Please advise on best order of applying effects

Hello -

I did several searches and was surprised to find no previous threads on this topic. That seems nuts to me - maybe I wasn’t searching correctly!

Let’s see… so we:

  • record room tone at the beginning
  • record text (using some sort of marker when we make a mistake - I only know of clapping or snapping)
  • do any editing as in cutting and pasting editing (other words for this, or is it just called editing?)
  • save a copy before applying effects, yes? Any particular best way of saving or storing etc?
  • apply any effects needed including noise reduction

That last one is where I get the most lost re. order of things (and if I’m not careful I’ll screw up the sound horribly - I still don’t know what that’s all about). I’d love a bare minimum list of suggestions, in order, for less processing, and a more typical list in order with maybe 4 to 6 effects including noise reduction. If any of this depends on equipment, I use a Macbook Pro, Sennheiser HD280 Pro headphones, a Zoom H4N as audio interface, a Rode NT1-A mic and a pop filter. I don’t have a proper space yet because am still practicing but will probably use a closet like so many others. Meanwhile I’m using a carpeted bedroom during quiet times of the day and it sounds good enough for these learning purposes.

I read in some other thread that some people think you should do the cutting/pasting part of editing AFTER effects but that doesn’t make sense to me because that’s the time people are most likely to realize they need to do something over (e.g. if they missed something). Isn’t it true that if you’ve already added all your effects, any last minute recordings to be inserted won’t match the sound of the rest of it?

Thank you!

Actually, there is a suggested application process. I need to go back and look for it.

The concept of recording (audiobooks??) is massively more complex than it seems. The microphone makers assure us we need to buy their microphone, sit down at the kitchen table and crank out audiobooks.

Quite a number of posters arrive on the forum after having that process fail.

And the many failures are different, so there is no “push this button and get out of jail.”

Further complicating this is your assumption that Noise Reduction needs to be part of the process. ACX Audiobook doesn’t agree and they will bounce you if they catch you at it.

I need to go play real life for a bit.


This is the single message part of a larger posting.

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Which is here.

Ordinary Normalize is just a volume booster and should be applied with the Remove DC option selected. That boosts your work to (default) maximum so you can see the blue waves while you’re trying to edit them. It has no processing other than that. DC Removal guards against hardware problems of your microphone, mixer or interface, inaudible, but can cause editing problems.

Following that is EQ or Effect > Equalization, and not just any Equalization. Use Low Rolloff for Speech at about 5000 length. This gets rid of more acoustic rumble and sub-sonic trash.

We part company on Noise Reduction next mostly because until you get closer to the end, you have no idea how much Noise Reduction you will need…if any. Too much Noise Reduction is audible.

This is where you edit your brains out, cutting out fluffs, deleting bad passages and sentences.

DeClicker and DeEsser are used, in general, when you have a home-style microphone trying to be “professional” by boosting the crispness of your presentation. This also has the effect of making every single little mouth imperfection, smack and tick immediately obvious and disturbing. There was a recent ACX recommendation to please stop using home style Condenser Microphones so submission sound will stop doing that. Dynamics are good.

The next two, RMS Normalize and Limiter, are the final steps in the regular ACX Audiobook Mastering found here.

Those guarantee RMS and Peak, two of the three audioboopk specifications.

If you read at good volume with a well-behaved microphone in a quiet room, you can read, edit and skip directly to Audiobook Mastering. If you really did a good job, you won’t need noise reduction at all, or any of those other tools.

This is part of a much larger Recommended Practices and AudioBook Mastering book I’m going to wrote … one of these days.


This is part of a much larger Recommended Practices and AudioBook Mastering book I’m going to wrote … one of these days.

One of the reasons I haven’t written anything significant yet is the Audience. There isn’t any. Nobody wants the college level course. Everybody wants to read into a simple microphone in the kitchen, submit audiobooks, become famous and retire to a nice villa on Majorca.

It will be a vanity project.

Anyway, if you’re set up for reading, produce a 20 second voice test according to this recipe.

With your equipment list, you may not need any of this advanced processing craziness.


I (or someone) will hit the rest of your question list as we go. We have to start somewhere.

We are warned that the forum generally only addresses technical problems. ACX tests for that and also has Human Quality Control which is where you go to die if you stutter or just can’t read out loud—or overused Noise Reduction.


