Yet another total n00b

So, since my book is selling relatively well, I had this genius idea to create an Audiobook for it. I got a good mic and a pop shield and was ready to roll.

I know I have a bit of background noise on this recording because I was touching my mic, which was picked up. Is there anything else that needs to be fixed in terms of that?

I’ll upload the attachment and show you the letter they sent me…I’m such a n00b I don’t even know what the heck Mastering or Encoding means (though I think I can figure out the latter, but I am stumped on the former). I basically pathetically need a hand hold (or to be told to abandon ship because I’m hopeless).

My file:

The email I received:

Recording: The noise floor of this recording is higher than required. Microphone has not been isolated from background noise.

Editing: Audio contains extraneous sounds.

Mastering: Audio does not meet mastering requirements.

Encoding: Audio does not meet encoding requirements

Thank you for taking the time to submit your sample for review! My recommendation would be to work on reducing the amount of noise in your recording. Noise issues come in two types, electrical noise (hiss, hum) within a recording system, and environmental noise within your recording space.

Overall, this is a great start and a good performance. Look over the information above and feel free to submit another sample once you feel you have addressed the noise floor issue.

There was a recent posting from someone who accepted a job to produce an audiobook and wanted to know where to start.

I said hire a studio to capture his voice and then bring that home for processing, etc. etc. and submission. If, after the second or third book he still wanted to do this, then start investigating home recording. There is another poster who did a live radio show from the studio and then decided to produce it from home. We’re still struggling with some of the technical details.

It’s just not that easy. ACX compliance is very similar to broadcast specifications, so it’s not something you can toss off one day before lunch, although some people luck out. They’re looking at the rest of us like we’re crazy. Another recent poster had a dead quiet office complex to record in after hours. I couldn’t figure out how his clips came out so clean. He basically recorded them in a studio.

I need to listen carefully to the work. ACX compliance is relatively simple to understand, but not to achieve. Noise is rough. There’s a list of things that can kill you for noise problems. Are you working from an existing web page or YouTube describing what to do? We do have posters that get very far along and just need a little push to resolve little details; they have the basics nailed.

ACX needs specific submission technical standards which aren’t that hard to achieve, but you have to know how. For one thing their file quality standards are higher than you think they should be because they offer story products with lower quality and need the show to not fall apart then they do that.

I attached a sound file I shot that is ACX compliant. I wanted to see if I could do it. Listen to the silent stretch at the beginning. Then listen to yours.


Thank you so much for the reply!

This is confusing to me as I don’t hear anything on mine besides me touching the mic, but I hear crinkling in yours?

I can’t make specifications on your clip. By the time I run the tools to push the peaks, loudness, compression,etc around, the voice volume is starting to duck, pump and wander from too much correction.

Even though ACX needs submissions in MP3, you should be working in very high quality WAV format. Your archive of shows should be in WAV and processing, “mastering” etc, should be in WAV. Create a complete, final, polished show and then create a reduced quality MP3 for submission. MP3 always creates some sound damage and you can’t stop it. You can’t create a new MP3 from an old one without the damage getting worse.

I’m trying to decide which direction to go.

Obviously touching the microphone and messing with the room or desk, etc. during the performance is evil. We had one poster who couldn’t sit still and we could hear his pants during the whole test clip. Wear quiet pants.

You need to be louder. The hiss level (fffffff) in the background is a problem, but not if you’re much louder than it is.

I published some shortcuts. This is what my Audacity looks like when I record so I can keep an eye on it while I’m reading.
You should include 2 seconds of Room Tone at the top. Hold your breath and stop moving. This will tell us about the room and microphone noise problems. Which microphone is it?


Recording in Audacity

This is one recommended setup for live recording in Audacity.

Undock the meters and make them enormously bigger. Click the ribbed control strip on the meter left edge and the control corner in the lower right. 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 sound range.

Change the range if needed in Audacity > Edit > Preferences > Interface: Meter dB range: -60dB…

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 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 as you perform. Now you have to do that. You get used to not being wildly theatrical while you read.


There’s some actual errors in the reading. That’s like wearing mismatched shoes to an audition (although Barbra Streisand managed to pull that off nicely).


In case I rained too much, I do like your reading voice. You have a good storyteller presentation. Except for the mistakes.

Can you keep that up for a whole novel?

And the next one?


Thanks! I didn’t realize I made mistakes. In which part? I’m pretty sure I can keep that up for the whole novel…if I even do this mofo since their specifications seem deceptively simple. This is the mic I’m using plus a cover and a pop shield.

Thanks for the advice…I will try doing this on Monday and see what happens.

WTF is mastering? Pardon my bluntness…I just don’t even get it.

their specifications seem deceptively simple.

Don’t they? It’s actually much worse because everybody who tries this assumes everybody else is successfully cranking out book after book.

They’re not.

