Every transcriptionist understands the importance of audio quality to the transcription process. If an audio file is inaudible, or full of background noise, such that the voices of the speakers are barely heard, transcribing it becomes a problem.
The transcriptionist will have to repeat the file several times, to ensure they don’t miss anything, but even at that, the quality of the end product will be affected. Nothing makes a transcribed text full of inconsistencies, blank spaces, and errors like a noisy audio file.
Also, you will spend more on a noisy audio file than on good audio of the same size. This is because, apart from the fact that your transcriptionist will spend more time on it, the transcribed text will have to go through numerous editors. To ensure it was adequately transcribed. And that costs money.
But you can avoid all the hassle by recording quality audio before handing it over to a transcriber. And, if, for any reason, you couldn’t avoid the background noise during your recording session. You won’t have to worry because there are ways to remove background noise from your audio. We will deal with that later, but for now, let’s consider…
Most times, it’s merely the act of putting little things in place that matter most. When registering, there are three crucial elements you want to take into consideration. These are your environment, the speaker(s), and your equipment. These three have unique ways of influencing the quality of your audio. You and your transcriptionist would be happy if you paid the necessary attention to them.
Are you recording outdoor or behind shut doors? Is the place naturally noisy because of the activities going on, or are you filing a quiet boardroom meeting? Understanding your environment will determine the tools and strategies you use.
If you’re recording indoors, turn off the fans and background music, if any. Also, close the windows if you’re too close to them. The breeze coming through them would affect your audio quality.
In an outdoor situation, you probably won’t be able to do anything about the wind, or people going about their daily business. One thing you can do, however, is using a wind protector or any sound control device to shield the microphone. Merely covering it with cloth is a good move, if you run out of options.
If you are recording more than one speaker, place the microphone in a central location where all the speakers can be heard audibly. Besides, encourage the speakers to speak one after another, not many people talking all at once. That will make the audio noisy.
In situations where it’s only one person being recorded, it’s easy for the person to bring the microphone up close. But caution should be observed because when the mic gets too close, the recorded audio becomes distorted. The mic shouldn’t be too far off either. You need to find a suitable location for it. This is why the test recording should be done before the actual record.
The devices used
In many unofficial — and sometimes, even some official — situations, people tend to use their mobile devices to record audio. The sad part is, mobile devices are not effective in producing quality audio. The recorded sound tends to get mixed up with the music from the mobile device, thereby compromising audio quality.
You can avoid this by using audio recorders. Most of these devices are specifically designed to eliminate background noise and produce good audio automatically.
There are several types of audio recorders in the market, but choose the one that suits your purpose. If you need to record sound from multiple directions, then an omnidirectional recorder makes sense. But go for a unidirectional recorder, if recording sound in one direction fits your purpose.
If you did an excellent job reducing noise before recording, you probably wouldn’t have any need to edit your audio file for noise. But, what if things didn’t go as planned and there is some background noise you need to do away with?
It happens once in a while, and gladly, there are free online tools you can use to denoise audio.
A simple Google search for a phrase like “clean up audio online” will show you tons of software that offer this service. However, if you seek our recommendation, here are a few of the best tools on the web:
Audacity is a cross-platform audio software developed by a team of audio experts. The software is free and easy to use. Follow the following steps, and you will be able to edit your audio like a pro.
Open Audacity on your device, click on “file” and then “open.”
Select the audio file you will like to work on.
Select “get noise profile,” you can adjust the settings if you want, but leaving it at default is a good idea.
Hover to “effect” menu and select “noise removal.”
Listen to your audio to see if it’s okay now. If not, repeat the same process.
Final Thoughts On Noise Reduction In Audio
Compromising on audio quality will only you. Imagine the amount of money a professional transcriptionist will charge you. Because the file you gave them wasn’t transparent enough, and therefore took more time than necessary.
Or think about what will happen when your data is so noisy your transcriptionist begins to assume wrong words and phrases to fill the blank spaces. You don’t want any of that; hence, it’s better to invest in quality recording equipment. And to instantly denoise, if you find your file has too much background noise.
Katin runs her own podcast show, and interested in best ways to transcribe audio recordings into text.