the Samson C01U, but I may have just had a bad mic, most people don’t complain about it (though I might not have been in the target market for that mic). If you want the quietest mic on the affordable market, the Rode NT1-A has an incredibly low amount of self-noise. It also gets rave reviews as a vocal mic. But you will need a pre-amp and sound card to use that mic, it doesn’t come in a USB version. Note that some audio devices (like the FirePod) will act as both pre-amp and sound card. Those are nice because it’s one less thing to worry about.

Also, unless your son can actually make use of all the inputs on the FirePod, I’d look at something with fewer inputs (like the PreSonus Inspire or FireBox, or the Edirol FA66), it’ll be quite a bit cheaper. If all your son will ever use is 4 inputs at once, there’s no point in paying for the other 4.

YES! That is exactly the noise I was trying to describe and do not want in my recordings! This has all given me a much better idea of what to look for. I just wish the Rode NT1-A was as cheap as the Samsun. :slight_smile: Thanks

The noise floor on the Zoom H2 is very low. It can operate as a USB microphone, or as a stand-alone recorder. It can also record in mono, stereo or 4 channel surround. At around £125 GBP I’d highly recommend it - don’t drop it though, it’s only made of plastic (I’ve dropped mine once from a height of about 1.5m onto a carpet floor and it has thankfully survived).

I’ve also heard good reports of this mic
(and it’s even cheaper than the C01U)
In fact, all the T-Bone mics are fantastic value for money - I have several models and not surprisingly the more expensive ones are better, but for recording speech, anything from the 440 upwards give very good results (I’ve not used the 440 USB myself, but I have used the standard 440)

Yes. I read a lot of good stuff about the H2 and actually listened to a 15 minute review using it and the H4 and mics with it, etc. Then I heard a woman on it, but the “sssss” were very strong. So what would I need to buy to help that?

Actually, the sound on the first male podcast was far better without a microphone.

I went to Brad Linder’s site and he reviewed the H4. That also sounded better without a mike, except for the AKG Perception 100 studio condenser mic. That was beautiful.

So do you suggest a mic with it?

Thanks for all your help.

I guess you mean “sibilance”. Different microphones will pick this up to a greater or lesser degree. I’ve not noticed that this is particularly a problem with the Zoom H2 microphones.

Microphone placement can make quite a difference - generally speaking, getting closer to the microphone will boost the low frequencies (proximity effect), moving on/off axis to the microphone will also alter the tone. Condenser mics tend to be “more toppy” than dynamic mics. Before starting any arguments here, my disclaimer is that microphone selection and usage is a huge topic and these notes are very broad generalisations :smiley:

I’ve uploaded a brief sample of speech recorded with the Zoom H2. This was recorded in my living room, facing the microphone at a distance of about 15 cm. It is recorded in wav format 44.1 kHz 16 bit, directly from the internal microphone and has not been “treated” in any way.

Thank you so much. I’m going to buy it tomorrow. Just one more question. Do I need to get additional headphones to monitor myself as I record? I really appreciated your doing a test recording. It sounds excellent. Thank you.

The included headphones are reasonable quality, but they are the type that you stick in your ears. Personally I prefer larger headphones. I use these which are fantastic value, although the first pair I got were faulty and I had to have them replaced, (which the company did without question at their expense).

I’d suggest that you try out the included headphones first and see how you get on with them.

One thing to note, I bought my H2 from Thomann in Germany and it arrived with a European style mains plug, so I have to use an adaptor to plug it into the mains (I’m in the UK).

Well, I bought the H2 and absolutely love it. However, I recorded my son’s school band tonight in stereo 4 (surround). Sound is amazing. BUT I used the 512 card and when I went to encode, the disc was full. So I tried about three times to move it to a 4gb card, but the H2 won’t recognize it.

Also, it’s confusing because in the H2, it’s not showing folders and only shows one file. I mean in the menu - there is the choice for files, but not for folders. Maybe that’s cause I only had one file and it was surround. But when I transferred it to my computer, two files showed up. They sounded great on the computer too.

I reformatted the 4gb card and now am trying to transfer from the computer back again into that folder.

Any advice if this doesn’t work?

Thanks. I really appreciate the wonderful direction. Do you have any suggestion for my son’s garage band for multiple tracks? The H4 only has four. The Firepod was suggested, but that seems too complex.

Thanks again for your help.

I’ve got the Zoom HD2 and it is fantastic! For three years I’ve used it everyday to record client sessions, telewebinars (plugged into my phone with the Radio Shack Telephone Recording Device), and now an audio version of my book. The recorder itself makes no noise, and the sound quality is excellent.

I’ve also recommended the HD2 to colleagues over the years and know half a dozen people who use one everyday like me and are very happy.

Thanks to everyone here for your information and advice!

What settings do you use and what software do you use for editing? Thanks!

The settings depend on what I am doing. For quick and rough recordings (rehearsals) I use VBR. For high quality recording I use CD quality WAV.
I edit with Audacity of course. :smiley:

I just started recording an audiobook at home on my laptop, and very pleased with the results using a Audacity and Samson Go Mic. It is an inexpensive USB mic, very compact in size, and comes with a clip that attaches it to the edge of my laptop screen allowing the mic to swivel, but also accommodates a stand or tripod mount. I considered the “snowball” another person posting said he uses, but chose this one because it is more directional and therefor does not pick up as much background noise as a multi-directional mic like the snowball which might work better if one is recording multiple voices or musicians. With the Samson Go Mic you can also choose between Cardoid, Cardoid with 10dB Pad, or Omni pick-up patterns. I’ve been using the Cardoid pattern with good results. I am recording primarily for personal use and to give to family and friends, so I’m not expecting it to sound like a professional studio. Having said that, I have been impressed with sound quality and the lack of background noise considering I’m just recording at my computer desk and haven’t done anything to set up a soundproof recording environment.

Like others here, I am not as computer savvy as I should be. I would like to find out how to set up individually labeled files for each chapter within the total project book.


So as not to detract from the original poster’s question, see this article and if you have further questions please start a new topic. Audacity Manual
[Update: I’ve moved your other post into its own topic here: Splitting an audiobook into chapters]