Need help with audiobook noise levels

First and foremost I want to state how much I appreciate all the comments on all of the posts on this site, I must have spent hours reading through previous comments, and learning. Its amazing how much you guys know!
I am using a Rode NT-1 and a MacBook Pro with the Rode pre-amp that came in the kit. My recordings all pass ACX Check, after I run the macro that is recommended on here. BEFORE I run that macro my recording SOUNDS perfect. After I run the macro, and come within ACX compliance, I am concerned about the level of background noise. At a normal volume you can’t hear most of it, but with the volume pushed all the way up there is some noise. I was looking at other posts and it seems there may be some sort of a “notch filter” that can help with this noise? Should I even WORRY about it at all if I pass the ACX analyze?
Sample BEFORE ACX macro

Sample after ACX macro (passes ACX Check)

Also, I recently discovered the de-clicker- that thing has saved me SO MUCH TIME. I have more mouth noises than I would prefer in my earlier recordings. The irony is that I didn’t even hear them back then. Now I can’t UNHEAR them- audiobooks will never be the same for me, because now every recording that I listen to I can hear all the mouth noises and small spit clicks in the sound!
My 2nd question is, I have conflicting information on whether its okay to run that processing or not. Everyone says ACX doesn’t like you to over-process, so I have been going through and surgically removing the clicks, but this is making my processing time EXPONENTIALLY longer, is it okay to run the declicker when I am submitting to ACX? I’m assuming its fine, because I ran the settings recommended by “Koz” (who is apparently The Godfather of audiobook processing- seriously this guy knows EVERYTHING!).

Also, if anyone is out there- how do I get my RMS levels up to START with? I think if the processing didn’t have to bring the volume up so much, maybe I wouldn’t have the problems in the above post? My RMS level is so low- this chapter I am working on is at -81??? I’m recording with my gain set at about 2:00 on my dial, and I am about a “Chakra” whatever the heck that is…away from my mic

I am about a “Chakra” whatever the heck that is…away from my mic

Oh, that’s good. Can I use it? My Yoga instructor will love it. I need to go later and get my Shaka’s lined up. Hang loose, dude.


Screen Shot 2019-03-26 at 12.48.44.png

That’s if you’re not using a pop and blast filter. If you are, the recommendation is a Power Fist.

I need to go get a tuna sandwich and read through that. The ACX Macro can have problems because of a shortcoming in some of the tools it calls, That’s why I still recommend the longer technique. The ACX Mastering Suite.

As we go.


Will that de-clicker work on mouse clicks? If so, where can I find it. I don’t see it in the “Effects.”

Does low RMS mean the desired sound level range (where the voice is) is too low, while the noise floor is too high?

I’m still confused if it’s possible to have a noise floor that’s too low, causing the RMS to be outside the acceptable range (whether that would be too high or too low in this case.)

If we tell you about De-essing you won’t be able to unhear that too …

I used Steve’s de-esser plugin & Voxengo’s free real-time equalizer plugin

In Response to Keress

I’m not actually sure…I’m still getting confused on the negatives being higher and the positives being lower- or something like that. My reading pre-mastering is coming in at about -39 actually, not as bad as I thought…not sure where I got that weird other reading from. I think that means it’s too low? So when I run the processes on it, it brings up the volume on everything. So now I have some background noise that I didn’t have before mastering.
If I don’t sound like I know what I’m talking about…it’s because I don’t. I’m a stay at home mom, who has been an actress/singer in another life. I thought, “hey, narration sounds like my cup of tea” auditioned for an audiobook with my iPhone, and got the gig. Then I discovered…I needed lots of equipment…check…and lots of knowledge I don’t have yet. Getting the equipment has proved MUCH easier than gaining the knowledge. I think I have watched about 100,000 tutorials, and read everything I can find to try to learn this process better, but I’m missing enough pieces that I still feel like I’m stumbling through this blind!

You’ll be fine. If you’ve studied that much, just doing it, all will come together, behind what you’ve learned and how critical you’ve learned to be about the result. I love that line in “Shakespeare in Love” when somebody didn’t show up so they threw an entirely different person on stage. Somebody asks, “How can that work?” Answer: “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.” The show will go on.

Please, can you point me to the de-clicker you’re talking about.

LOL- I knew what the distance is (just not the spelling apparently) I’m still just not sure where the heck the name came from.

