In this day and age, we are all used to high-quality audio. It has become a standard.
So, let’s take a look at what we can do to improve the audio quality of your recordings and how we can record better quality audio in the first place.
Some of the tips will be applicable only when using a dedicated microphone, but even if you are planning to use a built-in laptop mic or built-in telephone mic, you will still find some useful tips.
Warm up your voice
Before we try and adjust software settings or get an expensive microphone, let’s try and add some quality to your voice. After all, your voice is the most important instrument here, and a good voice will provide high-quality audio.
Here’s how you can warm up and improve your voice immediately before recording:
Yawning will relax your mouth and facial muscles. Try yawning for at least a minute or two before recording. It will relax your muscles and reduce stiffness in your voice.
Humming is another great exercise and warm-up. Try humming “Ohmmm” for another few minutes. You can try humming from the different depths of your voice to exercise all frequencies. After a while, you should feel a bit of tingling in your throat. That’s okay.
Humming will add some warmth and depth to your voice.
Lip rolls will warm up your lips and further relax your muscles. Try doing it for a minute.
Tongue rolls create “rrrrrr” sound with the tongue. Similarly to humming it will warm up your throat and tongue as well. You can try producing different frequencies by placing your tongue closer or further away from the throat.
Record in a quiet environment
Simply recording in a quieter environment will give you much better quality audio.
Avoid sources of noise, such as a fridge, heater and air conditioner. If possible choose a room without a window.
If you are recording on your computer, try to minimize your fan noise by lowering fan speed. If your PC doesn’t have the software for it, you can download and install SpeedFan software, which will allow you to adjust the fan speed.
Avoid recording in rooms with echo
When choosing a room to record in, look for a room with a lot of soft furniture and soft carpeting. If you have curtains, close them.
Soft furniture will help to absorb a lot of unwanted soundwaves bouncing off the walls and coming back into the microphone creating echo.
The worst environment to record in is usually the bathroom, followed by kitchen.
If you have a walking closet, you can record in it. Hanging clothes will absorb a lot of the reverb. You can also record facing a regular closet, clothes in it will absorb the sound before it bounces of the walls.
The key takeaway here is – more fluffy stuff around you equal to better audio quality.
Rehearse before recording
Rehearsing reading your script will help with reading it more fluently and expressing emotions more accurately.
In addition, try focusing on strong articulation when practicing reading. When you finally begin recording your articulation will be upped a notch.
Again, your voice is the best instrument to work on when trying to produce good audio quality.
But now lets move to some post recording magic!
Edit audio in DAW
Don’t record into a pre-installed Windows or Mac voice recorder. You are going to miss a lot of good features that are available with more professional, free software.
DAW will allow you to change recording settings, export in various formats, monitor recording levels, record using multiple microphones, etc. Most of which will be unavailable on a regular, built-in windows recorder.
Download Audacity. It is a free audio editing software, which offers all the basic tools you will need. It is the best you can get for free.
Besides, if you record in Audacity or other DAW, you will be able to edit audio in the same software you used for recording, making the whole process a bit more streamlined.
Choose correct settings
It is best you follow industry standards when recording. That is 44,100 Hz or 48,000 Hz. Either will work and you won’t notice a difference.
As for the format, you will want to choose 32-bit float. Float format will allow you to keep your audio safe even if you accidentally record over the 0dB limit.
When exporting you can either choose WAV (lossless quality audio) or MP3 (a compressed version of the audio). MP3 will take much less space at the cost of the minuscule drop in audio quality. You probably won’t be able to tell MP3 from WAV apart.
If you choose to export in MP3, make sure to choose 192kbps bit rate or higher to keep the audio quality high. Anything below 192kbps might sound audibly worse.
Also, save your project file so you can make changes in the future. Besides when you save project file, even if you exported in MP3 you will have an option to export in WAV file when required.
Best quality settings: Record in 48,000Hz, 32-bit float and export in WAV 32-bit float for the best audio quality and ability to preserve information over 0dB limit.
