Putting Your Best Sound Forward

We don’t need to tell you the importance of a good sounding audiobook, right? Audible’s listeners are accustomed to the best sounding books in the industry, and nothing will tank your title’s sales potential faster than a few bad reviews.

Like just about everything in life, getting things right from the start is essential to creating a great-sounding audiobook. Actors who are new to the world of audiobook production can make the mistake of thinking that a poor recording will get taken care of in the editing phase or smoothed out in post production. But the truth is the purpose of editing and mastering is not to make a poor recording sound good, but to make a good recording sound great! Join us as we outline the steps you can take to set yourself up for success on ACX.

Let’s start from the beginning: treating your recording space. There are numerous options, from permanent structures to baffling panels and blankets to sound dampening shields for your microphone. Whatever method works best for you, the key is to minimize ambient noise and insulate yourself from the dreaded A/C units, lawn mowers, and traffic that can be major distractions to a listener.

The next area of attention should be your recording chain. This is the most important place you can put your money, as good equipment is the bedrock of a good recording. Making sure you find the right mic for your voice, as well as aiming for the cleanest input signal possible means you will have much easier time and a much better recording down the line. A secret weapon in your fight against noise can be a simple in-line high pass filter, like this one from Shure. For around $50-$60, you can get a filter that “helps to eliminate electrical and mechanical noise in an audio system, such as 60Hz electrical hum from AC power lines, low-frequency rumble caused by wind noise or air conditioning system, and stage/floor noise transmitted to a microphone through the microphone stand.”

The final key to a good recording is consistency. It’s important to ensure that your voice and recording environment have a uniform sound from day to day and project to project. Pay attention to mic placement, temperature and humidity and work to keep them consistent. Note the settings on your studio hardware and software on day 1 of a production, and be sure to match them on subsequent days. When you sit down to begin the day’s session, listen back to a few minutes of the previous day’s audio and compare it to the sound you’re currently getting in your studio. Then make small adjustments to your settings based on environmental and vocal changes if necessary.

Actors familiar with TV and film may be used to working in an environment where one can shoot as much as possible and clean it up in editing and post. But with audiobooks, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A little work at the outset can help make sure that you’re on the path to a great sounding recording.

How do you achieve a consistently great sound in your studio?

5 responses to “Putting Your Best Sound Forward

  1. One of the things that helps me retain a consistent sound is staying with a narration as long as possible at one sitting. Everyone has a different time frame in which he can continue to do good work., maybe two hours, maybe four. But getting the most out of one session makes it easier to keep my reading performance uniform.

  2. Thanks for keeping us thinking. There is always room, pun intended, for making things better.


  3. Where do others position your electronic devices when recording? I bought a floor stand for my iPad, but I wonder what others are doing. My mic is standing on my desk with the Acoustic Reflection Filter mounted around it. Positioning so you don’t hear me touching the screen and so I’m in optimal mic position has been tricky for me. Thoughts anyone?

    • I read from a Kindle Fire that is seated in an attachment that suspends it at eye level. I purchased the rig from a company called LapWorks. It attaches to the desk with a c-clip and has an extendable arm that you can adjust any number of ways. I have a Heil mic boom that also attaches to the desk top with a c-clip and suspends the mic. So both the mic and the eReader are suspended, and neither of them rests on the desk top. It’s all a work in progress but seems to be the best array I have come up with so far.

  4. When my ‘booth’ was my closet, I was taught by an engineer to put masking tape or painter’s tape on the floor where my chair legs were, so if I moved the chair (out of the closet after a session, so I could use it for other things ;-)), I could reposition it back in its same position the next day.

    And the boom stand with the mic always stays in its same position with its music stand next to it. I basically don’t change the position of the mic and stand throughout the reading of that particular audio project, so the sound stays consistent. I put a piece of masking tape around the holding arm of the boom stand, to show where it is suppose to stay, when I am in a seated position – in case, I adjust the boom arm for something else later.

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