Every artist has encountered a noise issue at one point or another while recording an audio track. A vocalist may spend a significant amount of time creating a perfect vocal piece in order to achieve a flawless and solid vocal tone. The ideal recording should be recorded at 24-bit resolution, which decreases the chances of audio overload and allows for more headroom. The recording may be free of clicks, pops, or audio dropouts.
However, as the artist or engineer reviews the file and initiates the editing and mixing process, he/she finds that the level of unwanted noise interferes with vocal production. Some noise can be relatively easy to filter out, of course. Mild resonances, such as a very low hiss may not pose much of a problem. A de-hisser effect may be applied in order to clear up the audio. However, if resonances enter the mic and distort the vocals, the track may not be salvageable. An artist may be required to re-record a new audio track and hope that this new take is free of noise. This may prove to be a frustrating task for the vocalist, but this is a scenario that continues to repeat itself.
Investing in a Microphone Isolation Shield Can Eliminate the Need for Excessive Audio Editing Issues with Unwanted Noise in Vocal Recordings
A reflection occurs any time a sound is produced. Both loud and soft sounds create pressure waves that bounce off surfaces and release echoes, reverb, and delays. The harder the surfaces, the more reverb is generated. Reverb enters the mic and is recorded as unwanted noise.
- Best Microphone Isolation Shield for Singing
- Weight: 7.9 lbs
- Number of Panels: 3-5
Most musicians and vocalists, unless they are professional sound engineers, do face problems with capturing unwanted noises during the recording process. These noises may include pops, clicks, or hums, which can be quite difficult to filter out. The singing of plosive consonants may enter the recording as abrasive popping sounds, but these may be prevented with a pop filter. Pop filters tend to be less effective in preventing external ambient noise from entering the mic. Oftentimes, low to moderate reverberation may be edited without causing damage to the recording. However, some environmental sounds may not completely be eliminated from the audio. If an artist lives in an area close to the interstate, traffic reverberations may often enter the mic as low-frequency noise. Air-conditioners and heaters may also introduce low-end frequencies that are difficult to target. Even high-end noise editing software may not be able to diminish unwanted sounds. If an artist is able to remove the reflections, it may impair the quality of the recording.
Other issues may arise from this extreme editing. Oftentimes, the vocals may sound as though they were recorded in a tube or tunnel. Once this happens, any additional manipulation is futile. There is no effect that will make the vocals sound dry and natural again. Mixing them with instrumental layers will also give the instrumentals a tunnel sound effect. Or it can give the overall mix a sludgy sound that is difficult and unpleasant to listen to. Artifacts may be present in the session; artifacts are snippets of unwanted sounds that are caused by excessive editing and manipulation. They give the overall recording a distorted or warped effect, and white noise may also cause additional distortion.
Sometimes artifacts sound as though tiny pieces of metal are trapped in the audio, creating a soft, tinkling sound. Removing them may damage the track entirely. In order to prevent damage, the artist may have to lower the volume of the vocals. This keeps the audio file from having a professional quality. If the vocals are too soft, they will not be very useful in the final mix. Increasing the vocal dynamics while applying a denoiser effect may augment the issue; the higher the sound floor is raised, the more artifacts are introduced into the mix. There are limits to what a denoiser may filter out. In order to create a clean, high-quality recording, several steps must be taken.
Record in a Stable and Consistent Environment
You should have a personal home studio that is devoted to only recording and mixing. It should also be free of any items that could cause extreme pressure waves. A significant amount of hard objects in a studio will increase the chances of noises bouncing off these objects and echoing in the microphone. Soft surfaces do not reflect soundwaves. They absorb them. Curtains and sofas are acceptable studio items because of their soft textures; however, glass and ceramic objects reflect sound waves. TV and computer monitors will also cause reflections that create delays. Having an airtight room creates effective insulation, and this keeps the reflections from traveling from one part of the room to another.
The vocals should also match in different takes, so recording in a similar environment is essential.
Make sure that there are no subtle sounds outside the studio that could creep into the recording. Even the quiet sound of a rabbit munching on hay from across the room can create a huge aural problem for the listener, especially if the gain levels are raised a bit. Also, you should try not to clear your throat, rub your nose, or sniff during the process as these can sometimes enter the recording if the microphone is close in proximity. If there is any type of delay in the room, these sounds can stretch into the vocals. Filtering them out may cause alterations in the track. Make sure that you always adjust the distance of the mic accordingly. You may need to stand or sit closer to the structure when singing very soft vocals and further away when singing an operatic aria.
Regardless of how quiet a home recording studio is, the noise continues to be a significant problem for artists. In a studio musical arrangement, the presence of unwanted sounds can be distracting for listeners. However, while artists wish to create professional sounding mixes, many may not be able to afford the expertise of an audio engineer. This is especially true for independent or underground musicians. A microphone isolation shield may be beneficial for artists with a home-based studio.
