I’ve recorded thousands of hours of me talking and singing into microphones, so you’d think I’d get really good at things like reducing background noise on my microphone. The truth is the more complicate the Mic and audio setup, the more likely I make a complete hash of it.
My blue snowball microphone isn’t necessarily the perfect choice for singing – but it’s an awesome all round computer microphone that can pull off studio quality. It’s a decent podcasting microphone and fits a whole range of things in between.
My problem however was that I was continually picking up background noise and I needed to reduce it or better still completely stop the background noise.
As you’ll know if you’ve read any of my other articles – I’m obsessed with sound proofing and reducing noise in my apartment. So step 1 of reducing background noise was largely completed because I’ve got the best soundproof curtains on the market and I’ve mastered how to soundproof an apartment wall.
I do however live in New York, so I do still get a bit of background noise – not to mention my boyfriend stirring around in the apartment.
I did a few tests and tried out a few ideas and here’s what worked to reduce background noise on my blue snowball microphone…
How To Stop The Blue Snowball Microphone Picking Up Background Noise
Microphone Placement – Place it closer!
I felt like a real idiot when I first thought about this – of course this will work. By placing the microphone closer to my mouth it instantly made a big change – almost like the microphone and the software on my mac started to prioritise my voice over other sounds.
Awesome first trick to reduce background noise.
Apparently this has a technical explanation called the proximity effect – this makes your voice sound deeper as being closer to the microphone makes low frequencies (deeper notes) more prominent in the recording. I didn’t notice this a great deal, but I also don’t have what anyone could call a deep voice!
So the proximity effect is also something that other people try to avoid – for me this didn’t present as a problem and instantly reduced the background noise in my recording with my blue snowball mic.
Further Room Treatments – more sound proofing?!
OK – so like I said, my room is pretty sound proof to prevent noise from coming in from outside. What I didn’t however appreciate was that it’s not great for recording with a microphone. I was actually probably getting a bunch of reverberation that sounded like background noise because of the way the sound was bouncing around the room.
I followed my own advice and put some acoustic foam panels behind my desk (behind the microphone) and behind me directly (me being the sound source). This took a bit of doing! I even relocated my desk to make sure I could do this properly.
The results were amazing, and slightly eerie…
I felt a little like I was in an anechoic chamber as sound didn’t seem to travel at all – it’s now become my peaceful spot in the apartment for complete sensory deprivation!
There were a bunch of routes I could have gone down here – some more fundamental and probably requiring construction to further soundproof the ceiling and walls in areas where they were still able to reflect sound waves.
If you’ve not yet soundproofed your walls and windows with soundproof curtains & foam, or laid down soundproof rugs these are the things I would definitely start with. My acoustic foam treatment certainly helped reduce the microphone background noise further – but I’d already got a massive headstart.
Use the software to apply a low-cut filter
I do geek out on sound proofing and generally making things quieter – but the principles of acoustics are something that I’m increasingly appreciating as a result of my research. As I mentioned, my voice isn’t particularly deep so it was actually really easy for me to use the recording software to eliminate all of the deep tones or “low frequency sounds” in my recordings. This helped clean up a bunch of my old recordings a tonne – so this one’s a great idea if you’ve already recorded something with the blue snowball mic and you need to cut out the background “rumble”.
Use a pop filter
I didn’t appreciate that a pop filter would actually also cut out background noise on my mic. Pop filters are such an easy low cost solution – and they have multiple benefits.
Number 1 – they cut out the “popping” that you tend to get in your recording when emphasizing a “P” sound.
That makes the recording a tonne cleaner – I feel like the blue snowball microphone is particularly sensitive to this popping in comparison with other microphones I’ve used. Maybe just because you can set it to be really sensitive.
I was already using a pop filter – so I just kept on using it to also stop background noise being recorded.
Use a Blue Snowball not a Snowball iCE microphone
I didn’t actually appreciate it – but I already had a better choice of microphone in the Blue Snowball, as opposed to the Snowball iCE.
This is apparently because the Blue Snowball gives you a choice of pickup patterns – this is the switch on the back of the Blue Snowball I believe.
The Snowball iCE apparently doesn’t have this and has a fixed carioid pickup pattern which doesn’t allow for refinement of where the microphone actually picks up sound from.
I was actually looking into alternative microphones to the Blue Snowball when I came across this information – and I’m glad I did!
Play with your recording software
One of the big learning points that came out of me investigating how to reduce background noise on my Blue Snowball microphone was that actually despite a bunch of physical stuff I can change – there’s a lot you can do with software pre and post-recording.
If you play with the sensitivity settings in your software it’s likely you can tune the software and the Blue Snowball Microphone to hone in on your voice, which is ultimately the aim!
Update – I bought a sound shield, it’s AMAZING
My acoustic foam panels were good, but my new location for the recording desk was less than ideal. So to replace the soundproof acoustic foam panels on my walls, I bought a sound shield that basically wraps around my Blue Snowball microphone to act like a mini recording studio
I think if I’d done this first, I may not have bothered doing anything else. All of the background noise stopped and I was left with some REALLY clean audio – it also looks a lot nicer and a lot more professional than my poor attempt to stick soundproof panels to my walls.
I would most definitely recommend a wrap around sound shield for reducing background noise on your Blue Sowball microphone (or any microphone for that matter!)