How to Record a Sample for ACX (Using Audacity)

Getting started with an audio sample is broken down step by step in this guide for total beginners. We will discuss the content, quality, and format requirements needed to upload a narration sample to the Audiobook Creation Exchange. ACX is a popular platform for audiobook narrators, and Audacity is one of their recommended DAWs. 

Photo by Jacek Dylag from Unsplash.com

What are ACX and Audacity? 

ACX is the Audiobook Creation Exchange– a platform for creating audiobooks. Audacity is a free software to record and edit audio. 

Audacity is well know because of it’s simplicity and effectiveness. It doesn’t take long to learn the basics. To help you, there are hundreds tutorials online, like this one. They also have a helpful wiki page.

To upload audio from Audacity to ACX, it must meet certain requirements. The complete details of which are can be found here. I’ve loosely grouped them as content, quality, and formatting requirements and they are discussed below. 

Content Requirements

The content requirements of an ACX upload are: 

  • Samples should be between 2-5 minutes long.
  • Each file must:
    • Start with narration, not credits or music (But when narrating a sample, do read “Chapter #”, “Prologue”, “Epilogue”, etc if contained within the manuscript).
    • Have 0.5-1 second of room tone at the beginning.
    • Have 1-5 seconds of room tone at the end. 
  • Mono files are strongly recommended. 
 
Using non-copyrighted material is the best choice for a sample. A collection of public domain books can be found at Project Gutenberg.

Tip: Record 20-30 seconds of room tone at the beginning that you can use (if you have to) to replace any noisy room tone later in the piece. You can always delete what you don’t use. 

Quality Reqirements

Your sample must meet certain quality requirements, some of which are affected by the settings you select before recording, and others by how the sample is edited in post production. Note that many DAWs (including Audacity) automatically record in .wav format.

Before starting a recording, set parameters to: 

  • Bit Rate: 16bit
  • Sample Rate: 44100 Hz (aka 44.1 kHz) or better.

Editing/Post production:

  • It’s a good idea to save a draft of your work before you make any changes!
  • Each file must:
    • Be between -23dB and -18dB RMS.
    • Have a peak value no higher than -3dB.
    • Have a noise floor no higher than -60dB RMS.

>>>To format your recording, Audacity has a step by step guide to Audioook Mastering that is full of very detailed information to help your sample meet the criteria.

Here is a helpful tutorial video about editing to demonstrate how to meet these requirements in ACX. 

You can also download a free ACX Check Plug-in to double check  your work (here is a link for how to install plugins). 

Format Requirements

After recording and editing, a sample must meet format requirements to get accepted by ACX. This formatting happens when you export your file and is simply a matter of selecting the right options when they pop up. 

  • File Type: must be .mp3
    To save your .wav audio project as a .mp3, select “Export as MP3” from the File > Export menu. 
  • Be 192kbps or higher Constant Bit Rate.
    Most DAWs let you set this number when you export the file. In Audacity, this box pops up automatically as part of the Export process. All you have to do is select “Constant” and make sure the Quality is set at 192kbps or higher. 
To format correctly, select Bit Rate: "Constant", and make sure it saves as 192kbps or better.
  • Files must be smaller than 170mb.
  • File names should be numbered and named as follows:
    01-Intro.mp3
    02-Chapter1.mp3
    03-Chapter2.mp3; etc.

 

If that all sounds like gibbledee-garb to you, don’t worry. I’m right there with you. ACX provides a glossary with some of the terms used above, as well as a series of video tutorials

The last step is to upload your new sample to your profile and you are ready for action!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission or compensation if you click through and/or make a purchase. The opinions and recommendations expressed here are my own. 

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