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Q&A with QA – Mastering with Effects Processing

The ACX QA Guys are back! In this episode, we’re zooming in on effects processing and mastering. Whether you are trying to correct a recording issue, or you are looking to add a hint of sweetener to your audio, we got you covered. We will be covering some of the key tools within every producer’s arsenal that will help you achieve the sound you’re looking for and one step closer to your final product. The QA team will share some tips and offer some advice on what tools and processes you should be focusing on.  Plus, we’ll be answering your questions, so submit them below for a chance to be featured in this month’s discussion.

Missed our first episode? Catch up here


Scott Jacobi
David Afonso
Michael Taddeo


  1. Ray

    Using Audacity, what is the easiest way to reduce mouth noises and small breaths without sacrificing vocal quality when processing an audio file?

    • Victoria Nichols

      I have two Audacity windows open; one with the recording and one with various lengths of room sounds. When I find a section that needs to be adjusted, either because of weird breaths, mouth noise, or the length isn’t right, I copy the correct length from the sound tracks and paste them in the other window. It’s perfectly natural, super easy, and works like a charm! I’ve got room sounds at lengths of .5, .75, 1, 1.5, and 3 (for easy adding to the end after mastering).

  2. John Sipple

    Please address your comments also to those of us using Audacity. The good folks at Audacity have created an ACX check plug-in. So far, I’ve found it helpful What are your thoughts?

  3. Jeff Macare

    What is the best way to add music to ACX files both within opening credits as well as at the beginning and end of “chapters”?

    • Dee Mako Smith

      Import an audio file on another track,a stereo fade preferably, fade in and out just around 13 seconds with a 5 second overlap with the vocal track. Just a suggestion.

  4. Matthew

    Would you please discuss after-market plugins? Are they really that much better than the built-in effects that they are worth the expense? How do we know which ones to use when there are so many out there—even one company (eg Waves) has 10 different NR plugins. Please recommend the best ones for NR, de-essing, and compression-related tasks.

  5. Jodi Thors

    Those are fantastic questions and I would love to get the answers to all of them, but I am working at that time. Will there be a replay available? Thank you!

  6. Jessica

    I have finished recording and edited out all extraneous sounds. The author is happy with the recording but ACX tell me the recording is too quiet. How do I adjust this? I used Pro Tools LE 8.0 to record.

  7. Laura

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on a using an expander in your fx chain to help soften breaths. I know a lot of narrators incorporate some light expansion, and I’d love a rundown on how to set it up to best suit your specific needs, and where in an fx chain it works best (ie: before or after limiting, compression etc)
    Also interested in any other thoughts you may have on editing breaths. Thanks!

  8. Trip

    This may be addressed in some of the previous comments, but I’m a CHAMPION slobberer! By this, I mean that between most sentences I’ll have tiny mouth sounds, when I open my mouth, making their way onto my recordings. Is there a way to take those out without going between each sentence to deal with the noises?

  9. Sabrina

    Hi, I have noticed that when my audiobooks play on an iPhone they don’t sound as good as when played on a computer or iPad. I had one author say it sounded fuzzy, yet when he listened at home it was ok on his iPad. I have a soft airy voice, could that be the reason why it’s bad over a phone. How can this be corrected? Thanks.

  10. Karen Edland

    Is here a way in garageband to raise the overall volume after recording? I have since changed the dials on my interface but for an audiobook I am editing I need to raise the volume of the whole project.

  11. Marianne May

    I’m confident in producing my audio, as I produce music and use my DAW almost everyday, however I’m struggling to get my voice to stay between -24 and -18, I use automation (which is a somewhat laborious process to do in detail) and compression, and even then things slip a little below or above – any tips to keep it in the required volume range would be awesome!

    • David K. Maritn

      -24dB to -18dB isn’t the required dynamic range of your speaking voice. Rather, it the range the RMS (average loudness) of the whole file should fall within when the file is submitted. This is something I found confusing when new to ACX as well.

  12. Tony Chiappetta

    I have been recording on a Tascam Recorder and use Audacity for editing. Prior to uploading a file, I routinely run the file through the ACX Check tool in Audacity and make sure that it passes all three tests. Nevertheless, I have had rejections from your quality assurance team and need to apply additional noise reduction, etc. Would it be better if I recorded directly into Audacity instead of using the Tascam? Or do you have any other suggestions? Thanks so much.

