Tag Archives: home studio

Home Studio Setup with Andrew the Audio Scientist: Part 2

WelAndrew_250x320come back to the second half of my two-part home studio setup series. Last week I covered where to place your home studio, how to properly soundproof it, and the basic equipment you’ll use in it. Today, I’d like to share real-world examples from three Audible Approved Producers. Let’s look at (and listen to) the great results a home studio can produce.

Visible Sound Audiobooks

Visible Sound

 The controlling and deadening of acoustic reflections in her bedroom and specifically around the microphone is one of the main contributing factors to the professional audio quality of her recordings – Ben Glawe of Visible Sound Audiobooks.

This home studio photo comes to us from Visible Sound Audiobooks, an Audible-Approved Producer whose operations primarily take place in a Brooklyn bedroom. How does this team achieve their professional sound quality in the midst of the country’s busiest city? House-narrator Christine Papania explains:

The biggest noise problem with my bedroom was my window, which overlooks a a noisy street in Brooklyn as well as a park. I bought special blackout curtains which block out light and sound from windows, which lowered the outside noise to acceptable levels. My laptop fan was also leaking noise into the microphone, but the addition of a silent laptop cooling pad fixed the problem.

Now we’ll hear a recording from Visible Sound’s space. You might be surprised how good it sounds!

 

kate udall

Udall

 

Kate Udall got her start as a narrator at Audible Studios. After working on her production chops and securing some great ACX titles, she earned herself the Audible-Approved Producer distinction. Kate’s studio is a great representation of an effective DIY home recording setup.

According to Kate

We call it Fuzzy Jail around here. It is made of blankets, the size of a cell and I am often inside in locked-down solitary confinement.

Kate uses thick packing blankets to isolate her recording studio from the rest of the room’s noises, which also provides the added benefit of reducing sound reflections that may otherwise occur on the side wall to the left. Her microphone is situated in front of an Auralex Mudguard, a great tool that can further reduce sonic clutter that occurs in home recording environments. She is also wise to set up an external monitor and other necessary components so that her laptop, which sits outside of the recording environment, does not introduce more artifacts and noises into the recorded signal.

Lets listen to a recording from Kate’s Studio:

Stephen Bel Davies

Bel Davies

Our final example shows the upper limits are of home audiobook production. Yes, you are looking at a home studio! This photo comes to us from veteran narrator Stephen Bel Davies.

Located in his Manhattan bedroom, this Studiobricks* installation is the top-of-the-line option for home recording due to its incredible noise-blocking capabilities and reflection controlled environment. Acoustic treatments on all walls, as well as the ceiling, guarantees a deadened recording space with extremely dampened artifacts and reflections. While Stephen is able to achieve a stunning -60dB of sound reduction with this setup, it doesn’t come cheap. These installations will set you back about at least $4,000 before factoring in installation costs. Still – one can dream!

Here is a bit of audio produced in Stephen’s studio.

 

FINAL NOTES

While Whisper Rooms are an ideal recording environment for any audiobook narrator, they are not necessary to produce a great recording. The most important consideration during an ACX production is consistency – both in practice and in aesthetic. For this reason, after you’ve installed your home studio, I strongly encourage you to read up on my four-part series, How to Succeed at Audiobook Production, which goes over methodologies to ensure success with your new audio production system.

How do you achieve a professional recording? Leave your feedback in the comments below.

(This section originally misidentified Mr. Bel Davies home studio as a WhisperRoom.)

Home Studio Setup with Andrew the Audio Scientist

Welcome to the latest musings from Andrew the Audio Scientist. Today, I’ll be addressing the most essential component of a successful ACX audiobook production: constructing a home recording studio. You may be surprised to find how clean and clear your narration can sound after implementing just a few of the techniques and products below into your own studio setup. Let’s take a look at the two main aspects of a solid studio arrangement.

Andrew_250x320The Room

The most important consideration when building your home studio is its location. The ideal recording space dimensions are rectangular (NOT square), with low ceilings and 90º corners. Closets and other enclosed spaces make perfectly great recording spaces after implementing a few basic room treatments.

Reflection absorption materials, such as the ones detailed on the ACX Beginners Amazon Wish List can make all the difference. The primary reflection points that should be addressed are any surfaces behind the microphone and on the side walls, at a distance exactly half-way between your sitting position and the microphone stand. If you want to go the DIY route, the same effect can be achieved by hanging your old winter coats on the walls, or even throwing up moving blankets where clothing is not an option. The idea is to use fabrics that are thick and provide ample absorption so that once sound hits the material, it stops dead in its tracks.

Isolation is an important consideration for your room, too. An important step in the audiobook production process is the pasting of clean room tone on top of edits and other extraneous noises. Doing so can be greatly inhibited, though, by a non-ideal recording space. You may find the room tone to be too noisy to affect any real sonic improvements. To combat this and other noise problems, make sure to isolate outside noises from your recording space by hanging blackout curtains at all windows, and insulating your room’s open cracks and crevices. However, note that there are some rooms where even the most expensive room treatments are unlikely to make a big impact.

ACX Recommends:

  1. Avoid installing your studio in large rooms such as kitchens and sun rooms. These will cause undesirable echo and reverberation, and result in a muddy sound.
  2. Small rooms with reflective surfaces like bathrooms should also be avoided, because the porcelain and mirrors will send your voice flying across the room without remorse.
  3. Last but not least, recording outdoors is a big no-no. While the sounds of nature can be pleasant, squawking birds and passing cars are not sounds that belong in audiobook productions.

