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Narrating and producing your own audiobooks

Posted in Audiobook, Just for Writers, and Production

I'm in the process of setting up an ad hoc home studio for narrating and recording audiobooks, and I know I'm not the only one. So I thought I'd share some of my choices with you and explain why I made them.

Right now, I have only one audiobook out. I did the narration, and a local music studio did the professional sound engineering. At $100/finished hour (for a 14.5 hour book), I was reluctant to do more, but I've decided that was a paltry excuse and I should just find a better, more financially acceptable route. You can read about that decision here.

My voice is up to the task, so all I need is gear and a room to use. Alas, I don't have the luxury of even a dedicated closet, nor can I panel a room with sound baffles. So, like most of us, I have to use the best space I can and make it as suitable as possible for quality recordings.

Typical domestic audio studio room

And that can be tricky. Once you've found the room that is the most isolated from all the noisy activities of a household (furnace, television, affection-starved pets, oblivious spouses and children) you have to consider how you can make it work for recording.

Getting advice

Now I'm no audio engineer, but happily I don't need to be. I source my musical gear from a place called Sweetwater Sound in Indiana, and they've never failed me when I've asked for their help. They have great customer support.

I asked them for a “good, better, best” setup for quality spoken word recording in a somewhat random acoustic space, and asked them to keep the “best” under $1000 (the price of getting professional sound engineering for a single book). With their permission, let me share with you some of what they suggested.

I'll divide the responses into Recording Gear (things on the microphone stand and boom), Electronics (capturing and moving the signal to my laptop), and Room Treatments. I'm using Windows 10 (but I don't think that's relevant) and Audacity for the sound engineering software application (free — not discussed here).

All the microphones are of the cardioid polar pattern (focused on sound from the front only.


Recording straight to computer using a USB microphone (circa $400)

Recording Gear

Rode USB Condenser Microphone (includes cables, pop filters, and more)

On-Stage Stands MS7701B mic stand w/fixed boom

Electronics

Shure SRH440 Closed Monitor Headphones

Room Treatments

sE Electronics Reflexion Filter X (surrounds the microphone to isolate it from the room)


A better microphone with an audio interface (circa $700)

Recording Gear

Rode Condenser Microphone NT1 Kit (includes shock mount, pop screen)

On-Stage Stands MS7701B mic stand w/fixed boom

Electronics

Shure SRH440 Closed Monitor Headphones

Pro Co 15′ XLRF-XLRM Cable

Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB2 Audio interface (comes with software)

Room Treatments

sE Electronics Reflexion Filter Pro (surrounds the microphone to isolate it from the room)


A radio station quality microphone with portable room baffles (circa $1100)

Recording Gear

Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone

Cloud Microphones CL-1 Cloudlifter 1-channel Mic Activator (microphone preamplifier, discounted if combined with above mic)

Gator Frameworks Tripod Mic Stand w/Boom

Electronics

Shure SRH440 Closed Monitor Headphones

2 x Pro Co 10′ XLRF-XLRM Cable

Focusrite Scarlet Solo USB2 Audio interface (comes with software)

Room Treatments

2 x Auralex 2'x4′ SF Panels (portable baffles for controlling room echoes)


My own purchase

I already had a mic stand and boom, as well as a small (8″) extension that clamps on the stand. I added a headphone holder that clamps on the stand and went for the “best” package, minus the stand, boom, and the Auralex panels

The baffle panels were an expensive component, and I don't yet know if my messy room will require them, so I opted out of buying them until I know for sure. So my spend was circa $750, of which $500 was for the mic and preamp.

I was concerned with how to line up my script vertically with the microphone so that I could maintain a constant distance from the mic without twisting my neck to read.

I already had a gripper for my iPad that attaches to a standard mic thread, so I will be configuring my arrangement like this.

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5 Comments

  1. Claudia Starr
    Claudia Starr

    This is such great info!

    February 9, 2017
    |Reply
  2. As you’re going to use this for a lot of books, and your time is the most valuable component, it makes sense to go with the best setup within your budget. If you recorded on less satisfactory equipment, you might have to re-record a book when you went to better equipment – and that would be unnecessary.

    You have to value your time!

    Hope you can banish other inhabitants sufficiently – or you may be recording in the wee hours.

    Looking forward to hearing what you blog about on audiobooks.

    February 9, 2017
    |Reply
    • Wee hours won’t help. It’s the main bedroom, and they all snore. 🙂

      February 9, 2017
      |Reply
      • Clothespins? Too bad. And too bad you probably don’t want to haul all that equipment to, say, the local public library for a nice quiet spot to work in.

        February 9, 2017
        |Reply
  3. Of course, whenever you start looking at audio gear you activate the “covet” function.

    This stuff hasn’t even arrived yet and I’m already drooling over ribbon microphones. http://tinyurl.com/j9bz9rq

    I keep telling myself “this is a business — there are limits.” But then I read the description of this baby… https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/KU4

    Just listen to the detail: “Made from authentic new old stock RCA materials, the AEA KU4 is a modern revival of the legendary RCA unidirectional KU3A. This high-sensitivity ribbon microphone was originally designed for top-end Hollywood movie studios. Fewer than 600 KU3As were ever made, and those few engineers who were lucky enough to use them simply raved about their smooth sound, wide sweet spot, and minimal proximity effect.”

    That way lies madness, but it was ever thus with audio gear. 🙂

    February 10, 2017
    |Reply

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