Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

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Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by Mad Scientist »

Hi everyone \o
New to Sound On Sound and this site looked like the right place to ask for advice.

I'm looking to get a mic for the purposes of voice recording and podcasts, the quality is reasonably important as I want to use the voice recordings for video productions. I actually already have a Rode-NT USB mic but I don't think it's suitable for the purposes I want.

My problem is that I live in a somewhat noisy area there is nothing I can really do about this, my Rode mic is a very good general purpose mic but it's extremely sensitive and if I can hear something like a dog barking really far away or footsteps downstairs so can my mic.

I'm looking for a mic that if possible, will only record sound within a very close distance to the mic and would appreciate any advice. I've seen a lot of people recording with small clip microphones, would that work? If this is not possible then is there any way to mitigate these problems with the equipment I already have?
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by jamedia.uk »

From your post it sounds like ( :smirk: ) you live/ work in an appurtenant/office that has no sound proofing and a lot of external ambient noise.

You have the choice of make your location, or a part of it more sound insulated or record somewhere else. I recall reading a book on voice over where the author when in a similar fix (trying to work on the road away from his studio ) did his audio in his car. Either in motel car park or drove somewhere quiet.

The alternative is to make a sound booth at your location. It does not have to be expensive.
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by ore_terra »

And a cardioid dinamic mic sm58-ish?
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by molecular »

jagraphics wrote:The alternative is to make a sound booth at your location. It does not have to be expensive.

I don't know about that, myself. My own experience has been that treating the acoustics of a space can be worthwhile cheaply and easily, but trying to isolate/soundproof a space is completely different and acoustic treatment has basically no effect on distant barking dogs unless you're doing something very intrusive to the building.

I have had the best results in this kind of circumstance with an EV RE20 which you can get right up to with a great natural sound. Others on here, I think, recommend a Beyer M99 or a Shure SM7 for similar reasons.

For spoken word stuff I would normally then put on a carefully placed high pass filter and either gate the results or use Pro Tools' "Strip Silence" feature which is sometimes better than gating.
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by Mike Stranks »

molecular wrote:
jagraphics wrote:The alternative is to make a sound booth at your location. It does not have to be expensive.

I don't know about that, myself. My own experience has been that treating the acoustics of a space can be worthwhile cheaply and easily, but trying to isolate/soundproof a space is completely different and acoustic treatment has basically no effect on distant barking dogs unless you're doing something very intrusive to the building.

Quite so...

If you want good voice recordings then the environment is ultra-important. Unless you rebuild your room (and I do mean 'rebuild') then you'll probably always have issues with dogs, trucks, sirens, aircraft and so on.

By using a mic that's designed to be used up-close then you can ameliorate the problem, but never completely eradicate it. To the list of candidates already given I'd add the Rode Podcaster/Procaster.

The 'ultimate' mic for this situation is the Coles 4115: http://www.coleselectroacoustics.com/microphones/4115-broadcasters-microphone

Its designed to be used touching your top lip... in all probability you'll have heard it used countless times without realising... They (or their 'commentator' equivalent) come up on EBay from time to time. The downside is that - for obvious reasons - you have to hold the mic rather than having it stand-mounted. Unless you can use a different room this is probably the best in terms of isolation that you'll achieve.
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by Bob Bickerton »

If you can't improve the space in which you are working, then one option would be to use a microphone which you can work very close. This will be no magic bullet - it'll be better because you're working it very close, so your voice will sound louder RELATIVE to external noise. (Though using a cardioid or hypercardioid in this scenario will appear to attenuate lower frequency distant sounds as the mic's frequency response is tailored to compensate for proximity effect, an effect that emphasises lower frequencies from close sources).

So I'd recommend a stage dynamic cardioid or hypercardioid microphone and my picks would be a Beyerdynamic M69, M201, or maybe an Audix OM7. You may need to use a 'pop sock' if you generate plosives when speaking and also you'll need a simple audio interface to get the signal from your microphone into the computer.

