I am giving away the easy-peasy solution to the frustrating problem of background noise. I’ve spent numerous hours in finding the solution, all you have to do is read this 5-minute article, that’s it!
The quest to reduce background noise on the mic begun after a few embarrassing moments during various meets.
When I started the research, most of the solutions involved in setting up specific rooms to record voice, attend meetings, and host webinars. These rooms need to have echo reduction panels, soundproofing tapes to seal the door and windows, and other expensive things!
That’s impossible in my case. I don’t have an extra room.
I don’t give up easily. So I opened up Google.
Background Noise – One of the primary challenges of the WFH Revolution due to the Pandemic
I had once had the luxury to work from the office! Before the epic pandemic, I always loved the very thought of working from the comfort of home. No traffic jams, no long travel, home-cooked food, enough time for the gym, lots of time to spend with my wife and my 3-year-old kid!
Yes, I have a 3-year-old, cutie, sweet as a pie, ENERGETIC, NOISY, CHATTERBOX at home.
I bet you got my point.
If you haven’t got a chance to be a parent, ask your parents about parenting a toddler.
That’s it. My problem wasn’t solvable through cumbersome sound panels or expensive real estate. Notably, these toddlers don’t honor territorial boundaries.
Do you care about background noises when in an online meet?
Well, indeed, I do. It is pretty annoying, irritating, and sometimes outright impossible to listen to someone talking. At the same time, there is noise in the speaker’s background.
To me, it sounds so unprofessional and disgusting at times!
Out of sheer frustration, once I asked my colleague – “Why can you sit away from the turbo speed, jet engine blower of yours while on a live conference call? “
I don’t want to be in that position. But I was.
Remember, I have an uncontrollable chatterbox toddler.
My worst embarrassment would be someone asking me to stop talking due to disturbing noise in the background.
Let’s first understand that not everyone has kids at home, yet why do we still experience background noise?
Why is there background noise on my mic?
If you have at least one of these –
- Ceiling/ table fan, an air conditioner, or a blower
- Desktop computer, laptop
- Window facing a street, a kitchen closeby
- Kids, neighborhood kids
- Pets, neighborhood pets
- Water pump,
- Anything that makes a sound,
Then that is the reason you have background noise on your mic.
To eliminate background noise, you can try these few not-so-expensive tips listed in the next section.
How to stop the mic from picking up background noise?
These six tips should help you get rid of background noise-
- Get a dynamic, cardioid pattern microphone if background noise can have severe implications on your job—cost: $100~$200 one time purchase (till the mic lasts).
Dynamic mics are tuned to pick up only the vocal frequency range – and reject very high and very low frequencies. On top of that, cardioid microphones can only capture sounds coming from the front of the mic and a little bit from the backside of the mic. So when you switch to a dynamic cardioid microphone, you will get double protection from some background noises.
I use a Dynamic Cardioid mic to record the voiceover for my YouTube videos.
As most of these microphones are designed for voiceover artists, singers, and podcasters, and they come with an XLR port! Ever heard of an XLR port? Don’t worry; there are few dynamic cardioid mics with a USB interface that can directly plug into your PC or Mac.
Here’s what I recommend:
2. Avoid sitting under a fan or an air conditioner blower. Cost: Sweat, discomfort (if you stay in a hot region).
Wind noise is the most common background noise, even indoors. Yet, it is the easiest to fix (when indoors). To fix – don’t sit under the source of wind – fan/ blower/ cooler/ etc.. The noise will go away if you follow this tip.
If it is too hot where you live and you don’t want to switch off the fan or cooler, well… keep reading…
3. Keep your laptop/ desktop computer a bit away from your mic during a live call/ webinar/ conference. Cost: Strain on eyes if your laptop screen is too small.
Computer fan noise can get a bit loud at times. A regular mic does a fantastic job of picking up this noise as something crucially important! Sit as far as possible from your computer tower/ laptop, but ensure you don’t appear too tiny on your webcam!
4. Be gentle with your keyboard. Cost: Free
No, not the music keyboard, be gentle on your computer keyboard. A few of my colleagues have a habit of taking notes during the meet without being on mute and with loud keystrokes clearly audible even after lowering my computer’s sound volume to 10%.
I wonder how often they have to replace their keyboards?
