Sound quality obtained using built-in laptop mic.

I am using an LG C500 laptop [intel core i5 inside] with Windows 7 Home Premium.

I have just finished recording my novel ‘Foundling! - The Remittance Man’s Roots’ - Author: Heaton Craig. Following guideline advice, I divided each chapter into a single track - 52 tracks of WAV & Mp3 files!

I was quite pleased with the result and sent 5 minute samples to various people, most who found the playback quality in Mp3 quite acceptable. But, here is what a gentleman, with sound recording experience, commented:

Hi Heaton
I copied your file to my MP3 player, and had a listen.
Sorry to be brutal, but it is far from good enough. Far too bassy for a start, and sounds muffled. I found it quite hard to understand what you were saying in parts. There is also some resonance - uncontrolled resonance - from your surroundings, and that makes it harder to hear it clearly; a lot of that resonance affects the bass end of the spectrum. I tried playing with the spectrum analyzer on my MP3 player, but to no avail; I simply couldn’t make it sound significantly clearer.

Another issue is that, whilst you talk with feeling, and obviously think you modulate your voice and all that, it’s different when someone skilled in the art does it. I also think that female speech parts are normally spoken by females, also different voices suitable for every piece of speech, which makes the book come more alive - but it takes precise editing to do that well.

Quite honestly this is why these publishers don’t want amateurs to record their own books. Amateurs simply can’t do it like pros do.

I think my advice to record it analogue first makes sense, because you can adjust how it sounds when you replay it, until it sounds right and clear; then you can digitize it using those settings. Generally speaking, this is where a professional sound studio comes in; they have the right type of microphones and spectrum analyzers to ensure that the end result is as it should be. And if they are experienced in producing e-books, they will immediately know how to do it right. Incidentally, playing it on loudspeakers sounds very different from using earphones - buds or cans - and that’s another thing you have to take into account.

I know it’s hard to be knocked back after all the effort you’ve put in, but saying that it’s fine when it isn’t would be a disservice. With so many things, better to stick to what you know you can do right; and the Kindle and paper versions are technically right.


RIGHT HO! - Here is my reply:

Hi Keith,

Thanks again for your input. Of course, you are absolutely right! All I used was the ‘Audacity’ programme and the inbuilt mic. on this laptop. Recording it all took absolutely ages - probably more than ten times the time it would take to read the [450 pages] book. This was because of the constant ‘crackle’, which made it necessary to record only a few lines of text at a time, then play it back. The problem with my voice inflection [modulation], was that because of the persistent ‘crackle’ problem, I was unable to record with any continuity. Countless times, I had to re-record the same paragraph, until I was almost at the point of chucking the book, laptop and all out of the bloody window. Anyway, now all I’ve got, it seems, is 52 WAV & Mp3 files of what is clearly sub-standard garbage. Actually, it’s incongruous, because I’ve sent odd samples to friends, who’ve said how clear they thought it is!

It appears that all these companies selling audiobooks require the authors to have had the recording done by the professional recording studios affiliated to them - nothing else is accepted, or will do. Is this really the case, or are there any reputable companies out there who market home-produced books of reasonable sound quality recorded with ‘Audacity’?

First you want to address the crackle problem (probably with an external microphone). Can you attach an MP3 sample of some crackle, and another sample of the recorded book (if it does not have the crackle). Maximum size is 1 MB per file. Here is how to attach files: .


If you have longer works published at a different web site or service, you can point to them instead of trying to post short works here.

Windows laptops tend to come set for corporate and business communication and conferencing, not entertainment recording, so the microphones and most of the rest of the sound channel is tuned for that. People complain all the time that their music recordings sound like complete trash and that’s part of the problem.

The other item mentioned is the room sound. You can’t record in your kitchen.

That recording is useless even though I think it still appears on their web site. They just don’t care.

I lucked out. The microphone on a Mac is very nice although not perfect and the third bedroom of my house was soundproofed years ago for the young son who played drums [cringe].


