Fixing noise in soft recordings

Hey, there!

One of my remote ProPlus clients, Lee (who is, by the way, absolutely killing it in DC, taking to VO like a duck to water – every month, he’s taking the video VO classes, sending in the work to me for review, we chat and he’s chugging right along) had a problem.

He sent me this month’s homework, and while I was listening, I noticed a lot of unwanted room noise in his recordings.

At first, I thought he might have the wrong mic selected in Audacity’s input device settings. It’s pretty common for that to be the case.

But he wrote back saying that everything was correct, and that things sounded good before he normalized his work, so…

And that was the clue for me.

I asked him to record a clip, and normalize it, saving both versions as MP3s for me to listen to.

He did me one better: he took a screen shot of his normalization dialog:

Normalization Settings

(Click on it to see the full size screenshot.)

He had his normalization set to 0.0. I like that (I like -3.0 better) – but look at how small the waveforms are in the recording!

And you can see why: in the screen shot, you can also see the input level setting in the upper right hand corner – it’s at 1 out of 10, around 5-10% of full input volume:

Normalization Settings-zoom

That means a barely audible sound, and when normalized, the volume will be raised by 10-20 times, and all that room noise is going to be 10 to 20 times louder too.

And that was Lee’s problem.

The fix? Simple.

I had Lee increase the recording level to 40 or 50% of full input volume by sliding the control to the right to 4 out of 10:

Normalization Settings 2-zoom

Room noise will stay the same, but when normalized to -3.0, the volume of the recording will be raised no more than a little bit, as will the room noise. And the difference was amazing. Lee took another screen shot after he’d made the change – and the sound was incredible:

Normalization Settings 2

(You can click on this one to make it bigger as well.)

Look how much bigger those waveforms are. That means they are much louder (without being distorted) – but the room noise is the same. And it won’t be increased all that much, if at all, when he normalizes the clip.

If that normalization is at -3.0 (which is a good habit to get into anyway, as that’s what ACX wants everything to be at), the noise floor will go down proportionally to the reduction in overall volume:


Here’s your takeaway: make sure that you’re recording at a decent level – usually around a 4 or 5 on the scale of 10, but maybe a bit higher or lower. That’s where Audacity has it when you first install it, so you probably have it set that way now – but you should check. And be nice and close to your mic – around an inch and a half or so (three fingers) between you and the mic.

Hope this helps.


10 Responses to 6 Steps to a Perfect VO Demo

  1. Kelli August 18, 2011 at 2:58 am #

    I feel really good about my demo. It is a quick and fun process, even for someone like me who gets very self concious. :)

  2. David Britz September 5, 2011 at 11:25 pm #

    The demos are great. Superb quality. Why go anywhere else?

  3. David Britz October 20, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    Can’t wait to record my Narration VO Demo!! :))

  4. Mike Brang December 31, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    Having a well-produced demo is one of the most important things in the VO business. I had a number of demos made from other producers in the past and they all had one thing in common — that manufactured, cookie cutter sound!
    What sets David apart from the rest, besides his affordable price and tremendously fast turn around time, is that all of the clips you record with him sound unique. Each spot sounds like an actual commercial you recorded for a job.
    My agent loved the quality and even asked who produced it to refer his other talent there!

    Thanks again, David for producing such a great, high quality demo for me. You made the process relaxing and enjoyable. I urge anyone reading this unsolicited reply to listen to David’s student demos to hear the difference for yourself. Anyone would be lucky to work with him

  5. Kristy Liles February 9, 2017 at 7:04 pm #

    I can not thank you enough. I worked so hard on 15 page IVR project, one day I cryed, look for answers, pull my hear (not really) but I was about until another VO send me this great tool. Thanks!

  6. Frank June 11, 2017 at 9:51 pm #


    When v123 indicates the audition is for a student/ nonprofit are we to assume it is for $0. If so, why does the audition ask for an amount to be entered?

  7. shirley jordan June 12, 2017 at 5:58 pm #

    I did get this scam through Voice 123. In our discourse, they offered me the gig and they gave me the name of a legit local place to record and the same runaround with the money. I didn’t send anything, but instead, I called the studio to make sure the booking was for the day we set up, and lo and behold, the people there had no idea what I was talking about. I then tried to call back my “contact person” who was setting this up and there was a fax machine beep on the other end. I immediately contacted Voice 123 and told them what had happened. You know what they say…if it sounds togaed to be true, it probably is. Thanks for the reminder!

  8. shirley jordan June 12, 2017 at 5:59 pm #

    …too good…not togaed.
    The one time spell check didn’t work!

  9. Bernard Prame July 1, 2017 at 9:44 pm #

    extremely helpful demo. Thank you!

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