Studio condensers are designed to be used at a greater distance, so the relative difference between voice and noise is not as great. The 'clip on' mics you refers to are generally Omni directional, so would be worse. Much as I like the SM7 and RE20 mentioned, their capsules are set back from the grill and so not as useful for noise attenuation.

Have set this up an 'expander' plug in could be useful. This sort of plug in attenuates the signal under a certain threshold, so is not as severe as a gate. Waves PSE plug in or something similar would do the trick.

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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by Tim Gillett »

As already mentioned, getting close increases the voice relative to the background sounds but maintaining a "close micing" distance consistently for long periods can be hard work.

You may find a headset mic helps in this regard. It can be set up close and the distance doesnt change. It frees you to move your head and body without worrying about the mic distance, and if you're reading a paper script there's no mic shadow to worry about.
There are good quality models attached to headphones. Normally you'd need headphones for monitoring anyway.
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by Bob Bickerton »

But if you do get a headset microphone, make sure it's a cardioid or hypercardioid model like an AKG C520. Most of them are omnidirectional, so not as effective in attenuating external noise.

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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by Guest »

From my mic collection the picks for such an application would be Shure Beta58, Beyer M102 and Audix OM? (I have an OM3). Dedicated hypercardioid stage mics often have a tailored sound designed for being used up close (such as the Beta58), whereas a bona fide classic like the M102 is more balanced (but does have a serious bass lift when used real close, so you may need to apply a high pass filter). Bear in mind that hypercardioid mics are very sensitive to the position of the source - if you move your head around whilst speaking, you'll hear the sound changing, often radically so.
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by jamedia.uk »

I wasn't thinking of building a studio or booth in the apartment but there must be some things he can do to improve the room so that when combined with the {new?) mic and improved technique give a substantial improvement.

for example http://www.flightcasehardware.co.uk/index.php?route=product/product&path=62_127&product_id=885
with a quilt suspended behind the speaker could damp pout a lot of it. maybe have some suitable (licensed) music playing in the room to obscure the rest?

Of course the tother thing is to "use" the ambient noise as part of the background atmosphere. It depends on what the videos/podcasts are about?
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by Mad Scientist »

Thanks so much for all the replies everyone! Lots of useful advice. After looking at some of the suggested mics I think I've narrowed it down to between the Shure Beta 58, Beyerdynamic M201 or maybe even the Shure SM7B at the upper budget end if I can raise the money. Maybe I should add that I'm looking for a clean voice recording sound that distinct 'radio sound' you get with a lot of podcasting mics, or maybe that's more to do with the recording techniques used?
e.g. I need to be able to record my voice with a clean sound like this: https://youtu.be/dgM8pjHl5bE instead of a radio sound like this: https://youtu.be/5vX2l8VnzWc
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by John Willett »

What Mike Stranks said :thumbup: - Coles Lip Mic (it's the one boxing commentators use at the ringside) - best there is. :thumbup:
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by Mike Stranks »

Mad Scientist wrote:Maybe I should add that I'm looking for a clean voice recording sound that distinct 'radio sound' you get with a lot of podcasting mics, or maybe that's more to do with the recording techniques used?
e.g. I need to be able to record my voice with a clean sound like this: https://youtu.be/dgM8pjHl5bE instead of a radio sound like this: https://youtu.be/5vX2l8VnzWc

Place not your trust in microphones....

I live in the countryside in a cul de sac off a quiet road.

My room is downstairs in a modern insulated house. The room is acoustically treated. It has good double glazing and two sets of curtains - a 'normal pair' for everyday use and a second very heavy pair which I close when recording myself or others... I use either the Procaster or Beyer 201... yet I always have to stop when a plane flies over - and I don't mean a low-level one - just ordinary aircraft. I could work the mic closer, but you do then get a 'radio' voice rather than the natural voice I think you're aiming for.

