Improve The Quality Of The Audio You Record At Home – Tip 1

One of the biggest challenges we face as people who record audio at home is that we don’t have ideal recording spaces. A vast majority of us, Yours Truly included, set up our home recording studios in a spare bedroom.

More often than not, these rooms are almost perfectly designed to provide us with the WORST possible acoustic spaces in which to record. These rooms impart way too much echo-y, reverb-y (and not in a good way) crud to whatever you try to record.

The problem is especially bad when recording voices for podcasts, video narration, voice-overs, etc. because there isn’t any music to cover up that “room sound” like there is when recording songs.

In addition to to being poor recording spaces, converted bedrooms are also terrible at reproducing accurate audio. If you are trying to mix music listening through loudspeakers (recommended) in a bad room, you’re likely to THINK the music needs more bass, so you boost it with EQ.

You may also hear too much of several other frequencies – maybe the high harmony part sounds too loud in the mix, etc. You mix until things sound good and then render it to a stereo file that sounds HORRIBLE on your iPod or in the car.

There’s way too much bass and the high harmony is gone. Happened? Bad room happened. Audio waves crashed into each other, either amplifying or reducing certain frequencies.

One Thing At A Time

If you are good at building and installing things like extra walls in your studio, or wealthy enough to pay someone to do that, you can improve the acoustic properties of your room for both recording AND mixing.

But as with most problems, it’s usually best to take it a step at a time. Let’s leave the mixing issue for later and deal with making things better in the recording realm first.

With that in mind, this post and video starts a series that will give you tips you can use to improve the quality of the audio you record. Each week for the next several, I will provide you with a technique or two that you can implement immediately – without having to build or buy anything. Free and easy. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Tip Number 1

This first technique has a huge impact on recording quality, and it’s something you can do right now without, as I said, having to buy or build anything. And you won’t believe how simple it is. Ready? Just move closer to the mic! See for yourself – and more importantly – HEAR for yourself how much difference it can make in the video below.

Part 2 can be viewed here.

0 comments on “Improve The Quality Of The Audio You Record At Home – Tip 1”

  1. Interesting vid Ken. With your voice being the only ‘instrument’ it’s easy to hear the difference. But does this technique work just as well with vocals in a ‘one-man-band’ type recording as well??

    1. Sure, Radio! Cleaner vocals will always be “better” (unless you’re going for a certain lo-fi effect). It’s just that the more other stuff you add, the more masked the room MAY be on individual tracks. The problem there is that the room sound for each track will add to all the others. So unless you have an ideal acoustic space – where the sound of the room actively complements a voice (these are rare in the wild! You usually need to create them deliberately), the next best thing is to prevent a bad room from messing with your voice as much as possible. This first tip is a great way to do that.

  2. Thank you very much for your comment and suggestions. I am really in trouble with echo in an apartment place used for live speech streaming. Our basic setup is; there are 3 rooms, each has 1 speaker (one of Creative 5.1 sound system). In the large room (there is also one speaker in the large room), the speaker speaks and the speech is broadcasted to rooms and to internet. During the speech, when the speaker takes a brake to breathe, there is suddenly an echo in the sound. When the speaker speaks, there is no problem.

    What do you suggest to reduce echo? We lower the audio but then it becomes very hard to hear in the rooms. We cancel the speaker in the speaking room, but the room is large so people at the back of the room can not hear. So we try to find a balanced audio level but the echo is always there.

    Thanks for your suggestions.

    1. Hi Salih – do you mean an echo like you hear the part again (one or two times, etc.)? Or is it just a reverb sound like the speaker is in a bathroom or something? If it is a definite repeat, it’s probably due to feedback from the speaker into whatever microphone is being used. What kind of microphone is the person speaking using? That will help answer your question.


  3. You have saved my day Ken. I’ve been struggling with my entire setup as I moved to a new flat recently and didn’t want to invest in sound proofing to my entire room. This little step has helped me a lot and my voice is more clear and crispier than before. Thanks a ton for the tip.

  4. Hey Ken,

    Good video. I actually find that people over think it when making a studio at home. I’ve had people tell me they’ve covered their entire room in acoustic paneling, so that they room is essentially a dead room or they’ll record too close to the wall. I find the simplest approach of recording in the middle of the room, with some acoustic panels spaced out works best.

    1. Thanks. Yeah, too dead a room is a bit unnatural. The biggest problems often come in when mixing and mastering. A poor room can really distort frequencies. But that’s a whole separate kettle of fish:). Thanks for the comment!

  5. […] As I have preached again and again, noise is the enemy of good audio. Before you even normalize your audio, you'll want to be sure you've gotten rid of (or prevented) as much noise as possible from being in your audio recording. See my post series on how to do that here: Improve The Quality Of The Audio You Record At Home. […]

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