With podcasting and visual essays becoming more prevalent, it is important to consider easy ways to increase audio production values.  One simple way to improve the production values of an audio recording has nothing to do with the equipment being used. Often, where audio is recorded has as much to do with the quality of the recording as the equipment that is being used. With a little bit of awareness and an understanding of what to look for in a recording space, anyone can produce high quality audio with basic audio equipment.

The first thing to consider when looking at a space to record in is what is referred to as the room tone. Room tone is the collection of sounds that serve as a location’s audio backdrop. Air conditioners, traffic noises, refrigerators, and other appliances cause the bulk of these sounds. The louder these sounds are, the more that these sounds will show up on a recording done there. Consider turning these noise generating devices off if possible, or choosing a different space if the room tone is substantial. Time of day is also a consideration, as there are fewer ambient audio sources in the early morning and late at night. If there is no other option than to record in a space like this, consider using directional or cardioid microphones as they will pick up less of those noises and can focus on the speaker. The second thing to consider is the wall materials in the room. Rooms with lots of drapes, furniture, or those with softer wall materials will result in less audio bouncing back, causing reverb or echo. Lastly, consider the size of the room. Smaller rooms tend to quieter and make it easier to capture quality audio, and larger rooms tend to result in a weaker recording. For example, a walk-in closet can be ideal since there is little noise from climate control or appliances, is generally a small space, and hanging clothes provide some audio support by eliminating most reverb. This video shows an example of a closet being used for audio recording.

It is possible to reduce or eliminate problematic room tone using software such as Adobe Audition or in Garage Band, however these tools have a steep learning curve and even when used skillfully often degrade the quality of the voice in the recording. The best way to ensure quality audio is to create a quality environment for audio to be recorded in. If you are considering recording audio yourself or creating an audio assignment for your course, we can assist you with choosing the right equipment and space. We offer consultations on assignment creation as well as equipment and software training. Email us at lsa-iss-ltc@umich.edu or call 734-615-0099 to schedule an appointment with one of our consultants.