Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Beginner’s Guide to Audio Book Recording: What do I Need for Book Narration?

Converting a Kindle book into audio book may at first seem a no-go area if unfamiliar with recording equipment. I learned the best audio equipment to buy by speaking to experts in sound recording equipment, watching YouTube clips and visiting the ACX audible books website. Soon, I will record my own audio books. Here’s what I have learned so far.

Audio Software for Recording Audiobooks

Large diaphragm condenser
with shock mount
ACX (Audio Creation Exchange) is Amazon’s platform for creators of audio books. Originally, exclusive to audio book creators in the US has now opened its doors to audio creators to the UK. Opening an ACX account is the easy part. The hard part is learning about the equipment needed for creating audio books. This is a project I am soon to embark upon.

Let’s start at the beginning. According to ACX, the basic equipment needed for recording your own audio books are:

A large diaphragm condenser microphone. This is an ultra sensitive microphone with a large, meshed rounded head. Don’t go cheap on this. A good condenser mic will provide studio-quality sound but requires a few extras to make it work correctly, which are:
Phantom power (48Volts). Phantom power supplies the juice to make the mic work, otherwise, output would be very low or the mic won’t work.
XLR cable that provides a connection between the microphone and an audio interface (explained in a moment).
A pop filter, which is a piece of stretched fabric placed between mouth and mic that kills plosives and clicks in speech.
A mic shock mount: an elastic fastener that attaches two parts of the mic. This will reduce unwanted noise or vibrations from the surrounding area.
Mic stand or desk mount: where the mic rests.

Some microphone packages include some or all the attachments mentioned. The highly recommended Rode mic NT1-A Bundle comes with a pop filter, XLR cable and mic shockmount. However, phantom power and an audio interface are not included.

ACX also recommends Blue Microphones Icicle XLR to USB Mic Converter. This can be used to plug your mic straight into the computer via USB. It also has 48V phantom power. However, I have seen mixed reviews on this product and will retain judgment until I have tried it myself.

The Best Audio Interface for Sound Recording

An audio interface is an electrical box with controls and input jacks for the mic and headphones. Essentially, this recording equipment converts sound to digital, a code the computer can understand. This box plugs into your computer via the USB.

The audio interface is perceived by the computer to be a soundcard, but one that is superior to the basic one that exists in the computer itself. All computers have jacks for the mic and headphones, but the recording and listening experience is much enhanced with an audio interface.

Sound Equipment for Recording Audible Books

Free recording software will make possible editing the recording, such as deleting unwanted sections or shifting elements about. The sound can also be compressed, so that the overall volume of the recording is pretty consistent. This will save the listener the inconvenience of having to turn up quiet sections and turn down loud sections. The sound quality can also be tweaked, such as to reduce a booming quality to the voice or high frequency noise. Great free recording software include Audacity, Twisted Wave, Wavelab, or Pro Tools.

Other Equipment Needed for Book Narrating

A headset is needed for listening to playback.
Large external drive: Audio files such as podcasts or mp3 files uses up quite a bit of memory. It is also wise to backup work on another device to save the frustration of losing an audio file on the computer for any reason.
Padded or foam material to eradicate sound reflections in the studio whilst recording.
It goes without saying a reasonably fast computer will be needed to bring all the recording equipment together.

Sound Equipment for Narrating your own Audio Books

The beginner in audio recording will have to shell out a few pounds for good recording equipment as outlined above. But this is a one-time investment that can be built upon, if book narration is something to be taken seriously. Many brands and types of each component can be found on online recording equipment suppliers (as I have discovered). The best way to learn which is the best sound equipment for audio books to read the customer reviews and comments. But obtaining the best equipment for narrating books is only part of the story. The rest lies in the recording space and voice technique. Covered soon on this blog.

Tips on Creating your Own Audio Books

The best studio condenser microphone
Creating a dead room
Tips on buying an audio interface
Prepare your script for audiobook narration
Tips for voice narration

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