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Changed recording space w/same equipment and audio radically different

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Changed recording space w/same equipment and audio radically different

Postby Gorecreek » Tue Oct 22, 2019 4:38 am

Hey all! Never posted here before so hopefully I'm putting this in the right place and hopefully someone can help.

So I record audiobooks and I have a little booth space in my apartment which is essentially a closet that I padded out with foam and a little desk. I have been using it for a year now and never had any complaints on audio quality. However, recently I got a job while I was visiting my parents and needed to send in the first chapter. I had brought my mic (a Rode N1T-A) and my interface (a Focusrite Scarlet Solo) so I set myself up in my brother's messy closet with a chair and a TV dinner stand and recorded the chapter and sent it in, intending to rerecord once I was back to my normal set up.

This is where my problems started. It turns out that that one chapter I recored in a teenagers messy closet, around the same size as my one at home, has way clearer, and crisper audio than anything I've recorded in my little booth at home and I have no idea why. The equipment is the same and like I said the space at home is similar in size but much better insulated. I cannot figure out the issue as now, no matter where I record in my apartment the audio always comes out muted and kind of echoey, like talking through a metal tube. I don't know if it's something wrong with the space or with the settings but I would love a second opinion. I'm happy to post samples of the audio from both spaces. or pictures of either space if that would help. I record in audacity and I'm just at a bit of a loss as to what to do.

Thank you all in advance and let me know what other info might help you help me!
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Re: Changed recording space w/same equipment and audio radically different

Postby Bob Bickerton » Tue Oct 22, 2019 11:01 am

Welcome.

It’s really very simple - the acoustics of the space you record in has more influence over the recorded sound than pretty much any piece of gear.

If you’re serious about recording you need to work in a professionally treated space.

Bob
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Re: Changed recording space w/same equipment and audio radically different

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Oct 22, 2019 11:14 am

Gorecreek wrote:It turns out that that one chapter I recored in a teenagers messy closet, around the same size as my one at home, has way clearer, and crisper audio than anything I've recorded in my little booth at home and I have no idea why. The equipment is the same and like I said the space at home is similar in size but much better insulated. I cannot figure out the issue as now, no matter where I record in my apartment the audio always comes out muted and kind of echoey, like talking through a metal tube. I don't know if it's something wrong with the space or with the settings but I would love a second opinion.

Audio examples would certainly help pinpoint the differences... but assuming your interface settings are more or less the same, there are really only two possibilities:

1. The position (or aiming) of the mic in relation to your mouth was significantly different... or...

2. The closet acoustics were significantly different (due to size, or content)

I'm opting for the latter as the most likely cause. Our ears and brain are incredibly good at ignoring room reflections, so without training and experience it's actually quite hard for most people to recognise quite how different different rooms and spaces really do sound... but those differences stand out very obviously on a recording, as you have discovered!

I don't know how you set yourself up in your closet, but you'll get the best results if you can arrange your back to absorbent material -- hanging clothes or whatever -- and have that also extend around to the sides. The idea is to prevent sounds from reflecting off the rear and side walls and straight back into the most sensitive front side of the mic, over your shoulders.

The 'tubey' sound you describe sounds like it might be a comb-filtering effect. This happens if the direct sound is combined with a strong, but slightly delayed version of itself, the delay being a few milliseconds -- 5-10ms, typically. That could easily happen if, for example, you have strong reflections off the ceiling or front wall of the closet which are maybe 3-5 feet away from the mic. If so, more absorbent material is required...

H
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Re: Changed recording space w/same equipment and audio radically different

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Tue Oct 22, 2019 11:54 am

Time to send in the duvets. Seriously, when I first started trying to get serious recordings done at home, I did all the vocals and mic-ed up guitar etc under a tent made of two duvets. Transformed the quality instantly as you have discovered.

PS I remember reading that comedy legend John Shuttleworth used to record his radio shows in the wardrobes of hotel rooms when he was on tour for the same reason.
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Re: Changed recording space w/same equipment and audio radically different

Postby CS70 » Tue Oct 22, 2019 12:19 pm

Gorecreek wrote:Thank you all in advance and let me know what other info might help you help me!

All the other said - the recording space is the key, together with your performance.

Have a look of https://www.theaudioblog.org/post/what- ... -recording for my thoughts on the subject
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Re: Changed recording space w/same equipment and audio radically different

Postby Gorecreek » Tue Oct 22, 2019 2:24 pm

This has been really thoughtful and helpful and I appreciate all of these replies!

I was pretty sure it had to do with the space but I'm just a bit baffled as I have gone to some lengths to treat my space at home with acoustic foam on three of the walls and clothes behind me. Whereas the other space was not treated at all and had three bare walls with clothes behind the mic. I will try treating the ceiling and see if that helps. Is it possible for the space to be too insulated?

Also worth noting, though I think the setting I'm using are the same on my interface and recording software I'm not 100% sure as I don't keep as good of track as I should and things could have gotten bumped during travel. I have played around with these a little but nothing seems to effect it all that much.

Anyway here are two samples of the different audio if that is useful for anyone. It's a little bit less than 30 seconds and more of a rough edit just so you can hear audio quality.

