I'm ready to hang up the VO career over this issue.
I have been actively auditioning and performing voice work for a few years, and land a gig here and there - just enough to pay for the lessons and equipment and subscriptions (V123, voices) with a little extra. It's just enough to keep me trying.
But the quality of recording in my home studio is poor.
There's a pretty loud hiss in the recordings.
I purchased the MicPort Pro hoping it would help with the noise. For years I used a TASCAM US-122 to connect the mic to the PC via USB. With the mic plugged in, there is a -66 dB hiss with the US-122 at max gain. With the mic unplugged, there is a -72dB hiss.
The hope was the MicPort Pro would solve the issue. The folks at Harlan Hogan's store swore that the quality would improve. "MicPort Pro is professional equipment, the TASCAM is not."
There are numerous testimonials for the MicPort Pro. Those audio files do not have a hiss.
But the MicPort Pro didn't improve the issue.
With the MicPort Pro at max gain and the mic plugged in or not, there is a -62 dB hiss. It's the same on multiple computers running Win Xp, XP 64, Windows 7.
Lowering the gain doesn't help. While the hiss is less on recording, so is the volume. When normalized to acceptable volume, the hiss in the recording is loud.
The link is to an audio file made with the US-122 and the MicPort Pro.
Not only hasn't the MicPort Pro solved the problem. It made it worse.
Just did several repeated listens to your file in Logic Studio 9 on my JBL studio monitors, and neither heard the an enormous amount of hiss or saw the numbers you've quoted here.
Even when I tossed some mastering plugins on and then some pumped-up settings that I knew would raise the noise floor, the results were similar.
To be honest, it was a little difficult to do a real test of hiss and noise in this file, because:
1) What you've provided is way too short for both preamp examples. You've literally only got a couple seconds of each pre, and I had to isolate the fraction of a second of silence before you spoke for the first example and the second or two after the second. Regardless, the metering still showed noise below the -100 db level on the first, and about -5db below that for the second, both of which from my experience are pretty acceptable for all but the most audiophile of VO projects out there.
2) You didn't provide examples with the mikes disconnected, which would rule out noise from both your room and the mike itself.
3) Speaking of the latter, you didn't mention what mike you're using. Some mikes have FAR higher self noise levels than others. Typically - but not always! - the cheaper the mike, the higher the noise. If you're using one of the bazillions of sub- $200 Chinese clone mikes currently flooding the market, your chances of this being an issue are likely to increase.
That said, I don't think any of the above really apply much here - my theory from the info you've provided:
You're hearing noise from somewhere else. An overzealous plugin (or setting in one), an outboard rack unit (ditto), a headphone amp, a cable, something in your monitoring chain with the gain set less than optimally at one point and really high in another piece right after that, or a monitoring feed mixed in with the dry mike signal just before it gets to your headphones, or worse, the same folded back onto itself at some point in your app's software mixer so it gets amped up twofold to your ears and monitoring LEDs, but isn't actually recorded. Check for something along those lines, because in both examples in the file, I heard what's likely perfectly acceptable VO material.
Lastly, regarding TASCAM equipment being "not professional"...I laugh at that assessment and beg to differ, after having worked for years in several broadcast studios with their gear that was used daily without issue. Might not be the most exciting stuff compared to lots of other things you can buy, but their quality, consistency, and reliability was usually higher than many (might be different nowadays), likely because most all of their stuff was designed in Japan - they're a part of the TEAC company, one of the older audio brands out there. Almost bought a TASCAM audio interface myself the other day, in fact...the only reason I didn't was it was on sale, and the store sold out of stock!
Thanks for the detailed reply.
This is an image of the audio (same audio as originally posted) in Audition.
This next file is the MP3 of that sound (TASCAM, no mic connected, half gain):
That's at half gain and with phantom power off. At that level the sound from either an MXL 990 or Sennheiser MD421 MK II is almost inaudible. The hiss is at around -81 dB.
You don't hear the hiss? I hear the hiss and see the sound (waveform) in the file.
A tech at the CEntrance forum recommended changing to a mic like the MXL V88, which he said will have more gain and thus allow me to turn down the gain on the TASCAM or MicPort, thus lowering the hiss. The MXL V88 was his suggestion as a cheaper alternative to the Sennheiser 416. The 416 is the mic at the downtown studio where I record some projects when clients want better quality. That place is $300/HR.
I purchased the Sennheiser on the advice of a consultant who suggested it would help cut down the noise level.
This is driving me crazy. Half the people who listen hear the hiss, others don't. I hear it.
