Razor512 from the LockerGnome community asked: Are there any programs that can provide noise reduction along the lines of the noise reduction that comes with the onboard sound card drivers?
This is a good question, and there are several ways to go about reducing the amount of audio background noise you may encounter during recording. Here are a few tips to help you reduce audio background noise.
First, let’s take a look at some options that can help you after the recording is complete. Live noise reduction can be a fairly complex operation, and one that professional audio broadcasters spend often tens of thousands of dollars to get right. Doing a clean noise reduction process after the fact can be a much cheaper and easier option if you are recording audio for a podcast or to be replayed at a later time.
Audio editing programs such as Audacity, GarageBand, and Adobe Audition have excellent noise reduction capabilities. Audacity and Adobe Audition have a noise reduction process that references a noise profile from 10-15 seconds of relative silence that you can capture right before or right after you begin recording. To do this, simply let the speakers know to remain silent for 10-15 seconds and start recording. The microphones will pick up the background hiss and ambient sounds during this time. Once you’re ready to edit the audio, simply capture that section of the audio as the noise profile and run the noise cancellation (or reduction) process.
On GarageBand, a software-based noise gate can be added to a virtual rack during recording which will lower (duck) any audio that doesn’t reach a certain decibel level. Your speech should be the loudest thing in the mic’s vicinity, so this will only take out the low background noise around you. For live production, noise gates are generally big, expensive pieces of hardware that may also be built-in to a multifunctional compressor unit. Having the ability to mimic this device through software can really save you from having to make a costly investment.
If you need this background noise reduction for a live setting, you may want to consider looking beyond software drivers which can be unreliable when quality is vital to what you’re doing.
Skype, for example, has built-in noise reduction algorithms that can help cut down on the background hiss automatically. If you’re in a relatively quiet place, this works rather well. If you’re using a program such as TeamSpeak or Ventrilo, you may want to activate the push-to-talk feature so background noise doesn’t cause the microphone to cut in at random moments.
A foam wind shield (or screen) can actually cut down on some of the background noise and in some cases provide a tiny amount of bass to your voice, which can result in an overall increase in sound quality. This is only recommended if you have a USB microphone with a larger frame, such as a condenser microphone.
Using a headset can also reduce the amount of background noise picked up by the microphone. Having a mic very close (but not directly in front of) your mouth can allow you to tune the recording level down to where it would pick you up, but not necessarily the activity going on in the next room. For many budget podcasters and frequent conference callers, this is really the best option.
Some podcasters and home-based broadcasters take extra steps to cut down the cause of the noise itself. Turning off your air conditioner during recording, lowering the speed of or moving away any fans, and just telling everyone to get out of the room and closing the door can all contribute to better audio quality. Hanging a sheet or placing some non-solid object behind the microphone can cut down on echo and create a closer and cleaner sound.
The clean and crisp sounds you hear on the radio and/or television are often the result of thousands upon thousands of dollars dedicated to achieving that quality. It is possible, with a little patience and some adjustments, to create audio that will have your listeners wondering if you’re sitting at your desk or a professional sound booth.