Technical Issues: Microphone

While I was writing my last post, I was aware that it could have been a whole lot longer as, through the act of writing, my mind was jogged about various technical issues I’d encountered during my recording efforts. I hinted at some of those in the closing of my post and since I’ve encountered another overnight, the time for further discussion of technical issues is now.  I’ll try  to be brief, since I suppose these issues aren’t as fascinating to readers (though I’m not sure I have any yet) as they are to me.


I did my first recording for Librivox using the in-built microphone on my laptop.  While that worked well enough, I became aware of sound-quality issues in my subsequent attempts. For this reason, there was a gap of about a year before I contributed to my next Librivox recording.

I finally got around to purchasing the recommended beginner’s microphone  just before Christmas and contributed the final chapter of The Fairies and the Christmas Child by Lilian Gask. (Again, the completed audiobook is not available at the time of writing–I swear I’m not making these up!)  The noise-cancelling feature of this microphone helped me sound better, although it still didn’t eliminate those pesky crow sounds–more on which later.

Emboldened, I then contributed seven chapters to a project still in production, The Red and the Black, Vol. One by Stendhal. (Why don’t we use his given names?) In that case I had to resurrect my undergraduate French and my even more appalling Italian for the epigraphs that began each chapter. But more on LOTE feats later.

The main issue I’m  encountering with the USB microphone, now I have one, is the question of bumps.  Working in a wooden house on a wooden desk seems to amplify the slightest movement and I end up with the occasional bump even when I’m sure I was nowhere near close enough to the microphone.  I’m going to try the stack of books suggestion I just read on the wiki page I linked to above.


I’m trying to confine myself to 300-500 words per post here, so it looks like the discussion of technical issues has turned into a series and this is Part 1. I have so many more things to work through in this category.


About Kirsty Leishman

Currently enrolled in a Grad Dip of Teaching and Learning in anticipation of teaching English and Film, TV & New Media to high school students. Abandoned a PhD in television. Completed an MPhil on zines. Honours in Australian grunge literature. Long time university tutor of media, communications, cultural studies and academic writing. Opinionated. View all posts by Kirsty Leishman

8 responses to “Technical Issues: Microphone

  • Ben Kraal

    I’ve just had a mic issue, doing a recorded skype call in my office. Too many hard surfaces made me sound all echo-y.

    Microphones don’t work like your ears, so the bumps thing happens because the mic doesn’t know which sounds to ignore so it just deals with loudness, which actually works in a very non-intuitive way.

    The only way to solve the bumps issue is to get out of the environment where the bumps occur. That is, you need a studio with sound-absorbing walls and as few hard surfaces and you can manage.

    • Kirsty

      Thanks for that insight into how mics work, Ben. I don’t think I’m going to have access to a sound-proof booth any time soon, but I’ll do what I can with, I don’t know, towels or something… Cheers.

  • Mark

    Sounds like a brilliant project! Have you tried using polystyrene sheets or packing material as well as books. Except the squeak.

    Also, curtains to dampen sound/bumps?

    • Kirsty

      Hmm, that all sounds like far more renovation than I’m prepared to do to my bedroom, Mark. I usually record at night time and it’s pretty quiet around here then when it’s not bucketing down and without the day time chorus of birds to compete with. Librivox is realistic in its expectations; it knows its readers don’t have anything approaching professional sound recording equipment, and the levels of proof-listening they do make allowances for the occasional noise that can’t be edited out.

  • oanh

    Egg cartons!
    In a share house I lived in, in Brisbane, with a few “noise” artists, they constructed a cheap sound-proof room by sticking egg cartons on the walls and ceilings. Worked pretty well.
    Other than anecdotally, I know nothing. This is a completely intriguing project!

    (finally get around to catching up on this blog! woo hoo!)

  • Timothy

    Sorry to chip in late, but I just used a stack of mousemats under the mike. I was handed them as freebies at a work convention. Well, I did, before I went nuts and bought myself a boom arms so that my mike dangles upside down above my desk…

    Slightly too obsessed? Yes indeedy.

    • Kirsty

      Ha! Now I’m going to be on the look out for spare mouse pads. I ended up putting a notebook underneath it and, to my surprise, that worked very well.

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