A Question for Language & Audio Geeks

In the course of engineering audio, I’ve noticed that the bilabial plosive (meaning the b sound when voiced and the p sound when voiceless) is sometimes recorded with too much gain, even when I have placed the microphone at a reasonable distance from the mouth. Meaning that when I open up an audio file, whenever someone says “book” or “picture,” I must meticulously correct it in postproduction. Not having an expensive processing unit, I am wondering if there is a workaround that would save me such time. (I am guessing that switching to condensers is probably the answer.) I am also curious why the bilabial plosive is so prominent (particularly in deep-voiced male speakers). Could it be the not bad yet dynamic microphone I am using? Or perhaps the signal is simply coming in too high.

[UPDATE: It may in fact be audio compression (PDF), but if other podcasters are having sibilance issues, please offer your thoughts, theories and solutions in the comments.]

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  1. Well, for starters, a pop-screen between you and your microphone would help. You can buy an expensive one, or just make one with a pair of pantyhose and a wooden embroidery frame. You’ll want it an inch or two from the mike, and you’ll want to speak very closely.

    The other thing to do would be to use a compressor, with a very fast attack setting. This will attune the audio when it passes a certain threshold. Set it by finding the peak distance between the plosives and vowel sounds — if it peaks 20db, set it to fast attack, fast release, -20db attenuation. This can also be accomplished during recording or post-production with decent audio software.

    All sibilence is basically white noise, but in the case of plosives it can also lead to distortion. Make sure to set your levels with enough headroom to handle any peaks. You can also try to use a de-esser filter, but I never found them very useful.

  2. Are you using a highpass filter on that channel? If not, that will help. Switching to a condensor mic won’t help all that much. A less directional mic or and omni may also help. If you are using this on stage a windscreen on the mic will help as well but if you are using it around the house in a non professional environment do as Jackson said and get some pantyhouse.

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