How to Improve Your Voice from a Cheap Microphone with Audacity

Cheap microphone with HP laptop PC

Learn three easy Audacity tips for making your voice sound better, regardless of what microphone you use.

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Don't worry, I didn't record the whole podcast in a pirate voice.

Get close to your microphone

Even if you use a cheap or built-in mic for your podcast, you'll get a better sound if you can be 2–3 inches away from it. You may have to reduce your input volume when you do this.

Being closer will reduce the room reverb, reduce noise, and capture more of your voice.

Equalization

Equalization increases or decreases the volume of certain frequencies of sound.

Use the EMI 78 present in Effects > Equalization to easily enhance the quality from a cheap microphone. If you're missing this setting, download “‘record' EQ settings” and follow these directions to install.

Audacity Equalization effect: EMI 78 settings

Compression

Compression essentially evens out the volume of your audio. I recommend Chris's Dynamic Compressor. The exact settings for your audio will vary, but I've found that these settings work quite well on most recordings.

Chris's Dynamic Compressor settings for cheap mics

  • Compression ratio: 0.8
  • Compression hardness: around 0.8
  • Floor: -18.0 to -32.0
  • Noise gate falloff: 4.0
  • Maximum amplitude: 0.99 (default)

Normalization

Normalization's most popular use is to increase or decrease your audio so that the loudest point is at a certain level. I recommend -1dB.

Audacity Normalization effect

Get podcasting and Audacity tips by email

I now offer a free email newsletter for podcasting tips and Audacity tips. From the same sign-up form, you can also receive email from our other podcasts.

Need personalized podcasting help?

I no longer offer one-on-one consulting outside of Podcasters' Society, but request a consultant here and I'll connect you with someone I trust to help you launch or improve your podcast.

Ask your questions or share your feedback

  • Comment on the shownotes
  • Leave a voicemail at (903) 231-2221
  • Email feedback@TheAudacitytoPodcast.com (audio files welcome)

Connect with me

Disclosure

This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship and may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.

About the Author
As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters and Zoom H6 for Podcasters courses, the Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for WordPress, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcast about how to podcast. Daniel's other podcasts, a clean-comedy podcast, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, have also been nominated for multiple awards. Daniel and his son live near Cincinnati.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

58 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jim Kerwin
12 years ago

TATP #50 was interesting even to a listener with a good mic. (We have two ElectroVoice RE20’s, the standard mic in most radio studies in the U.S. Even Cliff admitted [in writing!] that it was comparable to his beloved Heil PR-40, though more expensive. As they were gifts, we found them much less expensive than the Heil!) I use the Multicomm Pro-XL compressor/limiter/gate at the Ravenscraft-prescribed settings, but I wonder if I’m getting enough compression. I speak only an inch or two away from the mic, and certain words and “plosives” (even with a double pop filter) spike the sound levels to near-clipping, keeping the db level uneven throughout.

That being the case, I’m wondering if it would be better to fiddle with the hardware compression settings further (though I don’t feel I know enough about the three middle dials — even after reading the manual — to experiment intelligently), try your suggested Audacity compression plug-in, or work at it from both directions. Your thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks!

Jim Kerwin
12 years ago

I guess I’ll have to experiment, adding software compression to the mix, and then going back to tweak the hardware compression if necessary.

Jim Kerwin
12 years ago

Daniel,

I could be wrong, but I think Chris's dynamic compressor is now included by default in Audacity 1.3.12-beta. After installing the version from your website, this is what I found on the Audacity menu system – http://kernelsofwheat.com/ccc-menu. Your (Chris's) version looks like this — http://kernelsofwheat.com/cdc-old. What is apparently the new version has the same five options, but adds two more — "Compress bright sounds" and "Boost bass sounds" — http://kernelsofwheat.com/cdc-new.

I apologize for the "Pretty Links," but I didn't see an option to upload screenshots.

Jim Kerwin
12 years ago

As you can see from the first link above, I have a boat-load of plug-ins, which must have been added as a batch. But when that happened, I can’t remember.
You mention bugs in 1.2.7 — are these related to the new features, or do they also affect the functions from 1.2.6?

Dave Thackeray
12 years ago

Danny, just wanted to say a big WELL DONE for making it to the epic half-century point. 50 is no slouch and you deserve praise for what you're achieving here.

Congrats, buddy – and here's to many more.

@iancamera
12 years ago

Hi Daniel-

I just found this podcast, I'm very interested in the audio production topics (like this one). I loved your invitation to send in samples. I'm just launching a family audacity project, in which different folks will be reading the parts to a chapter from winnie the pooh. The first to record has been my 5 year old, Julian. Given the range of ages, genders, and levels of experience that my "talent" will exhibit, I've been wondering about whether I should do this kind of editing to each part, then mix them, or try to edit a mixed whole.

I'm leaning toward improving each track through your equalize-compress-normalize and *then* try to mix them. BTW, I'm using a Samson Gtrack into audacity running on a macbook pro.

Any suggestions? Would it make sense to send you a short clip of my little guy, before-during-after, or wait till I've got all the parts on board?

Thanks, again!

Ian

Melissa Shanhun
12 years ago

On this topic – should I be processing my voice first then adding the intro outro and normalising the whole finished episode?

NJBrad
12 years ago

I didn't find the emi 78 option for equalization. Is it part of an add in? I'm using Audacity version 1.3.13, on Windows 7

NJBrad
12 years ago
Reply to  NJBrad

I found it. The "old" curves are in a separate download at http://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/EQCurvesDownloa

NJBrad
12 years ago

Thanks to the advice in this post, episode 1 of the BitBattle podcast has been released. It started as a "Why not? I've got an hour to kill". It doesn't match the quality of the "big boys", but it's mine! (it actually didn't turn out too badly for using a $5 microphone and free software) http://bitbattle.podbean.com . By the way I even got it listed on iTunes.

thedude
thedude
12 years ago
Reply to  NJBrad

Sounds good NJBrad. Mild mannered IT guy, I like it.

trackback

[…] you give Audacity or any other audio-editor bad audio, you can’t make it sound good. You can enhance what you record or even fix some glitches (like removing noise). But there’s no replacement for getting good […]

Wallys Modcast
Wallys Modcast
12 years ago

WIth the new 1.3.13 Beta the compression screen looks different without some of the options and has different ones than what you show on your 1.2.6. This makes it so i can not use Chris’s Dynamic Compressor. The options I have are Threshold, noise floor, Ratio, Attack Time, and decay time. Any ideas?

Chad Barbry
Chad Barbry
12 years ago

Do you have any suggestions for using the built-in compressor.  1) I would like to use it as part of a chain and I don’t see that as an option using Chris’s Dynamic Compressor and 2) if Chris’s isn’t maintained any longer I wonder about the compatibility of it with future version of Audacity.

Chad Barbry
Chad Barbry
12 years ago

Great!  Looking forward to it!

Wallys Modcast
Wallys Modcast
12 years ago

Ah, Perfect! Thanks you for the help. Learned everything I need to know from ya! Keep up the great work!

Melissa Shanhun
12 years ago

Thanks so much for this podcast. I totally have been having this post and others up as I'm just creating my first episodes (http://decemberdaily.com)

One issue with Chris's Compressor is that the if the original volume of my recording is low it doesn't seem to work properly, it keeps fading out the ends of my words.

Melissa
12 years ago

I found getting rid of the noise fall of really helped. Then I just removed the noice using another effect.

🙂 Thanks so much!

africamedianetwork
africamedianetwork
12 years ago

Am new to podcasting and i need help to get started. I order a podcast mixer from technicalpro which comes with a microphone, headphone and a CD to download the program. Been playing around with it did some recordings, delect them just to get comfortable with the appliance and the system. Today, i did the same as usual but as i unplugged the mic mistakenly it kinda corrupted the dashboard. Can't play, the lines are not moving as they normally would and can't hear the sound anymore. When i press play it will but wouldn't produce any sound. Whan can i do?

Angelights
Angelights
12 years ago

I can’t hear what I am recording when I play it back. Not sure if my Samson microphone is not connected right. Did it a few years ago without a problem. Any ideas?

Long Box Review
12 years ago

Mr. Lewis, first, thank you for the show. I recently discovered The Audacity to Podcast, and since I too am a podcaster who uses Audacity, I have found your episodes to be very informative. Second, I do have a question about episode 50: are you recommending we process the audio in the order shown in the notes (equalization, compression, normalization)?

Thaxxence
Thaxxence
11 years ago

When I record, there is a weird phantom static hiss. It’s even there when no microphone is connected. What is this and how can I fix this? Also, when recording, what my mic picks up is really faint, but recording on another computer with the same mic it sounds just fine. Help?

Thaxxence
Thaxxence
11 years ago

It’s a cheap headset I got for free. The computer is a four or five year old gateway laptop with windows 7. I just use the regular mic and headphone jacks that are on the front of it.

Thaxxence
Thaxxence
11 years ago
Reply to  Thaxxence

From what I’ve seen, its not the mic, its the computer.

Thaxxence
Thaxxence
11 years ago

I have tried the USB before, but it just makes the static a little more choppy.

Joshua
Joshua
11 years ago

Thanks for a great article and for hosting Chris’s dynamic compressor. One question, though… What’s the rationale behind using the “EMI 78” EQ curve before applying compression? On my recordings, this EQ curve certainly increases the bass volume, but also makes my voice sound muffled and less “crisp”. Is the EMI 78 EQ curve just intended as a quick fix for cheaper mics with poor bass response?

Micky
Micky
10 years ago

Hey Daniel,
Just a quick thanks for this guide, it has made a huge difference tony vocal recordings.
Thanks!!

Micky
Micky
10 years ago

Hi, just an iRig Mic Cast on my iPad. Has made a definite difference, but will continue to play around with settings to see if can improve further, seeing it is a cheaper mic.

LD
LD
10 years ago

is there a way to achieve the same effect(using software) but while not recording with audacity? I want to adjust my input sound system wide

Assaf Koss
Assaf Koss
10 years ago

The Compressor is extremely useful! Together with Normalize – wonderfulness! 😀 Thank you so much. Now, my blogcast will sound much better.

http://www.AssafKoss.com

Jaime Bell
Jaime Bell
10 years ago

Thank you Daniel, this podcast is great & informative for a noob like me.
Although halfway through I started getting oddly hungry for noodles…

RubyMaeN
RubyMaeN
9 years ago

Thanks for this! I listen to your OUAT podcast, and stumbled on this one when I was trying to get some tips to make a better recording for a class I’m taking. I’m using a different version of Audacity, but I was still able to use the tips this gave me. I’m now subscribed to your newsletter!

ClarkHighlandGroup
8 years ago

Great crisp discussion with clear specifics for a wide use case-cheap or built-in microphones. Thank you. I see it took you a bit to get to your round of compression reviews in episode https://theaudacitytopodcast.com/tap065-audacity-compressor-showdown/ where we can see you obviously put a lot of time and effort to really compare the different alternatives.

Would you still feel Levelator is the best today compared to the current version (2.1.0) of Audacity? I have no idea if they even touched the compression / normalizing effects.

My understanding on USB microphones is there are 2 processing chips that at the OEM level are a couple pennies difference in cost (in other words – using ‘you get what you pay for’ is a poor test in selecting). Do you have any favorites in for audio to USB connectors from your recommendation page? http://www.amazon.com/mn/search/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&field-keywords=usb%20sound%20adapter&linkCode=ur2&sprefix=usb%20sound%2Caps%2C186&tag=theaudacitytopodcast-20

v4 flower
v4 flower
7 years ago

But my voice is muffled and I need it to be clear for my Innocence(Hatsune Miku) cover. It’s very important.

trackback

[…] How to Improve Your Voice from a Cheap Microphone … – Get podcasting and Audacity tips by email. I now offer a free email newsletter for podcasting tips and Audacity tips. From the same sign-up form, you can also receive … […]

Sarah Price Hancock
Sarah Price Hancock
4 years ago

thanks again for all your help. I regularly return to this page when I am trying to figure out my weekly editing snafus. Where in this process should I be using the Noise reduction?

said
said
4 years ago

Hello, can you use Audacity for streaming? Which means that if Audacity can help you with enhancements in real time or only for post production?

Satanic
3 years ago

Thanks man, You really helped a Poor Gamer who can’t afford a good microphone. HATSOFF

58
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x
50%
5/5

Enter your name and email address below to learn “7 Ways to Get More Podcast Reviews” FREE!

Almost there!

50%

See what Apple Podcasts and other popular podcast apps search with the Podcast SEO Cheat Sheet!

This form collects information we will use to send you podcasting-related updates with tips, offers, and news. We will not share or sell your personal information. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Almost there!

50%

Before you go! Don’t miss this FREE checklist, “20 things you should do before recording every podcast episode”!

This form collects information we will use to send you podcasting-related updates with tips, offers, and news. We will not share or sell your personal information. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Almost there!