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Old February 6th, 2014, 08:37 PM   #1
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what is the best audio gear i can use to record audio book in my bed room?

Hello,
I've a lot of books and I need to record them as audio book.
I will record them in my bed room and I need to record them in a professional good high quality.
Thanks a lot :)

Note:- I've zoom H4N, 3 dynamic microphones (sennhieser e835s - samson q8 - samson q2u).
So can I use H4N with any one of them? or I need a better quality ?
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Old February 6th, 2014, 10:13 PM   #2
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Re: what is the best audio gear i can use to record audio book in my bed room?

The Zoom should be more than adequate as a recorder for audiobooks. If you tell us more about the eventual use and distribution of the books, we can make suggestions for the settings to use on the Zoom. For example, do you plan to "proof-read" and edit the recordings, before they go to their final destination? And do you plan to have the books broadcast on a radio station with a large audience, or will individual people listen to them on something small like an MP3 player?

Let me begin my microphone comments by saying that recording voice is not too demanding if you are concerned only with intelligibility (consider the poor audio quality of a telephone, yet it's perfectly understandable). At the other end of the spectrum, you can easily spend $1,000USD or more if you want the recording to sound accurate, beautiful, and professional... for example the voice of an opera singer. Any of your dynamic mics are adequate for an intelligible voice recording. However, you might want to consider getting a condenser microphone, it might give a little more "life-like" quality to your recordings.

The Q2U is a special case, because it also has a USB connection, so you can record directly to a computer (instead of recording to the Zoom). That might save a step if you plan ultimately to edit the recordings on your computer, before they are a "final product." But the USB connection does not make the basic (and inexpensive) dynamic mic sound any better.

You will also want either a good monitor speaker (with amplifier) or a good pair of headphones, so you can hear your recordings clearly. If you were mixing a more complex soundtrack, headphones would be a bad choice. But if you are recording just one voice, reading audiobooks, you might get away with using a good pair of headphones. (They will give you a rather unrealistic acoustical perspective, but they will make it easy to hear any flaws, background noise, etc.)

Finally, you might want to consider some acoustical treatment to your bedroom. It is surprising how much background noise a microphone will pick up, and, ironically, better mics sometimes seem to pick up more noise than less expensive ones. Also, if the room has a lot of hard walls, ceiling, and floor, it may be too "live" and acoustic reflections within the room might tend to make the voice sound worse and also decrease the intelligibility.

Please give us a better idea of the final use of these recordings, and perhaps describe your room a bit, and probably several people will join in to give helpful suggestions. Meanwhile, why not make some test recordings with your existing equipment, and see how they sound. Perhaps even post a short file here, and get some opinions about what you have now.

Last edited by Greg Miller; February 6th, 2014 at 11:17 PM.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 07:26 AM   #3
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Re: what is the best audio gear i can use to record audio book in my bed room?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
The Zoom should be more than adequate as a recorder for audiobooks.
That is a good news indeed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
If you tell us more about the eventual use and distribution of the books, we can make suggestions for the settings to use on the Zoom. For example, do you plan to "proof-read" and edit the recordings, before they go to their final destination?
Yes I will record on the zoom then export the SD card into my laptop or desktop (windows) to do the edit and save as .mp3

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Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
And do you plan to have the books broadcast on a radio station with a large audience, or will individual people listen to them on something small like an MP3 player?
I think mostly will be on the internet like iTunes and amazon but not in a real live radio show but maybe an internet radio.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
Let me begin my microphone comments by saying that recording voice is not too demanding if you are concerned only with intelligibility (consider the poor audio quality of a telephone, yet it's perfectly understandable). At the other end of the spectrum, you can easily spend $1,000USD or more if you want the recording to sound accurate, beautiful, and professional... for example the voice of an opera singer. Any of your dynamic mics are adequate for an intelligible voice recording. However, you might want to consider getting a condenser microphone, it might give a little more "life-like" quality to your recordings.
All recordings will be in .mp3 before uploading to internet so if you asking if I am care about quality, then yes I do and it will not be in any radio startion but I upload and others download to listen to.

