Very Inexperienced & Working on Audio Book

This is a test clip of a recording we made using a USB microphone and skipping our mixer. The mike is a MXL ProCon Series 1 AC-404. What do you think?

George

That seems to work. It will take some juggling between the tools and filters, but it seems OK. You picked a conferencing microphone because you happened to have it right? This microphone has a specification not found in “normal” microphones. Since it’s a boundary type, you have to have a boundary.

The perfect boundary is a 30 inch board or plate.

But I have done theaters with smaller ones. I think these are 12" or 14" circles. Recognize those (attach)?

Those happen to be sitting on a concrete floor, but if you put one on a table, you have to put a towel or something underneath the plate to keep the microphone from picking up every little pen drop and elbow movement.

Attach 2. That’s black felt (Duvetyne) under the board.

Koz
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Okay, thanks. I am also waiting on a USB adapter for our other mike. It should come any time now and I’ll test it out too. The conference mike is loaned to me, with almost no time limit. But, if I can make our own mike work, I will do that. At least I know we’re looking in a viable direction.

George

I purchased a USB adaptor which connects our analog mike (the first one) to the USB port in the laptop. I ran this on my wife’s Windows 8.1 laptop and this is what we got. I feel we are still not there with volume. But it worked much better with her Windows laptop than when I tried it on my Linux Mint laptop.

George

This test is close, but will still need work. I need to step out for a while, but on first pass, the silent stretch has a noise level of about -60, but before you congratulate yourself, the peak sound values are -5.4, not -3, and when I fix that, the noise floor is going to go up past specification. Then I’m going to fix that which is going to reduce clarity of the voice, etc. etc. etc.

After I fix those, it still has to pass loudness or RMS.

Later.

Koz

I got the clip to pass all three specifications as long as you don’t measure beyond “OK Folks.” All the dialog past that is too low. The performer’s voice fades into the sunset. Open the clip in Audacity. See how the blue waves get smaller and smaller toward the right? You can’t do that.

Attached is the setup for live recording in Audacity. Undock the meters and make them enormously bigger. Use the control strip on the left edge and the control corner in the lower right-hand. Make sure the meters are set for about 60 on the left. I think it will actually read -57 or so. That’s the right range.

Change that in Audacity > Edit > Preferences > Interface: Meter dB range.

Then, while you’re performing, make sure your bouncing red sound meter regularly peaks around -6 and never goes all the way up to 0. Note my blue waves are generally the same size and don’t wander up and down by very much? Yes, you do have to watch the meters and read the copy at the same time. The board operator on the other side of the glass in a real studio is adjusting levels and watching the meters. Now you have to do that. You get used to not being theatrical while you read. This isn’t a cellphone. You have to meet show standards.

Your sound clip is right on the edge. If you start wandering off announcing volume, you will not be able to make conformance.

Koz
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Thank you–this post showed me a lot. It is going to be really strange reading and watching, but I’ll have to do it.

Is there a way of cleaning it up if one or two bounce above -6?

Matt

Minor variations will die in post production processing. -6 is a desirable goal, not a law. You should not spend a lot of time way below or way too high. Too low can be a problem, but high enough to max the meters out at 0 is very serious sound damage.

Koz

Thanks Koz. We’ll be working on it!

George

I’m just curious now because I am also very inexperienced and working on audio book–Koz has been helping me on another TOPIC–did you ever get past ACX with all of your fixes?

Matt

As a test and so I’m not blathering in a vacuum, I shot a voice sound test in my third bedroom. With very simple and gentle post production corrections, I got a clip to pass all ACX specifications and still sound like me (attached).

It’s possible to fall off the cliff by having a noisy room or too low quality equipment. You may be able to force a file into ACX compliance, but it may not sound much like you when you’re done. And remember, you’ll have to do that corrections dance to every show you produce.

If you really offended the computer gods, your USB system won’t support a good quality USB microphone. And then there are “magic” or “moon-phase” problems. There is one poster who tried all combinations of all equipment and changed everything and it still doesn’t work. One of these days I’m going to go into the attic and find the Giant Hum Generator Monster who lives up there.

So there are posters who may never make it with the environment they have.

