Using the BOSS Micro BR digital recorder for high quality podcasts, screencasts, interviews and voice work

Posted on September 11, 2009

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Dedicated digital recorders are nice to have tools in a technical writers toolbox. Not a must have, but great when you need to record podcasts, do voice over work for video tutorials, MadCap Mimic projects, miking training individuals for video camera work, and ultimately record SME interviews/meetings for replay/ad hoc meeting minutes. Next generation digital recorders are inexpensive tools. These are also now made better because they can record directly to easy playing, MP3 files directly, and have done away with noisy magnetic tape driven analogue mechanisms.

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This is not a review of the BOSS MICRO BR. Neither is it a new product. But I will show you how to set up the fiddly, complicated interface on the MICRO BR for tech comms voice work and podcasts. I discovered this over a period of over a year of use. I used to be frustrated to no end with the excessive sensitivity of the mic to picking up surrounding noise like CPU fans, air-conditioning, ceiling fans and general wind, yet recording the speaking voice at rather low levels by default making recording with the MICRO BR more of a hassle than it was to record with a simple headset. And it doesn’t come cheap as recorders come. Its what I have had access to over the year, and its what I use.

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You’ll get high quality, noise-free, and loud and clear voice recordings with nothing else other than the MICRO BR – so no Audacity for post-processing or anything like that, not in this article. Be more efficient, and guarantee you that you can now use it confidently for most tech-comms voice recordings like the people I used to envy with a Zoom H2 or Zoom H4 digital recorder for editing screen casts/video demos.

MICRO BR for ‘direct to edit’ screencasts on a PC

MICRO BR was designed for guitar enthusiasts and home recording hobbyists in mind. For more efficient direct editing and recording sound for screencasts on a PC, you’ll probably get a more efficient workflow with a desktop mic/headset or a digital recorder that acts like an external USB Audio Interface connected directly to the PC. These Audio Interface hybrids, let you leverage on the quality mic and hi-fidelity sound-processing engine that may not be available on most cramped computer notebooks – like an additional external hi quality soundcard for your notebook/PC .

One of the common user complaints about the BOSS MICRO BR is that its poor for recording voice, since recordings with the built in mic always sound too soft. Not that the BOSS MICRO BR is poor quality device – this is a professional, multi-track digital recording product with a quality condenser mic. Unfortunately the default settings for sound levels if you are using it out of the box for interviews are poor. You’ll be hard pressed to find an article like this anywhere else, not even on the BOSS forums.

About the BOSS MICRO BR

The BOSS Micro-BR is a compact high quality, multi-track digital recorder that lets you record from a high quality built in mic like the Zoom H2 (except without the built-in USB direct link audio interface) recorders with a variety of guitar or line inputs for recording music digitally to a compact SD memory card. It has enough inputs, multi track interface, and is packed with professional looped drum tracks and sound effect filters to suit the modern garage band musician. Zero fumbling about the back of the computer.  To start mixing up and work creative sound juices – its all contained in the nifty package that is the BOSS MICRO BR. Record your sound tracks, mix them up, resample them, all on the BOSS, export to WAV or MP3 directly, and transfer your music tracks to your PC.

The BOSS MicroBR, is a feature-rich product with its own peer-to-peer forum, and it has its fair share of passionate users that sing praises for it, and also those who are completely annoyed and simply struck by a confusing menu interface.

To get started

Set the MICRO BR to record in MP3 mode. We’ll ignore all the multi-track recording facilities for this.

Click Input button (right hand). Set the Input to MIC. Set the SNS to –3.

I used to make the mistake of knocking all SNS and input to maximum. This is no longer necessary, since we are going to use the pro level built in compression filters and noise suppression filters into a custom effect which you will later call U01:Vo Clean.

Click Effects button (bottom left corner) and set the effect to P01- AGLoCut. We’ll use this as a base to start customizing our own effect. When the effects are customized to your liking, you can save(WRT) the custom effect to something like as U01:VO Clean. In fact you can rename the effect and save it(WRT) to the U01 memory bank first.

Editing P01: AGLoCut – to start out to build your own custom U01:Vo Clean

With the effect you named U01: Vo Clean, selected, edit the effect (EDT).

The rest of this article will show you how to set up settings for the following important filters

  • CMP – Compression (voice sound gain)
  • ENH – Sound sweetening enhancement (voice timbre and detail)
  • EQ – Equalizer (voice depth)
  • NS -  Noise suppression (eliminate ambient noise and clamp down on environmental noise)

When the settings are done save the effect (WRT), adjust the settings again to suit your own voice actor.

Compression – CMP

Turn ON

Sustain : 10

Attack : 5

Level : 100

Enhancer – ENH

Turn ON

Sens 70

Freq: 8.00 Hz

Mix Level/ Lo Mix Level : 30- 40

Level : 90

Equalizer – EQ

Turn ON

Low Gain: 0dB

Lo-M Gain: +3dB

Lo-M F: 4.0 kHz

Lo-M Q: 8

Hi-M Gain: +4dB

Hi-M F: 6.3kHz

Hi-M Q: 1

High Gain : +10dB

Level: +3dB

Noise suppression – NS

Turn ON

Threshold: 65-80

Release: 40

Delay – DLY

Turn OFF

About what’s going on

I am no way an expert in describing sound engineering principles, but this is a summary based on the research and understanding that I think you will need to make the settings work for you.

To These settings were involved
Get more gain (louder) Dynamic sound compression is very important here. Most commercial pop music and broadcast audio is ‘extra’ compressed (compressed multiple times at various levels by different equipment by broadcasting stations)  to give the appearance of ‘louder sound.’ The attack and sustain attributes control determine how fast the compression effect comes on or drops off.

Setting higher EQ level at the various frequencies and sound enhancer levels also help to balance out the sound. If you set too high an EQ gain and levels  you get unwanted distortion (subtle but audible)
The emphasis of EQ at the lo-mid to hi-mid levels ( voice range usually at 4kHz –6 kHz) helps to give ‘bass, body and authoritative depth’ to a voice. A shrill or empty, tinny sounding voice is not what you want voice to be sounding. Its also annoying to your audiences (user psychology) after prolonged exposure to high pitched sounds. 

Using Noise Suppression with the right amount of ‘threshold’ prevents you from losing audible words when the noise suppression kicks in and also you want avoid the phenomena of intermittent voice fading in and out effect which can be annoying. Sound compression helps to balance out the effect.

Threshold at 100 eliminates all ambient sound.
Threshold at 0 retains most ambient sound.

Clarity (sound detail) Sound enhancer circuit ‘sweeten’s or ‘warms’ the sound by adding subtle sound detail to the recordings at specific frequencies. This  adds barely audible subtleties to the spoken word, for that sparkling crystal clear quality.
Also adds subtle depth to the voice.
No more background noise.
Minimal background noise (mic sensitivity)
Enabling the noise suppression circuits will release or clamp down on background hum when a sound threshold is bypassed ensuring that studio silent quality.

Recording dry vs (wet)?

Some professionals argue that you should record ‘dry’ that means to keep the source recording as pure as possible with as few sound effects added to the source.

In this scenario, I am adding the voice effects, with the assumption that no more post production in a software mixing station is required. In any case the pro-level post production sound filters and reverb you get in the MICRO BR will always be miles better than any open source sound processing software algorithm. In any case, once you get this right, all you need to to do next is to transfer the MP3 files from the MICRO BR to your computer or ipod and add them to your video editing timeline/MadCap Echo project/music library. All sound levels and noise levels optimized for publishing out right out of the ‘box’.

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