Then there’s the acting thing. One of the graphic artists at work has the touch for speaking. I keep wanting him to speak on mic so I can figure out what he’s doing. Every time he gives a show – trip to Russia – history of animation, he plays to a packed house. Literally. You can’t get any more people into the room without physical injury. I strongly suspect if he announced he was giving a presentation on the graphic layout of the phone book, you wouldn’t be able to get into that show, either.

No question we can cure the bad microphone …


G’day Gale,

Many thanks for your swift response to my posting.

It is very strange, but I have been making many attempts to record a sample clip with ‘crackle’, so that I could upload it for assessment. Incredibly, I have been unable to do so - I wish this had been the case when I was recording my book!

You requested a sample without ‘crackle’. Here is a sample - ‘attachment’.

It is taken from the audio version of my novel ‘Foundling - The Remittance Man’s Roots’.

Should anyone be tempted to read the entire novel as an e-book [Kindle], this sample is from the second book in a two book series.

The titles of the books are: ‘Foundling! - The Early Life of a Remittance Man’ and ‘Foundling! - A Remittance Man’s Racy Road to Reform’.

The author is: Heaton Craig.

I look forward in anticipation of your comments!

It sounds like you’re reading off-mic in an echoey room. You can probably go a long way toward a good performance by curing the echo. There are people at work who hang blankets and quilts in a closet and record in there. I did a passable recording studio with furniture moving blankets.

I know it seems like you should be able to walk into your kitchen, plunk the laptop down and start recording and there are a lot of podcasts out there which work that way, but it’s a bit more involved than that as you get into the better levels of recording.

You can at least partially cure room echo with expensive microphones and odd recording technique like they do on This American Life and other radio interview shows, but that sort of work is far beyond that most home recordists can manage. Better the quilts.

If you submit to another company, do it with a chapter or the introduction to the book, not the whole book.

We’re still interested in your crackle. We may be able to cure that and that will go a long way to improving the show. We’re puzzled about that because your included sample has very graceful sound levels. Crackling and snapping is usually caused by too high a recording volume.


G’day Koz,

Many thanks for your informative tips - most useful!

Herewith, a sample of ‘crackle’ for your assessment and comments.

Still, I can’t get ‘Audacity’ to crackle when I need it too - it’s when I don’t want it to that the crackling can be infuriatingly persistent! You are probably right about too high a recording volume - also, I suspect processor noise in the laptop.

The most important question I posted, but nobody has yet replied to is: ‘Are there any audiobook marketing companies who will accept a home recorded book of reasonable [but not studio] sound quality?’

I expect this is a FAQ by many budding home recordists using ‘Audacity’ - but I haven’t seen any answer to it in the ‘Audacity’ FAQ’s.


Hi Steve,

Thank you for your quick response to my query; but,unfortunately, the page of websites that your link targets does not contain the names of any audiobook marketing companies who are prepared to accept home-produced audiobook recordings of reasonable quality.

Sure, they will undertake to provide a recording service and, usually, at a prohibitive cost to an impecunious author such as myself.

Surely, there must be many authors like me, who would like to use ‘Audacity’ [in suitable conditions] to record their own writing, yet find a reputable company to market it?

So, my question still remains unanswered!

Heaton I do not have a solution for you about finding a publisher who would want you to do the book recording but I thought you might be interested in what a consumer might think about amateur sound in a recorded book. My wife and I are both devoted recorded book fans. I have tried to listen to books that were not read by professional actors and had to flee. The voice recording was too awful, painful, and distracting. I could not concentrate on the story. The childishness of the performance was like being chained to a chair and having to endure a evening of someone else’s children play pretend. On the other hand a professional reader just creates the world with her/his talent. We have readers that we follow as they are that good. You have worked so hard to be an author, maybe you should find some allies to help with the voice part. I buy a lot of self-published kindle books and know you can be found/discovered, et al. I wish you the best and will look you up on Amazon. Curt on Cape Cod

Thanks for your comments, ‘Curtmill 22’ - but, to be fair, surely not all non-professional people making amateur sound recordings, whether speech or music, can be all written off as ‘rubbish’, which is what you are basically saying.

