Recording voice over on a budget

Hi Folks,

I am putting together a demo of some software and want to add voice over. The equipment I have right now is a Creative Sound Blaster Audigy card and an Etymotic Etycom headset. Now I know I can’t expect studio quality with this meagre set up but I was hoping to get better quality than I am right now.

Initially I was just using the onboard Realtek sound but I bought the Sound Blaster because I could barely hear the sound I recorded with the Realtek. However, even with the Sound Blaster my voice is barely audible and I have to set the mic recording volume on high to capture anything. However, there is a ‘background’ hiss that is almost as loud as my voice and is very audible when I’m not talking.

I’m a complete newbie at all things audio related. From reading a few posts in this forum it seems likely that the problem is low signal to noise ratio and in particular the noise floor of my mic and/or sound card is high. When I look at the default noise level in the Audacity amplification dialog for a section where I am not speaking it says 43.7 dB. I tried the noise removal feature in both the stable and beta versions but the more noise removal I applied the more I sounded like I was inside a kettle.

It seems that I could go out and spend $200 on a Zoom H2 and this might help me in my goal but I was wondering if anyone could suggest a middle ground given that I don’t need high end production values for my demo. Since my headset is designed more for a mobile phone, maybe that is the problem since the addition of the (admittedly cheap) Sound Blaster card didn’t seem to help much.

Thanks in advance for any helpful advice

The soundblaster card should be more than adequate, it is definitely the headset that is likely the problem. Also you need to make sure that you have it plugged into the right connector on the card, and the card adjusted correctly. Given the symptoms you describe, I wonder if you are using the wrong input, or haven’t got it unmuted and the recording level adjusted correctly.

Thanks for the quick response. Think I have learnt a few things things on this steep learning curve.

First my sound card settings were out of whack and I had much better luck when I boosted the Mic +20 dB (see screen shot) and kept the recording level quite high.
Second, part of the noise I was hearing on playback was the mic so I muted this on playback to hear just the recorded noise.

Third, when I was getting my noise profile in Audacity I wasn’t picking ‘just noise’ as instructed (doh!). I was also a little confused on the procedure [ie a) select a few seconds of noise on the audio track, b) click on the menu Effects | Noise Removal… and the Get Noise Profile button, c) Select All on the audio track and d) click on the menu Effects | Noise Removal… and the Ok button]. This is an area where the development team could improve the usability of an otherwise superb application. Once I got that sorted the noise removal was excellent.

Fourth, the noise removal is much more effective in Audacity beta 1.3.4 than the stable 1.2 version. Much less distortion.

So all in all I have found that I can use my existing hardware to make a decent enough voice over for my specific screen cast purposes. :slight_smile: