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Removing Microphone Background Noise (AT 2035)

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Removing Microphone Background Noise (AT 2035)

Postby beansbear5 » Fri Dec 01, 2017 2:32 pm

I recently purchased a microphone as I want to start recording voice overs of gameplay as well as doing let’s play commentary videos for a YouTube channel. I apologize for the length of this post in advance, but I really want to give anyone who reads through a great layout of the situation.

The microphone that I purchased is an Audio Technica AT 2035. Currently it is situated on a Rode PSA1 boom arm and it is also on a shock mount with a pop filter as well. I believe that the audio interface I have is called a Scarlett 2i2, and the mic is hooked up via XLR, not USB.

When you consider the equipment I have, although not top of the line, it’s still quite solid, and you would think that achieving acceptable audio quality would be no problem at all.

However, it has been a nightmare for me.

I have attempted to record my first let’s play multiple times, and when I finish the first session, I edit everything (video + audio) and watch through it on Adobe Premiere, my editing software.

The editing that I do in Audacity consists of noise removal, compression, bass + treble boost, and normalization. I learned these editing techniques from videos that I have watched on YouTube.

Now, my PlayStation 4 is getting pretty old and as it ages it has become quite noisy. I’m sure that the PS4 is due for a good cleaning, but my microphone is clearly picking up the hum that the PS4 is putting out and it even picks up the louder noises in my headphones as well (I have an Astro A40 headset w/ mixamp). I’ve turned the volume on my headset about as low as I can without disrupting my gaming experience and it still slightly picks the noise up. This isn’t my main concern however because the loud noises from the headset are overshadowed by the game audio (noise removal in Audacity makes this far less noticeable as well). My main concern is blocking the hum from the PS4.

It seems that the noise removal on Audacity takes care of the hum on my PS4 when I’m not talking, but when I speak you can clearly hear the hum distorting the audio of my voice.

Honestly I think I have tried every solution I can think of. Turn the gain down on the audio interface and turn the microphone levels up in Windows. Turn the gain up on the audio interface and turn the levels down in Windows. Turn the gain down on my audio interface and turn the levels down in Windows (I obviously have to boost the levels of my voice in the editing process when I do this, which makes the background noise noticeable again). I’ve also tried using the microphone on the other computer downstairs. Nothing seems to help with removing the loud hum from my PS4.

I have quite a few cables in the same general area, not sure if this can cause any interference? Would be curious to know your opinion on that.

If anyone has a similar mic setup to mine and you get quality audio, I’d love to know the exact setup that you have going on. I just find it so hard to believe that I can’t record my voice without noises from the background disrupting every word I say. Any tips for OBS are greatly appreciated as well, as I would love to livestream in the future.

I truly appreciate any help and advice you guys can put out there. I’ve already invested plenty of hours trying to get my YouTube channel moving and I am just not satisfied :(

Thank YOU in advance!!!
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Re: Removing Microphone Background Noise (AT 2035)

Postby molecular » Fri Dec 01, 2017 3:37 pm

I would say you could make a bigger difference with practical physical solutions than with noise removal etc.

e.g. ideally you'd get really long controller and video extension cables and just get the PS4 as far away fro the mic as possible (even into a different room?).

If that's unachievable, you could put a cardboard box over it with vent holes and cover as much of it as you can with a duvet.

Then make sure your room isn't reverberant in a way that exaggerates the machine noise... so hanging another duvet behind your seat and closing in on the mic (a little bit) will help a lot.

Finally, make sure you are set up in such a way that the noisy stuff is directly behind the mic while you are directly in front of it to make best use of its polar pattern.

Any of these steps (if you haven't already taken them) will make a big difference and save you time using noise reduction stuff.

EDIT: also what kind of headphones are you using? some are a lot leakier than others.
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Re: Removing Microphone Background Noise (AT 2035)

Postby Wonks » Fri Dec 01, 2017 4:49 pm

The headphones look to be closed-back types, but might possibly be semi-open depending on the lead arrangements.

You might find that a pair of non-gaming headphones provides better attenuation of the headphone sound e,g. Sennheiser HD 280 Pros, which are good, fairly affordable, 'tracking' headphones with a good degree of isolation.

However condenser mics are very good at picking up low level noise. Study the 'polar' plot that came with the mic. You'll see that most of the sound pickup is from the front of the mic, but the sides also pick up a fair amount of noise and it's only at the rear of the mic that you get a good level of reduced pickup. But if you look closer at that pattern, you'll note that as the frequency gets lower, the more sound is picked up from the rear. So it is vital to get anything noisy right at the back of the mic, and as far away as possible.

How far away from the mic are you when you speak? The nearer you are to the mic, the stronger your voice is and the weaker other noises are. You don't want to get too close, but 6"-8" should be fine if you are speaking, not shouting. This may not be possible with the way you're set-up, but keep it in mind.

Cardioid mics exhibit a strong 'bass boost' effect when you speak close to them, which drops off quickly as the mic is moved further away. You might think that too much bass is a bad thing, but it is always better to cut frequencies than boost them. So if the mic is currently say 18"/45cm away, if you can get the mic nearer to you, then it helps.

Having the 80Hz high-pass filter on the mic switched on is what you want for this application.

One thing you don't mention is 'band pass filtering' the track. The first thing to put on the track inserts (or the first process done) should be to add at least a high-pass filter, ideally 24dB/octave or better, set as high as it can without affecting the tone of your voice (normally somewhere between 100Hz and 200Hz) and probably a low-pass filter as well as you won't need anything above 15kHz for your purpose. The high-pass filter will cut out a lot of the background noise on its own.

Do you know what compression actually does? It reduces the dynamic range of sounds above a given threshold - which makes the track quieter - and then you add gain to the track, which generally brings the level back to where it was before - but in doing so - it makes the quieter noises louder. So your background noise becomes more noticeable! Yes, it makes your voice sound thicker, but if you can hear yourself fine without it, then don't use it. If you are forever going loud then quiet then loud again, then, yes, it can help. But it's better to try and keep a constant voice level. If you can get a noiseless voice-only track recorded, then by all means add some compression, but with a fair bit of background noise, I'd leave it out.

If you get the mic nearer, then you may not need to boost any bass - you may need to cut it a bit instead. And if you can hear yourself clearly, then don't add any treble. For voice clarity and punch, you might want to boost the upper mids by a few dB. Everyone's voice is different and benefits from EQ at different frequencies. Don't go got a one-size-fits-all approach. It's what makes your voice sound better that counts. You will normally find that cutting at some frequencies may help more than boosting at others.

The noise reduction algorithm is probably introducing distortions of its own to your vocal sound (not just the background hum). Rather than use it at all, a noise gate would be better, though Audacity doesn't seem to have one in its list of effects. But arrange everything for the lowest possible noise to start with, record, then use the high and low pass filtering first, then the overall noise reduction (if still necessary). as the less noise there is, the better the noise reduction will work and the less affect it will have on your voice.

Avoid using compression if possible, or just use the minimum necessary (don't use pre-set values).

YouTube now auto-levels the sound when videos are uploaded, so there's no need to make it sound as loud as possible.

If you do normalise then, I'd normalise at about -3 or -4 dBFS to avoid any inter-peak clipping when YouTube process the track. Never normalise to 0dB.
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Re: Removing Microphone Background Noise (AT 2035)

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Dec 01, 2017 5:19 pm

beansbear5 wrote:The microphone that I purchased is an Audio Technica AT 2035. Currently it is situated on a Rode PSA1 boom arm and it is also on a shock mount with a pop filter as well. I believe that the audio interface I have is called a Scarlett 2i2, and the mic is hooked up via XLR, not USB.

When you consider the equipment I have, although not top of the line, it’s still quite solid, and you would think that achieving acceptable audio quality would be no problem at all.

Absolutely. This is all good-quality equipment capable of delivering very decent sound quality if used appropriately.

The editing that I do in Audacity consists of ... compression, bass + treble boost, and normalization. I learned these editing techniques from videos that I have watched on YouTube.

You do realise that all of these processes increase any background noise too, don't you?

...my microphone is clearly picking up the hum that the PS4 is putting out and it even picks up the louder noises in my headphones as well...

Yep, that's what mics are designed to do -- pick up sounds around and in front of them. There are only three ways to reduce unwanted ambient sounds: 1. remove the noise source completely, 2. move the mic closer to the wanted sound source and away from the unwanted noise source, and 3. Treat the room acoustics to minimise the amount of unwanted sounds bouncing around and getting back into the front and sides of the mic.

(I have an Astro A40 headset w/ mixamp). I’ve turned the volume on my headset about as low as I can without disrupting my gaming experience and it still slightly picks the noise up.

