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What's That Hissing Noise?


By Dan

January 4, 2010

Comments (16)


I'm not an engineer, but I could portray one in a radio play!

My question is about home recording. I'm using a RE20 mic through a Mackie Mixer (MicroSeries 1202-VLZ) and Audacity to put it all together. This set-up does what I need for flat voice reads, and some editing (check out my demo: ( but leaves an ambient hiss over the vocal--I've read through the Mackie manual, but have yet to find a way to take down the noise.

I've also tried the noise removal effect in Audacity--it does take out the noise, but leaves a "signature" and a slight bit of distortion on the voice...this leads me to think that my problem is back to the mic, or the room I am recording in (a small room in my home.)

Would a soundproof set-up built around the mic take out the ambient noise, or do you think it is signal-related? I have a feeling I may not be the only one experiencing this kind of "technical difficulty." Eagerly awaiting your reply!

Noise huh?

Well, giving a listen to your demo I can clearly hear the background hiss. What causes that "White Noise?"

These old ears can tell the difference between the background hissing of a fan or furnace. Those sounds are of a lower frequency. This is electronically induced. Its a function of too much gain from the Mackie. I'll venture one step further and take a guess, (As you have not provided this information) that you are routing the mixer's output directly to the "Line-in" or "Mic-In," and that you are not using a digital interface. That'll do it. While the pre-amps in the MicroSeries 1202-VLZ are reported to be very good, they are good for "Live Performance" and not recording mono-channel voice. Mackie makes great band stuff. Fairly heavy duty and functional, FOR BANDS!

I see this over and over. The equipment we use is designed primarily for making music. Unless you're recording The Dave Matthews Band's latest CD, you only need to record with one channel. So whats the deal with the other 11 channels the1202-VLZ provides you? Are you mixing music live under your voice? I don't think so, or at least you shouldn't be. One thing at a time.

First, as I said, you should be using a digital interface to input the audio into your computer and recording software. A CEntrance Mic-Port Pro or Apogee ONE is a simple, one channel, USB digital interface that takes direct mic input and converts it to the bit and bytes that your computer recognizes as audio. Otherwise, your computer is doing the conversion through the "in's," and its own sound card, and, it basically sucks at it.

The digital converters in these little devices are fantastic and reduce the length of your audio chain. Remember, the more analog devices you have in your chain (You should only have one. Your mic) the more "white noise" introduced.

We discussed the use of mixers in an entry exactly a year ago, entitled "Mix It Up" where I poo-pooe'd the use of mixers for voice work. You're not running a multi-track recording studio. You're laying down mono voice tracks. Aside from perhaps controlling your mic's level, which DI's also do, and some routing that you might require for a phone patch, an analog mixer is really not needed for the type of work most of us do.

The Electro-Voice RE-20, a classic, dynamic broadcasters microphone may not be the best choice for "Voice over" or narration. Lots of guys use them, but they require techniques that are not optimum for what we all do. Best to use a studio condenser mic for that.

This confusion over what to use is common and I think people need to do more research on Home Voice Over Studio techniques and equipment instead of asking the guy behind the counter at your audio retail store.

Try those DI's and see if that doesn't make a difference.

The only "white Noise" I want to hear right now is the sound of falling snow.

About The Author

Dan LenardBuffalo, NY native Dan Lenard has been a radio personality, an insurance sales consultant, a high school Media and Social Studies teacher and a stay-at-home dad. He earned his BA in Broadcasting from Buffalo State College in 1980, a New York State teaching certificate from Buff State in 1997 and then in 2002, an MA in Creative Studies from again, his hometown Alma Mater.

Related Topics: Digital Interfaces, Electro-Voice, hiss, Mixers, white noise


    Dear Master, I seem to be having the same problem as this least according to one of my clients. I have a studio in my home which consists of an AKG C4500 mic, which is plugged into a Symetrix 628 Digital Voice Processor. This in turn is plugged into an Echo Mia sound card in my computer. I use Adobe Audition 1.0 editing software to equalize my voice, as I have the Symetrix on bypass, and only use it to power the mic. The reason I don't use the Symetrix to "process" my voice is too many clients didn't like the sound of it. The Adobe Audition brings up a little high end which seems to keep everyone happy, except for this one client who tells me he hears noise on my audio files. I tried replacing the Symetrix with an M-Audio Fast Track Pro, which sounded like a jet taking off there was so much noise, so that went back to the store. I then tried replacing my beautiful mic with a USB. I tried the Audio Technica mic, AT2020USB which was a little too sensitive and picked up every room noise and mouth sound within a 100 yard radius. I swear I could hear my skin cells shedding! That too, had quite a bit of electronic noise in back it went. I really don't have a problem with my current set-up. It sounds just fine to me and most of my clients...but one in particular (the one that gives me most of my business) still has a problem with noise. I am at my wits end! The only thing I haven't tried yet is replacing my old Echo Mia sound card...but I wanted
    to wait a bit, because I think the guys at Sweetwater, where I purchase my equipment, are fed up with me! What do you suppose could be the problem?

