Noise/feedback when listening back

I tried this shutdown. It didn’t fix the problem, but it’s good to know. I don’t shut everything down as often as I should!

Thank you! Very kind! Let’s hope I get this fixed and get some more work!

That’s all really interesting. My head is spinning. You are correct about the time zones. I am in London. And I am not that helpful at describing the problem to you because I never concerned myself with more than the technical basics and the artistry of telling a good story. I am learning…

I even took the mouse usb out, in case that was damaged and causing ‘interference’.
Also, the laptop was on a metal stand to raise it so I could see it over the script without moving and making extra noise, and I got rid of the stand for same reason.
So… could it be the boom?
Also, there is foil backed insulation in the back wall.

My guess is no, mostly because of the missing vocal tones. They apparently didn’t get recorded, so there are no tones to bring back.

Paper doesn’t make electrical noises.

About that. You still owe us a pix of your booth. I finished the pix of my H1n setup.

I would give anything to be able to say I bought the paper towels at a “Piggly-Wiggly” store, but there aren’t any of those on the west coast.

The curtains are cotton or other fabric, right? They’re not metallic. I don’t think the damage is related to microphone placement. That doesn’t account for muffled voice or pulsing word noises.

It’s almost like you changed computers between the good and bad recordings. Basic voice quality (microphone) stayed the same which is why nobody could hear the problem—but everything else changed.

It’s possible to pass ACX-Check and still fail a theatrical listening test. That’s what killed my audiobook career.

There is a USB Cable defect that sounds like a child screaming on a jet. Try and ignore that. Normal analysis and patching tools won’t touch that. We publish special software for that one.

That’s a danger sign. Post a forum clip from a raw reading with no processing or filtering and no Noise Reduction.

You may have worn out the USB connections. The fine, tiny gold fingers inside the connections do wear out. You’ve been running the laptop hither and yon for how many years now?

Jury’s out. But you may just need another laptop whose connections aren’t tired.

I have two Macs and it’s been very valuable for troubleshooting.


Swap the mouse USB with the snowball USB connection.

If possible make a recording with the laptop running totally on battery power—no wall connection.

I think I can bring this home with a ratty USB connection. The outer metal shell of the USB connector is part of the electrical shield keeping aerial hum and buzz out of the cable. Yours may be erratic which could happen when the cable is loose.

It’s the computer’s job to supply pure, perfect 5 volts up the cable to run the microphone. They make microphones that don’t do that, but then the user has to put batteries in the microphone periodically.

That’s Kevin Plane Spotting at LAX. His Sony microphone (shown) takes separate batteries.

The microphone has electronics in it and something has to run them.

Low, Hummy, or Sloppy 5 volts can cause the microphone to produce erratic mains hum on the voice and in the extreme, can cause lower than normal voice fidelity. If you are actually using a Noise Gate instead of Noise Reduction, that would give you distortions that pop in and out during words.


The mic-cable does not have to touch mains-cable to pick up mains hum, just passing within a few inches can be sufficient,
(even if the mains-cable is embedded in a wall).

Without the noise-gate you will be able to hear when mains-hum is being picked up, (can try different routes for the mic-cable to find one which avoids hum).

A dedicated recording-device (as shown by Koz), may be a solution to the mains-mum: the mic(s) are built-in & it runs on batteries.

Still. You made it through 2-3/4 books without problems. That points to something breaking or wearing out.

Pretty much the existing laptop if you disconnect the wall power and used the internal batteries—or at least tried it.


Hello again,

I have already tried swapping USB ports to no effect.
I have not been applying any noise gate.
I had a custom EQ made for my voice/mic about 2 years ago, so I apply that along with noise normalisation and limiter. Have been very happy with results until a week or so ago.
Laptop is only 8 months old. It’s never left the house and never been knocked or dropped etc.
USB ports could of course be damaged, as you say …nothing is build to last anymore!
I will add some new clips shortly.
I think I may need a new laptop. Can usb ports be replaced?

Can you do a system restore to a time before the problems occurred ?.
If a Windows update was responsible, system-restore could undo it,
(NB: if that solves the problem, pause Windows updates until you finish the project).

That mains-hum is being picked-up on Test1 because the mic & its cable have been moved is not cured with a different laptop.

Test2 doesn’t sound broken. It sounds like typical Skype/Zoom type processing has been applied: there’s no voice frequencies above 10kHz, and noise-reduction & noise-gate have been applied. The typical “audio enhancements” used to talk over the internet.
An (automatic) Windows update can cause these “audio enhancements” to be re-enabled, (they are on by default).

My understanding is Windows forces the updates now. There is no “pause.”

The only way out is to disconnect the internet and that points to a recording computer (or device) and an Email and Everything Else computer.

And that flips us back to not everyone can hear the damage. Isn’t this problem fun?


The only explanations are something has CHANGED or something has BROKEN.

