Ultimate Guide to Sound Quality

Ultimate Guide to Sound Quality

Whether you are a twitch streamer or musician, sound quality is one of the most important aspects of the industry.

Creating content is one thing; recording content is another.

This ultimate guide to sound quality will help you learn how to record audio and what equipment you will need. We will also give you a few tips on how to increase sound quality after recording.

Furthermore, this guide will describe what high definition audio is and if it is worth it.

If you are ready to become a sound quality expert, let’s get started.

What Is Sound Quality?

Sound quality typically refers to the assessment of the accuracy of sound coming from an electronic device.

This assessment can measure a few things, including intelligibility (how comprehensive speech is) and fidelity (how the electronic copy of the sound compares to the source).

You can measure sound quality either objectively or subjectively. Measuring sound quality objectively typically entails the use of certain tools and gadgets.

People can also measure sound quality subjectively and simply rely on their own perception to see how close the recorded sound is to the original source. 

Is High Definition Audio Worth It?

HD Audio

High Definition Audio Explained

High definition audio, also known as high-resolution audio, is a signal that is delivered at a much higher quality than other devices and streaming services.

High-definition audio came into play when people started to complain about the loss of quality with normal CDs and streaming services.

The audio files that were burned to CDs and uploaded to streaming services had to be compressed to a smaller size. This process ended up reducing the quality of the audio.

While audio engineers could compress the files faster than high-res audio files, they did not sound as good.

What You Need for High Definition Audio?

So is high-definition audio worth it?

First of all, if you plan to work with high-resolution audio, you will need a lot of space on your computer or whatever system you are working with.

A typical high-resolution audio file can take up around 200 MB of space, while a normal audio file (not high-definition) will take up around 7 MB of space.

If you are uploading these songs to your smartphone, for example, you won’t be able to download nearly the same amount of songs in high-definition as you would with normal quality music.

If you intend to record high-res audio for streaming services or youtube videos, you will also need to buy a high-res microphone, amongst other things.

Any equipment designed for high-res audio will be pretty expensive (high-res mics are around $600-1000). Furthermore, you will need special equipment to play high-resolution music.

At the very least, you will need a special DAC (digital to analog converter). The DAC can act as an interface between your hi-fi (high fidelity) system and computer and convert the audio to high-resolution audio.

You can also buy some portable high-definition music players, but these will also be around $500 each.

Should I Use High-Definition Audio?

Whether you are recording or simply listening to high-definition audio, be prepared to spend a lot of money in order to do so.

There is one main factor to keep in mind when it comes to high-resolution audio. To fully appreciate the audio, you will need to invest in high-quality speakers or headphones.

People who have typical headphones that cost anywhere from $50 to $150 will barely be able to tell the difference between standard audio and high-definition audio.

This means that if you are recording for a general audience or simply want to listen to high-quality music (not necessarily high-res), then high-definition audio may not be worth it.

To decide if you want to use high-def audio, you will have to decide if the cost will be worth it. For everyday listeners, high-definition audio will not be worth it. Simply listening to the audio can cost up to $1000 in equipment.

For those who live and breathe music and have a career involving audio, it may be good to consider using high-definition audio.

How To Improve Audio Quality?

Microphone Matters

Perhaps you want to become a twitch streamer or start creating youtube videos. Or, you want to start recording music for Spotify.

Whatever the case, You will need to put a lot of thought into the sound quality.

Let’s look at a few ways to improve audio quality.

Microphone Matters

If you can only purchase one high-quality piece of equipment, it should be a microphone.

Choosing the right microphone can greatly affect sound quality. In this section, we will review how to choose a microphone.

Whether you are recording music, streaming, or doing both, you can use this information to pick the best mic for you.

Types of Microphones

Let’s take a look at the different types of microphones.

  • Condenser microphones: A lot of recording studios use condenser microphones. If you can only afford one microphone, a condenser mic will be your best bet. These mics are very accurate and sensitive. Many people use condenser mics for vocals since they can record a wide frequency range.
  • Dynamic microphones: These mics are not as sensitive as condenser mics are. People use dynamic mics to record loud sounds such as drums or rock vocals.
  • Ribbon microphones: If you want a unique, smooth, silky sound, ribbon mics are the way to go. However, these mics are very fragile and cannot withstand high-pressure levels. They can also break easily.

How To Choose a Microphone?

To choose the correct mic, you will have to take into account what you will be recording. If you are strictly recording vocals, a condenser mic will give you the highest sound quality.

Dynamic microphones will be great for recording louder instruments such as guitar amps and drums. You can also record metal and rock vocals with these mics.

Finally, if you want to capture a rich, vintage sound, ribbon mics will be the way to go. These mics will produce smooth and silky vocals.

Best Microphones for Voice Recording (Singing and Streaming)

Here are a few of the best condenser mics that you will find in many home studios.

