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How to Improve Mic Quality for Streaming on OBS and other programs- Voicemeeter Banana

First, let's be clear about one thing: You can modify how a microphone sounds, but you can't make a bad mic sound good any more than you can make a blurry image clear by clicking "enhance" over and over again (*Ahem* CSI). 

With that in mind, I snagged a conversation with our new good friend and voice actor, SCOTCHBOX, he modified his already great sounding ModMic Wireless to sound even silkier.

Warning: VR Chat is a weird and strange world.

The first thing you'll notice when you watch that video is how great he sounds. Yep, the guy is a voice actor! The source, in this case your voice, does make an impact! So, once again, audio tools are not magic. We can't make you sound like SCOTCHBOX. All we can do is make you sound more SCOTCHBOX-like.

Scotch, as he'll be called from here on out uses only Voicemeeter and the ModMic Wireless to achieve this sound. One last thing before we dive into the tips and tricks though: Your windows settings still matter. Scotch has his set to 63 Volume with AGC on. 

The first thing you'll need is Voice Meeter Banana (VMB), it's free! Not only can we use it for real time voice processing, but VMB also acts as a mixer, letting you have multiple inputs and multiple outputs and mix between them freely. We'll save the tutorial for mixing for another day and focus solely on voice modification. Also you'll need to install Virtual Cable, which is by the same company (and also free).

Step 1: Setup

When you first install VMB you're going to need to select a few items for the basic use. First, in the first Hardware Input you need your microphone. In this case, it is the ModMic Wireless. Select WDM: and whatever your mic is. You can rename this field from Hardware Input 1 to whatever you want by right-clicking it.

Next, you need to select your output. In almost every scenario you want your output to be a virtual cable. For the sake of simplicity in this setup select VB-Audio Virtual Cable in slot A1.

Finally, make sure whatever you're using your mic for has the new Virtual Audio Cable selected as its device. E.G. Discord, OBS, Audacity, etc.

Step 2: Intellipan

Scotch actually only uses two settings, though we'll talk about some others as well. First, Intellipan: This simple tool controls how bass-heavy your voice is by sliding the dot to the left. More left, more bass. Conversely, you can make your more treble heavy by moving to the right. As the dot moves up it adds a bit of echo. It can simulate a little bit of depth to your voice that may be lacking if your room has a lot of sound absorbing materials.

While the setting you see on in the image here may work very well for Scotch, your voice and room is going to be a little different. Note that moving too far left will make your voice sound "hollow" and likely harder to understand. Moving too far up will actually make an echo effect. I find it is easier to hear how I sound if I do a separate recording in Audacity and play it back. Again, just be sure you've selected the Virtual Audio Cable or you won't hear any of the changes!

Step 3: Noise Gate

Next, Scotch uses the noise gate, simply called "Gate" in VMB. His is set to 2.0, but like all audio settings there's no magic number. Think of noise gate like the voice activation sensitivity. Anything under the threshold is not heard. If you set the number too high it will clip off the first letter of words when you start talking. If you set it too low it won't do anything at all. To find the perfect balance start by finding the point at which it decreases the ambient background noise to zero. This gives you the baseline for ambient noise in the room. Now, think about scenarios where you don't want your mic picking you up. Maybe its typing, mouse clicking, or breathing heavily while playing Beatsaber in VR. Try to simulate that and find a number that doesn't cause the level meter to rise.

Now that you have a number you once again have to test if this number is too high. Talk normally, then stop for a few seconds, then start talking again. If the first word you say sounds "clipped" you've set your noise gate too high and have to decrease it. You may find that there IS no magic number that solves all these problems, in which case try to find a happy medium and leave it at that. Again, voice editing software is cool, but it is NOT magic. You'll likely be looking at a value between 2-4, with 5-6 being pretty aggressive and higher leading to near certain clipping. As an example: My office is pretty noisy with loud PC fans and a heater running, so it took till 2.5 to get to zero and 4.1 to eliminate my keyboard.

And that's honestly it for Scotchbox! Just a mild increase to bass and echo, a very small amount of noise gating, and a naturally talented voice.

Step 4: But wait! There's More!

Just because that is all Scotchbox uses doesn't mean those are the only tools in the shed. I want to touch on some of the others and what they do / what their limitations are:

VMB Compressor: Right next to the noise gate is the compressor, in theory a compressor limits the audio range, making it so when you shout it doesn't burst someone's ear drums or cause severe mic clipping. Unfortunately for me, in VMB, the compressor causes an increase in the quiet sounds and doesn't appear to work well for decreasing the loud ones. There are better programs for this kind of thing and we'll get to them in a second.

EQ Settings: If you right click on the "EQ" button under Master Section you can have full control over the equalizer, allowing you to really get down and dirty to modify how your voice sounds. This can be useful, especially in eliminating certain frequency ranges all together. That said, while its worth playing around with, the intellipan will likely do a better job and is a lot easier to use. Note you have to LEFT CLICK on the EQ to turn it on, it will turn blue as in the image above.

Position: If you right click on the Intellipan window there are two additional things you can do with it, modulation (in case you want to sound like a robot?) and more likely important. Position. This lets you adjust your output to make it sound like you're coming from one side or the other. Why would you want that? It may be handy if you're doing a stream with two people, one on camera left and the other camera right, to have their voices appear to come from slightly different locations. Since VMB can be a mixer, having two mic inputs is possible and having them sound like they come from two locations is possible as well! Pretty neat really.

Cantabile and Reaper VSTSuper robust and completely free, these two programs come together to make magic. However, the tutorial below is an hour long, so before you watch it make sure it is something you want to learn and will find useful. This setup will allow you to see your voice in real time on an equalizer. It will allow you to automatically detect your ambient background noise and attempt to build a profile to remove it all. It has a compressor and a limiter function that actually works, ensuring you never peak your mic or blow someone's ears out. It also has a more advanced noise gate than VMB, just be sure to only have one on at a time.

Final word of warning, my general rule of thumb is if you take any of these settings too far you'll end up doing more harm than good. Keep the changes mild, at the end of the day upgrading to a better mic is the only solution to radical improvement.

Be sure to watch SCOTCHBOX and a special thanks to Kris Meyer for his tutorial above.

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