What are some tips for recording in a space with low level background noise?

  • 1
  • Question
  • Updated 1 month ago
I sometimes record from locations that have low level background noise; e.g., cars passing by, and nearby conversations. Are there settings I can use before recording and during editing to minimize (not remove) the background noise? I've fiddled with noise removal and audio compression, but that sometimes results in my voice sounding like I'm underwater.
Photo of Oz du Soleil

Oz du Soleil

  • 165 Posts
  • 54 Reply Likes

Posted 1 month ago

  • 1
Photo of Ed Covney

Ed Covney

  • 414 Posts
  • 263 Reply Likes
I think your best bet is to minimize the noise before it gets recorded, i.e. a directional mic.  I have a cheap Altec Lansing headset with a small boom mic. I sit next to a noisy computer with the side removed, and background noise is almost nil.
If that's impractical, Audacity is free audio editing s/w that works much better than Camtasia's built in noise reduction.
Photo of Joe Morgan

Joe Morgan

  • 7252 Posts
  • 3959 Reply Likes
I use an Andrea noise canceling headset.
Its ambient noise canceling feature is so good. I can use it with a window air conditioner running and not hear it.
With windows open: birds singing: a car or large truck driving down my dirt road.No problem.

However, it is a wired headset. So you have to be okay with that set up. I've used mine for 7 years now with great success.

I replaced the foam earpieces about 2 years ago.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003VW41G8/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Regards,Joe

Photo of Ed Covney

Ed Covney

  • 413 Posts
  • 263 Reply Likes
Joe - I raise you: 4 busy-body neighbors,  3  noisy computers, 2 barking spiders, and a cricket somewhere in the ventilation!!!
Photo of paulwilliamengle

paulwilliamengle

  • 108 Posts
  • 45 Reply Likes
Oz, 

Stipulating that I am not an audio engineer, it's been my experience that noise removal can remove the noise (unwanted sound) from the signal (the wanted sound; i.e., your voice), but the noise has certain frequencies that are also in your voice. 

Also, couldn't agree more with Ed - getting the best signal into the mic is the single ingredient for audio success. 
Photo of David B. Demyan

David B. Demyan

  • 43 Posts
  • 43 Reply Likes
I agree with other posters who say it is best to eliminate the noise by using a microphone designed to minimize background sounds. I find headset microphones too limited in frequency range. While you can get some really good broadcast-quality headset/mic combos like those used for major league sporting events, many of them sound like conversations on a cheap telephone. If you are using a mic on a stand, the Blue Yeti is a good choice because you can adjust the mic dynamics to pick up a big pattern (room) or narrow (what's just in front of the mic). Or just get a good directional studio mic for voice recordings.
Photo of Joe Morgan

Joe Morgan

  • 7250 Posts
  • 3953 Reply Likes
I’m sure there’s a lot of cheap headsets running around out there, ones that sound like dog doo.

The one I use has a frequency range of 100 to 10,000 Hz. Most estimates place a human’s voice at 85 to 3,000 Hz or so. “While speaking normally”  

 It’s a directional mic. It’s cone/area of pickup must be very narrow.

The noises the mic cancels are loud. The 8,000 BTU air conditioner I use with the fan on high speed, just 10 feet away. Is so loud, I have to turn up my televisions volume quite a bit to hear it clearly. When it shuts off, I need to turn the volume of the TV down because it’s much too loud. The noise suppression of this mic is surprisingly/amazingly good.

I purchased it for use with Dragon Naturally Speaking, the voice recognition software. Nuance gave it a 6-star Dragon Rating. That’s the highest rating they give.

Cheap mics don’t work well with Dragon. I tried cheap ones long ago. There were a lot of mistakes and problems as a result. I came very close to abandoning the thought of using Dragon. I had a lot of mics I thought were good enough. I’m glad I pushed through and got one designed to pick up every little nuance of a voice. That level of sensitivity makes for a very high quality voice recording.

I’ve had people talking behind me that I hear clearly, and the mic does not.

 If I were to use a condenser microphone. The background noise I deal with would be a huge problem. The noise reduction required in post, would distort my voice big time.

Regards,Joe

Photo of paulwilliamengle

paulwilliamengle

  • 107 Posts
  • 45 Reply Likes
Not sure where the 85 HZ-3K HZ came from, but human range of hearing is 20-64 HZ to ~20 KHZ. As we get older, we hear the extremes less. 

