Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Best Free Audio Editing Software for the Voice Artist Recording Audiobooks

Free sound editor software can be found to suit the needs of any audiobook narrator wishing to master the sound recording of the talking book. But which free sound editing software is best for recording a single voice?

A Cheap Home Recording Studio for Talking Books

Audacity, WavePad, Cubase, Protools
and Ableton Live Sound Editors
There is an array of fantastic sound editing software for the audiobook narrator wishing to master the recording of a vocal. Some boast many features such as special effects, musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) for processing data of many different signals at once. You can even change the color code and appearance of the dashboard from where you are working.

Examples of such software include Audacity, ProTools, WavePad, Adobe Audition, AVS Audio Editor, SoundForge, Ableton Live Lite and Steinberg’s Cubase.

Free Sound Editing Upload

This all sounds well and good, but when choosing the best recording software for vocal narration, there are a few things to bear in mind:

The sole demand of the software is to process the sound of a voice. Unless you belong to a band or want to create special sound effects for a movie clip, the additional features are likely to be unused. Furthermore, the sound files of an audiobook are often required to be in mono, not stereo. This means a single track of recording will be the only requirement for upload onto a talking book platform. When it comes to audio software, I prefer the simple ones that are easy to use and are also free. In this regard, Audacity is highly recommended.
When it comes to mastering audio, all the voice artist needs are:

A cut and paste facility that enables the deleting of outtakes, increasing pauses and shifting the pace of the narration where required.

Equalizing Sound Engineering

A good equalizer tool that enables the manipulation of frequencies between 10Hz to 20,000Hz (20 KHz). And even at this wide range, the ear can barely perceive the extremes. The lower frequencies represent the base; the higher frequencies represent the trebles. Manipulating these frequencies can add punch and clarity to the voice. But it can also spoil the recording if you don’t know what you are doing. Equalization is a fine art and needs experimentation.

Compression of Sound and Hard Limiting

Hard Limiting a Wav in Vocal Recording
You will also need a sound compressor and hard limiter. The human voice is dynamic in that it will alter dramatically in volume, creating high peaks and low plateaus on the sound wave. This can cause inconvenience for the listener who has to keep turning up and down the volume. The sound compressor will even out the sound wave, creating a more consistent wave profile. A hard limiter is a severe form of sound compression in that it simply cuts the volume to the chosen parameter. The result is a sound wave that looks like a comb. Don’t overdo the compression, as this will cause a horrible distorted sound to the voice.

Useful Features of Sound Editing Software

Dynamic Wave Profile of a Vocal Before Compression
Other features will come in useful such as:
Normalization: this will amplify the soundwave as much as possible whilst retaining its proportions without clipping.
Amplification: This will amplify the soundwave but also permit clipping.
Noise Removal: This will identify the sound profile of the ‘room tone’ which is the silent aspects of the recording. Any slight hiss or hum can be removed. However, a room with a very low noise floor, i.e. a very silent room will make the noise removal function more effective.
Sound Analysis: This enables the sound engineer to examine the sound profile of any recording and make adjustments.

After taking a look at the sound editing software, have found all have these basic functions but are presented differently. Some also have extra features, such as additional MIDI tools, voice changer, text to speech, sound mixing and more. Will the narrator really need all these extra tools?

This brings me to the next issue: the sound files that are supported.

MP3 Editor for Audio Books

Not all audio software will save the WAV file in MP3, the required sound format for upload onto audio book retailers. In some cases, the customer may have to pay a license fee to use it due to software patents. However, Lame Source Code is free and can be used with Audacity to create MP3 files for talking books. But note: not any MPEG files will do, but MP3 192KKB in mono. This cannot be achieved from some sound editors, not even Itunes itself (it halves the KBBS of a mono recording degrading the quality).

Sound Editing Software for Talking Books

In conclusion, the voiceover narrator is spoilt for choice when it comes to audiobook software to master a vocal recording. Some offer lots of features and may take some getting used to. Others are free and simple to use. Bear in mind the demands of the sound software. A sole voice is all that is being mastered, not a complex recording project or a ten-piece band. This means that most of the features will remain unused. I use Audacity and Lame.

Finally, even the best recording software cannot make up for poor recording, which might be littered with plosives, background noise or the metallic sound of a cheap mic. A good large diaphragm condenser mic, audio interface and a soundproofroom will bring the home recording up to a professional standard more than the software alone.

Tips on Home Recording your Audiobook


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