I have listened to many excerpts of professionally recorded audiobooks, narrated by experienced people. My assessment is: ‘One man’s meat is another man’s poison!’ Often, a person’s voice can grate on you, like the proverbial teacher scraping fingernails on a blackboard. Also, I have found that even professionals don’t always read with continuity, which, to me, disrupts a sentence or paragraph - it’s like punctuation being incorrectly applied, which can change the meaning of a sentence.

Anyway, let’s lighten up here! Have you ever heard Peter Sellers’ ‘Party Political Speech’? It’s well worth ‘Googling’ for a listen, as the content still emulates the gibberish spouted by contemporary politicians!

I look forward to reading more of your posts!

Just to add to the subject of ‘voices’ in my last post, I have to say that, for me, the man with the most dramatic and memorable American accented voice has to be that wonderful actor, Sam Elliott. This is the definitive voice that inspires one’s confidence in the speaker’s certain knowledge and experience on whatsoever subject he converses!

Listen up and enjoy! >>>

Here are 2 pertinent questions that some of you professional ‘Audacity’ users may be able to answer:

1./ What make of microphone and pop windshield makes for the best sounding audiobook recording and do the results measure up to professional standards?

2./ Has anyone recorded a homemade audiobook with ‘Audacity’ that has been accepted by an audiobook selling company - and if so, please name that company, or if several, their names and contact details?

In the above posting, I have posted two questions, which I would have thought many authors who consider their recording and reading abilities to be adequately professional-sounding, would be most grateful for some answers to. Surely, I can’t be alone in seeking some helpful advice, or answers, to such queries?

‘Audacity’ is a wonderful programme - even more so in light of the fact that it is free, which is quite incredible!

Is it illogical to assume that ‘Audacity’ cannot be used by professional and commercial recordists who have suitable accessories, such as quality microphones and ‘pop’ preventer windshields, or has it and is it currently being used?

Sorry about the lack of response, but I don’t think that any of the “forum regulars” make audio books either as professionals or amateurs.
I’ve done a lot of vocal recording, but mostly singing or speech for theatrical productions rather than audio books. I have done some audio book editing (and radio plays) with Audacity, but the recording was not done in Audacity.

It would be nice to see a bit more dialogue between Audacity users other than just the forum regulars answering technical questions :wink:

I have (and do) use Audacity extensively in both professional and hobby capacities (but I don’t do audio books).
I agree that Audacity is a terrific, very capable program and (with suitable hardware) is quite capable of professional quality results. One of the things that I most like about it is how fast I can make small edits and small modifications to audio recording - with Audacity I can often complete small jobs faster than waiting for a “professional” program to open.

At home I use a home-made pop shield (made from the fabric from the front of an old loudspeaker stretched over a wire frame). At work we use cheap double layer fabric pop-shields. I’m not keen on pop shields that use metal gauze as I once had a bad experience when one was very slightly rattling - it took ages to find where the noise was coming from. :angry:

For vocal recording, there is a huge range of microphones. I prefer to use large diaphragm condenser microphones plugged into a suitable pre-amp or mixing desk. I don’t have much experience with USB recording mics, but for voice recording if I were to use a USB mic I would definitely want it to have a (hardware) gain control. Setting the gain right can make a big difference to the audio quality, particularly to the noise level. I like to be able to set the microphone pre-amp gain accurately so as to maximise the SNR (lots of signal. little noise). That’s not easy to do without reasonable metering.

If I were to pick one (affordable) mic for an unspecified voice recording job, I’d probably go for an AKG 414, though I have had much success with many other mics, including some of the (much cheaper) large diaphragm condensers form Thomann (their T-bone mics). As an inexpensive recording mic I’ve also heard good things about the Rode NT1, though I’ve not used one myself.

G’day ALL!

I, personally, think followers of this forum should be extremely grateful to Steve for imparting his professional knowledge so abundantly and freely - thanks everso, Steve!