Interesting review of the mic. What microphones were you comparing the andrea headset against? 
Photo of Ed Covney

Ed Covney

  • 412 Posts
  • 263 Reply Likes
I think the 85-3K is a normal human speaking voice, men may be a bit on the low side of that range, women a bit on the high side of that range.  Think AM radio, - 5K limited by fixed filters, OK for speaking voices, but sucks for songs.
Photo of paulwilliamengle

paulwilliamengle

  • 107 Posts
  • 45 Reply Likes

So I think you’re identifying the midrange, which is probably some of the most important sonic quality of human speech.

 

And if I’m reading this excerpt from Neumann’s website correctly, USB headsets and telephones have a frequency response detailed enough in the mid-range to accurately represent the human voice in an intelligible and recognizable way.

From Neumann: https://www.neumann.com/homestudio/en/how-does-frequency-response-relate-to-sound


Below 40 Hz: Sub Bass. Apart from kick drum, the sub bass range contains little musical information.

40-200 Hz: Bass frequencies, the foundation. The lowest note of a 4-string bass is about 40 Hz, the lowest note on a guitar is about 80 Hz. The lowest note of a male singer (baritone) is about 100 Hz, although you rarely hear such low notes. Well, maybe from country singers. Most pop singing by men and women is above 150 Hz.

200-500 Hz: Low Mids. This is the “body” of most instruments. This is also where the human voice has most of its energy.

500-3000 Hz: Mid Range. This area is crucial for the sound character, because it’s where the human ear is most sensitive to even the smallest details. The telephone transmits little below or above this range, yet we are able to recognize callers by their “hello.”

3000-7000 Hz: Presence. This range is important for sound definition and good intelligibility. It is the area of many speech consonants.

7000-14000 Hz: Treble. This area is crucial for our sense of brightness. However, too much energy in this area can sound harsh and distracting. This is the area of speech sounds such as S and T, of cymbals, but also of string noises.

Above 14,000 Hz: Air band. This area is important for recordings that want to sound “expensive” and “super-hi-fi.” It gives voices and stringed instruments an airy feel, hence the name. It does not contain much musical information, though.

 

And if that’s all you need. You’re set.


(Edited)
Photo of paulwilliamengle

paulwilliamengle

  • 108 Posts
  • 45 Reply Likes
Oz, is there a specific application you're using it for? High-end/Pro(sumer) Audio is a rabbit hole one can fall into, so it'd might be helpful to understand the application for which you want to use it. 

My general recommendations: 

1) find as quiet of a place you possibly can to record 
2) if you hear an acute, loud noise (like an airplane overhead or a car backfiring), i'd re-do that particular part (if possible) 
3) if getting a higher quality microphone works for your budget, I'd recommend it, but you may also want to see what options you have to treat the room -- depending on how fancy your application needs to be.
4) For all I know, Techsmith will soon release an audio editor that's comparable to audacity. I'm a Reaper (personal)/Audition (for work) man myself. But until that day comes, I think using audacity is a good call. 
4a) be sure to record some room tone where it's just the mic run and you being as quiet as you can be or even out of the room. that'll give your audio editor some idea of what noise you want to reduce/treat/cancel. 


Photo of paulwilliamengle

paulwilliamengle

  • 108 Posts
  • 45 Reply Likes
Mea culpa, Ed. You got me there. As an owner of some noise-cancelling headphones, I definitely misspoke there. 

I'd be curious to understand how noise-canceling works for microphones vs. headphones, and to what extent, if at all, those approaches differ. 
Photo of Ed Covney

Ed Covney

  • 413 Posts
  • 263 Reply Likes
"I'd be curious to understand how noise-canceling works . . ." 
Me too Paul.

To me noise cancelling, is synonymous with an active electrical circuit, one that samples, inverts then adds the two signals to cancel them. Key word "Cancel".

Microphones by definition can't have noise cancellation.  They can use shielded cables to prevent electrical interference, or physical audio pick-up designs meant to minimize noise ever reaching the mic.
 
So a "Noise CANCELLING mic" is nothing more than a passive shielded cable that "prevents" electrical noise into the mics circuit. - a gimmick.
Photo of Robert R.

Robert R., Online Community Admin

  • 1599 Posts
  • 500 Reply Likes
This thread is awesome ... seriously.