  13. Susan Broussard

    Do I use both compressor and equalizer to fix low RMS? If so which do I do first? Then how do I adjust the Equalizer in Audacity? Then after using the compressor part of the sample is too high and breathy. Do I rerecord it or use an effect to lower it and clean it?

  14. don kraus

    trying to download LOUDMAX (au for mac) for TWISTED WAVE EDITING but only getting Powerpoint download. How can I get the LOUDMAX I need?

  15. David Cramer

    I’m finishing up recording a 57,000 word novel to provide to the author. It consists of 34 short chapters. Given your current workload, what would you anticipate the turnaround time to be for that length of project for quality assurance to provide back to the author— if there were no audio problems?

  16. Booha

    I’m wrapping narration of second book now, using Audacity. I’ve struggled with a background hum on a Blue Yeti mic, recording in stereo. I was able to find an acceptable solution by splitting the stereo tracks, eliminating the one with the most noise, and using noise reduction on the better track.

    Any thoughts on how to get rid of the hum? I already turn off the heat and printer, use a sound screen around the mic, and use sound foam in front of the computer, which is behind a door.

    • C. Mitchell Shaw

      If your mic is USB, it may be an electrical hum coming from the power to the mic. Have you considered a sound mixer and XLR mic?

  17. Mia Watson

    Is there anything in post production that helps with wet sounds/smacking in narration? Currently using Twisted Wave. Is this something that can be lessened in post or does the narrator need to go back and do retakes?

  18. Matt Chandler-Smith

    I understand that ACX has to further compress and process the finished audio to help reduce file size among other things. Are there any additional steps you recommend we can take during mastering to help offset this further processing? The ACX audio tends to sound a bit duller. Can specific EQing help, or perhaps an aural exciter?

    • Matt Chandler-Smith

      Let me clarify that it’s not audio compression that I’m talking about, but instead file size compression, most likely by further reducing the bit rate of the mp3. Thanks!

      • Sab

        Hi Matt,
        I had something similar. An author complained that my audio file sounded “muffled”. I do not compress or change my audio from the original recording.. The only thing I do is cut off the low bass. It turned out that he listened on his phone and compared to an iPad or higher quality phone it sounded flat and lifeless, slightly muffled. I tried listening on my phone too and it was slightly worse quality audio compared to my iPad or computer..

  19. Matt Chandler-Smith

    Is mastering quality affected by recording at a higher sample rate/resolution such as 96000/32 or is there no detectable benefit over 44100/16 bit for example?

  20. Matt Chandler-Smith

    Do you find it more beneficial to match file loudness by LUFS or RMS, provided the final audio falls within the RMS standards set by ACX?

  21. Pete Ferrand

    After 85 ACX books my application to become an Audible Approved narrator was rejected. Reason: Only average audio quality and frequently over-compressed. I would have thought the Neumann mic and -64 dB room would give reasonable quality. The latter is particularly puzzling because I do not use a compressor, either software or hardware. Files are mastered at between -19 and -20 dB. So how can I reduce compression levels when no compressor is used? Thanks!

  22. David K. Martin

    Can you suggest a good processing sequence in Reaper to bring the final RMS and peaks to within ACX specs?

  23. John Byrne

    Hi, any way to eliminate a recurring vocal tic, wholesale? A too frequent ‘catarrhal pop’ is slowing editing. I use Audacity, do you know whether a sound can be marked in a batch and zapped all in one go? Thanks.

  24. Patricia

    Just building my portfolio… cannot see to land a Fiction title. Suggestions for finding out what I might do differently? I have listened to other audiobooks and feel I’m performing within the genre expectations. ?Upload more fiction samples to my Profile? Or maybe this is a genre with simply a ton of competition? I’m not discouraged, just wanting to know if I should do something differently.

  25. prestonvoice

    I’ve got 2 characters that both are described as having booming base voices. As a tenor, How can I make one have more base than the other, short of the actual change of tone while I record them? Thank you!

  26. Janet M. Jarmuz-Bamford

    My author wants me to somehow include a file showing the diagrams that are in his hard cover book. Is there a was to scan the pictures into an MP3 file or another format that a listener can refer to?

  27. ppastore

    How to you make the RMS level compliant with ACX standards? I have been using the software for sometime but would like to start doing audio books. Thank you. I am compliant (according to the ACX checker) but have no idea how to fix the RMS level.

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