I will do some test clips .
Failing that, I will borrow a laptop and see if I have the same issue.
Thank you both again.
Later: Got message that I can’s send any more messages yet.
I think we’ve cracked it… I think this sounds A LOT better… with microphone/boom/cable moved away from the back wall (with power socket/metal-backed insulation)

It’s only letting do one upload and restricting messages per day!
I’ll try to upload other clips…

2 unplugged loud norm” does not have any mains-hum. :+1:

But it still has the sound of “audio enhancements”:
noise-gate, noise-reduction, & there’s nothing above 8000Hz.

Here’s your spectrum (red) compared with an audiobook read by woman (green).

green is audiobook read by woman
Plot Spectrum - Audacity Manual #

Your equalization is a good match as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough: there should be frequencies above 8000Hz.
The typical VOIP “audio enhancements” will discard the higher frequencies, they are not necessary to understand speech,
but for profe$$ional voice-over work you need to keep those frequencies.

I think the coffee isn’t enough.

So the mains hum is probably coming from the proximity of the microphone cables to the actual mains in the wall. If those mains are servicing other high-use customers such as air conditioners or the other residents of an apartment complex, I can believe that. The more heavy work the mains are doing, the more they’re likely to radiate trash to the immediate environment.

Again, I’m not making that up. Rock Band people in a live performance have to keep their sensitive microphone cables away from the powerful lighting cables.

The 8000Hz frequency or pitch droop is intentional. It’s being caused by an equalization application.

The laptop and microphone are both relatively new and not likely to have wear and tear damage.

You don’t use Skype, Zoom, Meetings or other chat application (you can correct me on this).

You don’t apply Noise Gating, but gating and other voice processing effects are apparent in the voice. That’s the objection. They don’t sound very good.

You use Windows with an internet connection because you have email and forum access.

Windows likes to do updates and changes in the background, up to and including turning on “Enhancements” and other audio programs without telling anybody.

I’m on a Mac and from very fuzzy memory, Trebor is on Linux, so you’re discussing deep and critical Windows settings with two forum elves, neither of whom is on Windows.

What could go wrong?

I know “How to Turn off Windows Enhancements” is Googlable and I believe it’s called out up the forum thread. Do that. See if it helps.


Wow, thanks for that.
So do you think I should make a new EQ for my voice?
I do feel that my voice is a bit ‘flatter’ since I got my new laptop, but thought it was in my head! Not so expressive. Also, if there is an exclamation of some kind, it cuts the front of the word off.
Why do I need the range beyond 8000hz…with that help with what I am saying above?
By the way, I keep getting restricted on how many messages and attachments I can send

So yes, maybe it was the proximity of the mic cable. This is a semi-detached house (so one neighbour next door) not apartment block. And they are elderly, so not sure that they are doing much exciting electronically in there!
I did have a look at disabling sound enhancements, and it didn’t help, but I’ll take another look.

If the “audio enhancement” is chopping-off everything above 8kHz before it gets to Audacity, then there’s nothing to work with above 8kHz.
An EQ change in Audacity cannot resurrect those frequencies if they have been removed.

That’s the noise-gate “audio enhancement”,
If a noise-gate is set correctly that can be avoided.
A good free plugin for inconspicuous gating is Couture.
(the free version is sufficient).

8kHz with conspicuous noise-reduction & noise-gating sounds like a Zoom/Skype call,
whereas 16kHz without conspicuous processing sounds like the person is in the room.

Your audiobook competitor$ are not restricted to 8kHz.

You said you used the computer for several different jobs other than recording your voice. I asked about this up the thread, too. What other jobs?

The expressed ACX requirement is to “Avoid Distractions.” Audiobook Mastering Macro, the individual Mastering steps (same thing) and Noise Reduction Of The Beast were all chosen and designed because you can’t hear them working. They make corrections, but leave your voice sounding absolutely natural.

I tell of a YouTube commentary with beautiful pictures, but I can’t watch them because they sound like they were recording in a bathroom. I recently sent a note to a European Fashion Influencer that I would be a lot more influenced if it didn’t sound like they were recording in a kitchen. All distractions.

This from up the message thread.

Apparently there are several enhancements available in Windows.

They do worry about someone spamming the forum. They can’t/don’t read the messages, so they can’t tell they are valuable sound clips and comments and not offers to buy land in Miami. I get those too, but I have moderator privileges (I get to wear the special hat and fuzzy slippers) so I can work around them.

We’re stuck if you can’t get the computer to stop “helping you.” All the good tools and techniques work from a completely plain voice recording. There is no graceful way to work backwards from processing/changes like you have.


My mind is spinning. Thank you for all your help. I will play around with setting and enhancements etc tomorrow! I am awaiting requested corrections… so things need to sound the same as the original ‘clean’ recordings.
I’m sure I can get things sounding a lot better going forward. …fingers crossed