5. Use an Artificial Intelligence-based background noise reduction software—cost: Free~ $5 per month.
AI revolution has made possible a few incredible technological innovations; one of them is sound processing. I’ve found 3 such solutions – RTX Voice, Google TrueVoice & Krisp.
The excellent part about AI-based noise cancellation software is that it can cancel out abrupt noises too! Abrupt noises are most challenging to control as they just pop up without any warning.
My main issue is sudden, (un)expected noises! Do you face the same problem?
Sometimes, killing the root cause of background noise is impossible, mainly if the root cause is cute children or lovely pets.
The better part about AI-based noise cancellation software is that – AI can cancel out kids’ noise too! Yes, kids’ noise also!
This is what I stumbled upon after a Ph.D. grade research in finding a solution to work in a noisy environment.
I stumbled upon nVidia RTX Voice! Note: RTX Voice is now NVIDIA Broadcast.
This is what NVIDIA has to say:
“NVIDIA RTX Voice is a new plugin that leverages NVIDIA RTX GPUs and their AI capabilities to remove distracting background noise from your broadcasts, voice chats, and remote video conferencing meetings. This allows users to “go live” or join a meeting without having to worry about unwanted sounds like loud keyboard typing or other ambient noise in noisy environments. RTX Voice also suppresses background noise from players in loud environments, making incoming audio easier to understand.”
RTX Voice, aka. NVIDIA Broadcast works with OBS Studio, Streamlabs, XSplit Broadcaster, Twitch Studio, HuYa, DouYu, Bilibili, Discord, TeamSpeak, Skype, Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Meet, Bluejeans, and other communication apps…
I was super excited after seeing and listening to the real-life demo of the noise cancellation software technology:
I then realized (after reading the System Requirements) that you need a GTX 20xx series or higher of NVIDIA Graphics Card to use RTX Voice. What a bummer! I can’t upgrade my laptop, and a new one with GTX 2060 grade GPU will cost $1000 or more!
Then I stumbled upon Google TrueVoice.
I hit the bummer point again. This time I checked the cost first before jumping with joy.
Yeah, I did the right thing. Google TrueVoice noise cancellation costs beyond yours and my imagination – $2699 onwards!!
WTF! $2699 only! WICKED!
I want a cheap solution or probably free!
Then I saw these taglines on a website:
“Mute background noise in any communication app.”
“Kids love making noise during your meetings?”
So true, so true.
What’s the cost – Free!
I dropped my mouse. (I hate using the laptop’s touchpad)
(as if I own the company).
Krisp promised me AI-based unwanted noise suppression for up to 2 hours for free every week! For unlimited minutes, they are offering a monthly plan at $10 or a yearly plan at $60. No special hardware is needed.
After going through a $1000+ & a $2600 solution, $60 was music to my ears.
I dug more into Krisp.ai.
How does Krisp noise suppression technology work?
Krisp or other AI-based noise cancellation software depends on data from deep learning!
What the heck is DEEP LEARNING?
The concept is out of this blog’s scope, so go and read the Wikipedia entry.
I’ll explain to you how deep learning works to identify and cancel noise.
First – the software studies noises, lots of different types of noises – Krisp, for example, has studied 20000+ noises. The deep learning system then stores patterns of these noises.
Then, Krisp’s Deep Neural Network studied human voices – 50000 voices from across the globe. The deep learning system then stores patterns of these voices.
The next step is simpler to describe.
Krisp’s software on your computer analyzes your voice in realtime. It performs pattern matching with the database of 20000 noises and 50000 voices.
It suppresses frequencies of sounds matching the noise pattern and boosts the frequencies of sound matching voice patterns. All this happens live, in real-time, without perceivable lag or delay.
Luckily, if a kid’s voice is detected along with an adult voice, Krisp considers the kid’s voice as noise and cancels it out!
Does it require any special hardware?
Yes, real-time voice processing happens on your computer, so you need a decent system.
A quad-core CPU with 4GB or more of RAM works fine. On top of that, you need to be on Windows 10 or Mac operating systems – no Linux support yet.
You can find out if your laptop/ desktop can handle Krisp smoothly by installing the free version through this link. You will have 2 hours to test Krisp, so do test Krisp in a meeting or two before committing to switch to the Pro plan.
