There’s a buzz around the audiobook recording scene at the moment, as the popularity of audiobooks increases due to their convenience and accessibility. Also, with the Covid-19 lockdown, books of all descriptions are proving popular (this article from SilverWood Books explains why in a little more detail).
There is, of course, the problem of isolation, and the fact that most of us aren’t able or willing to travel to studios and work with audiobook producers during the lockdown. Many people are experimenting with home audiobook recording setups, and it’s been on my mind for some time to take this approach myself. I have written and self-published six books to date, and I feel that at least three or four of them would be suitable for conversion to audiobooks.
Recording an audiobook is not a project to be undertaken lightly. There is a lot to consider, and what I have learned from my research is that customers demand a very high quality of recording, and this means burdens on the producer to excel not only at the voice recording process, but also at editing and mastering the audio.
Recording a single audiobook can take many hours of concentrated effort, and really this is something for experts. However, being perhaps brave, or perhaps foolish, I am considering that my past experience in audio recording (I’m a hobbyist musician and have a degree in Commercial Music) will have given me many of the skills necessary to undertake such a project myself.
I thought it would be fun to share my audiobook recording process with readers of this blog, in case any of you are planning to do a similar thing yourself. And I thought that even if you’re reading this and have no such plans, you may simply be interested in the process. Also, there may be some of you that have experience in this area, and can offer me some advice.
In this post, I will describe the equipment I will be using to record my audiobooks along with some pictures of that equipment and of my wardrobe, which I’m planning to convert into a temporary audio recording booth. I will plan to follow up this post with others as the setup and recording process unfolds in the coming weeks.
The Audiobook Recording Space
I live in a small one bedroom flat in South London and do not have the space to convert a room into a recording studio. Because I am renting the flat rather than owning it, I have to be careful that in undertaking a project like this I don’t cause any damage.
Fortunately, I have a fairly large walk-in wardrobe which I feel is just about big enough to temporarily convert into an audiobook recording booth.
Here are three photos of the wardrobe:
I plan to take out pretty much everything on the left hand side, including the stacked plastic boxes you see, and the shelves with some clothing, hats, etc, on them. The shelves are not fixed so can be removed very easily.
On the right hand side, I will remove the laundry basket, but will probably leave in the hanging clothes because they will play an important role in absorbing echo and reverb during recording, and also because I would struggle to find anywhere else in the flat to put them.
Compact, Collapsable Table and Chair
I spent quite a lot time on Amazon trying to find a suitable table and chair, and there was a lot to consider. Naturally, my main consideration was size, as finding a table that would fit into such a small space was a challenge.
With the chair, my main consideration was that it was comfortable, as I could be potentially sitting for hours at a time with not much of a break. Also, I wanted to find a chair that was quiet, as creaks from metalwork etc could be picked up by the microphone and be detrimental to the recording. The chair also had to fit neatly in the small space.
Although this table and chair aren’t very attractive at all in my opinion, my main concern was utility rather than aesthetics, and the table fits perfectly in the space, with the chair fitting very well underneath it, so I feel these were a good choice. Also, as you can see, they are both collapsible, which means I will save space when I’m not using them.
My only worry with this table and chair is that there is metalwork which creaks a little. I will have to experiment to see whether this is a problem when it comes to doing some test recordings a little further down the line.
Below you will find a picture with all of the main technical equipment I plan on using for the audiobook recordings. What I haven’t included is a picture of the computer I’m using, but it is a small notebook computer which is suitable for the very limited space. The other thing I haven’t pictured is cables — I have an XLR cable to connect the microphone to the audiobox (the blue box), and a USB to USB-C cable to connect the audiobox to my computer.
Included in the photo are a Rode NT1-A condenser microphone with a cradle and attached pop shield to the right of it. The purpose of the cradle is to keep the microphone suspended during recording so it is less likely to record the sound of any small knocks or other movement in the vicinity. The purpose of the pop shield (that’s the circular mesh attached to the cradle) is to limit the amount of air hitting the microphone when certain consonants (such as ‘p’s and ‘b’s) are spoken.
Also in the picture are a set of AKG K52 headphones — these are affordable but high quality corded studio headphones. The round block of metal is a heavy duty Samson MD5 tabletop microphone stand, which I had to order from the other side of the world because I couldn’t get one through Amazon. I tried using a small tripod to mount the microphone, but the combined weight of the cradle, pop shield, and microphone, was way too much for a little tripod to handle. The MD5 is just about heavy enough to do the job.
Lastly we have the PreSonus iOne audio interface, which I purchased to use for recording my electro-rock album Tell Everyone Now (any opportunity for a plug!). The audio interface provides power to the microphone, and also has level adjusters so I can alter the input level of the audio.
As I already mentioned, the hanging clothes in the wardrobe will absorb a lot of unwanted sound. But to make things even better, I bought some foam acoustic soundproofing panels (from Amazon) with some spray glue to fix them to the inside of the wardrobe doors and walls.
The function of these foam panels is to absorb echo and reverb, so that the quality of the audio recording in cleaner. I purchased twelve of these, but I think I may need to get some more. They probably won’t make a huge difference, but from the research I’ve done, it seems they will make a difference.
I plan to attach them with EverBuild spray glue, which is primarily used for fixing carpets but the instructions say it can be used for foam so I’m hoping it will work with these panels. I’m a little worried about leaving marks on the walls when I remove them, so I may not use the glue if I can find a better solution. If I do use the glue, I may have to repaint the walls after the recording process is complete.
That’s just about everything, but there are a few other items I will be using that are worth mentioning. Here are the pictures with a description below:
There are no lights or power sockets in the wardrobe. So I decided to purchase a tall LED lamp (from Amazon) as well as the green extension cable pictured, which will allow me to use a power socket in the adjacent bedroom in order to bring power to the space for my computer, the lamp, and anything else that needs power.
The red and white package contains an insulating strip which I plan to attach to the bottom of the wardrobe doors for extra soundproofing and insulation, and the final thing pictured is a pair of door handles which I will attach to the inside of the wardrobe for easy opening and closing.
That’s a Wrap!
Well, that’s a wrap for this post, but as far as the audiobook recording project is concerned, this is only the very beginning. There is still a lot for me to research and learn and I’m not 100% sure which software I will be using for the project, though it’s likely to be Garageband or Cubase.
I plan on writing further posts describing how the the process is going, and sharing some pictures of the wardrobe once the space has been converted. So feel free to subscribe to this blog if you’re interested in following along.
List of all Equipment
I am not a member of any affiliate programs, so that’s why I haven’t included affiliate links. I will just list all of the items mentioned in this post:
Notebook computer (13″ MacBook Pro)
Outsunny collapsible camping table
MECO deluxe padded steel fabric folding chair
Rode NT1-A condenser microphone
Rode SM6 shock mount cradle and pop shield
AKG K52 closed back wired headphones
Presonus iOne audio interface
Teckin standing LED floor lamp
PIFCO PIF2069 4-Gang cassette reel, black, 5m
HULAMEDA door draft excluder strip
AmazonBasics AB3801-SV-2 door handles
Thank you for reading! If you’d like to support me and my writing (and audio!) activities, please consider purchasing one of my books or some of my music. With any questions, please leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer. On this blog, I cover mainly topics related to philosophy and theology, so please consider subscribing if this is of interest.
To read Part 2 in this 3 part series, click here!