Recording equipment for Audible books

I am so new to Audio book recording, and I’m curious what recommendations for equipment would be made by more experienced producers. What have you had success with and what should be avoided? I am using Windows 10, Audacity 2.4.2, my microphone is Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser. I use Focusrite Scarlett Solo, A Monoprice Isolation Shield, and a pop filter. Does anyone have any recommendations for upgrades to this equipment? I would love to hear them. I am SO new to this. Just trying to produce good audio. Thank you!

That equipment should be perfectly adequate.

Are you having any technical issues? Have you gone-through the [u]Audiobook Mastering Process[/u]?

If anything needs improvement it’s probably “soundproofing” and acoustically treating your “studio”.

Or sometimes noise can get into USB powered interfaces (or USB microphones) from the computer’s USB power. That’s usually a (low-level) high-pitched whine. An interface with it’s own separate power supply is immune to that source of noise.

Here are the generic tools you need to professionally record your own audiobook:

A computer with a USB port
A high-quality microphone with a stand and pop filter (that round cloth thing in front of the mic)
A way to connect the mic to the computer (either directly via USB or through a mixing board)
A recording environment with very little to no background noise and no echo
Recording software
Editing software
Audiobook creation software

my microphone is Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser. I use Focusrite Scarlett Solo, A Monoprice Isolation Shield, and a pop filter.

Where did you get the list of things to buy? Was there an instruction panel or service associated with that?

Have you ever announced or read into a microphone before?

What’s your time limit?


I have done a lot of public speaking on microphone, but never any recording. The list I got was from a book on audio recording. I have passed the mastering test on acx, and have submitted auditions. I am wondering if my microphone needs an upgrade. Is there a way to have my speaking voice evaluated to see if it’s suitable?

Again, I thank you for your time.

Koz…I forgot to answer your question about time limit. I’m not sure what you mean.

OK. Your post had the flavor of: “I decided over lunch to read audiobooks. How do I start?”

The time limit thing refers to our current champ Ian. We got him reading for pay, but it took over a year to get there. He was trying to read quality work from a noisy apartment in Hollywood (the real town).

There is a ten second reading and post you can try.

Don’t help. We can’t take effects and filters out of a sound file and we can’t tell what the microphone is doing with it all covered up. So post a raw reading. Read down the blue links. They’re really short.

We publish ACX Check which is a close cousin to ACX’s own technical testing tools and an AudioBook Mastering Suite of tools. Nobody can read directly into ACX standard, how did you pass their evaluation?


There is a caution.

ACX likes all their chapters to match, so there is no changing microphones in the middle of a book. Once you become accustomed to a microphone, make it a point to stay happy for the whole thing. One forum poster moved houses in the middle of a book. That wasn’t fun. Fortunately, she kept the microphone and recording system.

Are you listening to the headphone port on the Solo while you work? Switch Direct Monitor to ON and the Solo will send your live voice to your large, soft, wired headphones.

That can go a long way to making sure long-form readings all come out similar in expression and volume. You can’t listen to the computer for this trick, so wireless headphones aren’t particularly useful.


LOL… regarding how I started this…that is kinda what happened, I love to read, I read constantly, and I do volunteer work reading for the blind. (So I guess I have used a mic to record, I forgot!). I liked the volunteer work so much, I wondered if I could expand into other audio books. So, yeah, I just sort of decided to give it a try.

And yes, I used the ACX check in Audacity, and followed instructions for mastering (what a nightmare at first!) But what a great feeling when I got it to pass! I live in the country…very quiet. And I set up a “recording booth” in my walk in closet. I have covered the walls with heavy blankets and the noise floor always passes.