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The Q2U is a special case, because it also has a USB connection, so you can record directly to a computer (instead of recording to the Zoom). That might save a step if you plan ultimately to edit the recordings on your computer, before they are a "final product." But the USB connection does not make the basic (and inexpensive) dynamic mic sound any better.
Actually when I tested all three microphone on zoom for a test for 18 seconds I found all of them almost are the same.
here are the samples but it is in Arabic so please if you may listen to and feed me back with your opinion:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/fx10tzjevmx8zl5/STE-000.wav

https://www.dropbox.com/s/g32ln6w0v06gpli/STE-001.wav

https://www.dropbox.com/s/tm5z38282xm1aeq/STE-002.wav

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
It's possible that you might ultimately want to consider some acoustical treatment to your bedroom. It is surprising how much background noise a microphone will pick up, and, ironically, better mics sometimes seem to pick up more noise than less expensive ones. Also, if the room has a lot of hard walls, ceiling, and floor, it may be too "live" and acoustic reflections within the room might tend to make the voice sound worse and also decrease the intelligibility.
The samples above has been recorded in my bedroom with nothing adjusted.

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Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
Please give us a better idea of the final use of these recordings, and perhaps describe your room a bit, and probably several people will join in to give helpful suggestions. Meanwhile, why not make some test recordings with your existing equipment, and see how they sound. Perhaps even post a short file here, and get some opinions about what you have now.
I record files then edit it with any daw like adobe audition or sound forge and then save .mp3 files then upload to www.archive.org and later on add a picture ad make a video for the picture and recording in a YouTube. Then people download and I will apply them into iTune as well.
And later on I will make an online rado station where I can play all files I uploaded to Archive.org
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Old February 7th, 2014, 11:47 AM   #4
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Re: what is the best audio gear i can use to record audio book in my bed room?

Sounds not too bad at all, but the level was very low, so I had to tweak the gain. There's also a peak in there that a compressor, or some kind of gain processing will sort for you. STE-000 sounds nicest to me.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 12:00 PM   #5
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Re: what is the best audio gear i can use to record audio book in my bed room?

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Sounds not too bad at all, but the level was very low, so I had to tweak the gain. There's also a peak in there that a compressor, or some kind of gain processing will sort for you. STE-000 sounds nicest to me.
and what about my voice? I mean the impression about it? am I any good for podcast and audiobook?
The STE-000 is for the Sennhieser e835s.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 01:21 PM   #6
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Re: what is the best audio gear i can use to record audio book in my bed room?

To answer the last question first, your voice sounds fine, with a very pleasant tone. It sounds as if you are speaking rather quietly, with a rather "intimate" delivery. The appropriate delivery depends on the material you're reading. If it's a personal type of story, this delivery would be adequate. If it's a scientific or political text, then perhaps something a little more authoritative would be more appropriate. If it's a spy story or a mystery thriller, then you would want even more vocal energy and dramatic delivery. I leave that to your good judgement, based on the material you're reading.

Now, as an example of my comments about monitoring. When I first listened on some "average" speakers here in my office, the recording sounded OK, even when I turned up the gain (to compensate for the low level of your recording). But when I listened on headphones, I could clearly hear a lot of electronic hiss in the recording. This difference illustrates the relative difference between listening on speakers (especially if they are NOT expensive studio speakers) and listening on headphones. I personally like the Sennheiser HD-280 Pro headphones.

So now, let's consider this unwanted hiss. It is probably coming from the microphone preamps in the Zoom. All preamps generate some amount of hiss, and this depends on the quality of the preamp and on the gain settings.

Now let's consider your microphone. All the ones you own have 3-pin XLR connectors. You should be using a cable that has these 3-pin XLR connectors on both ends, to plug the microphone to the recorder. Are you using this type of cable? Or are you perhaps using something different?

Also, in the "INPUT SETTING" menu, do you have the "MONO MIX" mode turned on, or turned off?

Next, when you press the "REC LEVEL" buttons on the right side of the machine, a sort of "gain" number is displayed on the screen, between 0 and 100. Can you please tell us what setting you used when you made these recordings?

And finally, as you speak, you will see the two "bar graph" indicators moving back and forth horizontally. What is the highest reading (furthest to the right) that you see while you're speaking?

Once we know some of these details, I think we will be able to give you some more detailed suggestions.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 01:34 PM   #7
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Re: what is the best audio gear i can use to record audio book in my bed room?

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Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
There's also a peak in there that a compressor, or some kind of gain processing will sort for you. STE-000 sounds nicest to me.
Mr. Johnson, can you please be more descriptive about this "peak"... are you talking about a frequency peak during the entire file (if so, what frequency?), or a bump in level at some point in time (if so, what time?)? I didn't notice anything particularly obvious, except that I see a small narrow peak in the noise level, around 15620 Hz (but it's so low as to be inaudible to me)... a LPF would take care of that, since we don't need to go up that high for audiobooks.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 01:41 PM   #8
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Re: what is the best audio gear i can use to record audio book in my bed room?

When I normalised it because of the low level, it didn't increase that much because there's a peak about ⅔ through that normalising uses as the max. It sounds like an unintentional move into the mic, that's all - which you could easily sort out.

