My Audio Gear and Recording Settings

Recording sound is tricky. There is a lot that goes into creating a quality audio production and I have stumbled through this craft for a long time. While my first podcast was recorded in my car on a portable MP3 player - I've moved to a bit more robust rig over the years.

I feel that I have finally hit the sweet spot for my voice, my environment, and my gear.

Here's a profile of my rig at the moment and the hardware and software settings I use to get a more professional sound.

The Chain

For me, taking audio from analog to digital requires the following setup:

The signal goes from the microphone into the DBX, and then to the USB interface. Once the recording is done, then I go through a few post-production steps to improve the overall quality of the audio.

Hardware

The DBX 286s is an amazing piece of hardware and pairs excellently with the Sure SM7b (yep - the same model microphone Michael Jackson used on "Thriller"). To get an idea of how to get the optimal settings for the processor, watch Mike DelGaudio's: DBX 286s Mic Preamp and Processor Walkthrough. Mike does an excellent job detailing the reason for each setting while showing you where the dials should be set.

Software

Once I have my audio recorded, I do some post-processing on the file. I find that using these settings helps make my recordings consistent and as clean as possible.

In Adobe Audition I have created a rack preset that includes compression, equalization and limiting. Not included in the effects rack is noise reduction, but that's because I always take a new noise sample with each recording to mitigate changes in my surroundings that my pop up as noise.

Adobe Audition Vocals Rack

The Single-band Compressor has some custom settings. I should take time to translate these settings to update my compression settings on the DBX, but alas, this is what I am using for now.

Adobe Audition Single Band Compressor Settings

The next two settings are for the 30 band and parametric equalizers. These adjust the tone of my voice a bit.

Adobe Audition Graphic Equalizer Settings

Adobe Audition Parametric Equalizer Settings

Finally, I use a hard limiter to ensure that I the signal is topped off at a comfortable listening level. This can't recuse audio that is recorded too loud, but just ensures I'm not blowing out any ears as listeners use earbuds or headphones.

Adobe Audition Hard Limiter Settings

Lastly, I go clip by clip and open the Noise Reduction window and take a sample of the noise in each clip then select the entire clip and apply the filter. Notice that noise reduction is only set to 70%. This helps ensure I don't end up with a robotic sound after the filter is applied.

Adobe Audition Noise Reduction Settings

Why I don't do sound treatment

There are scores of tutorials that discuss how to correctly sound treat a room and how to use portable isolation booths. I tried a few of them and during my experiments I came to few conclusions:

  • If I'm going to do it, I don't want to just do it half-way
  • I don't want to bear the expense to fully commit to doing it right
  • I don't need it

I also want to say married. To do it right, sound treating my office would significantly change the design aesthetic of a room that is near our home's entry - so there's that ;)

Even though my office is square, features a set of glass French doors and an adjacent window - any amateurish attempts at sound treatment did not make a difference in my sound quality. Your mileage my vary.

Conclusion

While my setup is by no means a budget rig, you can certainly get an excellent quality sound from the right hardware and a few post-production steps.