Krisp reduces the noise coming from the speaker on the other side too! So if you are a meeting participant and the person speaking during the call has annoying noise in his/her background, Krisp will suppress that noise and enhance the listening experience.
Background Noise reduction demo!
The best way to demonstrate how much difference Krisp makes in audio quality is through a video:[coming soon]
Is Krisp.ai Safe?
Krisp claims that it is 100% safe. Of course, who will say they are unsafe!
Krisp says that all the audio processing during the call is done locally on the device – it is not sent to or stored on the cloud or servers.
Well, I don’t work for Krisp, so I decided to find out if that is true.
To test the safety claims of Krisp, I installed Glasswire.
Glasswire is nifty software to show detailed network activity of your computer.
I started a one on one meeting on Zoom and chose Krisp Mic.
I confirmed Krisp was active.
Now, let’s open Glasswire and see the active connections.
26 minutes on to the call, Krisp showed 36KB of traffic. With 5KB of the outgoing connection. The traffic type was HTTPS with 3 requests made to Krisp’s analytics servers and one to the API server, all with US IP address.
In comparison, Zoom showed 220 MB of data consumption with 38 active connections. A significant portion of the data was “other.”
Other data is not recognized by Glasswire as Zoom uses proprietary encryption technology to transmit audio-visual signals.
In my opinion, the paltry 5 KB of data sent across the internet by Krisp for a 30-minute video meeting cannot be your voice or video. It is safe to conclude that your meeting’s audio and video are not getting uploaded anywhere. All the audio processing is indeed happening on your device.
But 5 KB is enough to send analytics data, e.g., duration of the audio stream, app usage stats, the local time when the app was used, etc.… I am definitely ok with sharing analytics data as long as it is anonymous and does not include my personal details.
OK, I got your point, but what about hidden malware/ spyware?
To test for hidden spyware, In the next step, I uploaded Krisp’s installation files (from the program files folder) over to virustotal.com.
Here is the result: Krisp Folder Scan Result.
VirusTotal scanned all the 156 files in Krisp’s installation folder and found no viruses.
Even I didn’t find any suspicious behavior from the Krisp noise reduction app. Hence, I am using it regularly.
How much does it cost?
Krisp costs nothing to use for up to 2 hours of noise reduction per week.
Krisp gives a separate 2 hours quota for incoming & outgoing noise reduction under the free plan.
You can estimate the number of meetings/ online classes, etc.… you attend every week and for how long an average meeting of your’s last to decide if the free plan is good enough.
In my use case scenario, we have 1 meeting every day lasting anywhere between 30 to 45 minutes. I used to exhaust my 120 minutes quota by Wednesday.
So I took the Pro plan, which costs $5 per month and gives unlimited usage. It is cheaper than the NVIDIA option (unless you are a computer gamer) and drastically less expensive than Google’s $2600 alternative!
|Feature||Krisp||NVIDIA Broadcast/ RTX Voice||Google TrueVoice|
|Reduces Intermittent Noises||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Based on AI & Deep Learning||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Works with Multiple Apps (Zoom, Meet, Teams, Skype, etc)||Yes||Yes||No|
|Initial Cost||$0||$500 onwards||$2600 onwards|
|Zero Cost Option Available||Yes||No||No|
|Where to buy?||Get Free Access||Get GTX 2060 or higher||Google TrueVoice Home|
Where to download Krisp?
120 minutes per week of free usage quota should be enough for most users. Or you can do what my friend does – use Krisp when it is going to be noisy for SURE! Yes, he enables Krisp during the online meetings only when kids are at home. That way, he doesn’t have to worry about embarrassments due to uncontrollable toddlers who are in their terrible twos.
I switched to the Pro plan because I am on Zoom calls almost every day, and Krisp is a lifesaver for me.
Even if you are on calls for more than 2 hours a week or organize webinars regularly, I will suggest trying out the Krisp Free Plan first. Try it out in a meeting or two, and then upgrade if it works out for you.
After a lot of research on functionality, effectiveness, safety, and pricing, I found Krisp to be the best available option to reduce background noise on the mic [as of today]. The free quota is generous. The unlimited plan is cheap ($5/mo). It runs fine on a decent computer/ laptop without the need for any special hardware upgrade. It ticks all the right boxes for the most cost-effective way to minimize background noise during online meetings/ webinars.
I strongly recommend trying out Krisp for noise-free online meetings…
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