I think in this context, “Mastering” is conforming to the ACX guidelines and preparing the work theatrically correct, pleasant to listen to and no errors. It’s not like Mastering a rock song where you have to load it with effects and loudness tricks. You are simulating reading a story to someone in a comfortable living room. Some posters obsess about breath noises and mouth clicking. They may have, but I’ve never heard of ACX rejecting a submission for natural reading variations. You are expected to breath just like a human. You are not expected to have a Metrobus in your submission, computer fan noises or data whine.


50/51 sec. Is that a theatrical pause? It sounds like you’re searching for a word.
2:28 German’s advance…that morning. You can take the air out of that pause.
2:47 Poles of spit?
4:31 Never do anything like that… But the irony…
12:04 It slid…down her snowy arm.

My impression is you’re not reading it. You’re playing it back from memory and occasionally, the actual printed word catches you up. “Let’s see, what’s the next word…Oh, right!” I just get lost in the rhythm of the performance and you miss one. I can hear a friend of mine saying to read slightly slower. I don’t know that it would help. You can’t unwrite the book.

You can set a label in real time with Audacity so you know where to go back to the fluff after you finish a segment. There’s a trick to it. Command-B and then Enter? I need to look it up.


I made an equalization correction (attached). It’s a loudness contour to take a little of the edge off the voice.

Ah I just listened to this and it was probably turning the page on the Kindle or an issue with the mic. Also, I do think I am reading too fast, but I am recalling that I did the recording once and then I accidentally deleted the whole thing, so I had to go back. I was very frustrated, so I would definitely be going slower for the real thing.

Real voice actor/announcer/presenters are reading ahead of their mouth. They keep right on talking over a page turn.


I don’t remember if I said this in English words, but post a revised sample, roughly ten second WAV with two second Room Tone and louder natural speaking. No playing racquetball with the microphone or wearing noisy pants.

I’m afraid to ask if the microphone noises were because you were already close to the microphone and can’t get any closer. That’s a serious problem if your microphone is non-adjustable.

I’ll try to make ACX out of it and tell you how it went.


Will do on Monday when I have a quiet house.

No, it was because I was touching the mic as I was sitting on a bed and not a flat surface. I didn’t realize how sensitive the mic was to me touching it.

A bed in a quiet carpeted bedroom is not a dreadful place to record your voice.
That’s how I shot the stereo test.

I was shooting a 30 second clip. I don’t know I would want to be on my knees for a novel. If you do graduate to a table or desk, pad the desk under the microphone to avoid slap and wine-glass sound effects.
Note the folded furniture moving pad under the microphones in this shoot. Towels and blankets work.

I didn’t realize how sensitive the mic was to me touching it.


I’m a noob too. One thing I’ve done is watch the ACX four part video series How to Succeed at Audiobook Production.

I’ve watched this video series at least five or ten times, taking notes. Pay attention, this is the the straight skinny from the team that will judge your production.

I like that they insist right up front that you can’t “clean it up” in post production. If you don’t walk away with a reasonably clear raw recording, you’re doomed.

I also think that 30 seconds of Room Tone is impossible. I had to shoot a broadcast sound segment and that’s what they wanted. I went for ten seconds and I couldn’t get the producers and announcers to sit still for that. Further, who do you know that can sit for 30 seconds without checking their Twitter Feed? Facebook? I mean, people do that in the space between the red and green traffic lights, what chance do you think you have? Clothing movement and breathing all create noise that’s not “Room Tone.” Can you hold your breath for thirty seconds?

I can’t, either.

I do note that you are recording in a dead office park at night. Where would you be if you couldn’t do that? Ian had to turn a broom closet into a recording studio to get away from traffic on La Brea.

I’m glad ACX mentioned the 5X rule. Production takes up five times the length of the show. Wait, what? It’s an approximation, but it’s never very far off of that. That’s a nasty shock, isn’t it? My two week reading is going to take…

I was wondering when Grathwahl was going to turn up again. He was here on the forum for a while. I think I still have an email address for him.


It’s not a bad place, but not great when you’re also sitting on the bed (which I was during the recording making the mic move a lot and my face my particularly close to the mic)! :laughing: I don’t mind doing that for the whole novel as I am only recording by chapter and the chapters aren’t War and Peace length.

my face my particularly close to the mic

The noise problems are pretty obvious now that you know what to look for, but how are you going to get louder? Slightly low volume isn’t usually a big deal, but you have a noisy microphone (fffffffffff). That combination is Not Good. We can’t take hiss out of a recording. Any post production volume changes you make to boost your voice are also going to boost the noise.

Overload peaks, general volume (RMS) and background noise. You can’t pick two. ACX requires you to meet all three. That kills a lot of people.

“I can get rid of the noise in Audacity, but then my voice sounds like a machine.”

That’s correct.


I’m just now catching up. Are you hand-holding the microphone?

Stop that.