Audacity icon with blue headphones a waveform in between the earpieces

How to Remove Background Noise in Audacity (3 Steps)

At some point, you’ll probably deal with unwanted background noise that detracts from part of your audio. Thankfully, Audacity makes it easy to remove.

In this tutorial, we'll show you how to use Audacity's noise reduction effect to remove distracting recording sounds while keeping your original audio intact!

Download: Audacity (Compatible with Mac, Linux, & Windows)

How to prevent background noise

The best way to deal with background noise is to avoid it altogether. These tips help prevent the need for noise reduction and reduce your time spent editing.

Optimize your recording space

Where you choose to record audio is the most crucial factor in its quality. To improve your podcasting space, find a quiet, small room away from:

  • HVAC unit
  • Traffic
  • External hard drives
  • White noise
  • Air conditioners

You can also improve your room tone by choosing a space with natural sound absorbers like curtains, rugs, carpet, and couches.

Use a dynamic mic 

Dynamic mics work best for podcasting. They pick up lower frequencies have less sensitivity. This means you’ll have less background noise to edit out later.

Condenser mics have more sensitivity and pick up a wider range of frequencies. Sensitivity is good for recording music, but isn’t ideal for spoken word.

The Samson Q2U is our top pick for an affordable, quality, dynamic mic with USB and XLR hookups. 

Turn down the gain and get close

Turn down your mic's gain (sensitivity) and move close. Speaking directly helps your mic focus on picking up the frequency of your voice.

Pro tip: Adjust the gain of your recorder (or DAW) so your voice peaks around -12 and -10db.

Minimize computer fan noise 

Computers can make a lot of noise when they get hot. Turn your mic away from the computer to help mitigate this effect and reduce the amount of software running to prevent the fan from activating.

Remove background noise in Audacity (3 steps)

Sometimes unwanted recording sounds still find their way into your episode. Follow these three steps to remove background noise within Audacity.

If you haven't already, download Audacity and go to File > Import > Audio to select the track you want to edit.

Audacity timeline with waveform and a red box around noise segement

#1 Get a noise sample 

Help Audacity isolate the background noise you want to remove.  In this example, we isolated some unwanted fan noise from the audio recording.

Then, we let Audacity know the frequency we want to remove. Make sure you select a section where no one's talking.

If you don't have a selection this big, find somewhere in the audio you can isolate. The important thing is to isolate a section with only the background noise, so it doesn't ruin your voiceovers, dialog, music, etc.

Now, click and drag your selection with the Selection tool

Audacity workspace with an arrow pointing too a segment selection

#2 Apply noise reduction

Once you isolate your clip, click Effect > Noise Reduction. Click Get Noise Profile. The Noise Profile button lets Audacity know which frequencies to filter out and which to ignore.

Noise Reduction menu with red box around Get Noise Profile button

Now, select the entire track so Audacity can remove the selected frequency from the entire recording. 

Go back to the Effect menu and select Noise Reduction again to remove the background noise frequency anywhere it appears in your audio file.

#3 Tweak the settings 

Select the amount of noise reduction you want Audacity to remove. Be careful not to overdo it, otherwise your audio will sound like it's underwater.

As a general guideline, 12 decibels is a good place to start. 

Next, adjust the sensitivity and frequency-smoothing bands. We suggest leaving these on their default settings of six and three. 

You can adjust even settings, but we think it's best to stick with the default levels. If you get too in the weeds, you might end up with worse problems than the original background noise.

From here, you can preview your audio with these settings applied. If you still hear your background noise, you can increase the noise reduction more.

Noise Reduction menu with red box around Preview button

When you find the right level, click OK. You can see that Audacity removed most of the noise, but there's still some left.

Audacity workspace with red box around remaining noise

To remove the remaining noise, hit Command +Z (or Ctrl + Z), and choose the Noise Reduction effect. Increase the effect by a few decibels and hit OK

Now, recheck the audio to see how it sounds. You might have to repeat that step a few times to get a good result.

Additional thoughts and resources

When you use noise reduction, it's important to apply just enough to get rid of the background noise without sacrificing audio quality somewhere else.

Once you master the art of noise removal, you have a powerful tool you can use to optimize your audio!

Check out these tutorials to learn more about how to edit your podcast with Audacity's free, open-source, audio-editing tool.