Updated: Jun 28
Creating the optimal recording environment is hard. You have to make the most out of what you have, and paying your way out is not always an option.
One might think expensive microphones are the keys to great sound, but that’s only half the truth. A cheap mic in a great recording environment is most likely going to sound better than an expensive mic in a poor recording environment. So what should we think about when creating a recording environment?
The principles at work While recording, our worst enemy is unwanted sounds making their way in, so make sure to record in a place with as little noise and echo (reverb, or “room tone”) as possible. Background noise is everywhere, and can be hard to escape. The top priority of any recording session should be to limit unwanted sounds, wherever they come from.
Direction of sound Most people know that preventing sounds from coming in from behind the microphone is important, but preventing sounds coming back from behind the speaker is as well. After all, the mic is focused towards the speaker, and sound coming from behind the speaker will be heard clearer than from any other side. A mic too close to a wall might pick up sounds bouncing off that wall, so make sure to treat the wall, or move a bit further away.
Soundproofing One way to soundproof a room is to use acoustic panels. Acoustic panels are made of sound-absorbing materials and can be placed on walls or ceilings. They help to reduce echo and reverberation, which will make your recordings sound more clear. Another way to soundproof a room is to use Bass Traps. Bass traps are designed to absorb low frequency sounds, which makes them ideal for reducing bass noise. If you're on a tight budget, there are a few DIY soundproofing methods you can try. For example, you can hang blankets or curtains around the perimeter of the room to help absorb sound. You can also place rugs or carpets on the floor to help reduce noise. No matter which soundproofing method you choose, it's important to make sure that you have a quiet environment for podcasting or music production. By taking the time to soundproof your room, you'll be able to create high-quality recordings that sound great. A good recording environment usually comes in the form of a studio with dampening elements on the walls, but pillows, blankets and clothes can work just as fine as professional studio gear. Try to record in a small room, and remember to close any doors and windows. The point is to limit unwanted sounds, and lots of beginners find themselves recording in closets or under blankets. Cover the walls and other hard surfaces with something soft. Pillows can make for decent tables.
Setting up the microphone Different microphones have different needs. Some are fine to hold in your hand while others need suspension. What’s important to remember is to limit shaking and any vibrations -that are not created by your voice- from getting in, so set your mic up in a way where you won’t accidentally cause the mic to shake or bump into something. Some microphones, however, have built-in suspension and are fine to touch, or move around, while recording.
Gain Depending on the kind of production, you'll want to adjust your gain accordingly. But what does gain have to do with the recording environment? Well, the lower the gain, the less tiny background sounds will be picked up. That's not to say 'the less gain the better' - less gain also means less of the sounds you want to record, so it's important to find that balance between getting enough desired sound, and as little unwanted sound as possible. So, consider lowering the gain in order to avoid noise, but make sure your target source doesn't drop below target levels.
Recording silence By recording the most silent moment we can create in a room, we can eliminate that last bit of ambience in post-production. This is achieved by letting software analyze the recorded “silence” and dampen those same miniscule sounds from the actual recording to make it as clean as possible.
Prevent leaking headphones While recording, even high-quality headphones might leak a bit of audio back into the microphone. Make sure to select the right headphones for the job, and by listening back at the right volume level. Typically, closed-back headphones and earbuds are less leaky than on-ear-, or open-back headphones, but I encourage you to mess around with what you have and see for yourself. Read more about headphones in this guide.
And that's it! If you found this article useful, share it with a friend or on social media.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to get in contact.