Prefacing this with the fact that while I thoroughly enjoy excellent audio and do my best to get there, I am in no way an expert in audio (though not a novice either), which is why this thread is so awesome. My personal (not TechSmith) understanding around the term "Noise cancelling" is far more marketing-oriented than *actual* noise cancelling. Budget noise cancelling headphones tend to simply refer to close-backed cups with thick / fluffy padding that is stuffed full of acoustic foam. "Noise Cancelling" microphones (though I've struggled to find links to any) are likely hyper-directional microphones, like shotgun microphones, that pick up the meaty frequencies that are perfect for voice. In my personal opinion, buying a "noise-cancelling microphone" sounds a lot like purchasing a gimmick and would generally stay away from them (I've seen some laughable microphones on e-commerce sites that all in one sentence use "noise cancelling, XLR, condenser, bi-directional, triple-cardioid, USB 3.0, amplified, and software-enabled analog mixer" all in the same product description).

Perhaps there is some cross-play here between "Noise cancelling headphones" and general microphones in play? I have an absolute love affair with some of the newer SteelSeries headsets (Arctis 5) which has an excellent microphone (for its purpose, gaming) with superb (for its kind) passive noise cancelling, but the HyperX Cloud 2's 50hz-18kHz microphone mops the floor with the Arctis 5. Both headsets though, sound wonderful for what I use them for (gaming for the former, general recording for the latter) and when things are a bit loud in the office, the Cloud 2's are my go-to for the informal videos that I find myself doing. I am fortunate, though, in having access to a studio for full professional content, but for the "business casual" content, I close the door and use a Samson C01U Pro microphone and have generally good audio.

Still, super awesome conversation here, y'all.

Thanks!

-Robert
Photo of Joe Morgan

Joe Morgan

  • 7252 Posts
  • 3959 Reply Likes
 What’s in a name?

“Noise canceling microphone”

 “Multifaceted”

“Exclusive”

“Coveted”

“Patented”

“Jumbo Shrimp”

Noise Canceling Microphone seems to be a muddy term.

I spoke with Andrea personal on the subject this morning.What's Tech supports definition? Proprietary microphone design. They don’t share specifics/the recipe.  Why would they?

I know my headset works great for me. It uses 3 different technologies’.

1. Directional mic.

2. PureAudio, a Digital Audio Noise Reduction filter. https://andreaelectronics.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/PureAudio-spec-2017.pdf

3. Audio Commander. This software offers several features. Allowing you to change how aggressive the noise canceling is. That’s just one of the features. https://andreaelectronics.com/audiocommander/

 

A separate technology “Active Noise Canceling” as it was described to me. Was both Expensive, and now Obsolete with regards to headsets. Andrea used 2 microphones to accomplish this. 2 mics increased the price of the headset. The mics are directional. Point directly at each other. Opposed 180 degrees.    

In general, whichever mic is “Actively” picking up the loudest “proprietary signal”. Would be the one capturing the audio. Switching back and forth as needed. Therefore, the technology “ANC” or Active Noise Canceling.

For large areas/using microphone arrays. ANC fits right in.

Above, I’ve described just 2 very different technologies. With the same goal in mind. Cancelling out unwanted noise.

Andrea lists 4 different filters for noise control. Each one has a PDF you can view describing how they work.  https://andreaelectronics.com/audio-technologies/

To me, the term Noise Canceling Microphone is subjective. It’s what a particular microphone and/or technology can do for you. With many different approaches.

Some companies simply do it better than others.  

Regards, Joe

Photo of paulwilliamengle

paulwilliamengle

  • 108 Posts
  • 45 Reply Likes
If you're sitting next to a noisy fan, and your recording is just your voice - clear as a sunny day - something is happening in the recording chain to mitigate and/or attenuate that noise. 

And it seems like Andrea clearly has something in their secret sauce that picks up on that noise and filters it out before your recording hits the disk. 

But I'm really glad it works for you, Joe, and I'm curious to understand how this works, as I think solutions like this are gold for the vast majority of Camtasia users who need to record their voice.  
Photo of Joe Morgan

Joe Morgan

  • 7252 Posts
  • 3959 Reply Likes
I consider myself a very Non-Audiophile type. But I don't consider myself to be clueless.I rushed to answer yesterday. Then didn't like my response.I think I can make my point clearer today. Sorry for any confusion.

Here's a snippet of how the noise canceling works with my Andrea Mic. I believe this paragraph sums it up nicely.............

As soon as the headphone start picking up noises like the dog barking, cars whizzing by and whatnot, the DSP or digital signal processor absorbs those sound waves and fire a wave of inaudible sounds matching those ambient noises at a 180-degree phase-out, effectively canceling the noises.