Noise Reduction must be done before “dynamics processing” (compression / limiting), but the steps that you quote assume that the raw recording is in the right ballpark.

The reason that Noise Reduction must be before dynamics processing, is that we are looking to reduce low level, constant noise. Because dynamics processing applies different amounts of gain to different parts of the audio, the noise floor is no longer constant, but goes up and down according to the amount of gain that the compressor / limiter has applied.

If you need to apply a lot of any of the effects, you are doing something wrong.

Wow thanks Koz, for the info and links! That’s a lot more than I want to do - I hope it won’t come down to all that. : -/

Yes for audiobooks, and I just make sure to use the quality standards ACX says we need to use.

I want to make sure I understand what you’re saying about noise reduction. What I mean by it is that I quietly record room tone and then if I want to replace sounds I make between sentences e.g. a big breath, I can do so with that recorded room tone thereby matching the same white noise sound that can be heard between all words even without room tone. This, as opposed to replacing the bad stuff with true silence which would sound horrible. You have to use the noise reduction option to do that which is why I used the term. Do I have this correct, or no?

I’d love to see your book on all this, although I wonder how much I’ll really understand. I’m technologically challenged to an annoying degree. That said, I don’t see myself as this version you have of so many who just want to sit in their kitchens with cheap mics than fly off to a gorgeous island. :wink: I’m willing to use the right equipment and to learn at least the basics. Any more than that - too soon - and I’m at risk of getting overwhelmed haha. In fact, though I’m practicing and recording from my bedroom for now, my next baby step goal is to simply record an audition from home (fiction this time), remove the “bloopers,” get the spacing between sentences to my liking (not overly consistent), then send it over to the affordable sound engineer down the street who both recorded and edited the one book I’ve done so far. So this next time he’d only need to do the effects stuff, if I can get myself up to that point (geez I’d hope so!).

Also, is there a thread here somehwere where newbies can post their samples to get feedback? I’ve never let anyone who knows their stuff listen to the non-fiction book I narrated and nervous as it makes me, I could really use the feedback. I’ll preface by saying that the author from India strictly wanted me to speak slowly and to very strongly enunciate each word, so that aspect of it sounds not-so-great to my own ears. He also wanted an odd, inconsistent fade-in/out version of a sample. Beyond those issues is where I’d love to know what I need to work on based on how I sound and read. I seem to be a lot better at fiction based on my practices and what seems to come most naturally, and so far my biggest challenge (beyond the software!) is to get the tiny bit of accidental fry out of my voice. I’ve always had a little - especially if tired or talking too much (common enough I’m guessing) and can usually make it mostly go away by staying conscious of it and drinking water or water with lemon. Here’s the book on Audible (why does sharing with strangers make me so nervous)…


Steve, ohhhh that makes sense! Thank you!

I’d love to see your book on all this, although I wonder how much I’ll really understand.

That’s half the fun, isn’t it? Trying to write something that the most number of people will understand. I’ve been known to sidestep some complex processes by saying “If you get stuck, post a question on the forum.”

One thing I can do on-line that I can’t do in a paper book. Post links.

This is the post on how to record a forum test sound clip. Note all the blue text. Those links point to explanations and more details.

In a paper book, that would be a mess.

don’t see myself as this version you have of so many who just want to sit in their kitchens with cheap mics than fly off to a gorgeous island.

Doesn’t have to be Majorca. It can be the lovely French Riviera towns of Coq Au Vin or Mal d’Mere.

There was one variation on that. We had a poster from North Carolina. For her I recommended a nice beach cottage on Kill Devil Hills. I’ve been there. Terrific place.

Half support is pointing to stuff I already have and old-news problems that Everybody Has. But the other half is odd duck problems that have to be teased out over several posts. And then a tiny group of posters with problems nobody has never seen before. Oh, and nobody is speaking the same words.

Hard to put that in a book.

I have a soundproofed tiny third bedroom. I lock the ticking Ikea wall clock in the bathroom and I can get floor-sweepings microphones to work in there. Pass ACX, too with simple processing. Contrast that with people who arrive on the forum from a fashionably bare room, reasonable microphone and a laundry list of effects, filters, processing and corrections and still can’t pass ACX while sounding human at the same time.

Looks grand doesn’t it? That is an audio hell-hole. You can clap once in that room and the clap will still be bouncing around the room two hours later. We can’t take that kind of noise out. There’s no filter for that.