I believe the A40 is an type of open-backed headphone. This design concept is great for sound quality, but inherently leaks a lot of sound. The same problem exists in recording studios when a vocalist is singing to backing tracks etc. The solution is to use a closed-back type of headphone instead. I think there is a mod-kit for the A40 that achieves much better noise-leakage and isolation ( https://www.astrogaming.co.uk/accessories/MOD-KIT.html?dwvar_MOD-KIT_color=COD#start=1 )

My main concern is blocking the hum from the PS4.

Your first port of call should be to identify the source of hum and reduce it acoustically as far as possible. For example, it may be that the mechanical noise is being amplified by its vibrations getting into the shelf or table that it is placed upon. This could probably be reduced by mounting the PS4 on a layer of dense foam or some form of commercial anti-vibration support.

You might also be able to reduce the unwanted noise reaching the microphone by screening it behind or enclosing it within some acoustic screens -- such as large foam panels. Simple DIY tricks like this can make an enormous difference. You can experiment on the cheap by building an acoustic tent using a thick winter-grade double-duvet and a clothes-drying frame, for example.

It seems that the noise removal on Audacity takes care of the hum on my PS4 when I’m not talking, but when I speak you can clearly hear the hum distorting the audio of my voice.

Setting up noise-reduction processing to work well without introducing unwanted side effects is very difficult and requires considerable experience and familiarity with the tools in hand, I'm afraid.

Honestly I think I have tried every solution I can think of....

First, treat the local acoustics to minimise the unwanted noise audible in the room as described above. Next, place the mic as close to you as you can, but ideally not directly in front of you mouth as that may cause issues with popping and excessive bass boost. I generally find the best position is around 6-inches away and roughly level with your forehead, tilted down towards the mouth -- but you could also try placing it at the side or even below at chest level looking up.

As the mic has a cardioid polar pattern, position it so that the back of it is facing the PS4 to minimise direct sound pickup, and the front facing your mouth.

It is the front of the mic which is most sensitive, and that will not only capture sound from your mouth, but also anything that has bounced off the wall behind you that reaches the mic over your shoulders! So hanging another large thick duvet behind you -- ideally in a U-shape extending to the sides too -- can make a big difference to the amount of unwanted ambient noise being picked up.

And finally, Boosting the treble will always increase the amount of audible hiss, boosting the bass will always boost the audible room tone and mechanical hums from equipment, and compression will boost all background sounds -- and very obviously so if you have a large amount of gain reduction and fast recovery time settings. So all these tools should be used very sparingly. Some gentle peak limiting would probably be more effective than generic compression...

Hope that helps

H
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Re: Removing Microphone Background Noise (AT 2035)

Postby CS70 » Fri Dec 01, 2017 10:50 pm

beansbear5 wrote:I truly appreciate any help and advice you guys can put out there. I’ve already invested plenty of hours trying to get my YouTube channel moving and I am just not satisfied :(

Wonks and Hugh and molecular has made all the relevant points: get more isolating phones and point the mic away from the playstation, the playstation as away as you can and nearer to you. Some level of DYI isolation will reduce reflections, so that the unwanted noise doesn't reach the mic from the sides.

Cardioid mics like the 2035 have a "null" at the back: the mic won't pick up much of what's there (it will pick up reflections of what's there coming from the sides tough.. which is why you want the playstation far and/or isolate it). Don't compress (unless is't simply to reduce dynamics, with makeup gain at 0 and no gain compensation) nor boost bass and treble. If you need your voice to cut thru, apply high Q peaks of around 1K or 2K or 5K (sweep to see where best). 3dB should be plenty, but a good trick is to sweep thru the frequencies with a medium Q and hi gain, then increase the Q and reduce the gain once you've found the sweet spot. High pass everything from at least 70Hz up.

Clean the PS4 ? :D
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Re: Removing Microphone Background Noise (AT 2035)

Postby beansbear5 » Sat Dec 02, 2017 3:06 am

Don't know if I'm just stupid, but I couldn't figure out how to delete this post :headbang:

So see my next post please if you're still hanging around :lol:
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Re: Removing Microphone Background Noise (AT 2035)

Postby beansbear5 » Sat Dec 02, 2017 3:26 am

I expected to possibly get one response, maybe two, but you guys have really surprised me. You have no idea how much I appreciate it! I'd like to respond to all of you individually, but I'd be typing for an hour :tongue: So I'll just sum it all up into one response!

