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Thread: For podcasts: Audacity or Reaper?

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: Switzerland

    For podcasts: Audacity or Reaper?

    I had lunch with a friend yesterday who's a part-time musician, and he mentioned the audio program Reaper to me. From what he said and what I've seen online so far, Reaper does seem to be quite a bit better than Audacity - but is it better in a way that would help with making a technically relatively modest podcast (two people recorded separately, Snowball mics) sound notably better as well? Or would it be overkill to go Reaper?

  2. #2
    Member
    Registered: Jul 2002
    Location: Edmonton
    I use Reaper all the time. I’m not very familiar with Audacity, but I don’t think Reaper would be overkill unless you try it and don’t like the interface. One thing it does have is non-destructive wave editing, which means you can trim and move audio clips while having the full original file always embedded in each clip, so if you make a mistake, it’s easy to fix. Reaper also has great automatic crossfading when you drag clips over each other, which would be useful for making edits. Finally, Reaper’s included set of VST plugins are really useful and lightweight. If you have specific questions I’d be glad to answer them.

  3. #3
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: Switzerland
    Thanks, Aja. I've watched a couple of Reaper tutorials over the weekend and my impression is that especially the non-destructive editing and effects work should prove very useful. I also faffed about a bit with things like noise cancelling, which I very much prefer in Reaper. I think I might try doing a test edit of 5-10 minutes of a recent podcast to see how it goes. Even though I'll have to find good settings for functions like Normalise and Compress, my impression is that it might well be worth it.

    Are there any immediate tips you have for me re: plugins and making voices sound good? We record the podcast tracks separately, i.e. we talk via Skype and record via Audacity to date, using Skype on phone/tablet since on computers it constantly adjusts the recording level for the entire system. Before editing, I'd usually do the following to each individual track: 1) Noise reduction, 2) Normalise, 3) Compress, 4) EQ.

  4. #4
    Member
    Registered: Jul 2002
    Location: Edmonton
    I think I said this before, but I would be wary of using normalization, especially if you're recording in an environment that makes noise cancellation necessary. If possible, try to record your voice at a high enough level that you don't have to normalize. I'm not a huge fan of noise cancellation, either; I find it can often make recordings sound gritty, and if you're normalizing the files after treating them for noise, you're going to amplify those effects. Just something to keep in mind. The cleaner your source, the less processing you'll have to do. If the noise in question is only audible during pauses and not when you're talking, consider using a noise gate instead -- it'll cut the volume entirely when it drops below a certain level without affecting the sound quality while speaking is happening. ReaGate is the plugin to use for this.

    Reacomp is Reaper's built in compressor, and it does a good job of keeping levels even with relative transparency. ReaEQ is, of course, the EQ, and I use it often. Taking the extreme low end out of recordings is generally good practice unless you're recording bass. And using some kind of shockmount for the mic is important; it helps prevent those subfrequencies from getting in there in the first place.

    I think one of the biggest things you can do to make the podcast sound cohesive is to ensure that the levels between the two speakers are matched. Something like this free VU meter plugin can be used to make sure that you're getting the same average volume.

    Another thing you can do to get a smoother-sounding recording is to manually adjust the volume of specific high- or low-volume words or syllables before running the track through the compressor. You can do this using Reaper's volume envelope (Pre-FX), basically just drawing a little downward or upward curve (depending on if you want to lower or raise the volume) over the part in question. That way, the compressor can focus on catching the small peaks and evening them out rather than having to work hard to even out dramatic differences.

    Sorry if that sounds scattershot. I'm still learning this stuff, too, but I've been gaining experience over the last few months, having recorded a few tracks of my own and some for a friend. Anyway, I'd be glad to chat more if you've got other questions!
    Last edited by Aja; 17th Sep 2018 at 10:55.

  5. #5
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: Switzerland
    No problem, my questions are so general that anything but a scattershot reply doesn't help much! Concerning noise reduction, I've been reading the guides at podigy.co, and they suggest several noise reduction passes at reduced strength, which sounds like a good way of getting rid of ambient noise without getting an unwanted effect on the voices. My recordings are pretty clean, as are my friend's, but there tends to be an audible hum of one kind or another. I will try the noise gate suggestion you mention, though.

    With respect to the shockmount, it seems that there isn't one currently available for my mic. Are there ways of achieving a similar, if perhaps not equally effective effect?

  6. #6
    Member
    Registered: Jul 2002
    Location: Edmonton
    Sure, yeah. You can place the mic stand on a piece of foam or a cushion or anything that absorbs vibration. You should get instantly cleaner results because your mic isn't wasted capturing all that low-frequency energy that you can't even hear.

    As for audible hum, there are a million reasons that could be happening, but a few obvious things you can check:

    • the mic cable may be bad; if you've got a spare, try swapping it
    • try plugging your audio interface into a different outlet. Sometimes other devices on the same circuit can cause hum
    • overhead flourescent lights can induce 60hz hum in some electronics. Try turning 90 degrees or moving to a different spot in the room
    • appliances like fridges, furnaces, air conditioning, can all create hum when the motors kick in
    • laptops running on A/C power sometimes cause electrical noise in recordings


    If the hum is actually something humming in the room that the mic is just picking up, locate the source and put something soft, like a heavy quilt, between it and the mic. It's definitely worth tracking down the problem if possible; it'll save you much headache when it comes to postprocessing.

  7. #7
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: Switzerland
    By hum, definitely mean the latter: computer noise, the guy outside mowing the lawn, traffic, that sort of thing. It's not strong, but it's usually there (more so on my friend's side, since I got a mini PC with passive cooling for recording sessions). However, I'll definitely try the noise gating thing. Curious to hear what the result sounds like - I would've thought that absolutely silent silences could end up sounding weird, but I guess that's how it works with all the professional recordings.

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered: Jul 2002
    Location: Edmonton
    Lawnmowers are so annoying when you're trying to record. It might be jarring if the sound of one appears every time you start talking, but you'll have to experiment. I think for a podcast a tiny bit of ambient noise wouldn't be a problem unless there was a big discrepancy between the noise on your end and his. If your partner has computer noise, though, that's a very easy problem to fix: move the computer, move the microphone, or put something (again, like a thick blanket) between the computer and microphone.

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