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How Do I Get the Best Audio Recording?

An engineer using a sound mixer in a professional recording studio.
An omni microphone is a good option for recording audio.
A cardioid microphone is designed to reduce the sound of ambient noise.
Proper placement of microphones help ensure the best recordings.
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  • Written By: Caitlin Kenney
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2014
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There are many different programs and software applications available to achieve the best audio recording. Professional level work can take years of practice and research, but an engineer can get a pretty decent recording at home as well using a computer and good software. Purchasing a good sound card, compressor, and microphone will help in achieving a high quality recording. It is also important to have low background noise, a good space to record in, and an understanding of how to work the levels.

A sound card converts digital data into an analog format. Higher quality sound cards result in higher quality recordings. Compression helps to bring out the quieter parts of the audio by reducing the dynamics of the louder parts. This results in an overall louder, more balanced sound. Nearly all commercial recordings are compressed.

A good microphone is crucial in getting a good audio recording. Omni microphones are easy to use and produce a good sound, and they will pick up sound from anywhere in the room regardless of where they are pointed. Cardioid mics lessen the volume of background noises and pick up more of the sound they are pointed at; they are best when recording lectures. Shotgun microphones are good for film and video, but not much else because they have a highly sensitive frequency response. The Lavaliere microphone allows the speaker to move around freely, so they are good for recording live performances where the singer is moving.

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Computer recording programs often have level meters. It is best to set them so the levels come close to the red but don't go over. If the levels go over the red, there will be clipping and distortion in the audio. If the levels are too low, the sound won't be picked up as clearly.

There are different media formats available for recording depending on the engineers budget. The cheapest route is a high quality tape recorder, but it is impossible to get the same quality recording using a tape deck as from a mini disc recorder or computer program. Unless the engineer has a computer with plenty of space, good recording programs, a good microphone, a great location, a compressor, and an understanding of how to work levels, it is always best to go to a professional recording studio.

Renting time in a professional recording studio will vary in price, and they also vary in quality, depending on the experience of the engineer. Professional studios usually are in a space without a lot of echo in the room, since too much natural reverberation can muddy up the recording process. Reverberation can be added later for a more professional sound. High quality microphones and a good engineer are also usually provided at a professional studio, which can make a world of difference in your final product.

After the sound has been recorded, the audio files must be mixed and then finally mastered. The engineer will mix the audio recording by moving the levels to achieve the best balance and add any desired effects. The recordings then go on to be mastered to give punch, clarity, depth, and volume to the tracks. All of this can be achieved at home, but it usually takes years of practice to master.

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Oceana
Post 6

My friend had some digital audio recording software, and he thought that this made him capable of producing my album. While it could do things like allow me to play multiple instruments and record each track separately, it really required that the user know what they were doing.

My friend was a computer whiz, so he didn't have any trouble figuring out how to work the program. However, he just didn't have an ear for music.

He made my vocal track way louder than the musical tracks, and I had to get him to readjust this. He wanted to argue and say that since the voice was the most important element, it should be at the forefront. I told him that I sounded like I was singing to faraway music.

anon281713
Post 5

I am using SoliCall Pro. This is a nice computer program that helps me record audio on my PC.

backdraft
Post 4

@chivebasil - I have to begrudgingly agree. I am in a band and we recorded our first album in a makeshift studio that a friend of mine set up. He has some nice equipment and a little bit of training, but it quickly became clear that none of us could get the record to sound the way that we wanted. It was close but something was off and we could all hear it. We tinkered with the levels, the set up, the equipment endlessly but could never get it right. Anyone looking for ambitious production really needs to use a professional studio.

chivebasil
Post 3

While it is true that there are now exciting opportunities for home recordings, the best records are still produced in sound studios by trained professionals.

It is kind of a double edged sword. The technology has progressed so far that almost anyone can record anything anywhere. At the same time, it has become so refined and complicated that getting the best sound requires a lot of experience and training.

I have heard lots of great home recordings, but they all have an amateurish quality that any professional can pick up on. Bands looking for the biggest and best possible sound really have to use a professional studio. Lady GaGa doesn't record in her basement.

ZsaZsa56
Post 2

@nextcorrea - So true. I got a copy of pro tools a few years ago and I am still learning all the ins and outs of the program. It is complicated, but the capability of this software is amazing. I can do things in my basement that would have been impossible in the nicest studio in the world only 30 years ago.

nextcorrea
Post 1

We all know how much computers have revolutionized the world. Their impact has been huge in the world of audio recording. It used to be that a band would have to go to a big studio and pay huge prices just to get a midiocre sounding recording. Those brave enough to do it themselves, the proverbial garage bands, often ended up with recordings that were barely listenable. But it is now possible to record audio in you home with a few easy to use and inexpensive pieces of equipment and get amazing results. These advances have really leveled the playing field so that now almost any band has the opportunity to make a high quality recording.

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