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Old 12-08-2010, 05:08 PM   #1
John Carroll
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What is a good recorder for creating an audiobook

Note: I realize that this is something that should be done professionally in a recording studio by Patrick Stewart. However . . .

I am looking to turn my book into an audiobook, or at least attempt to. I want to read it in a quiet place. (I really just want an excuse to get away from the kids)

Does anyone know of a good, yet inexpensive, recorder to use? I have heard that it needs to have the ability to record PCM, but I don't fully understand why.

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Old 12-08-2010, 08:02 PM   #2
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The most important thing is the microphone, not the recorder. Second is a quiet room with limited sound reflecting surfaces.

The best "bang for the buck" would be a good quality USB Microphone and some decent recording software for your computer. There are a number of decent mics such as these: http://www.bluemic.com/desktop/ These, and other competing brands sell in the $50-150USD range.

If you don't have appropriate software, Audacity is free and often recommended: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
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Old 12-09-2010, 02:20 AM   #3
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You could consider renting the equipment you need.
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Old 12-09-2010, 07:56 AM   #4
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The most important thing is the microphone, not the recorder. Second is a quiet room with limited sound reflecting surfaces.
Cardboard egg boxes stuck to the wall are good for that.
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Old 12-09-2010, 01:06 PM   #5
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As for the recording software, I highly recommend Audacity. Having done audio and video recording and editing for a number of years (well, at least until my hearing went too far south to do it anymore) I've worked with a wide range of programs, and Audacity is unbelievable. If you've ever worked with Sound Forge, you'll know that it's the number one audio editor in the <$3k price point.

Audacity is easily equal in quality and power to Sound Forge, and the best part is, It's FREE!!! I used it when I did my first recording of my audiobooks (I have since had them professionally recorded) and it worked beautifully.

As for work times, I've found that for every 20 minutes of play time you will end up with about an hour of work. If you're really, really nitpicky, two hours. Another thing to do when you're first starting out is to create a test recording. Practice your reading style, character voices, inflection, etc. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. The best part about screwing up is you can learn from it and get better. Also, be patient. This isn't a point, click and you're done operation.

Most of the time I spent the better part of a week working on a six hour audiobook getting it ready, tweaking and polishing. Also, invest in a good pair of noise canceling headphones for doing your editing. The reason being, as you go through the recording, you'll need to be able to hear all the clicks, pops, and other awkward noises so that you can spot them in the recording and apply filters to clean them up.

Also, pay close attention to your levels. If there's one thing people hate, it's an audiobook with volume issues. To provide an example of what I'm talking about, think about what it would be like if you were listening to a song on the radio and kept having to raise and lower the volume constantly because the volume levels changed. You don't have to be perfect with your levels, but at least get them as close as you can to even. If you need to, get a second opinion on how they are, and then tweak away.

Anyhow, I hope that helps you out a bit. And please, don't be discouraged by any advice given here. Recording your own audiobooks is fun, exciting, a great exercise in writing perfection (It'll actually help you see problems in your writing, and learn how to fix them), and a good way to promote yourself. Especially if you offer them for free! Anyhow, good luck.
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Old 12-09-2010, 01:15 PM   #6
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I will definitely use audacity to edit it and will pay very close attention to the levels. I know it will take some work but at the same time it might be fun.

I have the room with carboard egg crates on the wall. We call it the crazy room . . . not that I'm crazy or anything . . .

I'm really looking forward to doing the ebook. I've been in a play before and have an idea how to do the voices. I never let anyone discourage me from accomplishing what I want, no matter how big of a dolt I am for doing it.

I'll check out that mic and add it to my list of options. I may be able to steal my wife's laptop and hide away with that.

Thank you all very much for the advice and information. Hopefully in a couple of months, I'll have an audiobook too.
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Old 12-09-2010, 04:31 PM   #7
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Yeah, it takes practice to get a professional sounding recording. But if you work hard enough at it, you'll do good. Two more pieces of advice. Find a mic with a good, mellow sound to it. Avoid anything that gives your voice that "tinny" sound, or any kind of echo. Second, use a mic that has a foam cover. It reduces the "puff" sounds you get when you're speaking. A good mike with both a cover and a silk wind screen will get rid of it all.

If you want to add a bit more professional spin to your recording, I recommend adding a pop screen to your mic. (example) If you look at the example image, you'll notice a circular black disk in front of the mic. That's a pop filter. It's used to stop the popping noise created when you speak. The foam cover helps stabilize and soften the sound picked up by the mic, but the pop filter gets the really noticeable stuff. You can get a cheap one over at Amazon here. Ideally you want that about an inch or inch and a half from the mic. Then when you record, put your lips about an inch away from it and speak normally. It might take a little getting used to at first, but once you're comfortable with it, you'll have less post editing to do on each recording. Happy recording!
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Old 12-11-2010, 02:54 AM   #8
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I read the Podcasting for Dummies book a few years ago, and it might be worth a read (I think it's out of print, but maybe the library has a copy). Lots of information on creating quality recordings (eq suggestions, etc.), and the author did his own podiobook and mentioned places for promoting such things.
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Old 12-11-2010, 06:26 AM   #9
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I personally wouldn't use Audacity for recording. I find it great for editing but for recording, it constantly crashes. I'd also be REALLY sure if you want to do this. It eats time. Time you could use for writing, editing, or just generally learning the craft. A good rule is that however long you record for, the editing will take 3-5x that. But if you're serious about doing it, Levelator is good for balancing issues and a lot of people like to record in their closet. I wrote a really detailed post on my site if you're interested: The Podcasting Route
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Old 12-11-2010, 10:14 AM   #10
Steven Lake
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Marc, I've never had Audacity crash while recording. If it did, I wouldn't have recommended it. May I ask what you're doing that might have caused it to crash? I've only ever made it crash twice in the entire time I used it, and only because I was trying to clean up a couple of semi-corrupted MP3's which it didn't like too much.
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Old 12-11-2010, 10:19 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Johnson View Post
I personally wouldn't use Audacity for recording. I find it great for editing but for recording, it constantly crashes. I'd also be REALLY sure if you want to do this. It eats time. Time you could use for writing, editing, or just generally learning the craft. A good rule is that however long you record for, the editing will take 3-5x that. But if you're serious about doing it, Levelator is good for balancing issues and a lot of people like to record in their closet. I wrote a really detailed post on my site if you're interested: The Podcasting Route
*grin* I want to do it, but yeah, the time necessary scares me. I like writing a lot. I don't mind the other stuff involved, but the time I spend on everything else is really eating into it. *sigh*
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Old 12-11-2010, 10:34 PM   #12
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Marc, I've never had Audacity crash while recording. If it did, I wouldn't have recommended it. May I ask what you're doing that might have caused it to crash? I've only ever made it crash twice in the entire time I used it, and only because I was trying to clean up a couple of semi-corrupted MP3's which it didn't like too much.
I don't remember what I was doing at that time when it crashed. It was years go. I'm not the only one that's had problems recording with Audacity though. Other podcasters have had the same thing happen to them. Only seems to happen when using it as a recording program and not an editing one.
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Old 12-12-2010, 12:40 AM   #13
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If it was years ago, you were probably working with one of the beta versions with *did* have a crashing issue when recording. But since coming out of beta I have never seen it crash, save for twice while trying to fix some busted mp3's, but never while recording.
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Old 12-12-2010, 01:16 AM   #14
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As a few others have stated, a good microphone is the most important part of your recording studio. There are some "decent" mics to be had for less money, but for top quality vocals, you can't beat a Heil PR40. If you can afford it, the difference between this and less expensive mics is amazing.

Heil PR40 at Musicians Friend (you may find it cheaper elsewhere): http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com...ELAID=26020819

For simple needs, an M-Audio USB interface will do just fine. I have an older version of this one: http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com...ku=703669#used

If you want professional results, then definitely get the shockmount for the mic, as well as a pop screen. You should also Google inexpensive methods of soundproofing your recording room. Some people do it all in a closet that is soundproofed. Most computers have fans that make noise, so put the computer outside the recording area if possible.

Regardless of which software you use to record your vocals, you should record to PCM (WAV) files. This is a lossless format. You can save to MP3 (lossy format) later if you wish. Always do all editing, mixing and processing with the PCM files. Using MP3 files for editing and such only gives you lousy results.

Edit as you see fit, but use the minimal amount of processing (compression, EQ and such) needed. Too much processing will sound bad.

Experiment with things before you have to make real product and see what sounds best. If you know anyone with experience in voice recording, see what they think.

Joe
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Old 12-12-2010, 09:58 AM   #15
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Ya know, we've been going on about this long enough, and with our combined experience, that I'm half tempted to pile all this knowledge together and write a tutorial, or at the very least, a wiki entry.
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