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All microphones have hissing and buzzing noises, but sometimes we might not even notice it until we turn on the microphone. While this can be very frustrating, here are some ways to look for cause and finally fix your buzzing mic.
How to fix a buzzing condenser mic? First, run some diagnostics. Check the following:
1. Noise level in the room
3. Preamp and audio interface
4. Audi software
5. Faulty hardware?
6. Plugins and Settings
There are many different reasons as to why your microphone might be buzzing and depending on the cause there is a possibility that one or more of the checks above could fix it. But let’s look at each checkpoint in a little more detail to help you narrow down the cause.
How to Fix a Buzzing Condenser Mic
Most of the time it is as simple as a subtle noise that only your mic can pick up or a bad cable; in these cases, you don’t have to waste as much time with diagnostics and can easily fix the problem and get on your way recording. Before you start thinking you need a new mic, check out some common causes of the buzz.
1. Check to Make Sure Your Room Is Quiet
If you’re using a dynamic microphone, then it will be more directional and have less of an issue with background noise. Condenser mics have the biggest problem with this type of noise because it is much easier to pick up sounds in the room.
Here is a good trick to use when trying to determine if your room is quite enough for some sort of music studio. We can’t always hear these slight sounds ourselves, and we will only hear it once we begin the mixing process. It’s not a nice surprise.
Is Your Room Quiet Enough? Run this test:
1. First, increase the gain on your microphone and start walking around our room with your microphone.
2. Use a pair of headphones to listen to what’s being output
3. If you hear a noise interfering with the recording turn off the device that is causing the noise.
4. If you can’t turn it off, then keep your microphone far away from it while recording.
Most commonly, you will hear heaters, fans, bright lights, fridges, and even AC units make some sort of unwanted buzzing noises. This will obviously affect your recording as well as the sound of your vocals.
In some cases, electronic devices and monitors that have very low-quality electronic shielding can also produce a humming sound that affects your recordings.
2. Check Your Cables
Now that you have your background-checked for the noise, it’s time to turn down your preamp and test your microphone and preamp cables. If your cable is damaged, then it may pick up some sound pollution which affects sound quality. And it’s common, so check it first.
• Swap out your microphone and audio interface cables with different ones to see if the problem still persists.
It’d be nice if this is the problem. It’s a super straightforward fix.
Tips for Buying New Cables
When you buy a new XLR cable for your microphone, you should check that the cable shielding and connectors because these will affect the quality of the recording the most.
• If the XLR cable is well balanced, then the radio interference or noise shouldn’t cause issues.
• You don’t have to buy expensive XLR cables because higher cost doesn’t always mean higher quality.
You may hear some people claim that they can hear the difference between differently priced cables, but many sound engineers and hobbyists agree that shielding and connectors will give you good sound.
I recommend spending a bit more than the cheapest cable but you should be able to get a decent XLR cable for under $20 such as this one from Amazon which I own several of:
3. Check Your Preamp and Audio Interface
Are you using an interface or preamplifier? Some audio interfaces and preamps can make an unhealthy signal that causes buzzing and humming in the background. Make sure your gain isn’t just turned up too high and check the problem again.
Some microphones can be noisier than others, try just turning down your microphone and see how much buzzing is left.
Add a Cloud Lifter
If this fixes your problem, but you still want the option to turn up the volume with a healthy gain, try using cloud lifter. A cloud lifter will basically take your preamp phantom power and boost its signal by 25 decibels. Making this a no-control, low noise preamplifier that doesn’t put out any white noise.
4. Check Your Audio Software
In some cases, it will be your workstation that is causing the problem (the software you’re using to record the audio from your microphone.)
Make sure you check all the input controls so that they aren’t too high. You can alternatively try downloading a different free digital audio workstation such as Audacity and then check the problem again to see if it’s still there.
5. Check for Faulty Hardware
Every so often, music studio hardware can malfunction or just break. Though this is a fairly rare occurrence with today’s modern-day hardware, it can still happen to anyone’s studio microphone.
There are many reasons as to why this hardware can break or degrade out of the blue. Many times, the problem is an electrical issue; it could have been exposed to static electricity which caused hardware to degrade over time and cause hardware issues.
Also if you have not treated the microphone with care, such as dropping it or knocking it this can cause issues. Condenser microphones are very delicate pieces of equipment and if damaged it can affect the quality of the recording such as introducing a buzzing sound.
Modern hardware has gotten much better over the years, but this issue can still happen. The only option for this is to repair it or replace it.
6. Check with Your Mic’s Manufacturer
If your microphone’s recording is still producing a hissing sound, then you can try recording with all your input options on your audio interface or preamp on low. If you still experience the problem, then you may have to just your microphone.
Before you replace, make a phone call.
Get the model and serial numbers off of your mic and see what the manufacturer can tell you. The manufacturer should be able to help you resolve your issue and may even offer to repair or replace your microphone.
7. Is it Actually the Speakers?
It might not be the microphone causing the buzzing noise. Perhaps it is the speakers or amp you are using that is buzzing.
Check other instruments or listen to music through the speakers to see if the buzzing remains. Or try monitoring your microphone through headphones to see if it sounds clearer.
I wrote an article on buzzing and hissing monitor speakers with some common issues and fixes if you think that might be the issue. (insert link).
8. Is it Feedback?
If you are listening to the microphone through speakers or an amp and you are in the same room this will more than likely cause feedback which could be the buzz you are hearing. This is simply because the microphone is picking up the sound from the speakers over and over again leading to what is known as feedback.
When monitoring microphones always use headphones or have someone in a separate room to the person who is recording (you know the classic music studio setup where the producer is behind a glass screen).
Plugins and Settings
Noise Suppressor Plugins
Some digital audio workstations have noise suppressor plugins built into their software. This helps a lot in removing excess noise that your microphone makes.
Others such as Noise Gate will improve the clarity of vocals as well as remove unwanted microphone noise by stopping sounds below a certain threshold from passing through.
When using these make sure all your signs you want to be heard are above the threshold, so they don’t become blocked. Implemented software like these will significantly improve your vocal recordings even if there is some buzzing the recording won’t let it be heard.
Using EQ to Remove the Microphone’s Buzzing Sounds
It is possible to use EQ to reduce buzzing and hissing sounds. With this being said, it is still almost impossible to completely remove the noise without damaging the audio wave.
While this method will greatly reduce your buzzing and hissing it isn’t viable if you want excellent sounding audio.
If this is your only option try using a technique known as EQ sweeping to try and remove the buzzing frequencies that are causing you issues.
Open up an EQ plugin such as the one below, these come built into most DAW software. The raise the gain of a small range of frequencies and gradually move the frequency up and down. Listen to when the buzzing noise gets particularly loud and annoying and that is likely to be the problem frequency range. Stop at that point and reduce the frequency lightly to reduce the buzzing.
As I say it is hard to completely fix a bad recording but if you had a great take or the audio is from a podcast interview then this method can be of use.
Hopefully, this helped you figure out the cause of your microphone’s buzzing, and you were able to put an end to it without having to go out and buy a brand-new microphone. Microphones and other audio equipment can be very finicky, and the cause of interference will not always be very clear or easy to figure out.
Taking the time to check for some really simple issues may save you a lot of money in the end. Use trial and error and be patient. If you end up having to buy a new mic, you’ve at least explored all of the other options first.