Adventures In Audio

Will background noise spoil your recording? What can you do?

by David Mellor

Background noise is a problem that every studio has to deal with. Traffic noise from outside is the most common problem, which should be dealt with firstly by choosing a location away from heavy traffic, then secondly by sound insulation.

So at a home studio level, the room in your house or apartment that is closest to the street is not likely to be the best place to record. Choose a room that is as far from the street as possible.

Or if you can't do that - perhaps you live in a one-room apartment - then insulating the window with secondary double glazing will provide a significant benefit.

But some home recording studio owners don't have to worry too much about noise. EDM producers for instance - they rarely record through a microphone. Synthesized and sampled sounds are not affected by noise, although it has to be said that noise can be a distraction when mixing.

Audio Masterclass Video Courses

Learn FAST With Audio Masterclass Video Courses

With more than 900 courses on all topics audio, including almost every DAW on the market, these courses are your fast track to audio mastery.
Get a library pass for all 900+ courses for just $25.

If you record heavy rock music (pity the neighbors) then the instruments will be so much louder than the background noise that it is straightforward to get a clean recording.

But what kinds of sounds are most affected by noise?


If you record speech, such as voice over for instance, then noise will be a problem - almost guaranteed. The main issue is that speech has gaps where noise can poke through. So when the voice over artist speaks a word the noise is masked, but then in the small gap before the next word, or perhaps a pause between sentences, any background noise is clearly audible.

So for a voice over studio, certainly if you hope to record to a fully professional standard, you must consider sound insulation carefully. Otherwise you could set up your studio and find that it is impossible to work to a professional standard and get paid for what you do.

But it could be worse...


Invented long ago by Jack Donovan Foley, this is a method of recording sound effects for a movie or TV drama while watching the picture. So a Foley artist tasked with recording the sound of rattling keys will watch the scene with the actor handling the keys and create sounds that match.

The sound of keys rattling is fairly quiet, but there is also the rustling of clothing. Or imagine someone sitting down on a leather sofa.

These are extremely quiet sounds, but if they are not including in the soundtrack of the movie or TV drama then the scene will not seem realistic.

The Audio Masterclass Music Production and Sound Engineering Course


Ready to take your recording to the next level? Full online course leading to your Audio Masterclass certificate on successful completion.

Clearly then a studio designed for Foley must be very quiet.

Further considerations

There are tech solutions to noise. Noise reduction software or plug-ins can work amazingly well. But some software developers try to convince their potential purchasers that noise reduction is an intrinsic part of the production process. This is not so. Would you hire a professional studio at $1000 a day or more that suffered from noise problems that had to be solved with a plug-in? Clearly no. Noise reduction is only used when absolutely necessary, such as dialog recorded on location.

So if you aspire to a professional standard of work it is important to consider what the true professional standard is. These are the people you will be competing with.

The Audio Masterclass Music Production and Sound Engineering Course contains knowledge content and audio examples of background noise in speech in Module 1.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday October 30, 2018

Like, follow, and comment on this article at Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram or the social network of your choice.

David Mellor

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

More from Adventures In Audio...

An interesting microphone setup for violinist Nigel Kennedy

Are you compressing too much? Here's how to tell...

If setting the gain correctly is so important, why don't mic preamplifiers have meters?

The Internet goes analogue!

How to choose an audio interface

Audio left-right test. Does it matter?

Electric guitar - compress before the amp, or after?

What is comb filtering? What does it sound like?

NEW: Audio crossfades come to Final Cut Pro X 10.4.9!

What is the difference between EQ and filters? *With Audio*

What difference will a preamp make to your recording?

Watch our video on linear phase filters and frequency response with the FabFilter Pro Q 2

Read our post on linear phase filters and frequency response with the Fabfilter Pro Q 2

Harmonic distortion with the Soundtoys Decapitator

What's the best height for studio monitors? Answer - Not too low!

What is the Red Book standard? Do I need to use it? Why?

Will floating point change the way we record?

Mixing: What is the 'Pedalboard Exception'?

The difference between mic level and line level

The problem with parallel compression that you didn't know you had. What it sounds like and how to fix it.

Compressing a snare drum to even out the level

What does parallel compression on vocals sound like?

How to automate tracks that have parallel compression

Why mono is better than stereo for recording vocals and dialogue