3-Spaces-Bad

THE MICROPHONE

This is pretty obvious – if you want to record your voice at home, you’ll need a microphone. Not so obvious, however, is the kind of microphone you need to purchase. At ACX, we recommend a large-diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone. These microphones are typically more accurate and clean than other types of vocal microphones, but are also more sensitive to recording mistakes. You’ll need to adhere to some setup best practices to get the most out of your purchase:

  1. Placement – A microphone is best set up at a point no further than 40% away from the front wall. Ideally, the microphone would be placed half-way between the side walls.
  2. Height – Microphones placed at or below mouth-level tend to pick up more “body” of a voice, while placement above the mouth (closer to the nasal cavity) capture a more “bright” and airy sound. However, this is a very personal aspect to studio configuration that is best left to experimentation.

    andrew's blog ratio

    Diagram of a ideal mic placement within a home studio

  3. Distance – It is never necessary to stand the microphone further than 6-10 inches from your mouth. This should help you avoid plosives, but we strongly recommend purchasing a pop filter for your microphone if it does not already come with one. (For you DIYers, you can also construct your own pop filter out of – no joke – some pantyhose and flex tubing, as demonstrated in this Lifehacker article)
  4. Interface – All cardioid condenser microphones require an audio interface that can provide phantom power to the microphone. If phantom power is not provided to the microphone, then it will not work.

ACX Recommends:

One of our favorite starter microphones of this type is the Rode NT1-A, which can be found on the ACX Beginners Amazon Wish List. The NT1-A kit available on Amazon comes with a pop filter and all of the mounting hardware needed to get started. This, in conjunction with the Blue Icicle XLR-to-USB microphone interface and a solid microphone stand, provides an excellent starter ACX production system.

Following these basic rules for home studio setup will allow you to transform the appropriate area of your living space into a great sounding vocal booth. Check out Part 2 to see and hear examples of some real-life Audible Approved Producers home studios.

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?

ACX Studio Gear Series: Home Studio Setup – Part 1

If you’re a regular reader of the ACX blog, you know we’ve been working our way through the list of items you’ll need for a professional sounding home recording studio. But what about the setup of the studio itself? Over the next few posts, we’ll be joined by expert and prolific producers from Audible Studios and ACX, who’ll offer their tips for the essential elements of home studio construction.

Today, we talk to ACX engineers, an author who built a home studio to narrate his own books, and our own Audible Studios staff about the importance of using high quality equipment and working with the noisy quirks of your unique recording space.

ACX: In your opinion, what are the most important elements of home studio construction?

Pete wVocal Booth_Small

Peter A. Rohan’s Queens, NY home studio

Peter A. Rohan, ACX Producer: You’ve got to start with the right equipment. Use a “quiet” mic that gives you the best frequency results for your voice.  Choose an interface with a good preamp that provides quality analog to digital (a/d) and digital to analog (d/a) conversion and that will not introduce a lot of noise. A budget mic and inferior interface can introduce an amount of noise and contribute to your overall noise floor.  I found that out the hard way, after exhausting all my energies in soundproofing and absorption only to find that it was the cheap mic that I was using that was generating most of my noise floor.

Darren Vermaas, Audible Studios Post-Production Associate:  Definately don’t skimp on the equipment.  Using proper gear in the first steps of recording is going to make your life a lot easier in the end.  Besides saving you time in post-production editing out noises and trying to figure out how to bring your overall noise floor down, it will simply make your book sound more professional.

Rob Granniss, Brick Shop Audiobooks: Get as good a mic, headphones, preamp and DAW as you can. Then get to know them as well as you can. Compare them with every other reference possible, including your laptop speakers, your cellphone, your audio geek friend’s sound system, etc. Listen to the same source material on each and note differences. Listen to your own recordings on those sources, as well as professionally produced recordings (voice as well as music if you’d like). The comparison isn’t to find what you like or what is “true” but rather to find what’s missing or is too enhanced about your own setup.

The "Brick Box," Brick Shop Audiobooks custom self recording studio, in Brooklyn, NY

The “Brick Box,” Brick Shop Audiobooks’ custom “self-record” studio, in Brooklyn, NY

Peter:  Also, be wary of cooling fans and keep them away from your mic.  Avoid recording with your laptop near the microphone or anything else with a cooling fan that turns on and off as the temperature fluctuates.

Darren: Get away from noises. That ticking clock, running refrigerator, dogs barking outside your window at the loud trucks driving by, and (of course) that fan running in your computer are all potential hazards.  These are all real things I’ve heard come through in recordings here. The last example is one of the most important to consider.

You will discover a lot of things about your room while you’re setting up a home studio.  Noises you’ve never paid mind to are going to start jumping out, and you’ll have to figure out how to deal with them.  When I needed to record vocals in my noisy 5 story apartment building with window AC units, you could find me hanging packing blankets and winter coats in my closet, positioning a microphone in there, and sweating it out while recording to make sure it sounded good. Not glamorous, and not comfortable, but it did sound good!

Stephen Woodfin’s home studio

Stephen Woodfin, ACX Author/Narrator:

Without a doubt the single best thing I did was to read and study the information on ACX about what is involved in the process of setting up a home studio.  I found that information practical and concise and used it as a blueprint each step along the way. I supplemented the ACX material by watching YouTube videos about the construction of home studios. In addition to watching videos, I read blogs and bought several books that provided more in depth discussions of audio production and equipment.  From these books I was able to determine which equipment was essential for my purposes and which optional. I also learned that it wasn’t necessary to buy the most expensive equipment available because there are economical ways to build a studio capable of producing first-rate audio without skimping.

Check back with us next week for more for more expert discussion on home studio setup!

What do you think is the most important aspect of building a home studio?