Why Is My Mac's Mic So Bad?

March 5th, 2014
audio, mac
Rehearsing we wanted to send recordings to someone to get their feedback, so one of us got out a macbook and recorded us playing a set in Garage Band. Listening back, it sounded terrible. The levels were fine, no digital clipping, and Garage Band said it wasn't applying any effects, but it was just all weird and phasey sounding. Then I tried my mine, in Audacity, and it was all wrong in exactly the same way. We were about ready to give up on the macs and use a phone instead when we found the magic setting:

It's "use ambient noise reduction," and while I'm sure it's great for videochat it's not at all what you want when you're recording. Compare:

  • With "ambient noise reduction": mp3
  • Without "ambient noise reduction": mp3
There are actually parts of the recording where it's an interesting sort of electronicy effect that I could like in a way, and the mic is still not all that good, but I'm much happier with the clean recording.

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