    Posted by:

      I have seen many people doing the same thing. Unless you use two mics, such as a studio condenser and a shotgun mic (for promo & movie trailer work), you don't really need that much equipment. I have a point about Audacity software: I have used it many times and I realized that if you try to enhance the audio with the equalizer you will get some kind of hiss. That tool is really bad in Audacity and it can really mess up a good take. I hope this help you too. :D

      Posted by:

        Thank You Master for taking the time to check out my demo and to reply to my query--since I last wrote, I researched and picked up a
        Samson CO1U USB Studio Condenser and the difference in the sound and the work that goes into it is significant! I recut and re-posted the demo ( and am much happier with the results! Thanks for your time and valuable advice!


        Posted by:


          It sounds like your not setting things up properly.

          The Echo Mia from what I can see is, not designed to do voice work. It is a Midi & analog digital interface. You require something different. The AT2020 is indeed very sensitive. Its supposed to be. Its a condenser mic which is what you are supposed to be using for voice work, and no way it should be more sensitive than the AKG c4500. That tells me you weren't setting things up properly in the first place. The Symetrix is indeed a poor choice for simply phantom power.

          The key is to do your processing after you record, not in the input. (Thats what a Symetrix does.) The M-Audio Fast track Pro should be fine. It sounds like you didn't really understand how to use it with your AKG. Email me at and I'll see if I can straighten things out for you.

          Master VO

          Posted by:

            Hey Dan,

            Clearly, the $79 Samson CO1U is a major improvement. Like I said the RE 20 isn't a bad mic, In fact its a great mic and you might make it work for you if you get a USB adapter for it. Still, best to use a Condenser mic. Learn how use a condenser with the CO1U at different distances and experiment. Then you'll understand why you might want to upgrade. from there.

            Master VO

            Posted by:

              Hi Dan...
              Same problem here, as well. I have a PreSonus Inspire 1394 preamp from my PC with Vista, to an MXL 990 Condenser Mic.

              Using Audacity, the recording is normal, but when converted to wav. or MP3, the harsh noise is very loud and overpowers my voice.

              This is my "BIGGEST" VO goal of 2010 to conquer, all else will then fall into place...

              Thanks Master VO,

              Posted by:

                Bonjour Dan!

                A simple thing that would solve your problem: an expander-gate (you can find it on good preamps). This was the only way for me to get a perfect sound with no noise at all (what we call the noise floor).

                But also, you need a condenser microphone. A dynamic won't we as good (especially if you need a lot of input gain.) Yes, a condenser is more sensitive, but it will be sensitive to the real noise in the recording room, not the "noise floor".

                Good luck mon ami!

                Posted by:

                  Hi there Master,

                  Took your advice on experimenting with my Samson CO1U with different set-ups/distances--Thanks! I eliminated one noise issue by moving the mic away from the computer, but I still have a challenge--I have the CO1U on a mic stand in a sound-proofed set up. When I begin to record, almost all noise is eliminated, save for what sounds like "tape hiss"--not highly noticeable, but I know it is there. It sounds like I would need to take this out with EQ processing after I record--currently, I do not put any processing on my voice while recording dry reads, honestly, for the kind of work that I do, and audition for, I don't try to super-process my voice. I am not up on EQ specifics, but I have been tinkering with different configurations--Any suggestions?

                  Thanks always for your time and advice!


                  Posted by:

                    Hi Donna,

                    Sorry for along awaited reply. I need a little more info on what the problem is. It sounds like your mixdown settings aren’t right. When you save the file as an MP3 I’m going to bet you have it set to either “normalizing” the file for maximum volume or you are just raising the volume a little. You don’t want to do that. You want the volume to be correct on the initial input, when you are recording. Your waveform should be peaking at –3 db as you record. If the initial level is low, when you bring it up, you will also increase the volume of any background noise, but worse, the initial signal being so low, you will introduce more noise into the signal.

                    This has to be one of the most common mistakes beginning home studio recorders make. Proper input volume is critical! That’s why a good pre amp is a smart thing to use.


