Why are my recordings so muddy?

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philchenevert
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Post by philchenevert » April 2nd, 2020, 9:16 am

Hi all. Especially you audio engineers out there and people who know stuff. My recordings are soft and muddy and I want them crisp and clear. Here is a raw sample https://librivox.org/uploads/philchenevert/sample_for_fixing_muddy_sound.mp3

You will notice that it is heavy in the lower spectrum. I normally do a high pass filter at 85 Hz but this sample is untouched by human or inhuman hands.

I use a Blue Yeti directly plugged into my PC and record using Audacity. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I don't mind paying an audio engineer to give me some advice but thought I'd start here first with so many smart helpful people. What would you do? Whadda ya say? Am doomed to muddy recordings?

(I do have a dbx box and a Rode microphone but that's a whole other can of worms.) Image
video of our Zoom 10/18/2020 https://youtu.be/OtvgxviSrTw

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Post by lurcherlover » April 2nd, 2020, 12:24 pm

I don't find your recording muddy. You have a deep voice, which is great. I also found there was plenty of volume, and it did not sound soft at all. You said it was unprocessed. I'm beginning to think that it's possibly best to not do too much (or any) processing in post, but to try and get a pristine recording at source.

I do use quite expensive mics and also a quite expensive Sound Devices recorder. Of course 128kb MP3 renders do no favours to the sound quality and I think some of the final products are even 64kb MP3's. But I do understand the reasons for this. I originally record 24bit and 48kHz and for music 96kHz sample rates.

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Post by KevinS » April 2nd, 2020, 12:43 pm

Man alive! This sounds great! You say this is unprocessed?!

You have -3 dc bias but no clipping. (I don't think that's a problem.)

There are some little nicks and nacks heard but you could spot correct those. (And I don't think those are a problem either.)
What? What's that? Why are you shouting?

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Post by philchenevert » April 2nd, 2020, 1:08 pm

Yes, this is completely unprocessed and I am surprised you say it is OK. Perhaps it is my headphones that emphasize the bass tones? I have started narrating books for Literature Ally who record contemporary grade school texts and novels for kids with reading problems and they tell me my recordings are too 'muddy' and 'underwater' and so I probably won't be accepted. As a volunteer of course. I agree with them and thought I'd ask for help. ( I just thought it would be neat to read modern stuff like Goosebumps, and other things kids love now days but apparently it isn't to be.)

So I am bewildered. Maybe I'm being too hard on my recordings. I don't know but they still don't sound clean and crisp like I'd like 'em. Thanks for your feedback. :D
video of our Zoom 10/18/2020 https://youtu.be/OtvgxviSrTw

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Post by audiomike » April 2nd, 2020, 1:15 pm

Hmmmm... Let's see. You could always play with EQ until you're happy but that's just a band aid fix you may have to mess with every time. You should always fix the problem, not the symptom.
Next up would be the mic itself. That particular mic may not be suited for your voice. But it can get expensive to find the one that is.
It could also be caused by the power going to the mic. If the USB port isn't providing the proper, and clean, voltage, it can affect the performance of the mic. Have you tried a different computer or USB cable? I almost returned a brand new mic because of a bad USB cable. I guess I should have used the one that came with it to begin with.
I did check the amplitude statistics in Audition and the one thing that I've found common to most "muddy" sounding, and/or over processed, voices is that they lack in the use of available dynamic range. From what I've seen, most good recordings are around 98%, while your sample file is at 65%. I've seen some one minute tests that were around 30.
In the end I think it still boils down to the mic, for one reason or another.
Hope this helps.

BTW, as lurcherlover said, your voice doesn't sound that bad.

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Post by lurcherlover » April 2nd, 2020, 1:21 pm

philchenevert wrote:
April 2nd, 2020, 1:08 pm
Yes, this is completely unprocessed and I am surprised you say it is OK. Perhaps it is my headphones that emphasize the bass tones? I have started narrating books for Literature Ally who record contemporary grade school texts and novels for kids with reading problems and they tell me my recordings are too 'muddy' and 'underwater' and so I probably won't be accepted. As a volunteer of course. I agree with them and thought I'd ask for help. ( I just thought it would be neat to read modern stuff like Goosebumps, and other things kids love now days but apparently it isn't to be.)

So I am bewildered. Maybe I'm being too hard on my recordings. I don't know but they still don't sound clean and crisp like I'd like 'em. Thanks for your feedback. :D
Well, they don't know what they are talking about (Literature Ally). I listened on phones and there was no problem. Perhaps they listen on some awful speakers. Hearing your clip on phones through a reasonable mixer where I had a direct line and no processing it sounded good. I hear much, much worse coming from professional broadcasters on radio and particularly on TV, but don't get me started on that!

Edit: As audiomike says, a change of mic may make some difference but that could be expensive and you also might find a new mic is not as good as your present one, as it's difficult if not impossible to road test a mic on your voice.