I'm not trying to be a smart****. I just feel that even with a different mic you won't get the environment you hope for... Is there no possibility at all of recording in a naturally quieter room?
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by Tim Gillett »

Mad Scientist wrote: e.g. I need to be able to record my voice with a clean sound like this: https://youtu.be/dgM8pjHl5bE instead of a radio sound like this: https://youtu.be/5vX2l8VnzWc

When close micing to reduce background noise, you will probably get boosted bass (your "radio" sound). Why not get a simple analog preamp/ mixer with a bass control. Turn the bass control anticlockwise until the voice returns to a more natural sound (your "clean sound").
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by jamedia.uk »

Mike Stranks wrote:
Mad Scientist wrote:
Place not your trust in microphones....
...................

I'm not trying to be a smart****. I just feel that even with a different mic you won't get the environment you hope for... Is there no possibility at all of recording in a naturally quieter room?


Agree completely. If you are going to use one of the lip mic's they use at boxing/football that the the ONLY style of sound you will get. It won't get rid of the background sounds either. At these sports events they only need to make the voice clear not remove the background noise/ambiance.

First you need to look at improving the environment you are recording in. Both the environment and the time(s) you do the recording Sounds like breakfast time is out if you get noise from adjacent apartments.

Looking at books on Voice-over in your situation they suggest moving where you live. People move for work and jobs all the time. You might have to. It might only be two buildings over or two streets to the other side of town but you should consider it. .
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by Hugh Robjohns »

jagraphics wrote:If you are going to use one of the lip mic's they use at boxing/football ... It won't get rid of the background sounds either. At these sports events they only need to make the voice clear not remove the background noise/ambiance.

As someone who has spent a fair few hours balancing the output of lip-ribbons in my time I have to say... er... no! That's not the case at all. Lip-ribbons do an amazing job -- by design -- of reducing background noise. They are configured, in effect, as a noise-cancelling microphone working (passively) in much the same way as (active) noise-cancelling headphones.

The lip-ribbon mic has a bi-directional capsule where the pickup lobes on the two sides are in opposite polarity.

When used correctly, it receives a very strong voice signal on one side only, and the leakage of that voice to the far side of the capsule is relatively low. In contrast, the unwanted ambient crowd noise is more or less equal in volume on both sides. Consequently, the crowd noise tends to get cancelled out, while the wanted voice is retained.

In addition, the lip-ribbon makes use of the proximity effect to further reduce ambient sound at low and mid frequencies. It is balanced for a flat response when used right under the nose, and any source more than about 2-inches away is captured with very little low end -- so the ambient sound is greatly reduced by that effect also.

However, brilliant though the lip-ribbon is in many situations, I'm not sure I'd really want to be using one all the time for pod-casting. Like others, I'd advocate sensible acoustic room treatment and a mic like the Shure SM7 or RE20 (or their cheaper equivalents). It is surprising what can be achieved with a few strategically placed duvets! ;-)

H
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by Mike Stranks »

Hugh Robjohns wrote: However, brilliant though the lip-ribbon is in many situations, I'm not sure I'd really want to be using one all the time for pod-casting. Like others, I'd advocate sensible acoustic room treatment and a mic like the Shure SM7 or RE20 (or their cheaper equivalents). It is surprising what can be achieved with a few strategically placed duvets! ;-)

Quite so Hugh. However the O/Ps original post said:

"My problem is that I live in a somewhat noisy area there is nothing I can really do about this"

Seems like this isn't an acoustics problem, but a sound-proofing one.
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by Hugh Robjohns »

Mike Stranks wrote:Seems like this isn't an acoustics problem, but a sound-proofing one.

Yes, I appreciate that, Mike. This is the world of realistic compromises, isn't it?

Retro-fitting genuinely effective and efficient 'noise proofing' treatment to a domestic bedroom or spare room is, in my experience, often a waste of time and effort because there are usually far too many flanking paths for unwanted sound to find a way in. If an adequately quiet background noise level can't be achieved through straightforward measures then I'd advise cutting the losses and finding an alternative recording venue.

So what are straightforward measures?