  • MXL 770X Condensor Microphone
  • Rode NT-USB
  • Audio-Technica AT2035
  • MXL 990

Pop Filter Matters

Pop filters remove unwanted “pop” sounds, called plosives, while you talk or sing. Sometimes when we talk, excess air can disrupt the mic’s diaphragm.

This disruption can then lead to odd sounds (that sound like pops) in the recording. Pop filters remove these sounds.

Nylon mesh pop filters will be the best choice for beginners. These filters are relatively inexpensive and come in a variety of sizes. Many twitch streamers and home studios use nylon mesh.

Room Acoustics

Setting up your room with ideal room acoustics in mind will increase your sound quality.

Here are a few things you can do.

  • Close your door
  • Close your windows and curtains
  • Place your desk/mic in the center of the room
  • If you have a square room, create an artificial divider behind your desk

These are a few basic things you can do to set up better room acoustics. If you want to take it one step further, consider weatherstripping your doors and windows.

Another common way to boost the acoustics of your room is to use sound-absorbing foam. Installing this foam on your walls will help reduce the echo and will therefore increase sound quality.

Good Software

To record vocals with good sound quality, you will need a good microphone and a reliable program for recording.

While many computers and phones come with pre-installed voice recording apps, these won’t do the trick. Here are a few of the best software to use.

  • WavePad – WavePad is the best software for PCs. The program is compatible with all versions of Windows. This software is also pretty easy to use for beginners.
  • Adobe Audition – You can use adobe audition on mac, PC, or any mobile device with a mic. While it may have a bit of a learning curve, it will be a solid program to use.
  • Mixcraft 8 – If you are recording music, Mixcraft will be the way to go. You will be able to record, edit and improve your audio tracks all from one program.
  • Audacity – Audacity is a great program for beginners since it is completely free to use. You can both record and edit with the software.

How To Improve Audio Quality After Being Recorded?

Using Denoiser

While the easiest way to improve sound quality is to use good equipment in the first place, there are a few things you can do to improve the audio after being recorded.

Use an Audio Denoise Effect

While this effect may have different names, you will be able to find it in just about any audio editing software. The audio denoise effect, commonly called the denoiser, will remove any background noise from your clip.

For instance, if you accidentally left the fan on in your room while recording, the denoiser effect can reduce the volume of the fan so that you only hear your voice.

Apply a Few Other Audio Effects

Here are a few helpful effects you can apply to your audio clip to increase the sound quality:

  • Compression – Compression is equivalent to automatic voice control. This effect will help reduce large and distracting variations of volume.
  • De-esser – The de-ess effect will reduce high-frequency noisy sounds called sibilance. Using this effect will increase the listener’s experience (there will be no harsh “sss” sounds).
  • Reverb – If you want your voice to sound as if you recorded it in a stadium, this will be a great effect to use. Even if you recorded vocals in a small room, the reverb effect would give the track more space and let the vocals shine through.

Adjust the Audio Volume

Another important factor when it comes to sound quality is the decibel level. Generally, your voice should be around -6db to -15db for recorded videos (youtube, twitch, Spotify, etc.).

The overall volume should be around -12db to -20db. If you don’t have the right DB, your audio could distort, and the sound quality will inevitably lower.

A general rule of thumb is to never let your audio go below 0db.

Extra Tips

Mastering sound quality can be difficult. Here are a few extra tips for producing high-quality audio.

  • Record separate tracks – If you are recording two or more vocals, make sure to record them as separate tracks.
  • Invest in high-quality equipment – If your audio setup is a part of your career, whether you are a musician or a twitch streamer, make sure to invest in high-quality equipment. Having a top-notch mic and recording software will make a world of difference.
  • Always speak near the microphone – It can be fairly easy to relax and lean away from the mic when playing a game or recording a podcast. To record the best audio, make sure you speak as close to the mic as you can.
  • Make sure your mic stand rests on a separate surface – If you place your mic stand on the floor or desk where your hands/feet touch a lot, the small movements of your body can result in distracting noises. If you can, place the mic on a flat surface that you will not touch.
  • Use headphones when you are playing the audio back – A good habit is to play your audio back as you record. Doing so will ensure that all of the audio settings are correct and that the audio sounds good. However, make sure always to use headphones when you do this (headphones will help you pick up subtle sounds).

Conclusion

We hope that this guide has helped you learn more about sound quality.

There are a few things you can do to increase the quality of your audio.

First of all, invest in a good mic. Condenser mics will be the best choice for recording vocals, whether singing, podcasting, or streaming.

The next thing you will need is a pop filter. Nylon mesh pop filters are inexpensive and are widely used to record vocals.

Before you record, close your door, windows, and blinds. Consider installing weatherstripping on your doors and windows for better acoustics.

When it comes to software, Audacity will be the best free software to use. If you want to invest in a paid software, consider checking out Adobe Audition or WavePad.

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