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Post by loon » April 2nd, 2020, 1:27 pm

I agree with the 2 previous comments - nothing to complain about here. Adding your normal 85 Hz filter will remove the DC bias KevinS sees.

@ lurchover: Sound Devices recorder? You lucky dog; I lust for one of those.

@ Phil: I assume you're using the cardioid pattern on your Yeti mic - if so you could back away from the mic a bit to reduce proximity effect - let physics reduce those low frequencies a bit. You would need to up the gain a bit in Audacity, but you're not suffering from room noise / echos / hummmmm / etc. I tend to rely on Analyze... Plot Spectrum... in Audacity to see if there is something weird in the ratios of high - mid - low frequencies. The spectrum in your sample looks fine to me.

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Post by lurcherlover » April 2nd, 2020, 1:32 pm

loon wrote:
April 2nd, 2020, 1:27 pm
I agree with the 2 previous comments - nothing to complain about here. Adding your normal 85 Hz filter will remove the DC bias KevinS sees.

@ lurchover: Sound Devices recorder? You lucky dog; I lust for one of those.
Well I needed to replace my trusty Tascam recorder so I went a bit further and bought the SD. It's pre-amps are so good that I don't have to use my DAV pre amp - which is sad as it's a great pre.

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Post by loon » April 2nd, 2020, 1:34 pm

audiomike wrote:
April 2nd, 2020, 1:15 pm
It could also be caused by the power going to the mic. If the USB port isn't providing the proper, and clean, voltage, it can affect the performance of the mic. Have you tried a different computer or USB cable?
P.S. If audiomike is right about your computer not providing enough power through the USB you could try a powered USB hub between the computer and the mic. Upside: pretty cheap to try out. Downside: if the power supply for the USB hub is too cheaply made you could just be adding HUMMMMM to your recording.
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philchenevert
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Post by philchenevert » April 2nd, 2020, 2:10 pm

Darn! what have I done to deserve such great information from everyone! I am replacing my USB cord tomorrow with a new one and will try that. Also I do use cardoid of course but will be backing away more from the microphone. Thanks again everyone. I don't feel as bad now about my recordings but if I could just get more tenor into my voice........... :thumbs:
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Post by annise » April 2nd, 2020, 3:01 pm

Phil - not getting into the technical side but I do notice that most children's TV has high pitched speech so maybe they find children learn better with higher-pitched voices. Or that higher-pitched voices are "clearer" in speech .So maybe it's the pitch of your voice? And you can't change that.

Anne

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Post by loon » April 2nd, 2020, 3:57 pm

philchenevert wrote:
April 2nd, 2020, 2:10 pm
Phil Chenevert, The LibriVox Video Guy

At any moment the urge to sing the Lion Sleeps Tonight is just a whim away..
Grooooan!

I do miss group singing - even the Lion Sleeps Tonight - but groups for anything are Right Out for a while.

Fortunately, recording for, and listening to LibriVox is social distance safe. Yes, collaborative recordings as well.
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Post by realisticspeakers » April 2nd, 2020, 5:23 pm

Hi Phil,

The recording is not muddy at all. In fact the EQ graph show nice and flat, there are no bumps in the muddy area around 200Hz, the mids are nice and tame, and the highs are crisp with no annoying peaks.
I ran your recording through my effects chain and had almost no effect on quality. (Whereas when I run *my* raw recording through the chain its like making potable water from the Ganges.)

However...where did you record this, in a city restaurant during happy hour?
The background noise, the conversations, and the general din behind you would not pass any production specs.
Learning Ally is almost as lax as Librivox...almost, so it was surprising, nay shocking to read your post.

But that background din is distracting. Kids are try'na study here!

oh btw. dbx box? dbx286? If you have any of those dials after the preamp turned up without the bypass button pressed, then you are processing.
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Post by k5hsj » April 2nd, 2020, 7:44 pm

philchenevert wrote:
April 2nd, 2020, 2:10 pm
if I could just get more tenor into my voice........... :thumbs:
You could try the pitch shift in Audacity, Phil. Someone put a couple of my recordings up on YouTube and pitch shifted me down to become a basso! :shock:
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Post by lurcherlover » April 3rd, 2020, 12:34 am

philchenevert wrote:
April 2nd, 2020, 2:10 pm
Darn! what have I done to deserve such great information from everyone! I am replacing my USB cord tomorrow with a new one and will try that. Also I do use cardoid of course but will be backing away more from the microphone. Thanks again everyone. I don't feel as bad now about my recordings but if I could just get more tenor into my voice........... :thumbs:
There is an operation ...

You could also (if the mic switches or you have another) use the omni setting. Omni won't have the proximity effect and you can use it really close. On the other hand omni's have better bass response so maybe back to square one ...

The other option is to experiment with EQ and reduce the frequency region of 40-150 Hz by about 4-8 dB and get the plugin to remember the final setting by saving it. (If you can do that in Audacity - I will check and see).

Peter

Yes there is a graphic Equaliser in Audacity and you can save the settings to use again.

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