I thought the voice quality, in terms of sound was quite suitable for a book read, although of course, I have no idea what the delivery was like, as I can;t understand it - but the voice 'tone' worked for me.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 06:33 PM   #9
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Re: what is the best audio gear i can use to record audio book in my bed room?

Thanks a lot for all your valuable time reading and reply and helping me.

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Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
To answer the last question first, your voice sounds fine, with a very pleasant tone. It sounds as if you are speaking rather quietly, with a rather "intimate" delivery. The appropriate delivery depends on the material you're reading. If it's a personal type of story, this delivery would be adequate. If it's a scientific or political text, then perhaps something a little more authoritative would be more appropriate. If it's a spy story or a mystery thriller, then you would want even more vocal energy and dramatic delivery. I leave that to your good judgement, based on the material you're reading.
I got your point and agreed 100%. These three samples were recorded using the zoom H4N with its default settings except that I make it in two channels (right and left) instead of the default recording channel (left). Also I recorded it in 5 am and my voice was calm and this is why I am totally agreed with your opinion and also agreed for how it should be in such cases you mentioned.

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Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
Now, as an example of my comments about monitoring. When I first listened on some "average" speakers here in my office, the recording sounded OK, even when I turned up the gain (to compensate for the low level of your recording). But when I listened on headphones, I could clearly hear a lot of electronic hiss in the recording. This difference illustrates the relative difference between listening on speakers (especially if they are NOT expensive studio speakers) and listening on headphones. I personally like the Sennheiser HD-280 Pro headphones.
and in your opinion why my recording has such electronic hiss in the recording? is it due to the microphone or the zoom? or this is normal and I should accept it and live with it?

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Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
So now, let's consider this unwanted hiss. It is probably coming from the microphone preamps in the Zoom. All preamps generate some amount of hiss, and this depends on the quality of the preamp and on the gain settings.
Does there is any kind of settings I should adjust in the zoom to avoid it? and is it better to use something else like a mixer of those mentioned here BEHRINGER: Mixers (but I do not know if the USB model is any good or not in case I want tto connect it to my computer and I am using windows by the way) and an outside separated gain or amplifier like this one ULTRAGAIN PRO MIC2200 Behringer: ULTRAGAIN PRO MIC2200 ?

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Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
Now let's consider your microphone. All the ones you own have 3-pin XLR connectors. You should be using a cable that has these 3-pin XLR connectors on both ends, to plug the microphone to the recorder. Are you using this type of cable? Or are you perhaps using something different?
Yes I've a default samson XLR cable with a male end in one side and a female end in the other side to connect both the microphone and the zoom H4N.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
Also, in the "INPUT SETTING" menu, do you have the "MONO MIX" mode turned on, or turned off?
Yes one "MONO MIX" is turned on, but honestly I do not know what is the right meaning or the right settings for various parts in the control panel of the input and other sections in H4N.

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Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
Next, when you press the "REC LEVEL" buttons on the right side of the machine, a sort of "gain" number is displayed on the screen, between 0 and 100. Can you please tell us what setting you used when you made these recordings?
INPUT SETTINGS:
- lo cut = off
- comp/limit = off
- monitor = on
- 1/2 link = on
- level auto = on
- mono mix = on
- ms matrix = on
- phantom = +48
- plug-in = on

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
And finally, as you speak, you will see the two "bar graph" indicators moving back and forth horizontally. What is the highest reading (furthest to the right) that you see while you're speaking?
I've recorded what on screen with my iPhone but sorry if it not rotated correctly. But I hope that you can see the right top point to the right. Also please ignore the audio quality because I was using the microphone sennhieser and the iphone microphone was far and not the same.

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Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
Once we know some of these details, I think we will be able to give you some more detailed suggestions.
I am all ears.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
Mr. Johnson, can you please be more descriptive about this "peak"... are you talking about a frequency peak during the entire file (if so, what frequency?), or a bump in level at some point in time (if so, what time?)? I didn't notice anything particularly obvious, except that I see a small narrow peak in the noise level, around 15620 Hz (but it's so low as to be inaudible to me)... a LPF would take care of that, since we don't need to go up that high for audiobooks.
That will be awesome to know as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
When I normalised it because of the low level, it didn't increase that much because there's a peak about ⅔ through that normalising uses as the max. It sounds like an unintentional move into the mic, that's all - which you could easily sort out.

I thought the voice quality, in terms of sound was quite suitable for a book read, although of course, I have no idea what the delivery was like, as I can;t understand it - but the voice 'tone' worked for me.
I think if non Arabic speakers find the tone suitable, then I think the Arabic speakers will be as well ;)

Thanks a lot,
Mohamed!