I'm going to combine all of these tips as best as I can, and see what I come up with. To be completely honest, I think I just may be able to work this out :) Clearly I am a beginner when it comes to audio. I'm sitting here thinking that a stupid noise reduction in Audacity would be the answer to all my problems. I thought that I had exhausted all my options, when meanwhile, there is plenty more I can do to solve this issue.

I've already moved my Playstation 4 to the other side of the room and I am definitely considering the closed back headphone mod kit for my Astro's that one of you guys were kind enough to search up and recommend. I'm going to can the whole compression, bass/treble boost, etc. and at the most I will just use a filter to block out the lower frequencies. Especially after learning that those editing techniques just increase background noise (clearly I'm a novice at this and clearly YouTube videos taught me wrong :thumbdown:) The Playstation, while across the room now, is still angled to the side of the microphone, I can't really get it behind the mic with how my room is set up. If need be, I will set up a duvet as a few of you have recommended. I'm going to decrease the gain on my microphone to about 9 o'clock and move the microphone a bit closer to my mouth. And finally, I think I'll bust this damned PS4 open tomorrow and give it the cleaning it deserves :lol:

I really believe that all of these tips combined are going to make a huge difference! I'm not sure if I'll be able to get any recording done tonight, but if not, I have the day off tomorrow and will absolutely be getting plenty done as long as everything works out! I will report back once I get some done and let you guys know how it's turned out!

I appreciate the time you guys have taken out of your day to help me out.

Thank all of you SO much!! :clap: :thumbup: :clap: :thumbup:
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Re: Removing Microphone Background Noise (AT 2035)

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Dec 02, 2017 3:47 am

beansbear5 wrote:
Now, my PlayStation 4 is getting pretty old and as it ages it has become quite noisy. I’m sure that the PS4 is due for a good cleaning, but my microphone is clearly picking up the hum that the PS4 is putting out...

The PS4 has probably become noisy not because it has aged but because being fan cooled, as are many modern electronic devices, it has sucked up lots of dust from the room, the dust is impeding the cooling process, forcing the fan to work very hard, making a lot more noise than it should...

In short the PS4's air cooling system probably needs a good clean by a skilled technician. As well as reducing the noise, the cleaning will prolong the working life of your PS4.

With the Noise reduction tool, my guess is 99% of people dont know how to use this badly misunderstood and abused tool, and of the 1% who do understand how to use it, they use it very sparingly in perhaps 1% of situations. My general advice would be to leave it alone...

All the best with your project.

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Re: Removing Microphone Background Noise (AT 2035)

Postby The Elf » Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:08 am

beansbear5 wrote:clearly YouTube videos taught me wrong :thumbdown:)
40% of my audio tuition these days seems to be trying to undo the damage that YouTube videos have done. There's a lot of downright bad information on there. A lot of good stuff too, but how would a novice know the difference?...
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Re: Removing Microphone Background Noise (AT 2035)

Postby paulbulman » Mon Dec 04, 2017 7:14 pm

Apologies for the very basic question, and/or if you've described this already and I've missed it, but are you 100% sure you're speaking into the correct part of the mic?! Others have already mentioned about speaking into the "front" of the mic, but if you're very new to this it's perhaps not altogether obvious with that particular mic which part the front is: there are three grille sections, none of which look necessarily wrong. If you're speaking into the back (or into the end) of the mic then it will effectively be pointing directly away from you (or at some combination of the floor/walls/ceiling, depending on how it's rotated), and you'll be getting much more of some weird combination of reflections/other unwanted noise than you otherwise would.

I've never used that particular mic, so hopefully others will quickly correct me if I'm wrong(!), but I'd expect that the front of the mic is the side with the AT logo, but without the low-cut/pad switches. You therefore want the mic so that this side is approximately facing you - give or take the advice about positioning it level with your forehead and pointing down towards your mouth - and then the XLR connector/cable perpendicular to the direction you're facing (rather than pointing directly away from you like it would be with e.g. most handheld mics).

It's probably not this - again, in which case apologies for being patronising! - but I'm sure you'd be far from the first to make such a mistake, and it's an easy thing to check, so thought it seemed worth mentioning. If the null was pointing at your mouth it might explain why it's been such a "nightmare".
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Re: Removing Microphone Background Noise (AT 2035)

Postby The Elf » Mon Dec 04, 2017 7:29 pm

Well said. I've lost count of the number of YouTube videos I've seen with the host speaking into the top of a side-address microphone!
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