Different people have different hobbies - for instance, I love building and flying radio control model aircraft. However, I came to the stage in my mis-spent life where I thought: ‘What a waste my insignificant little life would be if I can’t leave some sort of a lasting legacy, and such a legacy cannot be financial because once the inheritor has spent the money, any financial legacy soon fades into obscurity. However, how about writing a highly fictionalised novel about the quite interesting and exciting life that I have led? That’s the caper - go for it,m my son!’ So I did - and two and a half years later I felt that I had perfected a pretty good novel of 450 pages. Firstly, I hand wrote the story in school excercise books with a good, old-fashioned fountain pen - I reckon the plot brewed in my brain, then flowed down my arm into my hand and thence through the pen onto the paper. I knew very little about computers - I only bought my first, an old Compaq laptop with Windows 3.1, in a New Zealand government auction - I paid ‘peanuts’ for it! I had nobody to teach me, but somehow I managed to physically produce a paperback novel, with full colour cover - it looks just like a bought one! In the ensuing five years, over 300 people from various walks of life read it - approximately 90% said: ‘Unputdownable, Heaton!’

Ah - but to find a publisher proved to be an expensive, thankless and disappointing excercise in utter futility! Although I submitted what I still consider to be a fairly good synopsis, all I received back from the publishers and literary agents was: ‘Thank you for submitting your work to us, unfortunately our lists are full.’

So, then I submitted the book as a two book series as an ‘e’ book to Amazon Kindle. This seems fruitless, also - unless you want to list your book as a ‘freebie’.

I then thought of trying to make an audio recording of my book - but having spent a considerable time doing so, using the magnificent ‘Audacity’ programme, but with only the laptop’s inbuilt microphone, although I had feedback from my friends and acquaintances, including a few strangers, that the playback was perfectly audible and acceptable - the fact of the matter is, simply, that it does meet today’s acceptable recording/playback criteria of quality.

Surely, there must be countless other budding authors who have had a more or less similar experience? Now, I’m really wondering where to go from here!

But, anyway, thanks again, Steve!

Finding a book publisher sounds as difficult as finding a music publisher. Those that have the distribution clout are only interested in already successful artists.
Self publishing is always an option, but the difficulty is getting the necessary “exposure”. The Internet has opened up many avenues, but the problem now is that there is so much “stuff” out there that it is difficult to get noticed among all the other “stuff”.

Some ideas:

Charles Dickens was unable to find a publisher for his books, so he published weekly instalments that were sold on street corners. Perhaps the modern day equivalent would be to advertise weekly instalments with a tantalising “hook line” on Twitter, and post episodes free on a web site, which in turn offers the full audio book as a download for purchase.

Local radio are often on the lookout for local stories - if you self publish you may be able to get some free “advertising” by promoting yourself and your book as a “newsworthy local interest story” to local radio - see if you can get a radio interview.

Have you tried approaching libraries to see if they will display posters for your book?

Don’t expect to get instant results from Amazon if you are an “unknown” author. The only published author that I know personally is the author of "How I Set Fire To My Eyebrows (…and other stories from the 1980s) " I don’t know if he’s made much money from it, but he’s got 21 reviews on Amazon so there must have been some sales :slight_smile: Reputations build slowly, stick with it and keep plugging away.

Thanks again for your sound advice, Steve!

Unfortunately, my novel is a bit…er…‘fruity’ to be aired on the radio - definitely only suitable for the extremely broad-minded!!!

I made a gross error in my last posting - it should have read: ‘…although I had feedback from my friends and acquaintances, including a few strangers, that the playback was perfectly audible and acceptable - the fact of the matter is, simply, that it does NOT meet today’s acceptable recording/playback criteria of quality.’

Hence your enquiry about microphones.
Did we say that virtually any mic pre-amp over $30 is likely to be much better than the one that is built into the computer? Even a cheap computer microphone is likely to give better results if plugged into a better pre-amp. The main problems with built-in microphones are that they pick up computer noise (fan noise, keyboard clicks etc) and the pre-amps tend to be very noisy (lots of hiss).

Although I haven’t yet followed the advice contained herein, this forum’s followers may find this link helpful: