Self-producing an Audiobook

I would appreciate advice on 1] the recording levels I should use for my intended audio-book 2] Should I record in mono or stereo and if I record in mono will the subsequent CD playback in stereo 3] should I save as mp3 or wave (it will eventually be sent to a CD discmaker). Any other advice would be very welcome as this is my first attempt.

  1. Mono. Mono is a thing. It’s not just one of the two stereo channels. Almost all stereo systems “know” what Mono is and will play it to both stereo speakers. Most CD services and systems “know” to make a CD which will play to both stereo speakers.

  2. Uncompressed WAV. In Audacity-Speak, File > Export as WAV (Microsoft) 16-bit. You can make WAV into anything else with little or no loss in quality. MP3 is a playback format, not a production format. If you edit an MP3, its quality degenerates. It is pointed out that ACX demands submission in MP3. True, but they also have to store all their reader’s work on servers which cost money, and they have very stringent requirements as to the quality level of MP3 to submit. It’s not just ratty, play it on an iPod quality. WAV is much better. WAV is recommended for personal archive anyway, whether you submit lower quality to ACX or not.

A side note: WAV matches CD quality. They’re the same. Making an MP3 in the middle needlessly reduces sound quality.

  1. The volume and quality levels for AudioBook are not a mystery. But passing can be a little rough. Submission quality is slightly different from recording quality.

Record in Audacity such that the -6dB (yellow) level of the recording meters gets touched on occasion.

You can pull the Audacity sound meters bigger to make them easier to see. I like mine full-width.

After you finish, adjust volume and any other effects and filters needed such that maximum peaks are lower than -3dB, RMS (Loudness) level is between -18dB and -23dB and the noise level (when you stop talking) is lower than -60dB.

Audacity forum publishes ACX-Check which is an Analyze tool to tell you the condition of your work with respect to ACX.

We will note ACX-Check will only tell you the technical specification. After you pass that, you still have to pass Human Quality Control and one of their failures is “Overprocessing,” where you pass ACX-Test, but your show sounds like a bad cellphone.

If you submit a sound test, we can sometimes tell you which processing or corrections to make.

It’s very common to meet two of the three specifications, but not all three at the same time.

Since you’re self-publishing, you can do whatever you want, but it’s good to match existing, published works.

Let us know.


A very common error is read the whole book and only then find out if it’s good enough. Do submit a short sound test before you plunge in.


That is the simplified version. I’m glossing over and simplifying to avoid getting into the deep weeds more than seems good. For example, in the distant history I once had a CD burner program that would fail if I submitted a mono sound file, so I can’t say they all work unconditionally. That and when we say “make a CD,” we mean make an Audio CD. Audio CD is a thing. That’s the only one that will play music in your mum’s Buick or Lori, my lorry.

I’m assuming by your email you’re in the UK. I’m in California, so there is always going to be a 8 or 9-hour shift between our two times. Other elves are scattered. Some are in different time zones.


I am very grateful for the valuable information you have given me. I will go through tomorrow and come back to you. If I have understand correctly 1) I need to record in mono, removing the lower stereo track 2) I should set the amplification at 2.3 db - I am not quite sure how to do this because when I go to ‘amplification’ the suggested level seems to be higher, does it mean I should set the “New Peak Amplitude (dB):” level to -2.3.
I should just like to ask two more questions: am I right in assuming that I do not need to worry too much about the recording level on my mic as the Audacity programme will adjust to the correct level for me. I also take it that I do not need to make any adjustments to the ‘properties’ menu.
Excuse me if my questions are juvenile, but this is a new language and a field in which I am ignorant.
I will certainly send a clip and I would appreciate your opinion.
Thank you again.

Your postings will go through moderation until the forum gets accustomed to you. One day your postings will magically appear on their own.

There is a dividing line between Hardware and Software. I addressed (briefly) the Audacity software portion since that was the question. Upstream of that is the hardware portion. You have to master both to get a good recording out the door.

Who made your microphone? Did someone set it up for you? Do you have a nice, quiet, padded room to record in?

People get all excited when I call it a “studio,” but a studio is a comfortable, air conditioned, quiet room with no echoes. The original people who owned my house had a son who played drums. He played them very loudly. They soundproofed the third bedroom by gluing acoustic tiles on the ceiling and walls. I got lucky. A studio is the exact opposite of a kitchen.

We can give you hints for operation when you tell us what you have. Don’t leave out any manufacturer names or part numbers. We live on fine details.

A recent recording was made with a Beyer M58 microphone plugged into a Shure FP33 sound mixer. The mixer was connected to a Behringer UCA-202 Stereo USB sound adapter and then on to my 15" MacBook Pro computer…and Audacity 2.1.2.

