MF 297 : Software settings for recording an audiobook
Updated: Jun 16
Today, we look at the software settings for recording an audiobook. More at www.bemovingforward.com.
Software for recording audiobooks
As I discussed in last week’s episode, there are three great options for recording audiobooks, two of which are free:
GarageBand: this is among the most commonly used for audiobooks and is native to Apple OS.
Audacity: available for Mac and Windows. This piece of freeware is also a great option and the one I went with for recording I Am a Professional Metalhead.
Adobe Audition: a cloud-based subscription software that many audio content producers and podcasters swear by.
For purposes of this blog and podcast episode, I’ll be focusing on the first two since those are the ones I’m most familiar with.
GarageBand is what I use for the podcast and since it is commonly used by many audiobook producers, I decided to give it a whirl.
I searched on YouTube and found several tutorials for using GarageBand to record an audiobook. One of the best was Rob Dirck’s tutorial. Dirck’s gives a great primer on the setup, equipment (including mic) recommendations and vocal tips. Moreover, Dirck’s has a GarageBand template for Audible which you can download for free.
I downloaded Dirck’s template which I noticed produced a very good sound. The issue I ran into was specific to my mic. Since I used an ATR 2100, which is a USB mic, I noticed that my sound recordings would have white noise. I couldn’t figure a clean way to reduce this so I decided to ditch GarageBand and try another option. If you are going with GarageBand to record an audiobook, you may need a better mic than the ATR 2100.
Next, I downloaded Audacity and after giving myself a 30 minute crash course, I tested out a chapter. I found this to be a much better fit with my microphone and the sound files had little or no white noise.
If you decide to go with Audacity, I highly recommend you spend time reading and reviewing the Audible Mastering Wiki. In particular, look at the “Process” section which covers the specific settings for three key factors:
Effect > Filter Curve
Effect > Loudness Normalization
Effect > Limiter
Audacity also has two plugins specific to audiobooks you can download and install:
RMS Normalization will run over your sound files and made adjustments so the sound quality is within Audible parameters.
ACX Check will run a check on your files to make sure the files are compliant with three important metrics:
Don’t worry if this sounds complicated, it’s actually much easier in execution. What I did was install the plugins and created a macro that would run both RMS Normalization followed by the ACX Check. You don’t have to do that and can simply run both options separately.
I also recommend you check out Audible’s sound requirements checklist.
I found that this smoothed out my sound files, creating consistent levels and loud / quiet ranges that met Audible’s specifications.
Disclaimer: I have read that it’s not 100% perfect but in my experience these tools within Audacity allowed me to use my Mac, a ATR 2100 microphone and a regular room with little reverb to create sound files that met Audible’s specs.
Finally, when you export your files, you will need to create standard formats, MP3 being the most common. There are three settings you want to make sure are in place for exporting:
Bit rate = constant
Quality = 192 kbps (or higher)
Channel mode = Force export to mono
This is why you need a lot of storage space since the audiobooks will be fairly large.
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