Obviously the basics like closing doors and windows fully, and sealing (temporarily) any air gaps -- particularly around and below doors. Good quality double glazed windows can keep out a lot of external sound, but where that's not an option I've had some success in reducing external noise by building removable custom-fit panels filled with mineral wool to fit snugly into window reveals.

After that, the duvets (or other broadband absorbers) placed all around the mic and voice artist can offer some useful attenuation of mid and high frequency ambient sound, while a high-pass filter can reduce low frequency noises -- especially if used in conjunction with a very closely-positioned mic designed for that purpose, such as the SM7 etc. It's often surprising just how high the filter can be set without affecting the voice character.

I'm not a fan of the 'voice booth' approach because most envisage a telephone box-sized booth is much too small and always sounds horrible. A dedicated booth design can work extremely well in appropriate situations, but the outer shell typically needs to be as big as the average UK spare bedroom, which makes it impractical for most hobbiests!

H
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by jamedia.uk »

I can recommend the book "Voice Actors Guide to recording at home ... and on the road" by Harland Hogan and Jeffrey Fisher https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Voice-Actors-Guide-Recording-Home/159863433X/ and http://harlanhogan.com/index.shtml for a Lot of very useful information on setting up an audio studio at home for voice work... some of it is a bit dated as it shows "the latest" bits and pieces from 2009 that said the methods and techniques are all good especially the bits on setting up a space at home for professional recording.

Though they do say if you live hear (Edit: a Freudian slip there!) near an airport, major road junction or on a popular route for emergency vehicles moving your location may be the only option.
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by Mad Scientist »

Thanks so much for all the help and advice everyone. Blown away by the amount of help I've gotten! I think I have enough info and advice now to make an effective solution for my situation. I won't be getting a mic for a while but I'll certainly use the advice given here and the advice on recording techniques. I might look at reading one of those voice actor books as well. Thanks!
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by mjfe2 »

Bob Bickerton wrote:So I'd recommend a stage dynamic cardioid or hypercardioid microphone and my picks would be a Beyerdynamic M69, M201, or maybe an Audix OM7. You may need to use a 'pop sock' if you generate plosives when speaking and also you'll need a simple audio interface to get the signal from your microphone into the computer.

I was just going to recommend a beyer hypercardioid too - the M69 will give a little more bite than the M201, but both are very nice. A dynamic mic's inherent HF roll-off will mitigate background noise, and you can automate an aggressive HPF to filter out rumbles. Izotope's RX Dialogue Denoiser should do the rest...
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by IronFilm »

I'd suggest going for a hypercardioid, so you've got some degree of side rejection going on.

Then get as close as you can, to raise the relative levels of what you want vs the background. So use a pop filter there as well.

Something like the Samson C02 is a popular and extremely dirt cheap hypercardioid you might like to consider trying out.

Curtis Judd's review of it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDy75_ciuf8
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Re: Looking for a mic for recording in a noisy environment

Post by Mike Stranks »

IronFilm wrote:I'd suggest going for a hypercardioid, so you've got some degree of side rejection going on.

Then get as close as you can, to raise the relative levels of what you want vs the background. So use a pop filter there as well.

Something like the Samson C02 is a popular and extremely dirt cheap hypercardioid you might like to consider trying out.

Curtis Judd's review of it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDy75_ciuf8

I have a huge respect for Curtiss... he produces excellent reviews in a calm, reasoned, informative manner. So I wouldn't want to take his review as an endorsement for a mic suitable for the OP's requirements

* The Samson C02 is a budget mic and is not hypercardioid... it's cardioid/supercardioid as Curtiss states. Thus, not so good in a poor acoustic environment.
* Curtiss also points out that the mic is quite bright in the high-mids and highs. I'd agree; I found it excessively bright for voice/vocal work and also slightly noisy/hissy
* Curtiss is talking about a mic for video booming... the OP is looking for a mic to use as a voice mic for podcasting in a noisy environment.

The Samson C02 is a respectable mic at it's pricepoint. IMHO it ain't the mic for this job...
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