Why Did My Title Fail QA? Part 5

Welcome to the  final installment of our series aimed at helping ACX users ensure their titles make it from “in production” to “on sale” quickly and painlessly. The first four parts of the series can be found here.


Gating is a process used to help tame unwanted noise within recordings.  Used effectively it is completely transparent, can be a great time-saver, and can help give your audiobook a nicely polished sound.  Used improperly, it can result in a seriously flawed sound that takes away from the listening experience.

There have been a few titles submitted to ACX with the hallmark sound of an improperly used gate, and the majority of these have needed revisions made before being allowed up for sale.  At best this means going back to a version of your work saved before employing this tool and making a few adjustments (You archived a 100% unprocessed version of your original recording, right?).  At worst, especially if the gate was a part of your recording chain and you have no unprocessed version saved, you’ll need to rerecord the entire book.

Take a listen to these samples which contain badly used gates.  You’ll be able to hear the room tone cut in and out as well as the occasional cut-off word – two very distracting problems that make listening for extended periods of time an uncomfortable experience.

Bad Gating 01

Bad Gating 02

Your takeaways should be:

  • If you’re considering using a gate and don’t know how to set it up, consult a qualified and experienced audiobook engineer to help with this task.  Once you dial-in your settings you can usually use them again and again on future projects.
  • If you’re hearing fluctuations in your room tone after employing the gate, it is not setup properly.  Same for cut-off words.  Continue to work on getting your settings right or simply do not use the gate.  Again, your room tone should not change at all– it must be consistent throughout the entire listen, whether under your voice or in the clear.  Your audio should never drop to absolute zero.  Your room tone should be your baseline.

Finally, remember that there is no substitute for good editing.  When you do employ gating, it should only be used as an aid, and in conjunction with a proper end-to-end edit/QC pass.

This wraps up our series, and will hopefully help ACX producers achieve better sounding audiobooks. Make sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more tips, and be sure to tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

6 responses to “Why Did My Title Fail QA? Part 5

  1. The first example is probably caused by noise reduction. I can’t tell you how many times I produce books from people with many decibels of hiss and people think they can just reduce it in post. If you feel the need to gate or run noise reduction, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. Figure out why you’re having noise and fix the problem before you record! Don’t try to fix it in post. It’s not going to end well and the authors deserve better.

  2. I’ll cover the topic of audiobook room tone at length on Ewabs.com this Sunday, January 20th.

  3. Would the following be a possible solution …. You record a baseline ambient noise floor the length of your narration on one track. On another track your book narration, gated to take out all clicks, pops, unwanted stuff, etc. Then, mix and render the two into one mono track where the ambient room noise is consistant throughout. Is this cheating? Wrong? A possible fix for a less than ideal recording environment which can’t be fixed any other way?

    • Otis, that may be a viable solution. It’s not “cheating,” and as long as you get an acceptable and consistent sound, you should be OK. But make sure to locate and fix the issue in the recording chain before the next project!

    • I was using a sweet little noise gate with my Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio. It was extreme enough to take down the room tone to silence, and/but couldn’t take the original noise floor that was bleeding through the softer parts of words, usually at the end of the sentence. It sounded like an ocean wave. I would be worried about creating those kinds of artifacts editing the way you describe.

  4. I have a concern with all the emphasis put on non-silent ‘room tone’. I understand that if you do have a room tone sound, then alternating between ‘room tone’ noise, and silence is going to be distracting. However my own setup is as follows:

    I am using a Polycom Vortex EF 2280 Echo & Noise Canceller set at 10dB NC. (This is Gating, correct?). My ‘room tone’ through this device is essentially silent, certainly well below -100dB. If I am not talking then the waveform is flatline.
    After recording (and archiving) my ‘raw’ take, I apply a compander filter in CoolEdit, then proceed to manually edit the file for out takes and the occasional stray breath. I also need to clean up any leading or trailing S or F sounds that the compander may have suppressed.

    My final step is to apply EQ appropriate to the voice I am using, and then Normalization to around -3dB for the entire track.

    This process seems to work for me, but has been very much trial and error to develop.

    Could someone comment on the efficacy of my process, especially in regards to use of a silent ‘room tone’?

    Are there perhaps pitfalls I am unaware of in my present process, or methods that could give me a better end product?

    Thank you!

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