So it's great technology.Its been available for many years. My mic is 7 years old already. Cost me $35 at the time.
A higher priced condense mic can capture a deeper/richer sound by default. It will also capture a fly farting. So theres trade offs to consider.Your voice doesn't need to sound like you're in a recording studio for video tutorials.In my opinion.

My 10,000 Hz mic doesn't take anything away from a high pitched woman speaking from where I'm sitting.

When I placed this high pitched woman's voice speaking in Audition. Recorded at roughly 80 to 20,000 Hz. Then switched over to the Frequency editor.
When I select and listen to "Just" the frequency's between 7k and 20 k.The woman's voice is inaudible.

Theres a slight hint of her voice no louder than -25 DB's max.
The sounds overall tickle the DB meter at -30 to -35 on average.Which can only be heard when cranking your speakers up very high.
I  don't see any harm in losing that part of the digital signal.In fact, it might be a bonus.Reducing the need for a DeEsser filter. And high frequency noise reduction.Because it simply doesn't exist.



I'm sure we could debate microphones endlessly. {:>)

I found one that converts my background into a nonexistent issue. I record with windows wide open in the warm months. With ambient noise all around me. For what it's worth. }:>)

Regards,Joe 
Photo of Joe Morgan

Joe Morgan

  • 7252 Posts
  • 3959 Reply Likes
So Ed, I raise you 1 patented external sound card. {:>)

My Andrea headset microphone utilizes an inline external Sound Card. Bypassing the computers sound card.

Here’s the most significant things to understand here. I’ve copied and pasted a portion of this article.  https://www.soundprofessionals.com/cgi-bin/gold/item/ANDREA-USB-SA

This particular model is for converting a 3.5 mm analog microphone to digital.

It’s the same soundcard Andrea uses with most of their microphones. They still sell 3.5 mm mics, and the soundcard featured below.

Soundcard Information:

- External Digital Sound Card With Patented Noise Reduction Technology

- 3.5mm (1/8") stereo microphone input with 'plug in power'

- Increase intelligibility and performance of microphone input and stereo speaker output with patented noise reduction technology enhancing your digital audio applications.

Your microphone will perform only as good as the sound card or integrated audio system that it is attached to. Most laptops and PCs today have audio systems built in and it is often placed close to noisy components like the power supply or high frequency processors. In addition, PC's may be used in high noise level environments which can affect the performance of applications, such as those that use speech input.

Our USB soundcard with patented noise reduction technology eliminates noise problems as it utilizes high quality digital circuitry and has state of the art noise reduction algorithm software. This format bypasses your desktop or laptop computer's sound system, providing increased intelligibility and performance of stereo microphone input and stereo speaker output for all of your digital audio applications including VoIP and speech recognition programs.

 

Here’s “MY” headsets original spreadsheet.



Hopefully, this clears up what I was referring to?

I don’t know if other noise canceling mics use an external card or not??? I just know mine kicks butt with regards to any and all ambient noise. I absolutely Love It!

 Being that its a directional mic. It would seem impractical to use for anything but personal use.

Regards,Joe

Photo of Ed Covney

Ed Covney

  • 414 Posts
  • 263 Reply Likes
Joe - I thought you said you weren't an audiophile?

There are two types of noise cancellation, electrical (interference) and audio.  Electrical noise cancellation is cheap, easy and works great (60-150DB) and is always ON . Audio Noise Cancellation (ANC) is expensive to implement and works better than nothing (15-20 DB) and there's always an off switch. (so the folks who shell out the extra $150-$300, can test how it works.

My cheap Altec headset has similar specs to yours, but it can only claim lo-noise because of a grounded shielded cable eliminates noise and sure enough, if I insert a 2-wire, non shielded extension cable, snaps, crackles, pops and 60 Hz hums come alive.

By definition, microphones cannot have "active" noise cancellation. They can have physical designs that only accept sound from a specific direction, or of a specific frequency range, but that's about it.

If you've ever been to Chicago, it 's Museum of Science and Industry, has a sound chamber that is  . .  amazing.  I stand at one end and of an egg-shaped marble wall, my wife is 40+ feet away and stands in front of the other  "egg-shaped marble wall".  We can hear each others whispers but none of the other din from a 100 other people in the chamber   (A "Mechanical" filter that eliminates all ambient sound except from the pair facing the egg-shaped wall.)
Photo of cbkr.team

cbkr.team

  • 82 Posts
  • 32 Reply Likes
Like Robert, I think this is a fascinating conversation, and I take rather a different stance to most.

