Background noise is annoying
Getting clean audio recordings can be really hard, especially in noisy environments. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to avoid it.
So, what can you do? The good news is that there’s a free way to remove background noise from your recordings using Audacity.
Audacity is a free audio editing program created by a community of audio experts. Audacity accepts almost any audio file type and has a noise removal tool specifically designed to solve the problem you are trying to solve. It is a robust piece of software, but also very easy to use.
Removing Background Noise Step-by-step
Open Audacity, click “File” and “Open” and locate the file you want to fix
Select your “Room Tone” by dragging your mouse over a section where there is little or no audio sound
Select the “Effect” menu and then select “Noise Reduction”
Click “Get Noise Profile” and wait for the modal to disappear
Click back to your timeline of audio to clear your selection
Select the “Effect” menu again and select “Noise Reduction” again
Click “Preview” to hear the default noise removal settings. You can select one of these defaults to see if they work
If you still hear noise, then simply adjust the Sliders (see descriptions below) and then click “Preview” again
Sliders in Audacity
Note that any movement to the sliders in Audacity can create a big change to the sound of the audio. It is recommended that you ‘go easy’ as you adjust the sliders.
- Noise reduction slider:
This controls the amount of volume reduction that is applied to the identified noise. Use the lowest amount of noise reduction that will keep the noise to an acceptable level. Don't go overboard with this.
- Sensitivity slider:
This slider controls how much of the audio is considered as noise. The higher the sensitivity, the larger the range of noise - be careful because more your audio will be affected.
- Frequency smoothing slider:
This controls how much the noise reduction spreads to other adjacent frequencies. The default setting is 3. Higher settings favor spoken word whereas lower settings are better for music.
Reduce background noise for accurate transcription
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Capturing great audio
Removing background noise can be a pain, so it’s always best to do everything you can to reduce the noise before you record. If you follow the steps in this How to Capture Great Audio article, it's very possible that you won't need to remove any noise afterward.
What about removing background noise in video?
Audacity is great for cleaning up audio associated with radio, podcasts, or music. For spoken-word video, it’s not as simple. You’ll need to export the audio from the video and then once you are done removing the background noise in Audacity you’ll need to re-sync the audio to the video.
Technically it’s not impossible, but it’s certainly not the most efficient way to remove noise especially if you’ve already edited your clips.
Audacity works best with audio. If you are working with video, then you should read our other article: How to remove background noise from video.
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