The Blue Snowball microphone is an extremely intuitive and easy to use beginner microphone. While the Snowball is great for video makers, streaming as well as musicians, it struggles in environments with background noise
So if you've just bought your Blue Snowball and want to know how to reduce background noise, we'll go over the tips and techniques to get the most out of your microphone!
Here's what you need to remove background noise on a blue snowball mic:
- Optimal Recording Settings
- A Good Recording Environment
- Noise Reduction Plugins
Optimal Recording Settings
The Blue Snowball is a versatile microphone and can be used in a multitude of different settings. Offering three polar patterns – you can set-up your Blue Snowball to work with single sound sources, as well as 360 audio.
A Blue Snowball picking up background noise, is usually because of selecting the wrong microphone pattern, for what you're using it for.
The Blue Snowball mic comes with 3 switchable microphone patterns, Cardioid, Omni and Cardioid Padded:
- The CARDIOID pattern – best for a single sound source such as a vocalist, guitar etc. Cardioid microphones pick up the sound that's coming in at the front of the microphone. Unlike the following setting, a Cardioid polar pattern won't pick up any sound from behind the snowball microphone.
- The OMNI polar pattern – better for recording multiple sources of sound. If you're recording an acoustic band performance, you should select the omni pattern for example. If omni is left on, when recording a single source, you'll experience a lot of background noise from your blue snowball mic.
- Cardioid pattern, with a -10dB Pad – the same as the Cardioid, except, it's less sensitive, to accommodate louder sound sources. If you're working with a particularly loud vocalist or recording electric guitar, using a pattern with less sensitivity is a great way to ensure you don't hear any clipping.
As long as you select the correct polar pattern setting, for your situation, and make sure you're not clipping, you should be able to reduce some unwanted background noise.
Importance of A Good Recording Environment
No matter if you're using a Blue Snowball, or a vintage Neumann, if your recording environment is not up to the task, you'll be hearing a lot of background noises in your recordings.
Whether you're streaming or making music, a good room is as important as the rest of your setup.
More often than not, your room is the biggest factor that influences both your recordings, and mixes. Same goes for monitors, no matter how good your monitors are, if your room isn't treated properly, you won't be able to extract the most out of your gear.
Expensive equipment aside, even the Blue Snowball microphone needs a good room. The best way to reduce background noise in your recordings, is reducing background noise in your room.
With that being said, let's look into some ways to treat your room, to extract the most out of your blue snowball microphone.
Sound Proofing Budget DIY Version
This is probably what you came here for, realistically, nobody will hire an acoustician to make their room better, just for a Blue Snowball mic. Not to worry, there is quite a lot you can do on your own, without the need for thousands of dollars on hand.
Let's separate this into three parts, Measurement, materials and Installation, to get you well on your way to improved room acoustics.
Use A Pop Shield
Pop shields are foam devices that go around your mic, or sit infront of your microphone. They can be used to remove the plosives: “b”, “p”, “t”, “k”, “d” and so on.
The foam pop shields can also act as noise removal devices, because they encompass the microphone, giving it some soft material to absorb the noise before it's being sent into the microphone.
If you're recording vocals, you'll definitely want a pop filter.
Finding Your Room Reflection Points
So, the most important part of your acoustic treatment, the measurement. Yes, you could buy a measurement mic for around $30 and use some free software, but honestly, without knowing how to exactly counter the issues in your room, knowing your RT60, or standing wave nodes is nearly useless.
For that reason, there exists a tried and true method of quickly figuring out where to put your acoustic treatment.
The mirror method is probably your best bet.
This is the best way for you to figure out your direct reflections from your speakers. While sitting at your monitors, in the position you would usually sit in while producing, have a friend use a small mirror, to go along your walls.
Do this until you find the spot, where, from your sitting position, you can see the speaker in your mirror. Do this for both speakers, and you'll have found the direct reflection point of your speakers.
Then you'll want to acoustically treat these parts.
Acoustically Treating Your Room – DIY Version
You're probably familiar with the foam pads, that are visible in almost any studio ever. The main job of these pads is to reduce the reverberation, and sound reflection in your room.
Only a part of your sound goes in a straight line, with a lot of it leaking all around the sound source. This is why it's important to insure you're preventing as much surface reflection as possible.
That being said, there are instances, where your room tone is awesome, and you want to preserve it for infusing your recordings with your room sound.
The best thing to use in this case would be a diffuser.
Unlike pads, these don't trap the sound, but diffuse it in all different directions, to correct the standing wave nodes in your room.
You usually want these on the rear section of your studio walls to absorb and diffuse the sound throughout.
Building both diffusers, and reverb treatment can be done quite cheaply. A wooden frame, with rock wool inside and fabric pulled over is one of the most effective DIY treatment options. You can also build a diffuser, with just a saw and some glue.
Lastly, get a carpet, your floor and ceiling are two massive points of reflection, so taking care of the floor with a carpet can be awesome for improving acoustics
If you're interested in building your own acoustic panels, Corey Bautista has an awesome in-depth tutorial on some DIY acoustic panels.