Is that a sample of work in your last post? I need to listen.



That’s terrific. That’s the one you recorded in the studio, right?

When you get that far, post a 20 second test clip according to the above instructions.


I haven’t set up a place in my house yet, and my house is old enough that there are almost no closets and all bedrooms are used by my family/kids. The basement’s unfinished but sits alongside a neighbor’s driveway and they have renters so there are always car or house doors opening and closing.

I feel this ridiculous, discouraging feeling like some force is trying to stop me from narrating lol. There are all these little things that keep going wrong or that I’m not naturally good at, e.g. software or equipment challenges (got the latter down but it took a while), but more importantly I seem to be having quite the difficult time creating a makeshift recording space. I don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars (I’d already had my recording equipment from music hobbies) if this isn’t something I’m meant to do. It’s torture cause speaking of traveling, that’s one of the reasons I want to do this (some side income to allow for some traveling!). So, I keep looking on Craigslist and the like for sound-dampening materials like quilts with grommets to hang in the one closet-hallway area that would work…or even less expensive used booths but then stuff happens that drives me batty. There’s a guy selling a bunch of those now for a good price and yet he simply won’t get back to me which is torture cause I see the add’s still up! :cry: I’ve written him 4x now. It just seems like there are SO many things slowing me down or “trying” to stop me. But on the other hand, I really love it; have always loved reading out loud to people and love the challenge that comes from all the mental multi-tasking involved while recording: sit up, drink water, clear throat, exercise mouth/throat, find sweet spot between “over and under” or too much vs too little (over enunciating - which I had to do in that recording you heard - and mumbling; over-acting or over newscasting voice vs more straight forward; too fast vs too slow; too much vocal fry (there is no too little actually - vocal fry sucks unless it’s some sex novel haha); or voice too high or too low (I can speak in a somewhat higher voice to compensate for being naturally kinda alto, but then I have to work a bit to find that happier, teenage girl sound if I’m coming back to it after walking away).

Also, it’s very likely that if I could get good enough at this, I could take advantage of knowing authors through my mom’s business which has a lot to do with literature (not a bookstore or publishing co but a business that attracts writers/authors, some w/whom she’s become close (and me too in some of their cases, through her). I only recently realized it’s possible I could ask to audition for a few of them or even ask that they consider having their books narrated at all. How awesome would that be?! But not until (if) I ever get good enough at this, would I ever dare to be so opportunistic.

Sorry - I keep writing so much! Thanks for the positive feedback on the book. That’s the only book I’ve done so far other than samples, and yes I used a sound engineer’s studio but not his soundproof booth. I recorded in his unfinished basement that has either acoustic blankets or foam tiles over most of his walls and windows. So it was sound-deadened, more accurately. And I sat there reading straight off my laptop which probably had a slight fan noise going but that didn’t seem to show up in the recording. So that experience made me realize I could probably just sound-deaden a closet-ish space for similar results, knock on wood (I mean, knock on quilt!). I’ll have him do the post-processing only, most likely for the next book, then from there if I keep this up I’ll start doing my my own pp.

Do you have any constructive criticism for me re. that recording though? I can take it - I need to know what to work on. I mean besides the fact that the author asked me to over-enunciate and read slowly (so I had to)? Overall I noticed it a embarrassing for me to listen to. I wonder why that is?! Thanks again.

I recorded in his unfinished basement that has either acoustic blankets or foam tiles over most of his walls and windows. So it was sound-deadened, more accurately.

That’s how I do it. I still have to record late because just enough traffic leaks through the window to make things difficult. But it’s mostly quiet and has no echoes.

And I sat there reading straight off my laptop which probably had a slight fan noise going but that didn’t seem to show up in the recording… I’ll have him do the post-processing only…

I bet his processing is where the computer fan noise went. It’s almost certain if you could hear the computer fan, it was in the original recording. You kept the original recording, right? Suppose he got hit by a meteor and wiped out your job? Would you just open the backup sound files and keep going, or get a glass of water and start reading it again?

You are the poster child for studio recording. Most homes/apartments don’t lend themselves to sound recording. They are insanely noisy and echoey and it’s rough to work around that. Homes dense with people and close neighbors are almost impossible.

