Noise might ruin your otherwise perfect audio recording, therefore in this article, we will overview the most common sources of noise and the best measures that will help to avoid noise when recording audio.
There are three most common sources of noise that need to be treated before recording:
- Noise created by audio recording gear
- Noise coming from outside
- Noise from within the recording space
How to deal with noise coming from audio recording gear?
If you are recording in a perfectly quiet environment and you still notice a lot of noise coming into the recording, the issue might be in the gear that you are using. There are three possible sources for noise that’s coming from recording gear:
- Inherent microphone noise
- Noisy pre-amp
- Faulty cables
How to deal with inherent microphone noise?
Inherent microphone noise is a common problem with most cheap condenser microphones and it’s somewhat prevalent even in some prosumer grade condenser mics. The source of this noise is a running electrical current within the microphone.
The best way to make sure that the noise source is within the microphone is by swapping the microphone and listening to whether the noise is still present. Also, if possible try swapping cables, USB ports, audio interface and pre-amps to make sure they aren’t the source of the noise.
If the issue is within the microphone then you can either get a new microphone or you can try to attenuate it. So here are some tips on how to attenuate inherent microphone noise:
- Determine specific frequencies that create the noise by recording in silence and using a spectrogram on your DAW.
- Remove or attenuate frequencies responsible for the noise using an equalizer.
How to choose a microphone without inherent noise?
There are two main types of microphones, either they are condenser or dynamic. Most of the cheap USB microphones will be condenser type.
If you own a cheap condenser microphone and suffer from lots of inherent noise, consider either acquiring a dynamic microphone or a more expensive condenser microphone with a low self-noise.
On the contrary to condenser microphones, dynamic microphones don’t have any electronic circuitry inside and don’t exhibit any inherent noise. So choosing a dynamic microphone will solve the inherent noise problem altogether.
Also, pro-grade condenser microphones have low self-noise. If you are looking for a low self-noise condenser microphone at an affordable price I would consider acquiring Rode NT1 or Rode NT1-A. They are extremely silent and good value condenser microphones.
You can also check a massive list of microphones with their self-noise listed in this article.
How to prevent noise coming from pre-amp?
If you are using a dynamic XLR microphone, pre-amps are often a source of noise. The most common problem with pre-amps is not having enough clean gain to support a dynamic microphone. To avoid such issue make sure your pre-amp is powerful enough to provide gain for a specific microphone.
If you use an interface with a built-in pre-amp to support your dynamic microphone, you might need to turn up the gain knob all the way up. On cheaper interfaces such as popular Scarlett Focusrite or Behringer U-Phoria using maximum gain will cause a lot of inherent noise.
To prevent pre-amp noise you can:
- Use a condenser microphone
- Use a limited amount of gain and talk louder into the microphone
- Make sure your pre-amp has enough gain before purchasing it
- Buy a dedicated pre-amp
- Use a fethead or a cloudlifter
Condenser microphones don’t require much gain so you will be able to run them even with budget interfaces.
XLR cables might be a source of inherent noise
If you notice some sort of noisy hiss and can’t attribute it to your pre-amp or condenser microphone there is a chance your XLR cable is either faulty or low quality.
Try upgrading it to a respectable brand XLR cable such as:
- Planet Waves
- Cable Matters
Spending a ton of money on expensive XLR cable will give you diminishing results, but skimping on it may cause noise issues.
Also, keep in mind that combining multiple XLR cables may give you more length, but if possible try using a single XLR cable, they are sold in many lengths.
Using multiple XLR cables connected together could degrade your signal and in general, it is simpler to deal with a single cable.
How to prevent noise coming from outside?
If you live in a city environment you are probably facing a lot of noise that is coming from outside. It could be neighbors, busy street or loud children. We will overview what measures you can take to reduce outside noise when recording.
The most common source of outside noise are:
- Corridor doors
- Neighboring walls
Curtains will prevent noise from coming through windows
Curtains are ideal for reducing noise coming from your windows. Any curtains will help, however the thicker they are the better. You might want to look into soundproofing curtains to get the best sound isolation.
Soundproofing curtains have a thick extra lining that absorbs noise from outside and that also helps to reduce reverb if you are recording within a house.
Use door seals to prevent noise coming from the corridor
Tight sealing your doors will significantly reduce noise coming from corridors and other rooms. It’s very important to completely seal gaps within your door since even tiny gaps can leak a lot of unwanted noise.
Use acoustic panels to reduce noise from nearby neighbors
If you record within an apartment with loud neighbors, get some acoustic panels and put them strategically onto the walls that transmit the most noise.
You can also attach acoustic panels onto the ceiling to block some of the noise coming from above neighbors.
How to reduce noise from within your recording space?
Here’s a list of possible noise sources within a recording space:
- Computer fans
How to reduce noise coming from computer fans?
You can reduce noise coming from your computer fans by placing PC further away from the microphone and if possible placing something soft in between the two.
You can also mitigate fan noise by acquiring quiet fans such as Noctua NF-P12 or try to adjusting fan speed with motherboard software or SpeedFan program.
How to reduce noise coming from household appliances?
You can deal with heater, fridge, conditioner, ventilator and similar noise by either turning them off or placing the microphone as far away from the noise source as possible. Placing something in between the microphone and noise source will further mitigate incoming noise.
Also, you can look into soundless heaters such as Mica Thermic from De’Longhi.