As for the Macro- I created it myself, using the steps outlined on here-- Without putting all the specific settings in, I pulled it from Missing features - Audacity Support

I just input it into a macro myself. Does it matter if I do them one at a time, vs the macro running each process one at a time? I’m confused.

here’s a screenshot of the list

So now I have some background noise that I didn’t have before mastering.

Maybe not. When you read, your voice and the background noise have a fixed relationship. When the mastering tools are applied, both volumes increase the same amount.

If there is a background noise boost, then there may be something wrong.

When you read, your voice has to compete with the natural quiet noise your microphone and system are making. As a rule, that stuff is rain-in-the-trees fffffffffffff car tire leaking. Is that what you have?


The first step in the Macro, Equalization, doesn’t always follow you when you apply it to the work, and it’s not always obvious when it fails. This is an actual Audacity failing and will be addressed in the next release.

Anyway. I applied the three tools “the old fashioned way” and then followed that up with my own version of DeEsser settings.

Listen to that carefully. You may find that with some of the crispness and harshness missing, you don’t mind the mouth clicks and ticks any more.

I used to not like the classic DeEsser very much, but then I found a way to get the settings to work. The controls are not the most obvious.

Put anything on the timeline and Effect > Equalization. Don’t apply it. Does it look like this?

That’s normal.

If that’s what you got, then your Macro should work OK.

I know you’re chomping at the bit to apply even more filters, right?

Noise passes, but you can make the background noise even quieter with a little noise reduction.

Drag-select a second or two of clean background noise (shut up and stop moving). Effect > Noise Reduction > Profile.

Then select the whole clip by clicking just right of the up arrow.

Effect > Noise Reduction: 6, 6, 6. > OK.

That is such a gentle correction that ACX can’t tell you did anything, but it just sounds better.

It could be said, by me, multiple times, that if you passes your introduction with the cellphone, you should have stayed with the cellphone. Do you remember the app you used?


Oh, I get it. There are two different people in there now.

You can totally apply the three steps manually and that’s the way it was designed.

That’s the safest way until we get this Equalization oddity licked, although if you insure the right curve is going to present, you can stick with the Macro.

I think I’m repeating myself now. Run Effect > Equalization: curve Low Rolloff for Speech. Now click and make a new control point anywhere on that horizontal flat spot. Don’t drag it very much. Equalization thinks that’s a change and it should make that curve the default from now on. Then Macro your brains out.


This is a panel with “my” DeEsser settings.


Note it only works reliably after mastering. It depends on Mastering to get the voice within range of its tools.

All these tools interact which has been a real juggling act.

There was a recent poster trying very hard to take the tools apart. It’s not a buffet. It’s not.


Not sure what you mean by 2 different people? You mean that someone else asked a question after me? :confused:

#1–I pulled up the EQ like you instructed and its identical to yours. I did notice a few days ago that if I change the EQ at all on anything else, then it resets my Macro as well, which is super annoying since I set the settings a specific way. I just have to remember to go in and edit the settings in my macro each time I mess with EQ anywhere else- but I don’t usually do that, since it doesn’t seem to be helpful (I was playing around with some tutorials on removing mouth noise).

So- since we have gone around and around bit here- sorry, do you mind me just walking you through what I have been doing + plus the steps you recommended adding to make sure I’m doing this in the right order?

I have been going through and taking room tone recorded at the beginning of each chapter and using it to paste over mouth noises, noisy breaths, etc. I have been surgically editing out annoying clicks in that process. This takes forever.
Then I export a Wav file before mastering and save in 2 places.
Next I run the ACX Macro I created with the processes in the mastering suite.

At this point I pass ACX, but don’t like the background noise. Are you saying I should instead be following this process

Raw file-
Noise Reduction of the beast
NOW take my room tone and paste over any places where I still have mouth noises, etc?
Then run the ACX mastering suite?
and THEN do De-esser following the settings you just posted?

