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How to capture great audio

Better quality audio = more accurate transcript

Sonix users on recording audio 🎀

Pete Combs, KOMO Radio

Pete Combs

KOMO Radio

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Pete Combs Recording Tips

Intro of capturing great audio

My name is Pete Combs and I'm a reporter for K O M O KOMO radio in Seattle. I've been doing this for about 40 years and my life has basically revolved around gathering audio and putting it on the air.

The gathering audio part is what I want to talk to about because there's a lot you can do to make your audio presentations sound great and to improve the quality of audio for the purpose of transcription. For instance when you're doing phone audio you want to record that on a landline if possible.

Levels and cadence of speech

Speak slowly and make sure that there are no glitches in that landline connection. If there are, do them over again. It doesn't hurt and it could make the transcription a lot more clear. If you're doing it in person, the one thing I tell you, is make sure your levels aren't too high in the digital world.

You can certainly boost levels all day long but when you try to deal with levels that have gone too high and they distort, there's nothing much you can do the audio will just remain terrible. So if you have any doubt about the volume of your recording go low and you can adjust later.

Volume of recording and exact leveling

I usually do my recordings at 4,400 hertz or 44.1, and I use 64 bit audio when I do an MP3. For radio use I usually record MP3s at 44.1 kilohertz and I use a bit depth of 64 kilobytes per second. That's pretty clear. And again the volume is the key here. You don't want to get too loud.

Summary of capturing great audio

Try those as you're making recordings for transcript and if you have any problems remember this: Slow down. The slower you go the easier it is for the computer to figure out what you're saying. I'm Pete Combs. Good luck and happy recording.

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William Smith, Daring creative

William Smith

Daring creative

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Capturing Great Audio

Recording environment advice

How do I capture great audio? The first thing that I try to do is just always record in a quiet space. So obviously you know reducing the noise and you're environment is super important and everyone says that but it's worth mentioning because it's something that you do need to kind of stress on a little bit.

I have a home studio which is just basically a renovated bedroom that I have converted into a place where I record. I took the closet and I kind of put acoustical tiles in there to make it more conducive to recording and I also try when I can to stand up while I'm talking. I just find that get a better sound that way.

Proper microphone techniques

The next thing that I always try to do is observe proper microphone technique. You know you don't want to be too far or too close to your microphone. The closer that you are the more you risk clipping or overdriving the further you are the weaker the vocal will sound. It might sound a little tinny or just distant and that requires you to do more to bring it up and make it sound good in the forefront of the recording.

I spent a lot of time coaching whoever I'm talking to to make sure that they're staying close to the microphone at all times and they're being in a consistent distance away from it.

Microphone suggestion - Shure SMB7

It also doesn't hurt to have good equipment so what I've tried to do is invest in some decent microphones. I use a Shure SMB7 microphone both for myself and for the guest. And I find that they sound really great. I don't have to do a lot to them in terms of processing.

I plug those into a Zoom recorder so I use Zoom H6 and I just find that it does a really great job recording. I've used other audio interfaces in the past and by far this is the best sounding one that I use as my Zoom. So I love to use that.

Editing & cleaning up audio

And then one thing that I like to do is actually edit the podcast you know go in after I've recorded things and take out filler words minimized breath, if I can, remove mistakes, dead air.

You know I'm just kind of clean things up to make things more concise. You know somebody is kind of rambling on and on about something I'll try to shorten it and I find that that does a lot in terms of how people think in terms of the quality of the audio.

Audio clean-up tool suggestions

The more concise that it sounds, the more confident that it sounds by taking out the stammers and stuff you know stutters and stuff like that, it's really helpful. Then I do some audio processing. So I use some plugins. I use one from Izotope called RX Elements and it's a bundled piece of software.

It allows you to take out hums and clicks and just little artifacts that you could find in your audio recording. There's another tool from Izotope that I use called Nectar 2 which has some really cool presets for different types of sounds and so I'll use that once in a while. I'll usually use a compressor to make sure that the audio remains at a consistent level because again it is hard sometimes to get people to stay in the same dynamic range and sometimes you don't want them to.

Sometimes you want them you know depending on what they're talking about. You know if there's excitement you want that to come through but you don't want to overdrive. You know with the sound is for the listener so I use a compressor. And then the final thing that I do is once I bounce down all the vocal tracks and the whole you know podcast basically into an MP3 file, I'll run it through Auphonic which is an online tool.

It's actually a desktop tool as well but most people use it as the online tool, and it's a leveler. And so just make sure that the volume of your podcast is optimized for mobile listening since most people listen to podcasts through mobile.

I found that that does a really good job at keeping you know the volume levels where they need to be. When you plug in earbuds are you putting in your car etc.

So those are the things that I do to get a good sound.

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A few tips for capturing great audio 🎢

Record indoors if at all possible

In windy or noisy outdoor environments, you simply want to record most of your audio track indoors or in-studio. If you must record on-location, background noise or wind can be avoided by using a "dead cat," "wind muff," or windshield which are fluffy microphone covers designed to minimize wind noise. It is nearly impossible to edit wind noise out of your audio track.

Set up a sound booth

The best place to record audio is in a small, carpeted room with wall treatments (pictures, curtains, etc) in order to avoid harsh sounds characterized by an echo. Closets full of hanging clothes are great as a make-shift sound booth.

Equipment matters

The best way to get clear and high quality audio is by using a standalone microphone instead of a built-in mic. Most built-in microphones are omnidirectional which means they will record unwanted sound from every direction.

Uni-directional microphones are the best. The quality from them is almost guaranteed to be better, and you can move the mic around to find the best spot to pick up sound. Microphones are a lot more sensitive than a lot of people think. Even aiming some microphones in different directions can drastically change the amount of sound you are picking up. Usually having a lavalier microphone clipped to a person's shirt will pick up the most direct and clear sound.

Lean in, get close

The closer the microphone is to the speaker, the better. You'll get better audio quality, less background noise, and better sound fidelity. Also, please enunciate your words as if you were speaking to an audience in a large auditorium.

Speak at a balanced and uniform level

Even with a good microphone, great sound isn’t guaranteed. Microphones can be extremely sensitive to small level changes. While we might not think much of someone getting really loud and then really quiet while talking, that can usually be too much for a microphone to handle. Sudden loud sounds might cause distortion, while some very quiet sounds might not even be picked up.

Check your audio

Use headphones to immediately monitor or check your audio quality to ensure that background noise is not present. Our perception of sound often makes us unaware of background noise. Here's a simple example: Imagine being in a room with the air conditioner on. After a short amount of time, you won't notice it anymore. But all of a sudden, it will turn off. Now the room seems eerily quiet. Our brain and hearing adjusts to our environment pretty quickly, but they will notice sudden changes.

Unfortunately, microphones do not behave in the same way. A microphone will pick up all of the extra noise for the entire recording. When you listen to it again, it will be very obvious. This is why it is always important to check your audio (with headphones) before recording hours of content. You don't want to have to do it again!

Conclusion

Having high quality audio is crucial to having great transcriptions. Background noise, wind, muffled voices, and echos will easily result in a poor audio quality score. At Sonix, our automated transcription algorithms are analyzing your recordings. Thus, we rely heavily on you. Please ensure that your recordings are made in the best possible environment. The number of edits that you'll have to make will be much less.

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