sound quality issue

Hi all
I Know this is the wrong topic area but getting no luck in the sound topic forum with this -
I seem to have a slight problem with the sound quality when i record my voice using my microphone - I have a C-Media AC97 sound card (not great i grant you)installed on the pc and the microphone is a cheap sony job.
The quality of playback is hissy and low (i have tried configuring the sound through the audio settings) but to no avail.

The problem is that when i try to incorporate a music track into the background the dialogue is barely audible.
Can anyone give me tips as to what they are using to record vocals - im willing to spend a bit of money on new hardware if its going to eliviate the problem …
I have downloaded and installed Audacity which seems to be a great little program but i still have a hiss in the bg

thanks in advance
Brian ;D

Hi Brian,

As far as animation is concerned, I am a newbie like you. But I do have some experience in the field of audio recording, so I’ll try to do my best to give you a short overview of what you have to know and can do:

First of all, the quality of your recorded audio depends on every part of the signal chain it has to go through: voice, microphone, soundcard, software. Cheap components have a tendency to produce more noise (like the hiss you describe) than state-of-the-art products.

Second, whether you are using a condenser microphone or a dynamic one, in most cases a microphone signal has to be pre-amplified to get enough gain. This is what a pre-amplifier does (condenser microphones additionally need phantom power of 48V, which usually is also supplied by the amp; dynamics don’t; but condenser mikes mostly sound better and clearer on vocals than dynamic).

Next, you have to take into account the resolution of your sound card. Normally, 16 Bit should be enough (this is the resolution of an audio cd).

And last but not least, the signal has not only to be recorded to sound good, it also has to be processed. Vocals, whether spoken od sung, need to be compressed to be understandable when underlaid with music or sounds. A compressor “compresses” the dynamic range of your audio - i.e. first reduces only the loudest parts of your audio, then makes the whole signal louder again. The loudest parts are now as loud as before. But everything underneath is now raised, which gives the signal more overall loudness. (This is why you can hear a rock singer breath, though there’s a drummer and tons of electric guitar there at the same time.)

And now the good news: there are some good and cheap condenser mikes on the market. Personally I use an AKG C-1000 for quick vocal takes, but there a others, like the Samson C-1 etc.
I don’t know much about soundcards, since I use a Mac. But if you ever plan to buy another one: think about buying an external device. There are many so-called audio interfaces on the market now, some based on USB, some on firewire, many of them rather cheap - especially, if you only record vocals and therefore don’t need many inputs. These interfaces are kind of external “soundcards”. (I would always prefer to convert my analoque audio signal to digital outside the humming box of my computer.) Most of them have microphone pre-amps (and phantom power) already built in - so you don’t need any additional components.

Finally, I can’t recommend any particular audio recording software, since this depends on your OS as well as personal taste. I use Apple Logic Studio and Garageband most of them time, since I do own a small recording studio, but there’s lots of others. Btw, I think even audacity has a compressor effect built in? (Please, don’t compress your “dirty” signal - not only would you make the vocals louder, but also the hiss…)

I hope this helps a little.

Thanks for the very informative info Peter - ive since spoken to a friend who does music on his laptop and he will let me try out his sennheiser microphone which he swears is brilliant so will see how it goes with that first - fingers crossed - thanks for the feedback mate

brian ;D