What does my failed ACX test mean...


I’m so happy to have successfully installed the Nyquist plugins!
Now for the bad news. I failed!

I ran the test on an Audacity project (not on an exported file). I assume that’s the only way to run a test.

What I should adjust in Audacity or on my computer to fix this.
Or should I be closer to the mic?

Peak level: -7.19 db (too low)

RMS level: -28.70 dB Fail (too quiet)

Noise floor: -63.61 dB pass


Nobody can read directly into ACX except by accident. So you should stop worrying about that.

As a fuzzy rule, you should read so occasional blue tip peaks on the timeline reach about half-way (0.5 or 50%). The fuzzy words are intentional Nobody will stop breathing if your reading is a bit low or high. If the blue waves ever go all the way up to 100%, they will be become permanently distorted. If they’re too low, you may have noise problems. FFFFFF behind all your words.

Read a ten second forum test according to this formula.


This is a lot faster than trying to publish all the things that can go wrong.

When you do post back, tell us all about your microphone, how you have it connected and a little about your recording room.


Thank you - attached. There are a lot of birds waking up now which might explain the noise. :slight_smile: Thanks for your help.

Are you the author of the work you will be reading?

I’m going to apply audiobook mastering and see how far I get.


The good news is I can’t hear the birds. The bad news is there is still an enormous amount of background noise. What is your microphone? Where is the computer? Can you tell if the computer is on or not just by listening?

I can force the selection to pass ACX technical testing, but it’s not easy and it only just passes. There’s a fuzzy rule that you need to pass noise by a handy amount, not just squeak past.

If I force it any more, your voice is going to start getting distorted from the stiff corrections.

There’s also a thumping in the sound like you’re gently bumping the table with your fist? Or I know people with nervous legs that occasionally hit the table leg. There’s easy ways around that one depending on your microphone.


Yes I am the author.

I was about 5" from the mic. Maybe too close.

Mic is Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid
I don’t have a pop filter.

I lined a big cardboard box with egg crate foam and the mic is inside. I will perhaps try a different setup.

The mic is plugged into my laptop which is about 12" from the mic.

There was literally no noise in the room or that I could hear. I definitely wasn’t banging my leg. (Yesterday I recorded for 3 hours before discovering my failure, so I’m not nervous :slight_smile: )

Thank you again!

There was literally no noise in the room or that I could hear.

A few things -

Noise is usually “the problem” (at least the technical problem).

The requirements are strict. -60dB is 1/1000th of 0dB. (But our ears have a wide dynamic range too.)

Our brains tend to filter-out background noises, especially when the noise comes from all directions. If you’ve ever recorded a live event you may have noticed noise coming out of the speakers/headphones that you didn’t notice while recording.

Most “home studios” are not soundproof and they usually won’t pass without some noise reduction. And if you were in a professional soundproof studio, the computer (with it’s fan & spinning hard drive) would be on the “other side of the glass”.

If you can speak with a “strong confident voice” (without shouting) you’ll get a higher signal-to-noise ratio. You won’t have to amplify as much so the noise won’t be amplified as much.

The preamp in your interface will generate some noise, as well as the head amp inside a condenser microphone. The head amp noise is usually not a problem. Noise generated by the preamp itself (hiss) usually isn’t too bad either but if you have a USB powered interface (or a USB microphone) noise can get in through the USB power. USB power noise is usually a high-pitch whine and it will vary depending on the computer.

Yes I am the author.

So that’s one problem out of the way. A lot of ACX’s publication management has to do with the juggling act between the performer and the “Rights Holder.” You are the Rights-Holder—we assume.

I lined a big cardboard box with egg crate foam and the mic is inside.

Don’t go crazy yet! That should have worked. I don’t hear any odd performance or voice errors, so I don’t think you’re too close to the microphone, and the blue waves on the timeline came out just about right.


Foam or cardboard? Only the cardboard works. Can you put the foam egg carton on the table (empty) and blow it away with your breath? Wrong stuff. You need the heavier gray cardboard. I’ve done that with the cardboard. That does work.

There is another, similar technique. You can get furniture moving pads at a large hardware store and try that.

More a bit later.


Did you get the kit with the Microphone? The little three-legged stand?

I bet I can make the tiny thumps go away with the book and towel trick. It doesn’t have to be Stephen King.

Note the whole thing is sitting on a heavy, blue moving blanket.

The 2020 is a side-fire microphone. You speak into the company name on the side. If you look at the back of the microphone it will say (drum roll) “BACK”.

Screen Shot 2020-06-17 at 15.02.35.png
You didn’t say so, but the laptop should be outside your studio. Try draping heavy towels or a blanket between the laptop and your studio. DO NOT block any air flow to the laptop. They suffocate easily.

I can’t get the instructions to tell me, but that included USB cable looks like it’s longer than 3 feet. You can safely run USB cables up to about 6 feet before they start to have problems.

Are you reading from the laptop?

Can you read from the actual book?

One other production process note. ACX will allow you to submit a short test before you submit hundreds of pages. Our tests are based on ACX publications and instructions. They do not come from ACX. They have their own tests as well as theater tests to make sure you can read out loud OK.

Do post back.


Thank you SO much for all the details and suggestions. I will try getting the laptop farther away. I will probably put the file on my ipad within the “studio” and scroll to read from it. My first iteration was helpful to edit the text based on what sounds good on the recording.

Yes I have the 3 legged stand on the mic.
I WAS SPEAKING INTO THE TOP! They should instead name the back “speak here!”
I will try that as well as the blanket idea and other suggestions to move the laptop farther away in a few days. (Thanks for the Stephen King smile) :slight_smile:

I will let you know it how it goes.
Should I run RMX Normalize after, or other effects, only if my recording fails?

Thanks again!