ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is a tingling, relaxing, often sedative sensation in the scalp and down the back of the neck. It is experienced by some people in response to a sound and/or visual stimulation. In this article I will cover the aspect of how to record ASMR, as well as its post production.
An ASMR session could be video, just audio, or live streamed. In the case of an ASMR video, the artist usually records video and audio separately and mix them in post production. In the case of live streaming, audio and video can be taken together. But they are usually taken separately and joined in real time with the streaming software.
I will start dividing ASMR video and audio recording in four types depending on the desired results due to different equipment and recording techniques.
The 4 Types of ASMR Videos and Audio Recordings
- Lo Fi ASMR
- Mono ASMR
- Stereo ASMR
- 3D (binaural) ASMR
How to Record Lo Fi ASMR?
This is the simplest approach to autonomous sensory meridian response. It usually uses the video camera or phone built-in microphone, a headset microphone, or a budget one.
In general, dynamic microphones are characterized by the following:
- Low sensitivity (they don’t pick low level sounds well)
- Poor dynamic range (they can’t handle a wide range of audio levels)
- Limited frequency response (they have limited low end and specially limited high end)
The overall sound is duller and less detailed compared to other types of microphones. For those reasons they don’t perform very well on softly spoken or whispered ASMR. And are more suitable for normally spoken ASMR video tapping and scratching type of sounds.
Some ASMR artists use a headset microphone or a hand-held budget microphone to perform softly spoken or even whispered ASMR recordings. As they can get the microphone close to the mouth, but the results are far from great.
One advantage of this kind of microphones is that, as they are not very sensitive. They pick less ambience and unwanted sounds like background noise from outside the room or when recording outdoors.
The ASMR video and audio recording are done together in the video camera or the smartphone. So these ASMR recordings can be edited at the same time.
Usually, there is little to no audio post production in this type of ASMR recording. But I highly recommend to do at least a little bit of EQ to enhance the sound levels of the microphone.
So, if you want to start producing ASMR recordings, this is the cheapest way to do it. As you can use equipment you already have: a smart phone, a tablet or even a cheap digital camera. And you can do the editing on your computer with free video editing software like iMovie, Windows Video Editor, etc. If you want to do some additional audio post production, Audacity is a popular free audio editor option.
How to Record Mono ASMR?
Usually this type of ASMR recordings is also called Lo Fi ASMR. Although, the audio quality is much improved. I separated Mono ASMR as a different topic. As the equipment and recording techniques here are quite different from Lo Fi ASMR.
In this case, better quality microphones are used. Large diaphragm condenser microphone, small diaphragm condenser microphone, electret and good quality dynamic ones are used. Popular options are Rode NT1-A, Rode POD MIC, Blue Yeti Nano, Audio Technica AT2040, etc.
As front, small diaphragm condenser microphones, electret and dynamic microphones pick the sound. And at the end, it is opposed, where the cable connector is to trigger ASMR.
As the microphone is not built in the video camera, you will need some extra equipment to record the audio clips. There are lots of different set ups you can use to do that, I will address the most common and simpler ones.
Standalone Recording Device
One option is to have a standalone recording device like Zoom H4n Pro, Tascam DR-05X, Roland R-07, Sony PCM-D10, etc. (these devices can be used for both, Mono and Stereo ASMR recording). You will record audio on the device and later you will have to transfer the ASMR audio recording. And after that use the computer for editing, post production and syncing to the video recording.
Another option is to have a computer audio interfaces. Use a music editing software like Audacity, Sound Forge, Wavelab. or a DAW like Cakewalk , Reaper, Ableton Live, Logic, ProTools, etc . In this case, after recording the audio, you can save it in your hard drive. Which you can use for later syncing with the ASMR video and the post production..
Some of the popular audio interfaces are Focusrite Scarlett Solo, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and PreSonus Studio 24. They have one or two microphone inputs compatible for ASMR videos recording.
Built-in Audio Interface
Finally, some of the microphones I mentioned before have built-in audio interfaces. They can be connected directly to the computer with a USB cable without the need of any additional equipment.
How to Record Stereo ASMR?
For stereo ASMR recording you will need either two individual microphones or a stereo one. All concepts for mono ASMR recording apply here, so I will explain the main stereo microphone techniques used in ASMR recording.
First technique is called XY.
You need to position two cardioid mics (usually small-diaphragm condensers)at 90 degrees of each other, with their fronts together.
This method works better for performing closer ones. And provides a clear but not terribly wide stereo image. Microphones built in recording devices usually have this configuration (Zoom H4n Pro, etc.) and also stereo ones. So this technique is mostly used when you use those microphones.
Next is the technique called AB.
It is the most common technique used in ASMR when you have two equal microphones. The correct way to implement this is to set the microphones in parallel at 40-60 cm from each other..
As in ASMR you will usually perform very close to the microphones, having them perfectly in parallel. It is not always practical nor comfortable for the performance. So it is very common to set them at some angle pointing towards you.