Benefits of Purchasing a Microphone Isolation Shield
A microphone isolation shield is a worthwhile investment for any artist who is dedicated to creating professional mixes. An isolation shield can produce a high-end studio quality experience for both the artist and the listener. It can save artists a large amount of editing time since it completely isolates the vocals as they are being recorded. Typically placed on a mic stand right behind the microphone, it blocks and shields resonances that bounce off hard surfaces.
The external shell is vented to give the singer some breathing room, and it ensures that the sound is pleasing to the ear. The shell is also insulated with an acoustic foam that absorbs outside noise and prevents it from reaching the mic. This can be a bit troubling if you want a strong reverb effect to be present in the vocals.
While it cannot be denied that reverb can add a certain depth to vocals and instrumental parts, it is better to isolate the vocals in a clean, dry mix. This gives you a bit more “space” when editing and mastering the recording. If too much reverb enters the mix, it may generate a ringing “metallic” sound that is difficult to smooth out during the mixing process.
Reverb also tends to amplify the dynamics in the recording, which may cause distortion during mixing. If effects are desired, they may be added later through the use of editing software and plugins. The use of plugins and studio reverb allows the artist more control over how the final mix will sound. The level of reverb can be adjusted to the artist’s personal taste. Some artists prefer to use more delay and reverb effects; some prefer a more natural sound to the audio.
Since ambient noise can emerge at any time, it is important to keep re-positioning the isolation shield so that it continues to block reflections. Low-frequency resonances, such as air-conditioners and traffic sounds, can enter a recording as a persistent hum, which may go undetected during recording. There are features within the shell that permit the user to shift the angles away from the sound source. However, the shield may amplify low-frequency noise, so this is something an artist must pay close attention to when considering shield placement.
Also, increasing the gain levels in this situation may intensify the humming effect, so it is better to leave the gain levels alone. Most microphone isolation screens are suited to filtering out higher frequencies. However, there are additional methods that can be used to reduce the lower frequencies and other unwanted sounds.
Use a Microphone with a Cardioid Pickup Pattern
This microphone will be more sensitive to direct, unidirectional vocals and be less sensitive to the external reflections located at the sides and rear of the microphone. A large-diaphragm cardioid capacitor microphone is commonly used for directional recording. An omnidirectional microphone is more appropriate for recording vocals or instrumentals from a group of people. It picks up sounds from the front and the rear of the mic. A radio drama or orchestra would probably require omnidirectional recording. A shotgun microphone is used to record things from a distance since it picks up sounds from a narrow range.
- Best Studio Microphone for Singing
- Has an internal pop filter
- Pickup: Cardioid
Isolation shields are generally compatible with either cardioid condenser microphones or dynamic microphones, as long as the adapter sizes are measured from 3/8 to 5/8. Microphone isolation shields are probably more compatible with cardioid condenser mics than dynamic mics since condenser mics are more sensitive to abrasive sounds. Blocking noise is essential when working with cardioid mics because they easily pick up feedback. They tend to be better suited to recording vocals and are generally higher in price. Dynamic mics, on the other hand, are more affordable and may withstand higher sound pressure. They tend to be well-suited to rock band style recording.
Hang a Broadband Absorber Behind the Performer
The absorber should be very large in order to “trap” the reflections that bounce off the rear wall and onto the front side of the microphone. A thick duvet is ideal and can be hung away from the wall for the best outcome. An absorber can also be used with a portable isolation screen for extra insulation.
A DIY microphone isolation booth is an excellent choice for artists who are hesitant to commit to a professional isolation shield. A homemade isolation booth costs from 15 to 20 dollars and is also effective in reducing environmental noise. The only materials you will need are: foam, foam core board, a glue gun, glue sticks, an electrical ground clamp, and tape. Weezna explains how to build a shield in this video tutorial:
It is crucial to note that each isolation shield serves a specific purpose. A consumer must keep this in mind when looking to invest in one. Although isolation shields are fairly affordable, the consumer must ensure that it is durable and meets quality expectations.
Creating pristine vocal or instrumental recordings is a must for any professional music artist. Whether you decide to purchase a professional microphone isolation shield or build your own, it is imperative to consider which shield best serves your individual recording needs. One shield may be more appropriate for individual singing or piano arranging, while another may withstand more intense sound pressures from rock band sessions.
Since isolation shields are more adept at blocking higher frequency noise, specific precautions must be taken when blocking low-frequency noise. Flexibility and portability are also important factors to consider for artists that travel often. Hopefully, this article will give you more insight as to which filter is best for your studio. A relatively small investment can eliminate excessive editing during the mixing stage. Editing can significantly distort the audio quality, so preventing sounds from touching the sensitive hardware mic will ensure a cleaner recording. This will also save time before the final audio mastering takes place.