The forum can’t always rescue everybody.

Koz

Koz, forgive me for being so slow to get back. I had hit a wall with the problem of the microphone and… kidding season hit. We have been delivering kids and, worse yet, we lost two after quite a struggle to save them. On top of that, I crashed my personal laptop and had to do quite a bit of fixing.

Anyway, a friend of mine helped me over a period of days, often having to wait on me. Today we finally got a dedicated computer set up with a USB microphone and a driver which gives more volume on the recording. Here’s a sample of what I got my wife to record, tonight, using this new set up. This is raw. I haven’t applied anything to it yet. But as an experiment I did try noise removal. I thought it was pretty good.

George

We’re all doing this between bouts of actually living life.

That clip is right on the edge of being too noisy. The problem with noise removal is that it leaves the noise during the words. It only removes that whine and hiss between words and in broad blank times. I was able to get rid of most of the trash with custom tone filters and careful sound management, but it’s borderline quality and she sounds like she’s leaking air every time she speaks. I’m sure that’s not going to pass ACX quality control.

That and where is she reading? She sounds like an echoey hallway. There is no reliable filter for echoes. Once you record in a hard room, you’re in trouble.

Koz

She’s recording in my old study, a bedroom with bookshelves in it. She has some foam and blankets hanging on the walls to try to cut down on echo.

Do you think the hum comes from the laptop? That’s the only thing I can think of.

George

That clip is indeed too noisy. You might be able to get the noise floor below -60 dB with filtering and the noise removal tool, but it won’t be pretty.

I hear a rumble (and the spectrum analysis put it’s fundamental at 70 Hz) that could be HVAC, or some equipment with a motor (refrigerator maybe?) in the next room, doesn’t really sound like a computer fan, those are usually higher pitched. There’s the 1kHz whine that Koz likes to call “frying mosquitoes” and then there good ol’ hiss. The whine is likely inherent in the USB interface of the microphone.

What brand/model is the USB microphone? Does it have an input level control?

What is the “dedicated computer setup”… a laptop, desktop?

How close is your wife to the microphone?

As Koz noted there’s also a bit of reverberation to the recording. Is she seated a a desk or table to read? If so try padding the desk top (moving blankets work well) and the wall she is facing.

Your original setup – the Shure mic + Soundcraft mixer + Behringer interface should of been able to deliver a decent quality signal, what ever became of that?

Shure mic + Soundcraft mixer + Behringer interface

Don’t sell those. That combination should be electrically quieter and missing that whine sound. Much less hiss (fffff).

That, in minor variation, is how I shot my compliant voice test to make sure I could do it in the face of telling other people how to do it (attached).

Koz

Okay, the new set up was a Dell D810 laptop computer with Windows XP using the Samson Softpre program which is apparently meant to work with the latest microphone, which is a Samson C01U Studio Condenser.

We still have the Behringer UCA202 and the Shure microphone. But I never figured out how to connect them so as to have sufficient volume in the raw recording. There was no blower or fan going in the modular home where we have my wife’s studio. She sits at a desk in the room she uses for a studio.

She is thinking of trying to do a recording in a small bathroom to see if that improves things.

George

duplicate. Sorry about that. deletable post.

It costs $149, but Recording Hacks has been very high on the Cloudlifter for that purpose. See their 2012 article on Best Budget Audio Interfaces for SM7B

If that sound is from the USB mic itself that probably won’t help. I was warned away from them by Kozikowski among others. Here’s what he had to say about them in an earlier thread:

"The love affair with USB microphones is losing it’s glow because of several shortcomings. The worst one is “frying mosquitoes” noise in the background. This noise is burned into the USB system and it’s rough to remove in post production.

http://kozco.com/tech/audacity/clips/FryingMosquitoes3.wav

It can prevent you from achieving ACX conformance.

This is a technical problem, but there are certainly physical ones as well. We can’t take out the dog barking in the background. Sorry. Forget Noise Removal. It doesn’t remove noise. All it does is suppress certain background sounds that weren’t all that much of a problem in the first place.

We have posters going into production with the idea that Noise Removal is going to get them “Out of Jail.” It won’t. And these producers are pretty much doomed."