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You Ask, I Answer: Audio Quality Hardware vs Software?

Todd asks, “When it comes to audio quality, what’s more important, software or hardware?”

There is no cut and dried answer to the question of whether software or hardware is more important for audio quality. It depends on the relative quality of the stuff you’ve already got, and what you’re using it for. If you have good quality software and know how to use it, you can do a lot with it. However, if the audio quality you’re working with is poor to begin with, there’s only so much software can do. In general, try to get the best microphone you can afford and learn how to use it properly.

You Ask, I Answer: Audio Quality Hardware vs Software?

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In today’s episode, Todd asks, when it comes to audio quality? What’s more important software or hardware? The answer to this question is, it depends.

It depends on the relative quality of the stuff you’ve already got.

So if you have a really good piece of software and you know how to use it like Adobe Audition, you can do a lot with that, right? That is, that’s like an appliance.

A nice high end appliance, you can do a lot with the software, you can do noise reduction, sound removal, amplification, compression, all the the audio engineering techniques that anyone with a good audio engineering background should know.

However, there is a lower limit to what you can do with the software.

Because if the the audio quality that you have going in is so bad, there’s only so much software can do.

Software cannot fix things that are just flat out unlistenable.

So for example, if you are walking around at an event, and you’ve just you’re just holding your phone up in the air, right with the voice memos on, you’re not going to get great audio quality, it’s going to be very, very difficult to engineer that into something that sounds good.

Yes, you can reduce some of the noise.

But things like reverberation echoing sounds very, very difficult to get rid of that.

If you have a decent audio recorder, for example, and you just use it improperly.

Again, there’s not going to be much you can do about that.

I remember the first time I met my friend, Chris Brogan, at an event in BarCamp.

Boston, he had a little AI river audio recording device not much bigger than this, this microphone.

And he was trying to record the audio from sessions and was putting this little mp3 recorder on top of the speaker cabinets in in the room.

Now, if you know anything about if you don’t know anything about audio recording, that’s about the worst possible way to record audio because speaker cabinets themselves are muffled, the audio coming out of them is not great.

It’s fairly distorted.

And you get a lot of clipping.

Clipping is what happens when the signal to noise that you’re recording is greater than what the device you’re recording on, it can handle.

Think of it like a cup of water, right? Your microphone that you’re using can only take in so much noise after a certain amount it overflows, right and you’ve got more noise flowing in, then you have cup, you’ve got a mess.

The same thing is true with audio gear.

This microphone I’m using right here, this is an SM seven beat.

It is fairly robust, right it can it can tolerate a lot of loudness.

But if I just sit here and just scream at the top of my lungs, it’s gonna peak out and it’s going to go past what the microphone can record.

And like photography, you can boost low signal, right? You can make quiet sounds a little bit louder or substantially louder.

You cannot recover from sounds that are blown out just like you can’t recover from photos that are overexposed beyond a certain point there’s because the information simply isn’t there.

If I yell really loud, or you know going back to the glass example, if you overflow a cup, you can’t do anything with all the water that has fallen out right you can only work with what’s in the cup and what’s in the cup may not be all the sound so your your software does matter.

But when it comes to audio quality, try to get the best microphone that you can afford within reason and try to make sure that you’re using it properly.

There are all sorts of microphones that you can buy.

So if you have any examples, one of my favorites is this little boom mic quote from a company called V moda and all it is his little mic that plugs into a headset and use where this news Hawk right into it and that is believe it or not for a lot of people going to be more than enough microphone there are other mics there’s so many so many on the marketplace.

Anchors power cast microphone is pretty good for 40 bucks.

Logitech yeti microphones are overpriced at I think they’re at 130.

Now they’re overpriced for what they are.

The SM seven B is 499.

It is it is expensive, but it is better sound.

Think of your hardware.

Think of your hardware like ingredients right? If your software is like an appliance your hardware is like an ingredient A generator, right, the sound that comes out of this is your raw materials, the better the hardware, the nicer the raw materials.

And then the nice the raw materials, the more you can do with it, right.

So if you have raw materials such as salad garbage, right, and just like if someone drops off rotten produce at your house, there’s only so much you can do with that, like you can compost it.

But you can’t really cook with it, you’re not going to no amount of great appliances is going to turn rotten cabbage into anything other than rotten cabbage.

So with microphones, in particular, get the best microphone that you can afford, for the purposes that you’re going to be using it.

And then again, learn how to use it, this SM seven B, this is a dynamic mic, it has a lot of things going forward.

But one of the things that you have to know about mics like this is that they require you to be really close to them.

So just this I’m now about a foot away.

And you can tell there’s a big difference in the quality of the sound even though it’s the same same $499 microphone, and if I’m using it the wrong way.

It you may as well not be using it at all right now again, you can fix that particular mistake to a degree in software, but it’s better to know how to use the technology.

A, an expensive piece of hardware used improperly is a bigger waste, right? So get the technology that you know how to use that you can afford to use that you can afford to use well, that little headset microphone.

It’s pretty foolproof.

It’s pretty foolproof.

So if you use that, and you don’t get one of these things, you’ll be better off if you don’t know how to use this, but you do not have to use a headset mic, you’re gonna get better sound of the headset mic because you know how to use it.

So that’s the answer.

There is no cut and dried answer.

It depends on what you’ve got depends on your use case, your intended outcome and what you’re capable of from a knowledge perspective, but it’s a really good question given the prevalence of now podcasters and live streamers and YouTubers and Tiktok errs.

Everybody in their cousin is generating content with these more sophisticated tools, but you got to know how to use them.

Thanks for asking.

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