Fixing & Enhancing Mic Quality in Audacity
by Clayton Lambert
Having trouble with your mic quality in your commentary and recordings? Well, I have a way to fix that as long as your problem is within reason, background noise can be removed, waveforms can be amplified and equalized but your end result is still a function of your original mic quality, but there is hope, this method used to work wonders for my Turtle Beach X12 mic, and continues to do so even on my Audio-Technica AT2020.
Import A Track
Editing The Audio
We’re going to begin editing the audio by slightly bringing the amplitude of the wave down, so we have some headroom to play with while we are equalizing. Go to Effect > Amplify, and set “New Peak Amplitude” to -6, then click Ok.
Now we can begin equalizing the audio, we’re really aiming to make things sounds crisp and tight, and less like you are talking over a payphone. Open up the equalizer by going to Effect > Equalization.
I strongly recommend that you play with the equalization yourself to find what best suits your voice and mic, but I have supplied a basic settings file that works as a perfect base to edit from. You can get the EQ settings file here: Right Click & Save Link As. Now that you have the settings file, click “Manage Curves” and Click “Import” and select the downloaded file.
Now that you have imported the file you should see a new option in the list called “Commentary (Claytonn)”. Select it then click Ok.
The curve that I supplied amplifies the lows, mids, and highs by about 6db. It’s a small but noticeable difference. The lows are the bass in your voice, usually defined as a boomy sound. Mids are where most of your voice is registered, this sound can be defined as a kick, or a tap on a table. Highs play a big part in making your voice sound crisp, your voice doesn’t have a big presence in these higher frequencies but it’s normally described as a hissing noise, or similar to the pitch of the sound when you say “Sssshhh”. Edit these settings until you are happy with the results and click Ok to apply the effect.
Next we’re going to run our audio through a compressor which is going to essentially “level” out the audio. Go to Effect > Compressor, and you can once again use my settings as a base and play with them to find what best suits you. Set Threshold to -20db and Noise Floor to -40db. The ratio should be 2:1 and Attack Time: 0.1 seconds and Decay Time: 2.0 seconds. Also, make sure “Make-up for 0db after compressing” and “Compressed based on peaks” are both checked. Then click ok to apply the compressor.
We’re now ready to remove the noise from the clip, but first we need to select a small piece of the clip that is just noise. Do not include your voice or other sounds in this selection because the filter will not be able to target the noise correctly.
Now that you have the noise selected, go to Effects > Noise Removal and hit “Get Noise Profile”. It will close the window and appear to have done nothing but it was just sampling the noise, now hit Ctrl + A or select the entire clip and go to Effects > Noise Removal again use the following settings and then click Ok.
Frequency smoothing: 350 hz
Attack/Decay time: 0.25
If the noise was not completely removed, you can repeat the last step one more time and it should completely remove it. You’re waveform should now look a little nicer than it did before, and should sound much better, here is the comparison of my unedited waveform along with the rendered clips. Keep in mind my mic is already really crisp and clear so the main difference in my sample will be the background noise.
Exporting Your Audio
Finally we are ready to export the finished audio and bring it into Sony Vegas or your editing program of choice. We can do this by going to File > Export and choosing “FLAC files” as our type. FLAC stand for Free Lossless Audio Codec, which basically means your audio isn’t going to lose any quality due to compression, however it does this at the cost of file size. File size really doesn’t matter for us though because we’re just going to be importing it into Vegas or somewhere locally. Click Save and you’ll have to click ok on a couple more things and you’re done!