Last edited by Mohamed GadAllah; February 7th, 2014 at 07:34 PM. Reason: Adding YouTube link for the video
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Old February 7th, 2014, 07:11 PM   #10
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Re: what is the best audio gear i can use to record audio book in my bed room?

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Originally Posted by Mohamed GadAllah View Post
and in your opinion why my recording has such electronic hiss in the recording? is it due to the microphone or the zoom? or this is normal and I should accept it and live with it?
If the noise is small and consistent, you can use noise reduction to clean it up. This might be necessary if you can't control the heating and air conditioning.

An inexpensive solution is GoldWave. You can use the demo version many times for free and the cost is reasonable if you choose to purchase it.
GoldWave - Audio Editor, Recorder, Converter, Restoration, & Analysis Software

The key to a good result is to record a minute or so of true silence (no paper rustling or mouse clicks) as your reference.

An alternate microphone solution is the Rode NT1-A, which has supremely low noise. You would want a pop screen to use with it. The tone is very good but not exceptional.
RDE Microphones - NT1-A

A great sounding mic is the Electro-Voice RE20. Note that it has a relatively low output though. It needs a great preamp to deliver a low noise result. If any mic will make you sound like a radio announcer, this is it:
Electro-Voice RE20 Broadcast Announcer Microphone w/ Variable-D

A less expensive alternative is the Electro-Voice RE320. The sound is very similar to the RE20 and could be adjusted to match with a bit of EQ. Unless you did a side by side comparison, few would be able to hear the difference between this and theh RE20. The output of the RE320 is a bit higher, so it's not quite as demanding of the preamp.
Electro-Voice RE320 Variable-D dynamic vocal and instrument microphone

The final tip is equalization. Here are my guidelines:
* Voice resonance - Adjust a smooth curve around 200-300 Hz. Too low and your voice will be thin. Too much and it's boomy. Adjust for a nice balance.
* Consonants - Add a peak at around 1200 Hz. This can help understandability. Don't overdo it or you might hear that tone resonate.
* Nasal Tone - Adjust a smooth curve around 2400 Hz. Boost if the voice needs more "edge". Cut if the voice is nasal or harsh. An expert can add sharp cuts here to dampen especially harsh tones without taking away the overall character. You can also control this with mic placement - target the face or forehead more to add an edge; target the chest more to remove it.
* Air - Add a smooth boost from 5000-15000 Hz to give the voice an open airy sound. Do your EQ after any noise reduction. If you boost too much, you will get excessive noise. If you cut, the voice can sound dead and you can introduce a lisp.

You might play with these EQ tricks a bit to get a feel for them. You can tune things to match the style that you want (more natural or bigger than life). You might adjust each mic differently - especially the 200-300 Hz band - to see which one sound best after you've balanced things. Your favorite out-of-the-box mic might be different than your favorite tuned mic.

Frankly, with your existing equipment, some blankets and bookshelves (pull it a bit from the wall and pull the books away from the back) to treat the room, GoldWave for noise reduction, and a bit of EQ to tune things to taste, you should be able to get a result that exceeds your expectations. If you still want more improvement, work on your room treatment and mic placement first, and upgrade mics and preamps second.

Best of luck with your projects!
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Old February 7th, 2014, 08:48 PM   #11
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Re: what is the best audio gear i can use to record audio book in my bed room?

Mr. GadAllah,

First of all, I hope we are not confusing you with too much information all at once.

Mr. Fairhurst's comments about equalization are valid if we need to improve the voice quality later. That will depend on what microphone you ultimately use. But we haven't made that choice yet.

Also, while we might later need to remove noise from air conditioning, etc., I do not hear any such noise yet. All I hear is electronic random noise ("hiss") that is generated by the microphone preamplifier in the Zoom recorder. We need to concentrate on solving that problem first.

You say you are not entirely familiar with all the settings on the Zoom. Do you have an owner's manual? If so, please take a few hours to read it and try to understand the details. That will save us a lot of time with various little suggestions. And, by the way, it is a bit unfortunate that you have this particular recorder. It is a very good one, for sure. In fact, it is much more complicated than you need to record audiobooks. So it will be a little more difficult to figure out all the controls and settings. So please, do your homework and read the owner's manual!

For now, so that you have something to try before you finish reading the manual, let's think about the hiss. First of all, do you hear it when you play the recording? What are you using as a monitor speaker, or as headphones? I think we need to be sure you can hear everything clearly, before we proceed very far. So please let us know how you are playing the recordings, when you check them.