That’s the microphone. I did not use the wind sock for my recording.


I should just like to ask two more questions: am I right in assuming that I do not need to worry too much about the recording level on my mic as the Audacity programme will adjust to the correct level for me.

No. You are replacing the recording engineer who would be setting volume for you. The systems that do automatically set volume such as your cellphone, don’t sound very good when you have to listen to them for entire 20 minute chapters at a time for enjoyment.

There are specific recording recommendations, but they do slide around a bit with different microphones, systems and environments.

This is where you tell us what you have.


Can I predict the past? You wrote a delightful paper book and somebody said you should self-publish an audiobook because they heard it wasn’t that hard.

Nobody here is going to tell you that you can’t self-publish, we have a pretty good track record for getting people published, but it is a skill set more closely resembling radio acting and engineering than writing and publishing. You don’t need a soundproof room or good voice to type a novel or script.


Please help. My visuals have disappeared during a recording I was making, but the sound is still there. How can I get back the normal visuals ? This has happened before and I had to start recording over again.

??? I’m lost. Do you have pictures with your work? Do mean your blue waves vanished?

What happens if you File > Save when it does that? Does it let you save a Project?


Sorry for not explaining properly. The visual sound waves on the track disappeared. The sound was there and when I tried saving as an audacity file and reopened the visual sound waves were again visible, but why did they disappear on the original. By the way, I tried removing clicks from a recording using the ‘click removal’ option but it did nothing.

The visual sound waves on the track disappeared.

I’ve been calling those the “blue waves” which is going to get me in trouble if someone decides to adopt a custom colour scheme. The techie name is “waveforms.”

I think you got lucky. It’s not unusual for a show to fall apart when something happens to the waves. They’re supposed to follow your actual voice when you’re creating content. In an Audacity Project, the waves are recorded as their own files in the _DATA folder.

I think I’m going to call for help.


Thank you for your responses, I realise I am fortunate to have this opportunity of contacts with a professional. The problem is that I am a complete novice and your replies are in the main too technical for me. I have self published a book and I wanted to get some audio copies. I have just a corner in my sitting room where I have set up my laptop, mic and stand and pop filter. The main question was that when I record on my Samson Meteor mic at a recording level of less than 90, the sound waves that then appear on my Audacity track are very small. I use the Audacity normalizer set at 2.5 dB and follow this with 'equalise/compress and than back to normalise. The resulting sound wave is then increased considerably. I wanted to know whether I should not worry too much about the small sound wave produced with my Meteor mic, but just rely on the Audacity effects to increase the sound. Hope this makes sense.

Hope this makes sense.

It does, but the only other way to tell what you have is listen to it. Listen on good quality speakers or good headphones. This isn’t particularly easy, either. Most computer speakers are trash, built-in speakers aren’t nearly good enough and you can’t use earbuds or other portable music systems.

I have a good, competent, wide range, whole-room music system.

The pros use Sony MDR-7506 headphones. These headphones can be found on any Hollywood sound set.


Since you’re self-publishing, you can probably make that work.

Past making your voice sound OK with reasonable quality, minimal echoes and Big Room sound, see what it sounds like when you stop talking. Do you have high hiss (fffff) or other noises?

Compare it to a known, good audiobook. I like the slightly odd reading style of Sara Vowel.

There isn’t any other way. We can’t tell you to “push this button and everything will be OK.

People would kill to have a product or technique which will do that.


You have never told us what version of Audacity you are using. Give us all three numbers from Help > About Audacity… .

Are you sure you still have the sound if there are no blue waves?

I would use Audacity 2.1.2 from Versions before that let your Audacity temporary directory be in places that cleanup tools like to clear out, even while Audacity is still running or recording.


Thank you, Gale. I do have Audacity version 2.1.2 and the problem has not repeated. I.m sure I must have done something wrong!

I am grateful, Koz, you have given me some excellent help. I do have a Sony headset and a Tiger desktop mic stand with a pop filter. The equipment is with me, it is just the experience that is lacking at present, but I have learned a lot from you.
If I could bother you with just another question. Yesterday I downloaded the Levelator. And I wonder if this now means that I can just normalise with Audacity then use the levelator. In other words does it mean that the Levelator removes the need to equilise and compress ?

I have to try it and see. There’s another trick posted by someone reading for a different company.

A lot of this stuff seems complicated when reading the instructions, but less so when you get rolling, much like the five-volume set: “How to ride a Bicycle.”


Yesterday I downloaded the Levelator.

From where? It doesn’t seem to be one of the Audacity filters or effects—or at least not that I could find.