Using a hardware gate/compressor vs noise reduction

I’ve been using Audacity for a while and it’s been pretty good, but I’m always wondering how I could get things better and save on edit time and one thing that has crossed my mind is running a hardware compressor/preamp on my mic channel. I have noticed that there are a few around that seem to be designed for this, typically offering some degree of shaping, compressor and gate ( I’m thinking of stuff like the Behringer MX2600 ) that I could use to adjust the signal during recording.

Firstly: Is a hardware gate going to cause problems because if I have any background noise it will only show up during speech? Right now I can just sample the noise from a quiet spot and use that to feed Audacity’s noise reduction, but presumably that wouldn’t work on a gated signal.

Secondly does anyone have any experience of using this kind of set-up, and if so, how did you get along with it? Do you feel it made a noticeable improvement to the quality of your signal?

Noise gates can be useful for this type of thing in live situations, but I’d generally avoid using a gate for voice recording. Yes the noise would be present during speaking, and then cut out in the gaps, which can sound quite unnerving (but not usually a problem in live situations as there’s likely to be ambient noise masking the problem). There’s really no substitute for recording in a very quiet room.

If you want to try a noise gate without the expense of buying one, you could try this Noise Gate plug-in:
(installation instructions:

Thanks Steve, I use the Audacity gate quite a lot, especially if someone has noise leakage on their tracks, that was what got me to wondering about whether using a gate on the input stage would interfere with my noise reduction. Sounds like it will.

This is a clip from Rachel Maddow. I wrote them and accused them of recording the show on a loading dock. It’s a pretty loading dock. Listen on headphones.

I didn’t record it, but one show sounded like somebody assembling an Ikea credenza off camera. “The country is going to Hell” [Bang! Clunk!].

Any consideration given to soundproofing the environment? Furniture moving pads go a long way. That’s what’s in the background on this shot.


Right now there aren’t many other places in my one-bedroom flat and I’m having enough trouble finding places to keep the boom stands out of sight when not recording, so changing the space isn’t going to work right now. The background noise isn’t a big problem - I think it’s usually the mic picking up sound from the fan in my laptop. If there was space I might adjust my recording setup, but while we live here there won’t be, and the output I’m getting sounds fine once I’ve done a bit of processing on it. I was really trying to figure out whether having a gate in the loop would create a problem rather than solving one if I tend to have a bit of background noise on the track, and it sounds like it will.

I think if I have a bit of compression when I’m recording it might still save the compression/limit cycles I usually have to go through to get my mic to a standard level, though. That seems like a fairly standard practice for people who do a fair amount of spoken word work.

Yes, computer fan noise is exactly what Noise Reduction does well. A background sound that doesn’t change.

There is a correction suite for people reading for AudioBooks. It will achieve ACX AudioBook compliance repeatedly without a compressor.

It uses some custom tools you have to install.

Is the machine a laptop? Are you reading from the screen? Print the work, move the laptop slightly to one side and put it on a towel. Put something between the laptop and the microphone. Breakfast cereal boxes with towels over them? Do Not block the laptop ventilation. You can play tricks with a directional microphone. They’re usually dead straight back. That’s where you put your noise.

Getting rid of noise before you record pays very well.


Most of the time I’m running a tabletop game over Hangouts, so I need to be using the computer the whole time - unfortunate for sound quality but also kind of amazing it is even possible so I’ll take it.

Those Audiobook tips look like solid gold, thanks for linking them through. Also I’m using a cardioid mic so I probably can do something with positioning it to kill some noise, really good advice!

kind of amazing it is even possible

Yes, you’re the poster child for how not to record your voice.

Forget the computer for a minute. Regard the heavy blanket on the table.

My computers all vent out the back and the blanket will go a long way to suppressing noise.


Also recommended is the On-Stage Stands series of mic stands. They don’t have a heavy base and will fold up and hide behind an ironing board in the broom closet.

As usual, I took a picture and can’t find it…

Here it is from another post.