Also, the files that you posted are stereo. If your goal is to have audiobooks, those do not need to be in stereo. It is preferable that they are a single channel (monaural), since they will be half as big in size for some given quality level. Or, another way to view it, the quality will be twice as good, for a given file size and bitrate.

Since your files were stereo, I think you may have used the "MONO MIX" mode. Please consult the manual, find the proper menu, and turn this function OFF. After doing this, your resulting recording will have your voice (plus a little hiss) on one channel, and only hiss on the other channel. That's the goal. (Later, we will find out how to make this a proper monaural file for your audiobook.)

By the way, here's why we do not want "mono mix." Every analog amplifier generates some sort of random noise, and it often sounds like this "hiss" in your recording. If we mix both channels together, the final recording will have your voice, plus hiss from the left channel preamplifier, plus hiss from the right channel preamplifier. TWICE as much hiss as necessary. If you do NOT mix the channels, then you will end up with only hiss from only one preamplifier, which will sound somewhat better.

Now, please look at page 50, illustration number 3. Note the two bar-graph style level meters on the display (calibrated from -48 to 0 dB). If you are recording with just one mic, I imagine only one of those will be moving... that's fine. You should adjust your recording level (using the buttons on the side of the recorder) so the meter goes up to about -6 when your voice is at its loudest. Then, make note of the "MIC LEVEL" number at the top of the screen, for future reference.

Two more comments, about what I hope to do in the future. First of all, after we do all of the above, we may still find the hiss is objectionable. A different microphone might make that better. But before choosing a different mic, let's go about this in a logical way, and try to get the recording as quiet as possible.

Second, Mr. Fairhurst recommends Gold Wave as an editing program... it is quite adequate. But in your first post, Mr. GadAllah, you mentioned using Adobe Audition. Do you already have Audition? If so, that will be even better. And if you do not yet have any program, you might also consider Audacity, which is freeware and which should be quite adequate for your audiobook project. So please let us know whether you have Audition, or whether you want to try Audacity for free, or whether you want to purchase Gold Wave.

Give us these new answers (including about your playback system), record a new file with audio on just one channel, post that for us, and then we will take another step or two.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 11:36 PM   #12
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Re: what is the best audio gear i can use to record audio book in my bed room?

Thanks a lot guys,
Please give me a little time to read the manual as I did not opened it and try the things you mentioned and get back to you.
Really much appreciated and please stay tuned around and do not go fr because I do need your help.

Regards,
Mohamed!
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Old February 7th, 2014, 11:54 PM   #13
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Re: what is the best audio gear i can use to record audio book in my bed room?

Greg is exactly right on all counts. If you already have Audition, it has a noise reduction feature. Choose one channel, rather than doing a stereo mix. Recording so the peaks are no higher than -6dB is good. (I often try to get the "body" of the voice around -18dB.) You can get higher levels by increasing the gain, getting closer to the mic, or using a more sensitive mic.

The lower the noise in the original recording, the better. By applying noise reduction on an already clean signal, you can get rid of the last touch of noise with minimum harm to the signal. Too much noise reduction on a dirty signal can make the voice sound "underwater" or synthetic. Applying NR to a clean signal can make it pristine.

And if you think about it, that's the real goal: eliminate elements that might distract the listener from the story. If you eliminate noise, avoid unwanted sounds, limit unwanted reverberation, and record a nice tone, all that remains is the story and your performance. :)
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Old February 8th, 2014, 09:09 AM   #14
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Re: what is the best audio gear i can use to record audio book in my bed room?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mohamed GadAllah View Post
Hello,
I've a lot of books and I need to record them as audio book.
I will record them in my bed room and I need to record them in a professional good high quality.
Thanks a lot :)

Note:- I've zoom H4N, 3 dynamic microphones (sennhieser e835s - samson q8 - samson q2u).
So can I use H4N with any one of them? or I need a better quality ?
Quite apart from the technical side ; if these are commercially published books , please make sure that you have all the necessary permissions from the copyright holders before you 'transcribe' to audio book format and distribute on the Internet .

Otherwise , you could run into legal problems .

Apologies if this has already been dealt with , but it is very important .
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Old February 8th, 2014, 10:23 AM   #15
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Re: what is the best audio gear i can use to record audio book in my bed room?

It is always better to try to reduce or eliminate ambient noise, and to record at a proper level rather than trying to "fix" it after the fact with "noise reduction". For most of us, those "noise reduction" techniques are only a desperate last-resort to saving a recording. Noise reduction should NEVER be used as a regular part of the production process. Remember that proximity to the microphone has a large effect on the overall "signal-to-noise ratio". The closer you are to the microphone, the louder the sound from your voice will be compared to the ambient noise.
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