Audiobook recording at home can be a daunting task for some, but with the right approach and technique, recording an audiobook in your own time and space can be a great way to have creative control over your audiobook as well as save lots of money on narrator fees.
It is possible to record an audiobook at home with little experience. With the right equipment and acoustic setup, you can record an audiobook at home which sounds good and will be good enough to meet the Amazon Audible sound requirements.
In this article, I will cover the process of how to record an audiobook at home. I will cover the fundamentals of where you should record the audiobook, how you can improve your room acoustics and where you should place the microphone for the best-recorded sound.
I will cover:
- Can you record an audiobook at home?
- How to get the best audiobook sound at home?
- What equipment do I need to record an audiobook?
- What is the best microphone for audiobook recording for under $100?
- Where should I place the microphone?
- Can I use a USB microphone for audiobook recording?
- Can I use a smartphone for audiobook recording?
Can You Record An Audiobook At Home?
For DIY audiobook recording, most creators will want to record their audiobook at home.
It is possible to build a good-sounding home recording studio space at home, on a very low budget.
The very first step in recording an audiobook at home is to pick a suitable place to record the audio. This is fundamental to achieving good recording quality.
When deciding what room or where in your home you are going to record your audiobook, it is important to consider the following points:
1. Will Your Audiobook Narrator Be Standing Or Sitting?
Unlike vocal recording for a song, an audiobook narrator will most likely be sitting. In addition, your audiobook narrator could be sitting at the microphone for hours.
Therefore, it is essential that your audiobook narrator is as comfortable as possible with easy access to drinks and good lighting for reading.
Your audiobook narrator, be it yourself or someone else, is the talent that will retain the audience as much as the content that they are reading.
They will need to maintain a consistent tone for hours and across the whole book, therefore they need to be happy and comfortable.
So when picking the audiobook recording location in your home, ensure it is comfortable, with good lighting and space for drinks so your audiobook narrator can perform at their best.
2. Find A Dedicated Recording Spot
Audiobook recording is a long process, with some epic books being as long as 18 hours.
Therefore, you cannot typically record an audiobook in a day and will need to keep returning to continue the recording.
Being able to reproduce the same recording levels and tone to maintain consistency throughout the full audiobook recording is essential.
The audiobook should sound like it was recorded in one take, therefore, you need to be able to recreate the same studio recording setup each day.
You cannot record one chapter in your kitchen and one chapter in your dining room as the recording quality will sound different.
Therefore it is best to find a dedicated recording spot where you can set up your microphone and gear and not move it until the book is fully recorded.
3. Find A Quiet Recording Space
It may sound obvious to choose a quiet space to record in, however, unlike a professional sound-controlled studio, generally sound levels in a regular house will change throughout the day.
The room you are in right now may be quiet, but if the central heating comes on will you hear that?
Perhaps you are close to the main road and a larger truck passing by can make the windows vibrate intermittently.
Does your neighbour’s dog bark at certain times?
Your recording room may be quiet now, but there is a high possibility it will be subjected to noise at some point in the day.
Being aware of what sounds come and go throughout the day in your home will help you prepare for those sounds and stop them from making it onto the recording.
You might find adding some basic soundproofing equipment such as heavy curtains or draft excludes might be enough to take the edge off the nose.
Before I start a new recording, I like to record the silence of a room to capture the ambience of the room.
I will place the microphone in the recording position and just hit record – recording silence for five minutes
I will then listen back to see if there are any noises, hums, or buzzes that may be present which can only be heard when turned up.
Getting as clean a recording as possible is essential to a good audiobook recording so paying attention to any ambient noise in your home is really important.
How To Get The Best Audiobook Sound At Home?
Once you have picked a dedicated and quiet recording location at home, it is possible to improve the audio quality of that space to improve the sound recording.
You can greatly improve the acoustic sound of a room by using some basic gear and acoustic products.
I once converted the cupboard under the stairs in my home into a vocal recording booth.
This worked great for audiobook recording, as this space has an unusual shape, with the underside of the staircase creating a slanting wall for a roof.
This room shape, where there are few parallel walls, is actually a big advantage for improving acoustic sound as the angled walls can help reflect acoustic waves better, producing a better recording sound.
When working with room acoustics, we typically try to avoid parallel walls. In a room with parallel walls sound waves bounce off one wall and then back again to the other wall to create a loop.
This can result in standing waves or unwanted room resonances which creates a bad recording room.
Here are some basic and budget-friendly techniques you can follow to improve the room acoustics of your home studio and as a result, the quality of your audiobook recording.
1. Reduce Sound Reflections
To get a close and warm-sounding recording, it will help to put dense and thick acoustic foam on the walls.
This can just be cushions left against a wall, a duvet or a mattress if you do not wish to purchase any acoustic foam.
By placing dense acoustic foam on the walls, or some form of thick damping material, internal room reflections are reduced.
When we talk about room reflections in acoustics, we are talking about sound reflecting off the internal surfaces of your room.
The acoustic foam acts as an absorber, absorbing the sound and removing echo and reverb.
Where you place the foam is important too.
In my studio space, I place the acoustic foam behind and in front of the audio narrator. In addition, I placed one panel of acoustic foam off to one side, to the left or right of the reader.
This creates a nice acoustic space that sounds close and warm as most of the sound is absorbed.
To get a similar effect, you could place the microphone in your clothes closet (with the clothes still in there) and record your narrator speaking into the open clothes closet.
By doing this, the clothes in the small space of the closet behind the microphone will absorb any room reflections and will give you a warm or “close mic” audiobook sound.
2. Reduce Vibrations & Noise
From my experience of audiobook recording, I found that vibrations and noise can be a massive problem.
