Podcasting: Fan Noise

I am a mom podcaster and am getting fan noise from my laptop on the recordings. My mike is a USB headset.
I’d love to eliminate the fan noise–any suggetions?
(I read that using the Effects to do a sound elimination is not ideal, and it actually created a warped sound even when set very low).

Thanks for any advice.


move the pc to another room

or you move to another room
dont use usb
get an audio interface with a long cable for the mike
and get away from the noise source

Results can vary quite a lot, but generally it is better to minimise the noise in the original recording. The Noise Removal effect in Audacity 1.3 generally works better than the effect in Audacity 1.2, but neither can effectively deal with high levels of noise without causing some degree of damage to the sound quality. If the noise level is quite low, then the Noise removal effect can make significant improvements without causing noticeable damage.

Short leads is one of the major problems of USB microphones. You can minimise the noise by positioning the microphone carefully so that you get a good strong recording (the noise level will be relatively lower). USB extension cables are also available, but don’t try going for more than 5 meters at the very most or you are very likely to get USB problems. USB signals do not travel long distances, but you may be able to use a 2 meter extension cable without problems, and they are available very cheaply (even a good quality 2 meter cable should not cost much over $5).

USB hubs often cause problems when recording, so should be avoided.

If you are able to get a large solid object (such as a door) between you (with microphone) and the computer it is likely to make a big improvement.

That’s about all the tips I can think of without going into substantial expense. If you want to go further, perhaps you could give an idea of what size budget you are prepared to go to.

The Audacity Noise Reduction and other tools only work on very specific noises and even when they do work, they sometimes damage the quality of the show.

Far better to not record the noises in the first place. What kind of USB microphone do you have? Can you get closer?


One of the major problems with USB microphones is the inability to get more than about six feet away from the computer. That means you can’t be in another room or isolate the performance area.

I’ve been known to “hide” a noisy computer behind a sofa or chair with a quilt thrown over it. You have to be careful not to block the vents on the computer or you may cause it to overheat and fail. You engineered yourself into a sticky problem.


Thank you all for these comments. You’ve given me some good suggestions and I appreciate your communicating them in a way that made sense to me–while still not telling me I’m crazy for trying this on my limited budget and even more limited skill set!

<<<while still not telling me I’m crazy for trying this on my limited budget and even more limited skill set!>>>

Would you like us to tell you that?

You’re actually one of the more sane posters, but I can tell you what will kill you later. You can only express your creativity just so much on a limited computer with a single microphone. You will probably eventually hear the siren call of recording Skype conference interviews, adding music to your show, or doing a live interview with multiple people in the room.

That’s when it will make your brain bleed.


I wonder if the noise sarah hears is really fan noise being captured by the mic…
From what I could understand it’s probably a cheap headset, so if using the tricks above doesn’t produce any improvemente, then probably the noise is coming from somewhere else (the mic itself or its poor quality analog-usb converter). In that case there’s not much you can do about it…

<<<In that case there’s not much you can do about it…>>>

No, but I’m not giving up yet. While you’re recording, stop talking and get friends to hold up a heavy blanket between you and the computer. Stop the recording and listen to it critically with headphones. Did the noise get muffled or quieter when the blanket went up? Then you’re listening to the computer. If the noise did not change, then yes, you may be listening to the electrical noise of a cheap microphone.

All sound electronics makes noise. The trick is to make the show a lot louder than the noise. Generally you do that by throwing money, but you can do well with some engineering tricks first.

Bruno is the poster child for using a microphone that wasn’t up to the quality of the work he was trying to do.


perhaps sarah would confuse them but i doubt it
i think that most of us can tell the difference in the noise
when you play it back

but perhaps she has both types of problems

why are those usb headsets so popular?
i have not even seen them for sale.
must come with something that i dont use - skype? or ???

<<<why are those usb headsets so popular?>>>

They get around a lot of “microphone” problems. On a Mac, you have no choice. There is no Mic-In. On Windows, you have to struggle with the analog “Skype” microphone contouring that many laptops come with now. We routinely run into analog microphone volume problems in productions and many of them go away with USB headphones.

It’s a lot easier to suppress room noise when your microphone is two inches from your lips and follows you around as opposed to mounting a microphone, floor stand, and boom in your computer room. Even Britney uses one–although hers is a standard Crown CM-311A Headset Microphone playing into a sound mixer.


i see
it is a mac issue here
i only use pcs

but i would use a real mike not a headset if i had to use usb
so i assume that usb is the lowest price choice

i dont move around the room
so that choice would not have occurred to me


It doesn’t take that much movement. If you have a fixed desk microphone and you look down at a script or some notes, the volume of the performance will change. You can get significant volume changes if you turn your head. Not so with the headset.


true – if the mike is in your mouth
but if it is back a few feet
you wont even get 1db change with normal movment

and if you record in stereo or multimike
the mix will be quite flat

The advantage of “close to the mouth” versus “a few feet away” is that in the first option you’ll need a much lower gain, which will result in a better SNR. The second option implies a greater amplification, which will get you in trouble with cheap equipment.

always trade offs
dollars quality ease of use
yada yada

for me a usb headset is a non starter
others may love it

The down side is the proximity effects. The sound you get is the same as if somebody whispered into your ear from two inches away. I’ve seen people get around that with a “cheek tube” – a microphone that’s not right in front of the lips. The TED lectures have people wearing that. I can’t get anybody to tell me what kind of microphone that is.


Some get along better than others. The fury-face people tend to have problems. “Hello.” CRUNCH CRUNCH. “I’m going to talk to you about Climate Change.” CRUNCH.


probably yes with the cheap usb headsets
the pro quality ones used by churches and rock singers
do not seem to have those problems