Hello all, I am a rank novice at sound but trying to get better.
I got a CAD u37 usb mic for basic narration. It ran very “hot” at first until I found the AGC setting was on, which was kind of disastrous because it made regular narration get clipped and brought in every background sound imaginable.
Just turning off AGC was a huge improvement but now I just can’t get the mic to pick up my voice at a high enough level, and no, I am not unnaturally soft or anything. But I have to use the booster in Properties to get the input to normal DBs, and the weird thing is that it seems that other users of the u37 don’t have to do this, even with AGC turned off.
Does anyone know how I can record on this mic at a normal level without using AGC or having to amplify my tracks afterward?
Is the goal AudioBook reading? If it is you will always have to do something to it. The recommended voice volumes for recording and submission for AudioBook are different.
Make sure the top switch is set to 0 and not -10. It’s a side-fire microphone, so make sure you’re speaking into the company logo and green light, not the top or the back.
Some computers have a USB microphone boost setting. You might look for that.
I see you know this microphone great!
Yes, the 10 db switch is not on.
Boost is the only thing I’ve been able to think of to normalize volume, but it seemed to me (I could be wrong) that this is not the best way to approach things.
I don’t mind editing tracks at all but if I have to amplify as a matter of course, I then have to amplify the background noise, which usually ends up creating more distortion in the final product.
I just don’t know if this low sensitivity when AGC is off is normal for this mic and if there is any skillful way to deal with it.
Low volume is designed into most USB microphones. Low volume causes occasional complaints and steps in post production to meet show goals. High volume causes immediate, fatal distortion and the urge to send the microphone back. Since most USB microphones have zero metering or other volume indicator, Low Volume wins.
I have a Direct to USB microphone interface I’ve never used for a production because of chronic low volume.
It’s just too tempting to offer a care-free “professional” microphone you can plug into the computer and start recording audiobooks. Sometimes it doesn’t work out to be very care-free.
Noise, depending on the source, is a problem with lower end microphones, too. Obviously, mixing metrobus noise or dogs barking can be prevented with Environment Management (and building a studio in your apartment, which is what ACX wants you to do), but hiss background noise (fffffff) is frequently burned into lower end microphones. Building quiet electronics is expensive and nobody is going to pay for it.
All those conditions can lead to a production death spiral. You record a passage and have to boost the volume with filters and effects to meet AudioBook standards. This also boosts the hiss noise which requires you to use Noise Reduction. Too much Noise Reduction may cause the AudioBook company to bounce your work for “Overprocessing,” and even if it doesn’t, many Large Diaphragm, Condenser Microphones sound gritty, harsh and abrasive when you apply too many effects and too much correction.
This can cause your submissions to fail for simple sound quality issues.
ACX has written they oppose any sound defect that distracts from enjoyment of the work. My own metaphor is sitting fascinated over cups of tea while somebody in real life tells you a story. If it doesn’t sound like a natural voice, the theatrical illusion falls apart.
Koz – thank you so much for this grand overview of the microphone world. You have given me a lot of perspective I wouldn’t ever get on my own.
Obviously, as you say, there is no simple spend-a-few-dollars-and-get-great-sound solution. So I will work this mic as well as I can and not just throw money at some other product hoping for a magical result.
It is actually really hard to get any information on the apparent weaknesses of some mics and why they persist.
I really appreciate your broad view of this. Thanks again.
There are a couple that get close. The Blue Yeti microphone is apparently used by billions of people to great effect. Take it out of the box, plug it in and start recording your podcast or audiobook.
It doesn’t always work out perfectly, though, and if you offend the sound gods, you can have no end of trouble with it. It tends to be a slave to the quality of the USB connection and a very common complaint is The Yeti Curse which is a whining, mosquito sound very difficult to get rid of and still maintain good quality voice.
At almost double the price is the Yeti Pro. I’ve never heard of a complaint about it. It’s no stretch that the first thing they fixed in the “pro” model is noise, but it’s not “a few dollars.”
I’m currently beating up an iPhone with the idea of shooting serious sound with it. I think it can be done and in that particular case, given you have a good room, you can shoot good quality sound for no dollars.
It can be done on an iPhone but even then you’re better off picking up a mic. If you wanted to you could just clip a lapel microphone (one of the clip on ones like this http://subreel.com/best-lapel-lavalier-microphones/) on and talk into it. This will record straight into the iPhone and replace the audio input of the phone. Quick, cheap and easy. Results will depend on which mic you go for of course.
even then you’re better off picking up a mic.
I don’t agree. I was able to produce a passable voice clip like this.
I had the stand and clip, but I bet I could get it to work propped up on a book over a towel in a quiet room. A good environment is required no matter which microphone you use.
I have a lavalier microphone…
And I’ve used it to good effect…but…the instant you decide to use an external microphone, you also graduate to knowing how to use it. Do you know what chin shadow is? Mess that up and lavaliers get muffled or starting picking up P-Pops. Don’t move around too much. They can pick up shirt noises. You will, of course, be nailing your long hair behind your head.
All that and you still have to buy it. I suspect using an iPhone/iPod violates the principal that at least in the US, I have to Buy Something to be worthy.
I’ve been putting off final production, but I think this might be a good day or two goal. I briefly considered not telling anyone how I shot it.
Probably the best outcome of the experiment was the ability to pass ACX-Check with minimal fuss and produce pleasant voice quality with a wet mouth noise filter (I love that phrase). We should remember the longest message thread on the forum is Ian who was trying to read an audiobook from his apartment in Hollywood. That’s it. 39 chapters.
If this was easy, anybody could do it.