Is this a logical order to follow?
This makes me honestly feel like I did a horrible job at recording, please tell me that this amount of editing is normal.
as for the original audition?? I used an iPhone and the app that comes installed with it “voice memos" to audition. The problem with that is that my author had literally never listened to an audio book. It sounded Terrible - and no amount of processing would have allowed it to pass ACX- even though SHE didn’t care, she just liked the way I read :wink:

Also, I think I have my room tone pretty darn silent- I always record 10-15 seconds at the beginning of each chapter, just so I will have a good 2-5 second clip to use for editing purposes. I am including an unedited unmastered portion of the beginning of a chapter, can you tell me if I have a problem with my room tone? I have sennheiser closed back headphones, and it sounds good to me, but maybe my ears are the problem. I didn’t think my s’ noise was that big of an issue either, and apparently I was wrong there :laughing:

I did notice a few days ago that if I change the EQ at all on anything else, then it resets my Macro as well

Which Audacity are you using? Audacity > About.

In addition to trying to follow individual variations on announcing style and millions of different microphones, different Audacity versions shift the tools around a bit.

You should be able to call an individual equalization curve in the Macro and just have it be there. You should not need to constantly check. I have a post in to the other elves to try and sort where we are.

Did you like Mastered2-DeEssed? I can tell you how I did that. I can put up a good argument for different arrangements of tools. For example, Steve likes Noise Reduction at the top because that makes it independent of all successive processing and some of the protocols require that. I like it at the end because ACX Mastering doesn’t care and you might not need Noise Reduction at all.

If you try DeEsser and like it, you may find that many of the lip smacks and ticks aren’t bad and you can stop suppressing them by hand. Wouldn’t that save a ton of time?

The first tool in Mastering is the rumble filter (equalization). That is a very common and valuable Hollywood tool that gets rid of rumble, thumps and some low pitch microphone errors before they have a chance to screw up the other tools. So count the tools you used before Mastering.

Not sure what you mean by 2 different people?

You are trading comments with me, but I’m trading comments with a bunch of other posters all of whom have similar problems. Nobody ever passes noise.

Oh. Wait, are you the poster in Schenectady with the hum problem? Colonel Mustard in the Parlor with a Yeti microphone.

It’s perfectly normal to have a non-symmetrical voice. I have one. I have a joke about two announcers I like. I can tell who is talking just from the blue waves. It’s not magic. Her voice is non-symmetrical and his isn’t.

Let me know if you like the way that clip sounds.


Its too late for my brain to figure out how to divide up the quotes- so my answers are in blue

so my answers are in blue

What a terrific idea [writing that down].

2.3.1- I just updated and re-installed all of the tools last week?

I have not gone over yet. I run the risk of talking someone through tools that no longer exist. Soon. Soon.

Yes! I thought it was fabulous!

I ran ACX Mastering (you can use your Macro) and then I dumped it directly into DeEsser at the posted values. Full stop. I don’t think I used any Noise Reduction in your corrected clip. Now that I have a handle on how DeEsser works, you might try this protocol on a longer piece and see if sounds OK. Pay attention to your mouth ticks and see if maybe you can just ignore them now that they’re not little ice picks in your ear.

ACX tends to regard any natural sounds as, well, natural and they don’t object to them. I think people who go through and remove breathing noises are wasting their time…with one exception. There was one borderline asthmatic trying to read. That may not have been the best match. That was painful to listen to.

I thought I was supposed to do all of my cutting and pasting BEFORE doing any mastering.

Cutting and pasting yes, but not theatrical corrections such as mouth ticks—assuming the mouth ticks are going to vanish with the DeEsser. ‘Before’ is the place to correct the fluffs, sneeze, incoming phone call and cat who wanted dinner. Try a longer piece without taking out all the flesh noises and see if it sounds OK just by adding the DeEsser to the end of Mastering.

You are saving raw readings as WAV files, right?

I don’t know what a non-symmetrical voice is lol- I’m guessing I have one, is it because I have a lot of variation between loud and soft?

See the blue waves have an up and down middle at Zero (on the left). Some voices have uppy waves that don’t match the downy waves. They’re non-symmetrical. That has to do with mouth construction, sinus size, breath control, etc. etc. Some performers are convinced the world will end because of this effect. Probably not. I’ve never seen the tools get confused by that.

See how that works.


Note there is a defect where the middle of the waves doesn’t settle at 0, but hovers above or below.

That is a hardware defect called DC Offset and needs to be addressed before any serous production. That wave on the far right is normal. The pop or snap is what happens if you try to edit between those two waves.


If you don’t specify (name) the equalization curve, the macro will apply whatever the last equalization curve used was,
which may not be the one you want. For consistency create a preset curve and use its name in the macro.