In these settings 10 minutes audio file was 200MB
Best quality to file size ratio: Record in 48,000Hz, 32-bit float and export in MP3, 192Kbps for good audio quality and save a lot of disk space compared to WAV. Will take about 14 times less disk space than WAV file.
In these settings 10 minutes audio file was 14MB
Compression is one of the key elements in audio editing. If you ever had a problem increasing your audio volume without clipping it, then you need to hear about compression.
Compression won’t necessarily increase audio quality. However, it will make it louder without reducing its quality.
Compression works by lifting the quieter parts of your audio to the same or similar levels as the louder parts of the audio, essentially making your whole recording louder.
Here is an example of the same track before and after compression:
Optimal compression settings vary depending on your audio. However, you can copy the settings I’ve used for a similar effect:
If you want to tweak compression settings for more or less compression, then I suggest playing around with Threshold. Lower threshold values will apply more compression and vice versa.
Keep in mind that we are working with negative values and, for example, -26 dB is more than -30 dB.
For more in-depth guide and details regarding compression, read the following article: How to avoid clipping while maintaining high volume
Remove background noise and mouth clicks
Before trying to remove background noise in software, try preventing it in the first place.
Nevertheless, if you already have recorded your audio and want to get better quality out of it, you will have to deal with background noise.
Noise gate will be your best friend if your audio involves only slight background noise. It is not destructive towards your vocals and will maintain the same audio quality in your voice.
If it is more serious you will want to use a noise reduction tool.
Regarding mouth clicks, you can drink more water throughout the day and try not to touch the roof of your mouth to avoid them when recording.
Nevertheless, if you have already recorded, you can apply click remover to get rid of mouth clicks for you.
For more information regarding how to clean up your audio and deal with various noise read the following articles:
Using equalizer is a complicated topic, but you can make your voice sound much better with EQ.
If done right, EQ will add warmth or clarity, or whatever you desire, however, if done wrong it may make your audio sound worse.
So here are a few tips on how to get better audio quality with EQ:
- Don’t boost/cut any more than 5dB
- Remove everything below 60Hz, it is noise
- To add warmth try boosting frequencies in 100-200Hz range and slightly cutting frequencies in 2kHz-6kHz range
- To add clarity scoop out some of 200-500Hz frequencies, if not enough, boost 2kHz-6kHz range
- To add brightness and shine, boost 6kHz and above frequencies
These are just guidelines. If it makes sense on paper, it still doesn’t guarantee to sound better. In the end, trust your ears.
Also, most microphones already have a curved EQ graph. Therefore different microphones won’t sound the same and require different EQ for the best sound quality.
The same applies to headphones. It is best to use studio headphones when editing audio, they are flatter and will represent sound more accurately. Investing in a nice pair of studio headphones will be all worth it and help to attain better audio quality.
Adjust your microphone placement
Setting your microphone in a correct position will help to avoid plosives, heavy breaths and background noise.
Set up your microphone in a way that it faces your mouth; however, your mouth shouldn’t be directly facing the microphone.
Instead speak slightly to the left or right of the microphone to avoid your breaths hitting the microphone and ruining the take.
Most microphones are the least sensitive at the back. Therefore, consider moving the microphone, so it is not facing computer fans or keyboard. Placing the mic furthest away from the PC and keyboard will also help to minimize the background noise.
It all seems as small details, but they all add up when trying to produce the best audio quality.
Choose a good quality microphone
If you already own a microphone, then, by all means, use it. However, if you are planning to buy a new one or upgrade, I would suggest getting an XLR microphone.
XLR connection will provide superior audio quality to USB connection.
Also, if you are recording in a noisy environment, dynamic microphones will be less sensitive towards the noise compared to condenser microphones. Therefore, a dynamic microphone might provide better quality audio.
There are some alternatives to microphones, such as audio recorders. However, if you are serious about your audio, getting a microphone will give you the best quality.
Here are some articles to help choose the best microphone: