newbie seeks recommendations

Apologies if I posted this before --I tried to but I think I messed it up.

I’m teaching myself Audacity in order to record one of my books for ACX. Unfortunately all I have is a built-in microphone. I think I’ve done as much as I know how to do in Audacity and was wondering if anyone experienced would take a listen to the (hopefully) attached sample and give me any recommendations they have for improvement. Thank you.

The sound file posted twice.

We got this.

Unfortunately all I have is a built-in microphone.

I’ve said before that given good environment and quiet computer, some people can use the built-in microphone.

Can you tell if the computer is on just by listening? Vent fans in many laptops will just kill you when you try to achieve ACX Noise conformance.

You should find and turn off Windows sound processing. That’s what’s making you sound like a bad cellphone or talking into a pickle jug. That nice, velvety, quiet background is fake and that’s going to go away immediately when you turn off the processing.

This is the experiment I did on Lucille the laptop in my quiet third bedroom. Nobody will be throwing any flowers or awarding any prizes, but it does work and it passes ACX technical testing.


Thank you, I turned off the enhancement and it definitely stopped the start and ending of words from being eaten. (I hadn’t known that Windows did that.)

But gee, your built-in sounds so much better than mine (mine is an all-in-one computer, not particularly cheap). I wish I knew how you got such a velvety tone to your voice. All I know to use is the Equalizer Effect and that really doesn’t do it so well.

Thank you for your help.

Built-in sound card are notorious for bad sound quality (even on many expensive computers). The sound quality on my i7 laptop is dreadful. USB microphones can provide cost effective improvements, but are still quite limited - a frequent complaint being that they are too quiet unless you are yelling into them. Cost is a big factor when choosing recording equipment. If / when you want to upgrade your microphone, give us an idea of your budget and we can give you some pointers about what to look for.

(Note for anyone else reading: this is NOT an invitation to spam the forum. Unauthorised advertising is strictly prohibited and will get you permanently banned. We consider it important that this forum remains safe and spam free for the benefit of all our users.)

Could you tell me what the cheapest microphone I could find on Amazon might be that would make my voice sound as good as yours did? My problem is that my books don’t really sell enough to justify investing too much money. Thank you, I really do appreciate the help.

Post what happened when you recorded yours.


Do you have a cellphone and which one?


Here’s what happened with the Windows sound enhancements turned off. I don’t know what I can do to make it any better. Any help appreciated!

Yes, I have a cell phone, an old Android Galaxy.

If a really cheap microphone would help, I could spring for it. I just wish I knew more about using Audacity to make improvements, the only Effect I think I’ve gotten a handle on is the Equalizer. Then again, maybe there isn’t anything on Audacity that could improve my recording. :unamused:

Again, thank you for any and all help.

Could you tell me what the cheapest microphone…

I don’t have a specific recommendation for you, but generally a decent microphone will cost more than $100. You can probably find an acceptable mic for less than that, but you’ll have to shop carefully.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are lots of mics that cost over $1000 but IMO that’s too much for a “home studio” unless you’ve got lots of “extra” money.

BTW - Most good mics are directional (“cardioid”). Acoustic noise generally comes from all directions and a directional mic “focuses” on the sound from one direction which reduces noise pickup. It also minimizes reflected sound (unwanted reverb & echo) coming from all directions.

I could find on Amazon…

You can buy from Amazon, but I’d recommend that you “shop” as stores like [u]Musician’s Friend[/u] that specialize in sound and recording equipment.

Good studio or stage analog microphones are not compatible with consumer soundcards or laptops. They use a low-impedance balanced XLR connection. You need a [u]USB audio interface[/u] with a “proper” microphone input.

If you do buy an interface, I recommend one that has zero-latency hardware monitoring. If you monitor yourself with headphones through the computer there is latency (delay). Sometimes it’s a pain (or sometimes impossible) to get the delay down to the point where it’s not a distraction. Avoid the whole issue with direct monitoring.

Or, as Steve suggested you can use a [u]“studio style” USB microphone[/u] AKA “podcast mic”. (These mics bypass your existing soundcard and you don’t need a separate USB audio interface.) You’ll want a USB mic that has low noise, a gain control is nice, and some have a built-in zero-latency headphone jack.

I just wish I knew more about using Audacity to make improvements

There’s only so-much you can do with software. Even with expensive pro software, pros still record in soundproof studios with good equipment. Noise reduction can help, but if you overdo it and your recording no longer sounds “natural”, your audiobook might be rejected. Compression and/or limiting can help to get your levels in-spec but they tend to increase any existing noise. You may not need equalization if you’ve got a good microphone.

Yes, I have a cell phone, an old Android Galaxy.

The idea would be to record on the phone (with a recording app), then transfer to the computer for editing. It’s best to find an app that records to WAV (non-lossy), but for a quick-test you can try MP3 or another lossy format as long as you use a high-quality (high bitrate) setting.

You could also use a solid state recorder. Again, these things start at about $100 and they have a built-in microphone (or two). They generally give pretty good quality and (like the cell phone) there is no fan or hard drive making noise. You’ll want to add a stand for good microphone-positioning. (You’d also want to rig-up some kind of stand if you use the phone.)


