Noise gate to treat computer fan sound


I’m recording vocals in my bedroom and have come up against the old computer fan in the mix problem. My amateur sound engineer status means I only just started studying the noise gate function on Cubase AI. I have a few issues and questions before I can start making sense of this so any indications and help much much appreciated.

  1. I see you can apply the noise gate to a track post-production. I imagined applying the gate to the settings before recording would be more beneficial… but how does the gate work in pre- versus post- production terms and can I get away with post-production treatment?

  2. The threshold in Cubase AI only goes as far as -47DB. Applied post-production, this is eliminating the hum of the fan but causing choppiness to my vocal, which is necessarily low and quite nuanced. I know I can tweak other settings but to no great improvement. Am I misusing the function or just encountering the limits of a ‘basic’ inbuilt noise-gate plug-in… (as opposed to a separate one that I have to download online)?

  3. I haven’t the option to use two rooms for recording, which I am told would solve the issue. Evidently my mic is picking up the sounds of the fan. But is it picking up the waves from the air or through cables? With my mic off and mixer unplugged, a basic “silent” recording on my Cubase scene - ie, just me pressing “record” for a few seconds - plays back with a detectable hum, or low, continual “swish” sound, to describe it more accurately. And the latter can be eliminated with the noise-gate function.

Again, big thanks to anyone who can offer me insight here.


Instead of using the gate, chop up your recordings and apply fades on start and end of the events.

If there’s no seperate room available, try to make your computer as quiet as possible. Noiseless/fanless PSU & graphic card, big/slow fans instead of small/fast standard ones and the like. You will love it, not just for recording!

General humming means there’s something wrong with your cabling or electricity. Hard to say remotely. Try different cables, mics first.

What’s your interface and how is your mic connected exactly?

Hey marQs

Thanks for the reply and advice. I’m putting a nice Octava mike through phantom power on my Yamaha AG06 mixer which is connected to my laptop via USB. My laptop is an HP 32 bit AMD processor… 3 GB of memory… second-hand, not the best of nick perhaps but I don’t know if the hiss I hear is a fault or a foible. I now plug my pc into the mains via a surge protection box, as far as I know the cable is fine but I guess I haven’t thought of trying a different one to see if the problem persists.

Re - the hum, whether it’s the fan and/or sthg else, a noise gate eliminates it, the problem is getting a gate to work effectively over the whole track. I can see that chopping and fading might work to solve this on a simple track, however this will take ages with the amount of soundbites and sections involved in my track and even then it will not eliminate the hum consistently throughout the mix. I feel surely it’s possible to remove the hum and preserve other desired subtleties, just reckon it’s a question of what and how, regarding software?

Through the advice of a friend I am looking at getting Wavelab 9 which works with Cubase, or a free Audacity download to do the same job. There are also various others but I guess the Steinberg option makes most sense.

Ultimately however, you’re right, it would be great to get a quieter fan, given there is no other underlying hiss. Is this something that would be costly to install in my laptop? I am thinking I would have to upgrade eventually… but if I could get a new fan in this model that would be easier for now. I have no idea where I am with a graphics card on this HP, where would that specification come up?

Again, many thanks, J

I would say to first spend money on your computer (as in replacing) before buying more software. This is a problem that, frankly speaking, you will never solve. My 2 cents. I think even a Surface Pro 2 will beat that laptop around the block.

Indeed. A laptop offers no options about fans. From time to tome I do mobile recording with my laptop - it’s simply too loud for working close to mics when tracking quiet sources like vox, spoken word or acoustic guitars. I just do this if it’s unavoidable and try to bring the largest distance between the source and the machine but… guess how many hours I’ve spent in Wavelabs spectrum editor or other restoration tools :sunglasses: There are more funny things to do definately.

My advice doubles Steve’s - get yourself a silent computer instead of recording a noisy mess in the first place. Advanced denoising will eat time to be creative, to make music while it might never bring you a really satisfying result.

If upgrading the laptop is too much for now, you can try to place the system in a cupboard/ cabinet that is soundproof. Just don’t forget ventilation…

Good luck!