How to reduce the background noise on a microphone

Written by catherine ketley
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How to reduce the background noise on a microphone
Choose the right mic for the job. (George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Unless you're David Bowie, recording songs that sound like they've been transmitted via satellite is annoying. A gritty, muddy sound works for some recordings but for most, the atmospheric hiss and fuzz of microphone noise often ruins the song. Studio sound engineers can work wonders reducing ambient sound, but if you're recording your own work, there are some simple steps you can take to improve the clarity of your music. Hugh Robjohns, technical editor of music production magazine Sound on Sound, says that "the ultimate quality of your recordings depends entirely on your microphones and what you do with them."

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Microphone
  • Mic stand
  • Solid foam blocks
  • Shockmounts
  • Pop shield
  • Mic windsock

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  1. 1

    Use the right sort of microphone. Choose unidirectional mics to separate background noise from single recording sources. Place them so that the sensitive sound pickup is facing away from unwanted sound sources.

  2. 2

    Consider the studio acoustics. Position singers and musicians at equal distances from the mic. Avoid placing furniture or other sound barriers between the performers and the mic. Use an omnidirectional mic for choirs or large groups.

  3. 3

    Enhance the sound you're looking to capture. Choose a condenser mic for the more delicate, natural sound of acoustic guitars or acapella singing. Opt for a dynamic microphone if you're recording louder sounds such as amplified guitars or drums.

  4. 4

    Optimise the sound quality of your mic with accessories. Use a stand to stabilise the mic and protect it from noisy vibrations. Place each leg of the stand on solid foam or use shockmounts to reduce rumble and footfall noise.

  5. 5

    Eliminate unwanted vocal or environmental sounds. Silence any extreme plosive or sibilant bursts from your singing by attaching a pop shield to your mic. Use a windsock to reduce air noise and traffic interference on outside recordings.

Tips and warnings

  • Use post-recording noise filters to help eliminate the buzz of electrical current.
  • Always put your mic away in a foam-lined box to protect it from dust and shocks.
  • Avoid cheap cables as they do not carry sound as efficiently as more expensive ones.

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