“Cheap” is relative. I’m old enough to remember analog recoding. To me, it’s amazing that you can get near-professional recording equipment for ONLY a few-hundred dollars. For a few hundred dollars we can get better equipment than The Beatles used!!! The real expense of getting to that professional level is in soundproofing and other acoustic and architectural considerations. (Plenty of people are recording audiobooks at home without dedicated home-studios, but the acoustic environment is the biggest challenge.)

You didn’t find them all. That still has very serious voice processing applied (pickle jar voice and unnaturally suppressed background). Audacity doesn’t apply effects, filters or corrections in real time, so that leaves Windows.

You maybe able to record on your Android Galaxy.

You should probably stay away from “Voice Recorders” because they apply the same filters and processing you have now. Find a Music Recorder or sound recorder for music. iPods have “Voice Memo,” but also a download “Music Memo.” I used Music Memo.

I’m not a fan of starting out with a USB microphone on your computer. There are pages of problems you may run into and they’re not easy to fix. I know the ads all say “Start Recording AudioBooks Today!!!,” but a quick trip through the forum will tell you it’s not that easy.

Having a stand-alone recorder works around many USB microphone and noise problems.

This is an Olympus voice recorder and roll of paper towels in my quiet third bedroom.

I have some work I recorded on my iPod. I need to find it.


Couldn’t find Voice Recorder on my Galaxy (that’s how old the phone is) but I downloaded it, went into my walk-in closet, recorded a test, emailed it to my computer and … wow. The sound even without putting it into Audacity is warm and whole. I’m going to experiment with it in Audacity.

Thanks so much for everyone’s help. This is a very helpful forum. :stuck_out_tongue:

This is the best I can do on my Android, tweaked in Audacity. It passes the ACX check, but I don’t know whether it’s good enough for ACX. Would definitely appreciate any assessment!

I personally would have you post something before you process it. We can’t take effects and processing out and there’s no way to tell if we could have made it better.

Did you keep the original, raw read in WAV format like you’re supposed to?

Can you post that?


That clip doesn’t pass. It’s too quiet—low RMS. Are you using Mastering 4, or are you ad-libbing? Mastering 4 would never have done that.

Post the original.


I really appreciate the time you all are taking to help me.

Below is a recording on my android. One is the raw recording, the other is the best I can figure out how to do with it on Audacity that still passes the ACX check Effect.

I think I can get rid of the talking in a small room sound with equalization (attached), but I can’t do anything about the pumping noise sound. Every time you say anything there is a wishshsh of noise. That must be the app or the Android still trying to “help you.”

If you can’t find a setting for that, it may be the end of the Grand Experiment of using a non-Apple cellphone to record. Even doing it on an iPhone has problems although I think I can solve those.

How are you listening? Your headphones or sound system has to be pretty good quality to catch all these problems before anybody else does.


Thank you for your work on this.

Could you tell me what you did with the Equalization?

Also, I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean by finding a setting on my Android. I didn’t do anything with the Android. (I did find the Enhancements tab on my computer and I disabled it.)

I know it’s not perfect, but the ACX check says it passes. Are you saying that no, it would not? (I know nothing of ACX.)

Again, thank you for your time on this.

Could you tell me what you did with the Equalization?

It sounds like a closet with no clothing in it—talking in a box. We recommend leaving the winter coats in there while you perform.

I can post the actual correction curve I used shortly. You can tell Effect > Equalization to install my curve as one of its tools. But you can help a lot by putting the jackets and raincoats back in. In a bit. I’m doing this between Friday jobs.

I know it’s not perfect, but the ACX check says it passes. Are you saying that no, it would not?

ACX Check is a technical test. It’s a rough simulation of the automated first check that ACX does when it receives your submission. Is it too loud; is it too noisy? I call it their Robot. If the performance fails, it goes to an office who writes you back with suggestions how to improve the quality.

That’s not the only check ACX (the company) does. If you pass The Robot, the show goes on to Human Quality Control. That’s where you die if you sound like a bad cellphone or some other theatrical error. It’s hard to get a robot to do theatrical checks.

A common failure is achieving ACX Check Compliance by beating your voice with a stick. Extra Noise Reduction, Many Equalizers, Compression, Noise Gate, etc. etc. etc. It may pass ACX Check, but your voice sounds terrible and it will not pass Human Quality Control.

ACX is clear the goal is a plain, clear recording that sounds like you telling a story to someone in real life. My joke about that is telling somebody juicy gossip over cups of hot tea. Most people don’t sound like a bad cellphone call while they’re doing that (unless they’re on Skype, and that’s another whole raft of problems).

The pulsing noise behind your voice is a job killer. I don’t think we can fix that in Audacity. The app you’re using may have settings to help that. I’m not an Android user, so I’m not going to be a lot of help. Can you hear the pulsing shshsh noise when you listen to my clip?


OK (rolling up sleeves).

Attached is UncleArmatage.XML. That’s the custom equalization I used to get rid of some of the closet-room sound from your test clip. Copy it from the forum to your computer.

Open Audacity with the raw test clip you sent us.

Effect > Equalization > Save/Manage curves > Import. Find UncleArmatage.xml > Open.

Select it in the next window > OK.

Are you sure you want the description of the rest of the tools?

UncleArmatage.XML (506 Bytes)

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