Clear audio from my parent's house: https://soundcloud.com/user-971069776/clean-audio

Tubey audio from my home set up: https://soundcloud.com/user-971069776/tubey-audio

Like I said this has already been so helpful and I will continue to play with the acoustics but if anyone has any comments based on the samples I would love to hear those as well!

Thanks again!
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Re: Changed recording space w/same equipment and audio radically different

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Oct 22, 2019 2:34 pm

Gorecreek wrote:Is it possible for the space to be too insulated?

Yes, absolutely!

Thin foam tends to absorb only the higher frequencies, so it's not unusual for people to end up with too much absorption at mid and high frequencies, but not enough at low mid and low frequencies. The result can be really boxy or boomy sounding....

I have played around with these a little but nothing seems to effect it all that much.

No, other than setting the level too high or low (with obvious distortion or noise as a result) there isn't much to affect the sound quality in the way you've described there.

Your second file sounds to me like there is a very strong reflection coming from something near to the mic. It could be the table top, or a wall perhaps, or the ceiling.

Try placing a heavy folded towel over the table for starters to see if that helps. You can also experiment with the mic position, placing it so that it wont receive direct reflections from the table top.
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Re: Changed recording space w/same equipment and audio radically different

Postby Gorecreek » Tue Oct 22, 2019 2:39 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Yes, absolutely!

Thin foam tends to absorb only the higher frequencies, so it's not unusual for people to end up with too much absorption at mid and high frequencies, but not enough at low mid and low frequencies. The result can be really boxy or boomy sounding....

That good to know! Do you have recommendation for a home fix to this issue? Or even a type/brand of foam that would alive this issue?
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Re: Changed recording space w/same equipment and audio radically different

Postby CS70 » Tue Oct 22, 2019 2:41 pm

Gorecreek wrote:This has been really thoughtful and helpful and I appreciate all of these replies!

I was pretty sure it had to do with the space but I'm just a bit baffled as I have gone to some lengths to treat my space at home with acoustic foam on three of the walls and clothes behind me. Whereas the other space was not treated at all and had three bare walls with clothes behind the mic. I will try treating the ceiling and see if that helps. Is it possible for the space to be too insulated?

It's more about the frequencies that you are absorbing. Unless you're lucky, most materials will absorb only relatively narrow frequency bands, and reflect freely the rest of the 20-20K band. The key to absorption is air molecules entering small "tunnels" in the material and losing energy hitting the walls.

Another critical issue is the the mic position, which in turn depends on the shape and size of the room. Comb filtering due to reflections destroys information at the mic, but what information is destroyed (or reinforced) makes a big difference to the timbre.
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Re: Changed recording space w/same equipment and audio radically different

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Oct 22, 2019 2:44 pm

I'm not a fan of 'acoustic foams'... proper panels made with mineral wool are generally better and more cost-effective.

However, if you want/need to use foams then use the thicker types. 2-inches minimum, four inches is better. And ideally, space it away from the wall by the same distance as it's own thickness -- that improves and extends the low-end absorption quite significantly.

If you have a rummage in the magazine's online Studio SOS articles, you'll quickly get a good idea of what to do and how to do it!

https://www.soundonsound.com/search/articles/Studio%20SOS
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Re: Changed recording space w/same equipment and audio radically different

Postby Bob Bickerton » Tue Oct 22, 2019 8:47 pm

Yes, most acoustic foam looks like the real deal but often doesn’t cut it.

I have used Autex products such as this one http://www.autexindustries.com/acoustics/quietspace-panel/ which has similar absorption coefficients to fibreglass/rockwool but is much safer to use, easy to cut and has a surface finish on it.

I see there’s now quite a range of suppliers of this product in the UK.

(Hugh, would be worth a review sometime.............. check out the coefficients in this paper: http://www.autexindustries.com/assets/Uploads/documents/IA-QP-QS-Panel-Brochure-Jul19-SB.pdf

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Re: Changed recording space w/same equipment and audio radically different

Postby Urthlupe » Wed Oct 23, 2019 10:04 am

Hey Gorecreek.....

That definitely sounds like room reflections to me rather than problems created in hardware/software settings. To make sure, simply pick up your mic and move to a different space at home while recording and compare. If the same ‘tubey’ sound remains as you move then you have a configuration issue with your rig. If not, then it’s your recording space.

If it is room reflections then it sounds like time for you to get someone in before you disappear further down the same rabbit hole. Somehow sound is reaching a surface and reflecting back into the mic, possibly penetrating your existing foam to the surface beneath.

You might also consider where your script is and how that might be causing reflections back to the mic. Again test by recording with and without.

Or maybe you could have a try with duvet (behind you) and reflexion filter (behind mic).

Wasn’t there a system on the market where you basically stick your head and the mic in an insulated box.....?

:-) Loopy
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Re: Changed recording space w/same equipment and audio radically different

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Wed Oct 23, 2019 10:33 am

One of these might help too. Good investment for any studio.
https://www.andertons.co.uk/recording/acoustic-treatment/se-electronics-reflexion-filter-pro
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Re: Changed recording space w/same equipment and audio radically different

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Wed Oct 23, 2019 10:37 am

Wasn’t there a system on the market where you basically stick your head and the mic in an insulated box.....?

Yes, you can see it being tested in this Indian school...
Image
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