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isolating computer noise

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isolating computer noise

Postby rbeach » Wed Jan 23, 2013 9:31 am

Any ideas on how to reduce the noise from a computer? Due to space restrictions my computer is rather close to where my mic’s are set. It is a new unit and pretty quiet but just the same it does bleed into the mic’s. a little. Thought about an acoustic foam barrier or something like that. I thought someone out there might have a practical solution.
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Mark Bliss
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Re: isolating computer noise

Postby Mark Bliss » Wed Jan 23, 2013 10:47 am

The three sources to consider are vibration, cooling fan noise and hard drive noise. So the first obvious thing is physical isolation. I.E. dont set the mics on a surface (desk, table) directly connected to the computer.

Some cooling systems are quieter than others, some very quiet and very expensive. Most Hard drives arent real loud anymore, but its still a concern. Of course SSD's are noiseless. 8)

The first thing to do is consider proximity of course, and also barriers of some sort can help, especially if acoustically absorbing in nature. Enclosures arent a good option though as they negatively effect cooling. I would consider an acoustic "curtain" (similar to the curved sheilds for recording vocals), but on a larger scale between the CPU and mics as a possible solution. Also for other ideas, look at the sheilds used to attenuate drums or guitar amps levels, though those tend to be more reflective than absorbing.

I think in terms of isolating the mic from the noise as much (or more) than isolating the noise from the mic. Be sure to always be aware and consider the pattern and direction of your mic positioning. "Aiming" the mic away from the source of unwanted noise (and any surfaces that are going to be first order reflective of the noise you are trying to abate). Close-micing the desired source and correct gain staging can help a great deal.

If a very quiet environment is desired, such as in a well treated room and recording of particularly low sources, you may want to consider long cables and a remote CPU installation and/or using a control surface for basic transport functions while recording.

I am designing a space where the CPU is on the other side of a well insulated wall, and I am considering a bluetooth keyboard test (not certain of the range), as well as a USB run to a basic control surface. We'll see how that evolves.........

Stay tuned!
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Re: isolating computer noise

Postby trevlyns » Wed Jan 23, 2013 2:23 pm

Excellent advice from Mark as usual. Also consider a low - cut filter.
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Re: isolating computer noise

Postby Ianpb » Wed Jan 23, 2013 5:01 pm

Cooling fans are the main problem. If you don't play 3D games then there's plenty you can do to reduce the noise because you don't need so much ventilation. Firstly you may be able to slow the CPU fan down through the BIOS, and also worth considering is replacing other fans with slower, lower noise ones; disconnecting one or two may also be a further option if plenty are already installed. I once found the worst culprit on mine to be the small cooling fan on the graphics card that was producing a loud whine. So, not being a games player, I bought a card with a fanless, passive heat sink, a Radeon HD6570.

Another thing to do is make sure that if you are using a cardioid pattern microphone with its least sensitive side facing the computer. My Audio-Technica AT2035 condenser mic has such a cardioid pattern and I use it on a 5-foot stand about a foot from my quiet computer, with the inbuilt low-cut filter and -10db pad applied, and employ the close-microphone technique (with a close wind-shield) to overcome the poor acoustics of the room. The computer can barely be heard on the recorded track, and I always remove the audio from the quiet parts anyway.

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