Thanks for providing the file and the additional info - much more helpful to work with. Unfortunately, my verdict is pretty much the same...in fact, I hear even less "hiss" than before, because what I heard in the other file was room noise (at very low levels compared to files from other talents with audio issues that I've heard), spread over a higher frequency range.
I loaded your new file in:
- iZotope RX2 (a well-regarded audio cleanup and reconstruction program)
Using their spectrum analyzers, none showed results like yours. When I played the file, the waveforms appeared consistently to top around -110 to -120 dB from 40-50 Hz up to 16kHz, with a lift to -90dB below 40 Hz, and a falloff above 16k.
The only conclusion I could come up with at this point: Audition was handling or displaying things differently, so I downloaded the demo to see (been meaning to give it a try anyway so a good reason).
Sure enough, when I loaded/played the file, the Levels meter would kick into the -80s, even though I heard no audible "hiss" and nothing showed in the waveform viewer unless I pumped up the amplitude view as you did.
I then found that you can repeat what I saw in the other programs by switching to the Mastering and Analysis in the Workspace view and looking at the Frequency Analysis tab's graph (switch it in the upper right).
I found an even nifty-er feature when I selected the whole file's waveform in Editor, hit the Scan button in Frequency Analysis, right-clicked on the graph, clicked "Copy All Graph Data" and pasted it to a text file - you'll get a frequency by frequency average breakdown, which jives with what I've reported....and an interesting peak into the -90s at the very lowest of frequencies (0 and 1 Hz - not something humans can normally hear).
My guess is that Audition's Editor waveform view and Levels meters are doing some sort of display averaging, which may accentuate or exaggerate things depending on what method it's set to show, and many audio programs have lots of these options.
Through all of this, my question is: what kind of "hiss" are you hearing, what frequency is it at, and what monitors are you using to hear this (and at what volume level)? Hiss is usually a mid to higher frequency thing, and I saw nothing poking out of any particular upper or lower frequency band to indicate a majorly audible hiss or lower frequency hum. If you look at my screengrab, you'll also notice I enabled the Spectral Display view, which shows up completely black through all frequencies....any kind of sound like a hiss should show up in there somewhere, at least faintly.
Barring a noisy mike or audio interface input, the next place I'd look based on all this is out of the preamp equation, and into the worlds of:
- audio interface's noise output
- electrical line/grounding noise
As an aside, I own a Sennheiser 416 and an MXL V88, and I again have to wonder what the CEntrance guys might be "enjoying" in their downtime....two VERY different sounding mikes, at least my pair are. I should add I also own an MXL 909, which is purported by some VO types to sound like a 416, and while it's closer to that sound, again, I have to disagree. It's closer than a V88, but NOT a stand-in, at least among the ones I own.
I won't rule out one or all of them being a lemon, but I will say this: when I got the Sennheiser, it blew them both away so much I never used them again...
Yes, I see what you're talking about in the Frequency Analysis.
I don't know what frequency I hear. I just know there's a hiss, it sounds like the static on an empty tv station. It's heard on headphones, on KRK RP5 monitors, on the computer speakers, and potential clients have mentioned it after hearing auditions.
If it's normalized, of course it gets louder. Can you hear it if you normalize the second audio file?
Hi again Frank -
Yes, then I do, and that's expected behavior - normalizers in general are meant to amp up quieter sounds across a higher level after accounting for all the peaks and valleys in file or selected part of a file...and in this particular case, VERY quiet sounds that are below most conventional offensive noise specs are getting seriously amped up to become just that.
Are you simply reading a VO and delivering a completely normalized file without doing anything else to it? A surefire way to get the problem you describe, if you are, even with ultra-quiet, pro-spec gear, and why I almost never normalize a file.
There are other ways to process audio to get results similar to normalization to pump up desired frequencies and lessen or completely nuke unwanted ones, which are discussed both on this site and countless others out there.
Aside from Amplitude/Compression, there's a whole slew of what appear to be useful processing and noise reduction options in the Effects section of Audition (Diagnostics, Filter/EQ, Noise Reduction / Restoration, and Special). I suggest trying these over Normalization....have you done so yet? I've not worked with Audition in years, so I unfortunately have no recommendations as to which are best, but keeping things simple is the best rule of thumb...
I've tried noise removal, filter/EQ, and compression. Audition has a nice voice leveler with noise reduction. The problem is it makes the hiss more obvious where it cuts it out in the pauses between speaking.
Scott, your patient help is appreciated.
Both you and the person at Centrance (he is not a tech for the company, but rather a voice actor who decided to help) concluded that the noise isn't a concern.
As you mentioned, it's my mistake in evaluating the recording, and monitoring the "noise".
Between your help, and his, I know more about leveling and evaluating the audio.