As well as making videos at work, I am also an amateur audio recording engineer as a hobby, so I use condenser microphones, some with switchable polar patterns (cardioid, omni, and figure-8), and some that are just pure cardioid. I used to record on professional reel-to-reel recorders (still do occasionally - I've got four of them!), using microphones phantom-powered off a mixer. All my cables are LC-OFC, and balanced XLR.

It's generally best to keep things as simple as possible, and in the past, I've usually tried to stick to pure stereo whenever I can, but sometimes the subject, or the venue, warrants adding a third or fourth microphone.

Nowadays I've got a 4-Track 24-bit digital recorder, with its own phantom power, so I tend to use three or four microphones generally now, recording them all on the separate tracks, and digitally mix later on, in my MacBook, as it means I don't have to decide the mix live, and I can always leave out the third and/or fourth microphones altogether if I like, which I often do, but the point is I've got the choice, and you can't record something like a concert again after it's happened.

Anyway, on the subject of noise cancelling, it has long been accepted, when recording live concerts, that you have to live with whatever extraneous noise is there, as you have no choice, not even if you're the BBC. If you try and remove it, you'll ruin the sound of the music. Sometimes you can edit, if there's a noise between pieces, for example, but you don't generally want to process the sound, unless the extraneous noise itself is significantly damaging the music anyway. Initial microphone positioning can often help a lot with this before you start recording of course. Don't put the microphone near a fan, for example.

I recognise that voice-overs are generally a bit different, where it's not a "live concert" type situation, so you won't want to have to live with any background noise, and I accept that spoken voice is less critical than music, but nonetheless, the best way to achieve this, is to soundproof your recording area to a reasonable degree, and still use the best microphone you can afford, preferably a phantom powered condenser, and with quality cables. A switchable polar pattern studio condenser is best for this kind of work, and you don't have to spend Neumann U87 money to get a good sound. Rode, of Australia, make some great microphones at a fraction of the price, for example.

I wouldn't personally limit the frequency response. What you have to remember is, that the removal of harmonics, both upper and lower, change the sound, even if they're at the outside end of the range. That's why AM radio sounds awful, even just for the spoken voice. Hence, I always try to keep the audio frequency range as broad as possible, at all stages, and for all subjects. My loudspeakers, for example, are 40Hz to 20kHz, and they produce wonderfully real sound. I also have an active subwoofer, for frequencies below 40 Hz. My microphones, recorders, amplifiers, etcetera, are all 20 - 20kHz.

My house is a modern-build, quite near a local railway line, hence it has good soundproofing, so I have no problems with background noise if I'm doing a voice-over. I recognise I'm quite lucky in that regard, and of course I don't open the windows! :-)

To sum up, my starting point is always have the best quality you can, and deal with everything else accordingly. Anyway, I could talk about audio until the cows come home, so I'd better sign off before I do! :-)

MJ.

(Edited)
Photo of paulwilliamengle

paulwilliamengle

  • 107 Posts
  • 45 Reply Likes
M.J., if you don't mind my asking, what 4-track, 24-bit digital recorder do you have?
Photo of cbkr.team

cbkr.team

  • 82 Posts
  • 32 Reply Likes
Hi Paul,

Sure thing. I have a Tascam DR-70D Linear PCM recorder. It only cost about £230, so I've been pleasantly surprised by the quality. It's also quite compact, and can be tripod mounted between my tripod and my Panasonic Lumix FZ-2000 camera, and synced with it, if I want to shoot 4K video as well. I can then blend the recordings in Camtasia.

I use 32GB SanDisk Extreme Pro DSUHC UHS-I memory cards in the recorder and 128GB ones in the camera, so that I can run everything at the highest quality possible and make long recordings if I want to.

The Tascam has its own internal microphones too, which aren't bad really, but I never bother with them, as I prefer to use my Rode M5 matched pair cardioid condensers, plus what are pretty decent Chinese copies that I have of the Neumann U87 studio condensers. The thing I most often find the studio condensers useful for is placing them more toward the middle to back of a hall, to capture the more fully developed bass, while the M5s are nearer the front, to capture the stereo spread better.

I first developed the technique when I was trying to record a church organ recital, on reel-to-reel, years ago. The position of the organ was side on, and the best place to get the stereo spread of the pipes was opposite the organ, in the small Lady Chapel, but the bass was really only coming out into the knave (congregation area), from a huge open side port on the organ, so I placed a studio condenser, set to omni, in the knave, and blended it as a centre channel in the mixer, at a lower volume, just to add that richness of the bass.

Anyway, I'm rambling again. :-)

Cheers,

MJ.