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Tracking Down Noise in Your Voiceover Recordings

black man dreadlocks thumbs up recording booth microphone

Is it a squeak? A buzz? A rattle? An echo? A general boingy-ness? Is the sound muffled? Harsh? Staticky? Does the sound come and go? Is it constant? What frequency range is most effected?

When I hear some unwanted noise in any voice recording, these are the questions I start to ask.

We want to provide custom voice recordings that sound great. We don’t want our auto attendant prompts to have a shrill whistle in the background. Voice talents go to great lengths to avoid unwanted noise, and yet noises happen. So what can one do to track down those annoyances and get to the business of recording good, professional voice prompts?

First, analyze the situation. Is this a new noise or has it been around for a while, making itself comfy and cozy like it intends to stay for the season? Odds are this is a new obstacle or else the solution has always eluded you. If it’s new, ask yourself whether you have you any new gear? New neighbors? New hobbies? New pets? New appliances? Did the season just change?

Let’s look at these one-by-one.

New gear? If you recently added something new to your professional recording setup and a new noise has appeared, the most likely culprit is the new gear OR the cables. So very many times I’ve been troubleshooting and found that no matter what I changed I could not eliminate some crackle, only to finally try a different cable and then give myself the dope-slap on the forehead. It was the cable! Minutes of testing new gear vs. old gear, uninstalling and re-installing the drivers while all along it was something as simple as a tired, worn cable. Which brings to mind signal flow, but that’s a topic for another post. To test whether the cable or the equipment are to blame, swap them out for alternates.

New neighbors? Maybe there’s a low-frequency concern that’s intermittent. Did a bass guitar player move onto your block? Does your new neighbor have a passion for tuning hotrods? It could also be an HVAC or air conditioning unit that’s been switched on or swapped out. I should point out, my favorite way to find noise is to track around the room with the microphone. Approach whatever you think may be the culprit and if you’re on the right course you’ll hear it get louder and louder. While you investigate, consider the noise may be coming from outside the room.

Maybe the voice script itself is the problem. If so, consider going digital. The shuffling of paper within range of a sensitive microphone is a sound that simply cannot be filtered out. It must not happen on mic. This means that you should either a) not touch the script while voicing or b) use a digital screen such as a tablet. Tablets allow the voice talent to scroll through the copy without making any noise. This is a great way to resolve that particular concern.

Could a new hobby be at fault? If your new passion is rock-tumbling, that’s a long, low noise chugging away for days on end. Just let your mind relax and consider the various possibilities that are particular to your situation.

Try recording a voice demo at different times of your typical workday. Is the noise present in every audio sample? If not, then you can create a timeline as to when the noise typically occurs and use that to guide your recording schedule, or else to help you track down potential causes.

Seasonal change can wreak havoc with professionally recorded audio because of several factors. Different equipment is used during different seasons for climate control. Some are noisier than others. Do you have central air, window AC units, or ceiling fans to combat heat? Radiators with forced hot water from a furnace? Once you learn the culprit, turning it off during sessions tends to resolve those pesky nuisances.

Listening closely can reveal wonders, I suggest you give it a try and let me know what you find.

Know any more tricks? Please leave them in a comment below.

If you’re ever stumped, feel free to email me a sample and I’ll see if I can hear the cause of your noise.