                    Master VO

                    Posted by:


                      The CO1U isn't perfect. If you don't give it enough input gain initially, you get increased hiss. If you have a PC, The CO1U comes with software that will increase the CO1U's input into your computer. If its a Mac, go into your sound preferences and raise the input there.

                      Master VO

                      Posted by:

                        i have an mxl 990 connected to windows vista and to a presonus bluetube preamp when i first started recording everything was coming out fine and a friend of mine messed with the settings in the control panel on my windows vista now the mic is allways to loud and theres this echo i cant get out of there even when i low the mic volume down theres still an echo when i record and in the headphones please please HELP!


                        OK, Simple!!! (Windows 7 likes to change settings on audio by itself)

                        go into your sound properties, go to recording, look at your inputs. Click on the onboard microphone properties. There is a boost setting that must be at "0."

                        Master VO

                        Try that and call me in the morning.

                        Posted by:

                          im still having trouble with my magix music maker 15 i have no idea how to lower the microphone when i record i believe maybe its the settings in the program that are mixed up because i went to my control panel on my windows vista and turned off the microphone boost i also lowered the microphone volume to 1 so it dont pick up noise in the room the buttons on my preamp i notice that when i hit the button that says +48v thats the only time the mic picks up so i have to keep that button on if i hit the button that says pad i have to turn the knobs on more for the mic to pick up so its not the preamp and its not the volumes in the control panel I THINK ITS THE SETTINGS IN THE PROGRAM AND IM A BEGINNER TO RECORDING WHEN I HIT THAT RECORD BUTTON AND I HEAR MYSELF IN THE HEADPHONES I COME OUT LOUD WITH AN ECHO AND SOMETIMES LOW WITH AN ECHO AND I HEAR WAT I SAY ON DA MIC LIKE MAYBE 5 SECONDS AFTER I SAY WAT IM SINGING LIKE THE MIC IS PICKING UP AFTER I SAY MY WORDS AND WHEN I PLAYBACK MY RECORDING IT SOUNDS HORRIBLE IF I DONT GET HELP SOON I MAY GIVE UP AND SELL MY EQUIPMENT AND FORGET ABOUT SINGING ALTHOUGH ITS MY DREAM :( :( HELP ME PLEASE

                          Posted by:

                            Hello Master VO!

                            I hope you have a moment to reply to this inquiry. I have a feeling you'll be able to give me a quick and easy answer.

                            I have a question about a delay when I listen to myself through headphones as I record my voice. I have an Audio-Technica AT2020 USB condenser mic and right now I'm using Mixcraft (similar to GarageBand but for a PC). I have adjusted the buffering size in the editing program to reduce the delay, but I'd like to hear myself in real time as I record. I contacted the kind people at Audio-Technica and it is now my understanding that there is no way to completely be rid of this delay when using a USB mic.

                            I am currently considering replacing this USB mic with a regular AT2020 condenser mic and a digital interface (like the CEntrance Mic Port Pro). My question is, will this equipment let me listen through my headphones as I record in real time? Or do I need a supplemental item, like a PA system, in order to hear myself while recording?

                            Thanks for your patience and I look forward to your response. Have a lovely day!

                            Danielle :)

                            Posted by:


                              A have a little problem with our Symetrix 628.
                              Could you send me your preset(s) for voice processor?


                              Posted by:

                                Does President Obama use a voice echo in some of his speeches?

                                Posted by:

                                  Hello Mr. Leonard -

                                  I found your blog online and was wondering if you would be willing to offer me some friendly advice.

                                  I'm a fairly new VO actor and have setup my home studio with the following equipment:

                                  Behringer C1 Studio Condensor XLR mic
                                  Behringer 802 Xenyx mixer/preamp
                                  Lexicon Alpha Digital Interface
                                  PC with stock Real Tek sound card
                                  Room is moderately buffered (but am working on making it more quiet)

                                  My issue is that I can't get my noise floor low enough to make my clients happy -- I have a hiss problem.

                                  I updated my internal sound card's driver this weekend and when I set my preamp to Gain = 2 o'clock, Volume = noon and Audacity's incoming volume to .5, I get a quiet reading of around -60 dbs (Prior to updating the driver, I was getting around -45 dbs). I also can't get my voice over -18 dbs.

                                  However, when I listen to my recordings that -60 sounds incredibly, horribly noisy and when I normalize to bring my voice to -3dbs, it sounds like I'm in a wind tunnel.

                                  I'm sure I'm doing something very basic...basically very wrong, and I could use any advice from knowledgeable sound masters as I can.

                                  Thanks so much for your time and consideration. Blessings -

                                  Posted by:

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