Your audio journey – Part 62 – When to and when not to use a noise gate

At the weekend I watched a Youtube video but I only made it to about 30 seconds into the video before I was forced to turn it off. Was the content bad? No. Was the sound quality unacceptable? Yes.

The video in question was an ASMR video. For those that don’t know ASMR stands for Autonomous sensory meridian response and these videos are supposed to be relaxing. This was a content creator who I had never watched before but I’m afraid to say the audio had been noise gated poorly making it, for me, unwatchable.

A noise gate has two settings, open or closed. You set a threshold, above the threshold and the gate is open, beneath the threshold the gate is closed. It’s important to point out the moment the audio exceeds the threshold all sound is let through.

The video in question had been recorded with a lot of background noise present. The ideal for recording any audio is to have a quiet, acoustically suitable space. A low noise floor (noise level when nothing else is happening) is important but even if you can’t achieve a perfectly quiet noise floor your audio may be recoverable via a noise gate.

In this video, I show you how to apply a noise gate and when you should use it and when you shouldn’t.

The simple answer is if your recording contains a low-level background noise that’s annoying but doesn’t detract from the speech then a noise gate can be used to gate the noise out. Once the gate opens all the sound (good and bad) will be allowed through but as long as the background noise doesn’t detract from the audio you can gate it out.

If the background noise is so high that it detracts from the audio (as happened in this video) I’m afraid to say your audio is a write-off and you need to go back and re-record. If the background noise is that loud it competes with the good audio then neither a noise gate or noise reduction will work to leave you with audio that’s of a useable standard.