A voice recording can help you convey information to your audience, but bad audio quality can distract from your message and possibly turn off your listeners. If you've already recorded your voice and you want to improve the quality with software, you may be able to reduce background noise and raise the vocal level, depending on the quality of the original. You may need to do a little more work to improve a very murky or uneven recording.
Digital Audio Workstation
A software DAW enables you to import your voice recording and view the audio waveform as you edit it. Free programs such as Audacity, Acoustica and Ocenaudio include many features of professional software -- such as the ability to add effects plugins -- but have a simpler interface (see Resources). Graphically editing your recording makes locating problems easier than listening to a track on a traditional editor because you can instantly play your recording from any point by clicking your mouse. This ability enables you quickly to edit the sections that sound bad to you.
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Audio editors typically include a noise-removal function that samples the white noise during quiet parts of your recording and removes this noise from the entire track. A program's built-in noise remover can do an excellent job in many cases, but some recordings may have so much background noise that the result sounds harsh or thin. In this case, you may be able to adjust the separate frequencies of your voice to make it sound better or use a noise-reduction plugin instead of the built-in effect. Virtual Studio Technology plugins -- such as Floorfish, Redunoise and Noise Reduction -- integrate with your DAW so you don't need to open several applications at once (see Resources).
Reverb effects make your audio track sound like you recorded it in a room with optimal acoustics, such as a concert hall or recording studio. A small amount of reverb can help your voice sound smoother and disguise problems caused by a bad microphone, although adding reverb to already indistinct vocals could exacerbate the problem. Some VST reverb plugins -- such as Reverberate, Pristine Space and SIR2 -- use impulse files that sample the acoustics of a room, which reduces the processing time compared to algorithmic reverb (see Resources).
Raising the level and using a normalizer can remove volume spikes and make your recording easier to listen to. Normalization algorithms flatten your track so that quiet and loud parts have the same volume. They can also correct a volume issue called DC offset that causes distortion and comes from the current in your computer. You may have to experiment by normalizing separate parts of your recording to correct large differences in volume. Most software editors enable you to preview the normalization effect before applying it, so you can normalize the regions that make your recording sound best.
- Audacity Manual: Noise Removal
- Sound on Sound: 20 Tips on Using Effects in the Mix
- Audacity Manual: Normalize
- Audacity Manual: Glossary - DC Offset
- Sourceforge: Audacity
- Acon Digital: Acoustica Digital Audio Editor
- Ocenaudio: Homepage
- Free Music Software: Noise Reduction
- Voxengo: Redunoise
- VST Planet: VST Effects
- Liquid Sonics: Software - Reverberate
- Voxengo: Pristine Space
- SIR Audio Tools: Homepage