One poster broke into her open-plan office after hours, when they turned the air conditioner off, and recorded in there. It wasn’t soundproofed, but the room was so big the echoes were tired by the time they came round trip. That’s the metaphor version, but it’s not that far from what’s actually happening. I’ve done that myself. She eventually gave up because of logistics problems, but it sounded fabulous.

There is a recommendation to not use your computer to record. Whole swaths of recording problems vanish when the computer goes away. A recent poster is using a Zoom H2n recorder. Another an H4n. I have an older H4.

That’s Josh’s classic H2.

Also see:

The coffee is from Cafe Milan, the clip is from Staples (Medium-Fucsia) and the paper towels are from Piggly-Wiggly. The navy blue furniture moving blanket you already know about. The only serious restriction with a studio like that is the need to record a whole book exactly the same way. ACX expects your chapters to match.


I put the hooks in so I could hang a moving pad over the window. Now I can record any time.

This is a sound sample from the Zoom H4.

I started it, set it on top of the paper towel roll in my quiet room and recorded the piece. I read from paper just like you see it in the illustration. I pulled it into Audacity, cut it, trimmed it, applied ACX Mastering and it passes. No Noise Reduction.

Yes, I’m perfectly clear I have lip smacks and you can hear me breathing. I think the breathing is normal and should go through. Jury’s out on the smacks.

That and I’m not a performer.


Sounds fine to me :sunglasses:


Sounds fine to me

Thank you.

The goal is to sound ordinary. That’s my silly joke about telling stories over cups of tea in the kitchen (although I wouldn’t actually record in a kitchen).

ACX is very clear that distractions are not welcome. Processing errors, tonal oddities, volume problems and background noises will all get you bounced from ACX Acceptance. No, you can’t submit bad cellphone sound.

It is a little odd that recording on the computer is getting to be such a pain in the neck. Scanning over past postings, at least half of the problems would vanish if the computer went away. Maybe more than half.

Thinking about this a bit more, there is a way to “record in a kitchen.” You can throw Hollywood at it. It looks like you’re recording in a kitchen, but the other three walls behind the camera are a soundstage.

That does work. But might be beyond the home user.


The book I narrated is not called Buddhism for Fun and Profit. It’s this one:

At a restaurant and just saw I’d missed your messages from earlier. Will get back to you soon, thanks!

I doubt my engineer did much to cover up the laptop noise in PP because he’s not big into heavy processing and he doesn’t want natural room tone to be covered over with pure silence because of how bad that sounds. The only noise “cancelation” he would have done would have been to fill room tone in (which would include any subtle sounds such as laptop humming in the distance) between sentences/over heavy breathing and mistakes. The recording room was pretty big though so that might be why the computer noise wasn’t audible (or because it’s an Apple).

I’m not sure if he kept the original recording or just the finished version. Why do you ask? Before it was finished he’d kept both. Not sure how long he keeps copies for his customers (might still). His setup is the same so I could come back years later and recreate the same sound if I had to. I have a copy of the finished version.

You mean I’m a poster child for a pro’s studio because I have an older house with hardwood floors, kids and not enough closets? :smiley: I live in a quiet neighborhood which is good - no busy streets too close - but not a whole lot of space between the houses and yeah rooms aren’t carpeted - just large or smaller throw rugs. The attic is wall to wall carpeted and has modern aka more efficient windows however it has a high peaked ceiling which isn’t ideal. The main floor’s hybrid hallway-slash-closet once closed off seems to be the best space cause it’s surrounded by either plaster or old hardwood doors and once I put a thick carpet remnant on the floor and quilts or wrapped insulation on the walls and ceiling it’ll be the quietest room in the house I THINK (knock on wood er insulation). Will have to stick on weather stripping around the doors, leaving a small space for cords to come in underneath, but oh well! This way I can ask the rest of the family to hang out in the attic while I record two
floors beneath them which should be doable when/if they’re home.

Thanks for the tip about not using the computer. I’m looking into it. If I were to do that would I transfer it over to the computer every chapter or so, then donthe editing for that chapter then start recording the next chapter and so on?

I’ll go check out the links you provided now, thanks!

The sound sample you provided can’t be played. Any idea why? I wonder if anyone’s done a
sound comparison between the Zoom and mic alone vs. the same but with attached laptop…

I have with the Zoom H2. The difference was unsurprising - when used standalone, it didn’t pick up any fan noise.