You have to try to avoid setting the microphones pointing directly to each other because that will cause phase issues that could make the stereo image sounds strange. For this technique you can use any two ASMR microphones of the same brand and model. If you use different microphones the stereo image will sound unbalanced and not natural).
For instance, the ones I mentioned in the mono ASMR section, with the exception of mono USB microphones because, even though some audio recording softwares let you set them for recording, you will have phase issues and probably digital audio noises.
On the other hand, you can use USB stereo microphones like Blue Yeti, Blu Yeti X, Blue Yeti Pro, Mackie EM-Carbon, etc. These microphones have several polar patterns and have a built-in audio interface..
How to Record 3D (Binaural) ASMR?
3D or binaural recordings are just a variation of stereo recordings that uses a special mic. A binaural microphone mimics human anatomy to replicate the way we hear and capture the 3D location of the sounds.
A binaural recording is meant to be listened to binaurally (on headphones) and it only works that way. The most popular microphones for binaural ASMR recordings are the 3DIO FS Series, ZiBionic One, etc.
Be aware that, as inside the binaural microphone there are two microphones (or capsules), you will need to connect them to two microphone preamp inputs.
Multi Microphone Setups
To use more than two microphones in the same session; usually use a stereo pair in AB configuration and a binaural microphone in the middle. To record such configuration, you have several options.
The first one is to connect the four microphones to a standalone recorder that has at least four microphone preamp inputs like the Zoom H8. This device lets you record all four signals simultaneously.
If you already have a device like the Zoom H4n Pro or Sony PCM-D10 you can connect two microphones and simultaneously use the two built-in microphones.
Another option is to use a multi-input audio interface like the Focusrite Scarlet 18i8, PreSonus Studio 1810C or EVO 8 and record the four signals in the computer using a DAW like the ones mentioned before.
Microphone Accessories For Recording ASMR Video and Audio
There are table top stands you can use if you are setting everything on your desktop, but it is better to go with the floor standing ones. For most microphones I’d recommend the giraffe type as they are more flexible than the straight ones.
Binaural microphones are the exception because they need to be mounted perfectly in a vertical position. In this case, straight stands work better.
Shock Mounts (Known as Spiders)
Large diaphragm condenser microphones need to be mounted in special supports to minimize vibration pick-up. Normally, they come with the microphone but sometimes you need to buy them separately.
Pop Screens (Pop Filter)
These screens help to stop the excessive low frequency bumps produced by plosive letters like “p” and “t”. For ASMR videos, when you are performing close to the mic, they would cover a big part of your face, that’s why ASMR artists don’t use them in that situation.
If the ASMR session is audio only this screen would be helpful. You have to attach the screen support to the mic stand and set it a few inches in front of the microphone.
These screens are meant to reduce the wind and unwanted noise when recording outdoors. If you want to record ASMR outdoors they are necessary. ASMR artists use them also indoors, as a creative way to generate triggers, combing the furry texture of some of these screens and scratching the foamy texture of others.
Don’t forget to have enough microphone cables. Avoid the cheap ones as they break easily and could be noisy. Also, don’t buy cables that are too long as having lots of cables on the floor could cause accidents.
Monitoring ASMR Recordings
Almost all ASMR artists listen to their performance in real time while they record it. In order to do that, they use headphones. Most of them use in-ear headphones but you can use whichever is comfortable for you.
Just be aware that if you want to use wireless headphones, you need to buy professional ones to avoid latency. Also, try to avoid open back headphones because when you perform close to the mic, they can produce feedback.
If you are recording on a computer, set the monitoring level from the audio mixer of your audio interface and not from the software you are using to record, as it can introduce latency as well.
Recording Environment for ASMR
The recording environment plays a significant role in the quality of results and desired effect on the listener. ASMR community artists perform in a wide range of environments, ranging from totally untreated recording room to fully acoustically treated ones.
One common problem is the standing frequencies or modes of a room. This problem emphasizes some frequency response in an unpleasant way. To minimize this effect, avoid performing in empty rooms with naked walls. Furniture, bookshelves and hanging pictures help to even the sound.
Another common problem is the excessive reverberation. That tends to mask some low-level sounds, makes the recording less detailed and narrows the stereo image. Carpets, couches, cushions, heavy curtains and anything soft helps to reduce reverberation.
If you get serious about ASMR, you can buy some acoustic treatments like acoustic absorbers, bass traps and diffusers. Or you can hire a professional that will design a treatment specifically for your room.
ASMR – The Recording Process
Now that you have a general idea of the recording equipment and microphone techniques you can use, I will describe the basics of the recording process itself.
It is a good idea to read the manual of your gear to know their specific features and set-up procedures. Here are some general considerations:
Condenser and electret microphones need power to work. In some cases they can work on batteries. The USB ones automatically take the necessary power from the USB itself. Most of them need you to turn on the Phantom Power on the microphone preamp.