Thank you for the advice regarding the mic. I will stick with it for now. And yes, I listen to myself over the Solo while I work. I’m just not sure if my voice is good enough for this, I guess I’m just disappointed because I didn’t get a couple of auditions that I really wanted. I’m doing an academic book now that I think I got because no one else wanted it! lol

The file I’ve attached is raw. I see the peak levels are too high. That’s because I get excited reading. I need to learn to curb that. Thank you for your time!
the night before Christmas.aup (5.99 KB)

Thanks for your efforts, but an AUP is an Audacity Project Management text file. It’s not sound. Double click the AUP file and your Project should open just as you left it. This time File > Export a WAV sound file like it says here in the instructions.

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I see the peak levels are too high.

This is approximately what your raw readings are supposed to look like.

High readings are not welcome. If your blue waves go all the way up to 1.0, either up or down, they become permanently damaged.

ACX changed the audiobook requirements. They will no longer accept a test reading for human evaluation. They do provide a software test very similar to ACX Check we wrote, but that only gives you half of the story. I passed their specification test. Great noise floor. Really. But I failed acceptance because I can’t read, and the human at ACX said so. That short sample test process is no longer available.

I need to be able to buy your book on Amazon. Full Stop. One forum poster tried to get acceptance as a paper book or eBook on Amazon and an audiobook reading on ACX at the same time and it wasn’t fun.

I’m doing an academic book now that I think I got because no one else wanted it!

They publish a list of unacceptable book types. Don’t plan on reading a cookbook as one forum poster did.

Scroll down on this page.

If your book doesn’t have characters, plot, and setting, it’s going to be a long day.


I see the peak levels are too high.

Like Koz says, too-high levels (clipping/distortion) are BAD. Otherwise, digital recording levels are not critical at all. Leave plenty of headroom. Low (digital) levels have to be VERY low before they cause problems. You’re going to adjust the levels during mastering anyway.

Acoustic and analog levels ARE important. You want a strong signal for a good signal-to-noise ratio. But turning-down the knob on your interface reduces the signal and noise together so it doesn’t hurt the sound quality. If the LEDs on your interface turn red, you’re clipping.*

Thank you for the advice regarding the mic. I will stick with it for now.

The AT2020 should be fine “forever”. :wink:

The main difference in “sound quality” or “sound character” is frequency response and that can be adjusted with equalization if necessary. But don’t get too carried away with EQ (or any other effects). You want a clear natural sound. If the sound is too “crispy” (which can happen with some condenser mics) you can reduce the highs a bit. But, you don’t want to damage the intelligibility or clarity.

It’s a directional mic. That’s good because it doesn’t pick-up background noise or reflections from all directions. It’s a condenser which has higher output than a dynamic mic (another good thing).

This type of microphone (large diaphragm directional condenser) is the most common type used in pro studios for voice/vocals and almost everything else. And, for your application you don’t need any “features” that you could get by paying more. A different microphone will sound different, but like I said that can be tweaked with EQ.

Oh… One nice feature you often get with more expensive mics is a shock mount. But since you’re not having noise problems you probably don’t need one.

*** There is one “odd thing”** since you are not using the guitar input on your interface - If you record in stereo of course you’ll get silence on the right channel which you’ll have to delete to make a mono file (which will play out of both speakers).

If you record in mono it will cut the signal in half to “leave room” for the guitar input. That means you’ll get clipping at -6dB (50%). If you record in mono you can still trust the LEDs on your interface to avoid clipping, and again you’ll be re-adjusting the levels after recording anyway.

Eagerly awaiting your Hudson Valley Cows WAV file.


Sorry about that. Trying again.

I think you’re good to go just like that. Voice quality is good and the test adjusts to perfect ACX standards with no other work.

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I want to hear a comedy in that voice. Or a presentation where the story and the voice don’t match. I think that’s what I like about Sara Vowell’s work. Slightly off-kilter woman’s voice describing assassinations.

There’s the entertainment for an hour hike around the neighborhood.


Yes! Both of the books I didn’t get were comedies. Well, you have encouraged me, and I will just keep trying…as soon as I finish the tome I am working on now!

Thank you so much, Koz. I will keep plugging along.