Disturbing your voice over ‘piece’ by Dan Lenard

Posted on December 5, 2011 by

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OK, you have control, for the most part, over the noise in your home. Turn off the appliances (Except the fridge) . No furnace, no dishwasher, no washing machine.  Nice and quiet, right?

The last couple of weeks, while listening to clients audio, I’ve run into a bit  of a problem.  The mic placement is good, good technique, good levels…but I hear and see something that makes it all sour. Background noise…still.  Everything’s off, but still I hear and see a low frequency rumble.  Under 150Hz. That shouldn’t and can’t happen in a home studio. And it’s the hardest challenge you’ll face, especially if its not coming from inside your home. You’d be amazed what a good mic can pick-up, especially if you’re using a premium pre-amp!  What was I hearing? In one case, a neighbors heat pump; in another they lived right off a highway. When I tell voice clients, this they’re shocked.  “I can’t hear anything in the room.”, they say.  Well, they’re right, they can’t hear it, because it’s a constant.

Have you ever bought a new refrigerator? You sit down to breakfast the next day and think… “What’s that noise?…Oh, it’s the new fridge!”  It makes a different noise than the old one. Then within a day, it goes silent.  No, its still working, but your brain has tuned out the monotonous tone.  The same is the case in your home studio. Constant undercurrent vibration is no longer audible to you because it’s always there, but filtered out by our amazing homosapien brain.

If you see the rumble in a spectrogram or hear it more clearly when you normalize, you’ve got to find the source.   Go outside and listen for a mechanical sound. Industrial, roadway, heat pump, oil well….if you can hear it clearly out there, its getting on your audio. It can be amplified by big picture windows that act like a diaphragm that vibrates the whole house.

So what do you do?  First, find out if that’s what it is. And if it is the rock quarry across the street, next week I’ll offer some suggestions on how to attenuate it.

What kind of background noise disturbs your recordings?

Picture by Nick Grosoli