It is a good practice to always connect and disconnect the microphone with the Phantom Power turned off. Also, always remember to turn down the volume when you connect or disconnect the mic. Loud pop produced can damage your speakers, headphones or ears.
Once you have your microphone and the rest of your equipment connected, start the session. The first thing to do is to set the levels to avoid clipping and distortion that will cause an unpleasant sound.
Your recording device will have a recording level indicator. If you are using a computer audio interface, it can have a proper vumeter or a simple clip indicator.
In the latter case, it is better to use the vumeter on your recording software as you can have a full reading of the input level. The vumeter scale is on dBFS.
The best way to adjust the level is to perform the loudest part of your session and set the gain so the vumeter reads about -12dB. For ASMR this will give you enough headroom to have any unexpected loud sound without clipping.
If you are not going to do any post production process, it will be better to record with the level set a bit higher, around -6dB, or, if you are confident about your performance levels, you can go as high as you can without reaching 0dB.
One take vs multiple takes
If you are going to record the audio separately from the video, recording the whole session in one take (even if you make some mistakes and have to edit them) will make it easier to sync the audio and video later.
But if you want to do multiple takes, you have to keep track of what audio take corresponds to what video take, so after every take it is a good idea to save and name every audio file in a way that you can relate it to the corresponding video file.
15 ASMR Post Production Techniques & Tips
Once you have your session recorded, you can proceed to edit and post produce it. You can choose to post produce the audio in your video editing software or to do it in an audio editing software.
- If you choose to do it in the video editor software, the first thing you have to do is to sync the audio to the video. If you choose to do it separately, it is better to do the sync after processing the audio and before you start editing the video.
- To sync the audio to the video, after adding the video file to the timeline in the video editor software, create one audio track and add your audio recording to it. If you did multiple takes, add every audio take under the corresponding video take. Then you have to align them.
- First, move the audio recording until it visually aligns to the camera audio, then play them together and adjust the alignment until you hear them as one. Now you can mute or delete the camera audio and lock the new audio track to the video so when you do any editing both will keep in sync.
- One common problem for ASMR artists is to have the left and right channels on their videos inverted. It is confusing and distracting to watch the source of the sound on the left part of the screen and the sound coming from the right side of the headphones.
- If you recorded the audio as two mono channels, just invert the panning. But if you recorded the audio as a stereo file, you have to use a specific tool to correct the problem. You will usually find it as “Swap stereo channels”, “Invert stereo channels” in your software.
- If your audio recording has excessive background noise like hiss or hum, some editing suite come with noise reduction tools that can help with that. If your editor can use VST plugins, you have several good quality options like Accusonus ERA Bundle Pro (Free), iZotope RX, Waves Clarity, etc.
- You can enhance the audio using an equalizer, which lets you adjust different frequency bands of the sound. The enhancement could be purely aesthetic or could compensate for a poor sounding recording (due to a not so good mic, bad acoustics, etc.).
- In addition, you can cut the subsonic frequencies picked by the mic (usually vibrations from the floor) using a high pass filter at 40Hz (or even higher if the session is only voice).
- Using a compressor will help to even out the levels of the recording making the louder parts closer in level to the quieter parts, but have in mind that if you use it when it is not necessary or if you use the wrong settings, it could ruin the ASMR experience, so do not overdo it and if you are in doubt, don’t use it at all.
- For a voice only session you can use the following settings as a starting point: Attack 10ms, Release 200ms, Ratio 3:1 and set the threshold to have a level reduction of 6dB maximum. For a more percussive sound session (taping, finger flutter, scratching, etc.) you can use a shorter attack (1 to 4ms) and release (80 to 100ms).
- Sometimes, the sibilant consonants like “s” and sometimes the “f” are very loud in the recording. It could be because of the way the artist speaks, for speaking very close and directly to the mic or because you wanted a brighter sound and added high frequencies with an EQ. In any case, you can control or reduce the amount of sibilance using a de-esser.
- A de-esser is a compressor that works on high frequencies, you have to set the frequency at which you want the de-esser to start working (for male voices around 5KHz, for female voices around 7KHz) and lower the threshold to start reducing the sibilance until you feel it is right. Most de-essers can be set to broadband or split band, just try both and see which one works better with your voice.
- For some sessions, ASMR artists add sound effects to the recording, sometimes to just some sections, sometimes to the whole recording. Delay and reverb are the most common choices.
- Usually, one or the other is used but you can try them both at the same time. There is no right or wrong setting here as they are intended as special effects, but in general long delay times and long reverb decays are used.
- Finally, once you did all the processing on the audio recording it is a good idea to set the level as loud as possible without clipping or distortion. You can do it manually, just adjust the level until the maximum peak of the audio is just below 0dB. You can also use a tool called normalization, first apply all the processes, then apply the normalization.
With that, all the basics of the process of recording ASMR is covered. I hope you found the reading useful and you have fun in the process of recording your first ASMR video.