How To Record Ambient Noise

Ambient noise has a variety of uses and while natural sounds such as wind blowing may seem to have no use to you, they certainly do have their application in audio production.

For example, you may want to incorporate ambient noise into your mixes and sometimes you may not have the right sounds.

In such situations you have to gear up and record ambient noise on your own.

As with most things that involve a certain level of professionalism in recording, there are going to be rules to follow and sometimes techniques to employ in order to get the desired result.

This post will therefore discuss how to record ambient noise.

Equipment

Let’s start out the Equipment that you need to record ambient noise.

Ideally you need:

1. A Microphone with a windscreen

To properly record ambient noise, you need a microphone with certain characteristics and I’m going to discuss these below.

Let’s start with sensitivity… You need to choose a microphone that has a diaphragm sensitive enough to pick up subtle sounds. It also needs a good and strong output that that can present recorded audio with enough detail and nuance of the environment itself and its elements.

The next important characteristic of a microphone to use when recording ambient is noise is the pick up pattern. You need a microphone that has stereo and surround characteristics.

This is the best way to go about recording ambient noise because as you know it. We experience audio in a 3D way which means we need a microphone that can try as much as possible to replicate this.

Omnidirectional microphones sound the most natural since they capture sound from every direction in practically the same way .

Using a microphone that is able to pick up ambient noise in stereo form is actually an even cheaper alternative.

Some people prefer to use 2 mono microphones. But rather than spending money to buy to microphones, I’d advise you to go with a good stereo ambient microphone.

The third characteristic that an ambient microphone should have is that it should have low self noise in order to capture sound in its purest form…. therefore look for a microphone with low self noise, so you don’t have to worry about having to sort through static and ambient noise.

Go for a microphone with a flat frequency response.

Furthermore, it’s important that you Choose a microphone that will function properly in a variety of ambient conditions both indoors and outdoors.

Lastly, A windscreen will redirect the wind away from the microphone diaphragm, while allowing sound waves to pass therefore ensure to have one.

2. Digital Recorders

If you don’t want the hassle of having to deal with a microphone when recording ambient noise, then you can go for a digital recorder.

Some people also prefer using phones to record, but I personally don’t recommend it because the sound quality won’t be great.

Instead you can get a digital handheld recorder that you can carry around wherever you need to record from.

3. Headphones

You also need some good high end headphones that can help you monitor your recordings.

This is vital because you want to ensure that you pick up exactly what you want to pick up.

How to record Ambient noise

Now that we’ve discussed some necessary equipment to capture ambient noise lets get into how you can actually go about doing this.

Research places

The first thing you need to obviously do is decide what kind of ambient noise you’re looking for. Most people overlook this step and end up with something they don’t really like.

Therefore to avoid this, you might want to sit down and actually find the kind of ambient or background noise you’re looking for.

It could be nature sounds, it could be traffic and many other things.

Once you discover exactly what you’re looking to capture, you can then go ahead and start researching possible places where you can actually capture these sounds in the most clarity.

This may sometimes mean taking a field trip and exploring good places that are rich with the sounds you’re looking for.

Test record

Once you find a good location that has the ambient noise you’re looking for, you can then go ahead and get some recorded samples preferably using different recording equipment.

Test record with a smartphone, also test record with a digital recorder, also test recorder with an microphone or two mono microphones if that’s the case.

After you do this, you can then go take your recordings and play them one by one. This should give you enough detail about the recordings.

Decide whether to use a microphone or digital recorder

Once you play your test recordings done with various sound capturing devices you can then start to assess each test recording.

Your goal should be finding the recording with the highest recording.

When you figure this out, you then have to figure out which device recorded the recording.

This is why it’s important to label your recordings.

With that said, your next step will be to choose the device with which you’ll carry out your recording.

Let your recorder record

Once you choose your recording device you can then go to a good place that is a good source for ambient noise.

You can then place your recording device in a spot where it can record without being disturbed.

If you’re using a microphone then set up your recording gear in a good place and then press record.

Also ensure that the weather is favourable for recording because the last thing want is trying to record in bad weather.

With that said, once you set down your recording device, let it record as much content as it can because you’ll want to have enough content to pick from.

Two mono microphones

If you’re using two mono microphones it’s a good idea to pan one microphone to the left and the other one to the right so you can get a wider stereo effect of your recording.

You can then add reverb on the ambient noise recordings in your DAW yo give them that good atmospheric feel.

Recording ambient noise with phones

Recording with microphones is not ideal and I don’t actually recommend it.

Phone microphones are not meant to capture recordings to a professional standard so you’ll most likely get low quality recordings with them.

Tips

1. Good ambient noise recording starts with choosing the right location and running tests with your audio equipment until you find the right device for recording.

2. Avoid recording ambient noise with phones, use a digital recorder instead.

3. Microphones are great but digital Recorders are better for field recording.