Vocal Booth and Recording
If you're not interested in fixing room acoustics, but just want to produce better recordings with your blue snowball microphone, an impromptu vocal booth can be your solution.
A couple of clothing racks, with blankets over them are an awesome way to create a quick recording booth, if you're recording an amp or other instruments.
You can also get microphone isolation pads, which you can add to your mic stand.
These help to absorb the sound before it can hit any of the walls in your room, and therefore creates a lot less echo-y, and room-y type vocals.
If that is too much for you, and you just want a slight improvement, just simply using a pop filter can reduce some of your room noise, while taking care of your plosives and sibilance.
A pop filter is not an expensive purchase, and is one of the best ways to instantly improve the record quality of your microphones.
Professional Sound Proofing
Below we're gonna cover some professional sound proofing options, if you're looking to invest to make your audio crystal clear.
Professional Acoustic Treatment is usually done in stages. First, the measurement: each room is different, which means that there isn't a universal solution to acoustics.
Having correct, precise measurements of your room reverberation, standing wave nodes and frequency zones is important to selecting, and designing your acoustic treatment.
Usually, you'd leave this to the professionals to do. Measuring your room correctly is a pain in itself, since you need specific gear for this, that can run you close to 400-500 dollars.
If you're looking for professional acoustic treatment for your room or studio, the best way to go is hiring an acoustics company to do it for you. Acoustics is an incredibly complex and deep subject, so leaving it to the professionals would be our call.
With that being said, professional acoustic treatment, with design, measurement and installation can cost upwards to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the scope of your project.
For those of us with less expendable funds, let's look into the DIY way to treat your room.
For a professional vocal booth, you'd need a separate space in your studio, usually a closet, or extra room. That is carpeted and padded on all surfaces, to destroy any possibility of reflections.
In addition to this, using a pop filter on your microphone is important, to remove the harsh plosives and sibilant noise. Different reflection shields are also available, to add on to your mics, to reduce background noise even further
The most important thing in your vocal booth is reducing background noise and any possible sonic reflection from the surfaces of your vocal booth.
Noise Reduction Plugins
You've already tried everything you can, you've treated your room to the best of your ability, recorded using the appropriate patterns, etc. What do you do, if there's still noise present in your recordings?
Whether you're trying to increase talking inteligibility or cleaning up hiss from a vocal recording, digitally removing noise from your audio, is a valid option.
Keep in mind however, that even the best, most elaborate background noise removal tools, can't substitute for good room acoustics. Using Noise Reductions plugins to fix your background noise can be a pain, and should be used as a last-ditch effort.
When repairing your blue snowball mic background noise, it's necessary to distinguish between what is it that you're trying to fix. The tools you'll use for reverb correction will be different than those you'd use to remove white noise or hum.
Acon Digital De-Noise
Compatibility: Windows, Mac, VST, AU, AAX, Standalone, 64-bit
Part of the Acon Restoration Suite 2, the Acon Digital DeNoise is a plug-in designed to help get rid of stationary background noise. This means that it tackles the hiss, white noise, wind and other consistent sound sources.
Great care has been taken, to preserve as much of the original signal as possible, which tends to lead to impressively transparent and clear noise reduction.
Also included in the Restoration Suite 2 are DeHum, DeClick and DeClip, which are also incredibly useful tools, for audio restoration.
Acon Digital also have a piece of software called Acoustica 7, which is vastly similar to iZotope's RX7.
It's not as in-depth, but includes all of the main audio restoration tools you would need, and is a 1/10th of the price of RX7. Also, the developers are extremely awesome and keep updating Acoustica 7 with new features, so it's not long before it's on the same level as RX7.
It's a cheaper RX7, and is 100% worth checking out if you don't have a grand to splash on iZotope stuff.
Accusonus ERA 5 Noise Remover
Compatibility: Windows, Mac, VST, AAX, AU, 64-bit
A part of the Accusonus ERA 5 bundle, the Noise Remover does what it says on the tin. Removing noisy indoor or outdoor ambience, white noise, hiss etc. without affecting the intelligibility of speaking and quality of your original recording.
Best used on Vocals, the ERA 5 Noise Remover is essentially a “one-knob” plugin. Easy to use, with selectable focus modes and processing amounts, the ERA 5 Noise Remover is an awesome audio repair tool.
Compatibility: Windows, Mac, VST, AU, AAX, Standalone, 64-bit
A giant in the world of audio restoration and repair, RX-7 is an incredible plugin. Unlike the ERA 5 bundle, iZotope's RX-7 is an all-in-one plugin, that's designed to be the only thing you'll ever need to clean up your audio.
From de-clipping, to spectral correction and noise removal, RX-7 offers a wide range of smart filters and processing, to make your mics sound better than ever.
While it's not as easy-to-use as the Accusonus or Acon Digital plugins, RX-7 excels with it's universal approach, to all things audio repair.
A Blue Snowball microphone is an awesome beginner choice, that can be used for video creation, streaming or music making.
While they're awesome, they can be plagued by background noises and other unwanted sound artifacts.
We've looked at the ways to decrease background noise when using a blue snowball mic, so now it's up to you to implement them.
With that being said, we think it's time to put this guide to a close.