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Caution! Coffee Mugs Don't Play Nicely in the Home Studio

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

September 21, 2009

Comments (10)

Coffee mugs beansEver find that you have to rerecord something that should have been perfect because of oddball noises?

Does your studio go bump in the night?

Yea, even the humble coffee bean plays a role in such a trial, especially if the contents within its cup are as the Maxwell House slogan goes, "good til the last drop."

Know where I'm going with this? Hear about John Taylor's frustrating nightmare of an audiobook editing (and subsequent recording) session today on VOX Daily.

The Mystery of the Audio Book Feedback

By John Taylor

Anyone who does audio books knows it's the iron man triathlon of voice over.

I was reading my first, The War at the Shore, Donald Trump, Steve Wynn and the Battle For Atlantic City. I had been pushing myself to do two chapters a day. All told about 9 hours of non-stop voicing and editing.

I had recorded the audio and settled in to edit the tracks with a gigantic coffee mug filled with extra strong Costa Rican Blend to keep me going.

As the editing progressed, I started to notice a ringing on every word... UH OH... FEEDBACK!

I had absentmindedly left the headphones turned up in the booth while I recorded without the cans on. The sound from the headphones must've been just loud enough to create a tinny, ringing feedback in both chapters I had recorded. Nothing to do but unplug the headphones, go back to the booth and re-record fifty pages of War at the Shore.

After recording new tracks, I took a short break to refill my gigantic coffee mug with Costa Rican Blend and hunkered down for a marathon editing session. The audio sounded clean and I was ready to dig in. PHEW!

After about an hour, the pinging ringing feedback returned! UGH!!!!! How could the audio go bad... I reviewed the earlier part of the track that had sounded fine before... NOW IT HAD THE RINGING PINGING FEEDBACK!

In utter frustration I pounded my fist on the desk... and there was a ringing sound after I pounded. I hit the desk again... ding... I tapped the keyboard... ding. Then I tapped the gigantic coffee mug DING! That same ringing pinging note rang out.

The gigantic, now empty, coffee mug was the culprit.

When the mug was full it resonated no sound. But when empty, the shape of the mug, the quality of the ceramic and the proximity to the monitor speakers were an acoustical perfect storm that created the audio illusion of feedback.

And that is the Mystery of the Audio Book Feedback. SOLVED!

John Taylor

Has This Ever Happened To You?

Looking forward to hearing your stories!

Best wishes,

Stephanie

©iStockphoto.com/Ron Sumners

Related Topics: audio, audiobooks, beans, booth, coffee, cups, John Taylor, mugs, narration, recording


Comments


    Interesting story, John. Thank you for sharing.

    Posted by:

      If that applies to soft drink cans, then I'm in trouble! Guess I'll stick to plastic cups! Good reminder that studio problems can have myriad sources.

      Posted by:

        Yeah...

        never had this happen to me (though I have used items to create resonance for effects for a few past bookings). I'm a big proponent of "if it's not part of the recording chain, it doesn't have a reason to be in the booth or control room" mentality. Other than a bottle of water, I'm pretty strict with that one.

        The interesting thing would be to use something like EQWizard or similar application with a measurement mic and see just how much the coffee mug altered the recording space. You'd be amazed at how the shape of small objects can really alter a room's acoustics, depending on the application.

        -Greg

        Posted by:

          I had a sort of similar experience. I use a USB mic and had bought a new one, hooked it up, opened my software, clicked on the record button and noticed a very feint high pitched whine. I checked all of my connections, hardware and software settings and tried again- same whine. I closed down and decided to contact the mfr customer service in the morning. I got on the online chat and explained the problem- we went back and forth for quite a while and the tech said to make sure that the power cable for my PC and the USB cable for the mic were not crossed. They were not, but it got me thinking- the cable sent with the mic was fairly long and the connectors were not shabby but they weren't the best made! I had a shorter heavier duty cable with gold plated connectors so I tried it. Problem immediately solved! Every once in awhile I detect a whine before I begin recording- I'll check the connections- especially if I've recently adjusted the position of the mic- solves it every time.

          Posted by:

            In this business, it's always something! Seriously, a couple of years ago, I was experiencing a troubling situation. All of a sudden, I began having problems with a "clicking" sound. I panicked and thought that it was the much feared "mouth noise" that, no matter what method I used to remain "click free", would not go away. I was getting all kinds of advice - some helpful - some negative.... Finally, I discovered that my headphones were the culprit! They had developed a "click" in one of the connections and as my jaw moved or I moved my head, they created the clicking noise!

            Sometimes, it just takes quite a bit of detective work to identify the source of troublesome noise, but when you do.......sigh of relief!!

            Posted by:

              I had a similar experience with mysterious reverb in my studio. Eventually figured out that back panel of my computer monitor was resonating with certain frequencies. ...Flat screens cured that one:)

              Posted by:

                I loved the term for audiobooks... the triathlon of voices overs... I'm going to steal that one!

                I tell all my students that the three dreaded noises in home recording are computer noise, room echo and popping Ps. Get rid of these and you'll have a good recording.

                So imagine my surprise when I listened back through my headphones and heard a distinct room echo in my recordings (which had previously been pristine). Well, sometimes I monitor the playback through the speakers and sometimes through the headphones. The problem was, I had left the speakers turned up (not loud, just loud enough) and that sound was bouncing around in the room and into the recording mic. I couldn't hear it because I had my sealed headphones on! So I turned down the speakers and duh!--no echo.

                The moral of the story make sure your speakers are off when recording and if you're not wearing the headphones make sure they're off as well so they don't bleed into the recording.

                Ahh, the brave new world of home recording! We have to perform like an artist while listening like an engineer!

                Posted by:

                  Now there's a fascinating piece of trivia that's worth knowing. Thank you Stephanie and John.

                  Posted by:
                  • Mike Forrester
                  • September 23, 2009 10:30 AM

                    Yup! I've had a similar experience because of the light shield on the lamp in my voice booth!

                    DAN (Daniel Eduardo) HURST

                    Posted by:
                    • Dan Hurst
                    • September 23, 2009 10:31 AM

                      Now, this is good(and hilarious ) info. All of the little things we never anticipate we will have to deal with. I would have suggested some deep breathing before pounding on the desk (possibly spilling whatever coffee was in there on the equipment,,,which is another story :) ) But clearly, the universe was leading you to the answer. Great story!

                      Posted by:
                      • Lisa St. Regis
                      • October 1, 2009 4:47 PM

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