Audiobook narrators can sit in a recording studio for two hours at a time. Your narrator is going to move, drink and need to have things around them to make them comfortable such as lights, stands and cup holders
It is important that all these extra bits, which are not typically found in the studio when you are recording music, are secure and do not vibrate.
In my own audiobook home studio, it took me a long time to set up my microphone position so that my narrator could sit comfortably, see her script and move easily to reach the water.
I had to make sure all the microphone stands were tightly secured and did not vibrate.
In addition, my audiobook narrator used an iPad to read from. I quickly learned that propping this up against something will not work.
For audiobook recording, it is a good idea to invest in a good book stand where your narrator can comfortably place the device they are reading from.
Finally, don’t read from paper if you can avoid it. It is too difficult to control the noise from paper pages turning.
Use a quiet device such as an iPad or Kindle to read from when audiobook recording.
3. Reduce Resonances & Surface Reflections
With your audio narrator comfortably sitting and ready to go, there are a lot of “props” around your narrator, for example, a mic stand, an iPad for reading from, a table for drinks, and an iPad stand.
Again, unlike recording music artists, these are all new surfaces that sound can reflect.
Sometimes, these bits and bobs can resonate and cause noise or can influence the sound as sound waves will reflect off these surfaces.
To help fix this, ensure that drinks are positioned off to one side, and surfaces are as damped as possible.
You can help dampen surfaces by placing heavy rubber sheeting down on desks and hard surfaces
I would recommend that when you are doing some test recording runs that you listen out for any unusual noise or any acoustic effects as your environment could be introducing these.
What Equipment Do I Need To Record An Audiobook?
For my audiobook recording, I used a very simple yet effective studio setup.
In a nutshell, for audiobook recording you will need:
- A microphone (preferably XLR connect).
- An audio interface (to connect your XLR microphone to your PC/Mac).
- Sound recording software (I use Logic Pro, but there are free options out there such as Audacity).
In addition, I use the following accessories, which I recommend as they just make life easier and will help the recording quality:
- A pop shield (this is a mesh filter that stops plosives, which are vocal noises).
- A vocal shield or reflection filter (this helps create a warmed and closer recording sound).
What Is The Best Microphone For Audiobook Narration For Under $100?
For audiobook narration, if your budget is big, then the Neumann U87 is one of the best microphones on the planet but costs around $2000.
If you are looking for something less than $100, I would recommend the MXL 990.
As an audio geek, I am obsessed with the clarity of the Neumann U87, but it is not a realistic choice for most DIY audiobook creators.
For my “under the stairs” at-home audiobook recording, I used the MXL 990. This microphone has amazing clarity for the price. I am always shocked.
Plus, it is not sensitive enough to pick up every single sound in the environment. If you are working in a DIY home recording studio with some noise, this is a good thing.
Where Should I Place The Microphone?
Typically, when positioning a microphone for audiobook recording, a distance from the moth of between 6 to 12 inches for large-diaphragm microphones is a good starting point, with the microphone positioned just off-centre to the right or left.
You want to be as close to the microphone as possible to get a “close mic” sound.
When positioning the microphone for an audiobook recording, I found the setup can get a little more complex as the microphone needs to fit around the reading workspace of the narrator which may also include items such as iPad stands.
I find that tilting the microphone works well as it reduces the risk of plosive sounds and allows the mic to get close to the narrator and yet not be in the narrator’s way so they can easily see their script.
Can I Use A USB Microphone For Audiobook Recording?
USB microphones are a big favourite with many DIY audiobook recorders as they can connect directly to your PC without the need for an audio interface.
Therefore, as well as generally being cheaper, the cost of buying an audio interface is also removed.
Personally, I am not a big fan of USB microphones. I have yet to find a good USB microphone that truly impresses me and gets me excited.
Perhaps I am just an old-school XLR (standard microphone connection) fan and biased, so I don’t want to put you off, but just be aware that good USB microphones are still very new to the field and I have yet to meet a professional recording engineer who would use USB over XLR.
If you do have a USB microphone you really love, let me know and I will try it too. My mind is open but I am still not convinced.
Unlike podcasts which can often be topical and only stick around for a while, a fictional audiobook could stick around for decades, therefore investing in your sound is a long-term investment and worth the money.
Can I Use A Smart Phone For Audiobook Recording?
It is possible to use a smartphone for audiobook recording, but it will be very difficult to edit and produce your audiobook within the limited screen and space of most smartphones.
Some smartphones come equipped with powerful microphones and audio recording capabilities, making them well-suited for capturing narration, dialogue and other spoken word recordings however, an external microphone will most likely be needed to capture the sound quality required for audiobook production.
It is possible to connect an external microphone to a smartphone. I have covered this in greater detail in this article, How To Connect An External Mic On Android Phones (Explained) and Can I Connect A Microphone To An iPad?
Many smartphones have built-in audio editing functions, allowing you to trim, fade, adjust levels and add effects to your recordings too.
When choosing a smartphone for audiobook recording, you want to be sure that it is powerful enough to handle the job. Look for a device with enough storage space to record your audiobooks.
If you are not comfortable editing and producing your audiobook on your smartphone, it is possible to use an extra free audio production software such as Audacity with a PC to compile the audio and ensure it is in the right format and meets the right sound requirements for Audible.
Recording an audiobook at home may seem daunting at first but with the right equipment and skill set, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
Not only does it allow aspiring content creators the opportunity to share their stories with others but it also offers them complete control over their production process from start to finish – something no other medium offers.
It can cost hundreds of dollars to record and release an audiobook, but by taking the do-it-yourself approach you can save money and learn about audiobook recording, making you self-sufficient and able to produce many audiobooks for a fraction of the cost.