ASMR is a blanket term that describes pleasant sensations that occur in different parts of the body. One of the most popular ways to generate these feelings is through specially recorded sounds and images.
In this article, I will take you through the whole process from the cheapest setup to mixing, and even take a look at some of the best software required.
I will also lay out some tingly tips on recording on your mobile device and the best polar patterns for the job (more on the polars later!)
How to record ASMR using earbuds/headphones – the good news is, you don’t need tonnes of equipment to do this. All you need is a set of headphones or earbuds, and a mobile phone or another recording device. By plugging the headphones into the mic input, they can be used to record audio into the device.
As with all new skills, recording ASMR using headphones requires patience.
Although it’s not a particularly difficult undertaking, if you want your ASMR recordings to be effective, they need to be of the highest standard possible in terms of audio and video quality.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about recording ASMR using headphones or earbuds so that you can get started right away.
How To Use Headphones/Earbuds To Record ASMR
Recording ASMR using a set of earbuds is much less costly than having to invest in a microphone and other recording equipment. It allows you the freedom to record ASMR in any location, and to a decent overall standard.
Although we often think of headphones/earbuds and microphones as being two devices that perform opposite functions, they are much more similar than they first appear.
Both devices are reliant on the vibration of their inner diaphragms which convert sounds into electrical signals.
Although earbuds and microphones operate based upon the same principle, they are designed for specific purposes. Headphones and earbuds are for audio playback, while microphones are for audio recording. However, as with all audio recording techniques, sometimes disregarding the rules produces innovative results!
Recording ASMR using earbuds or headphones is pretty straightforward.
The first thing you need to establish is the size of the connector on your set of headphones, and whether it is compatible with the size of the input on your recording device. If you are using a computer, laptop, mobile phone, handheld recorder, or interface, there is likely to be a 3.5mm TRRS input.
This is also the standard size of the connectors on a set of earbuds or headphones. If you need to adjust the size to make them compatible, there are plenty of headphone adapters that will perform this function.
So once you’ve got a set of earbuds/headphones that are compatible with the mic input on your chosen device, all that you need to do the begin your ASMR recordings is connect the two devices. If you are using a computer, you’ll then need to go into the sound settings and find the audio input that the headphones are plugged into.
You can then talk into the speaker of the earbuds/headphones and check that the level is being received by the recording device. Bear in mind that earbuds and headphones have less sensitivity than standard microphones, so you may need to talk more loudly to get a good level.
Once you’ve set your mic input to a level that you’re satisfied with, you then need to open your recording software, select the microphone input, and test the recording. You’ll find more detailed information on the process of recording ASMR later in this guide.
Recording ASMR using earbuds/headphones is not difficult or complicated to set up.
However, the area that is likely to present some challenges is sound quality.
- Earbuds are not designed for recording intimate, high-sensitivity sounds, so although they can certainly be a useful alternative, there are other more reliable ways to record ASMR.
The Best Quality Headphones For ASMR Recordings
Recording ASMR using headphones or earbuds is a fairly straightforward process. It requires some basic equipment, although if you want to produce high-quality ASMR audio and videos you may need to invest in some advanced gear.
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response describes the pleasurable, mild tingling sensation that is caused by listening to particular types of audio. It has become increasingly popular in recent times, with many people using it as a method of relaxation, aiding sleep, or simply as an enjoyable activity.
The main thing to keep in mind when recording ASMR using headphones is that the end goal is to produce audio that is both intimate and easy on the ears.
Unlike the process of recording an instrument or singing, ASMR requires precise attention to detail to ensure that it produces the desired effect.
To record ASMR, you essentially need two things.
Firstly, you must have a good understanding of the triggers that create the experience.
Additionally, you will need adequate technology and equipment to produce the material. Indeed, there’s plenty of trial and error involved, and just like any form of audio recording or mixing, you will learn by experience as you go along.
There is a multitude of ASMR recordings that use different techniques to create the desired sensory experience. The ones that you choose for your recordings will determine what equipment you require to an extent.
Some popular ideas include:
- Simulating a haircut
- Simulating a trip to the dentist
- Turning the pages of a book
- Crunching of leaves
- Water dripping
- Spoken word
These are just a small number of potential ideas that you could use to record ASMR using headphones or earbuds. Once you’ve decided on an idea, and you’ve got the relevant equipment to hand, you’re good to go.
With that being said, there is still a lot to consider if you want to produce the best quality ASMR recordings possible. The equipment you choose, the acoustics of the room that you are recording in and of course the way that you mix the sounds are all integral to the end result.
In the remainder of this article, we’ll cover each of these aspects in detail so that you have all the tools at your disposal to create high-quality ASMR recordings.
If you are wanting to make ASMR recordings on an iPhone be sure to check out my article on this subject.
Best Microphones For ASMR
The most important device that is required for recording ASMR is a microphone. With such a vast range of mics available, all with different capabilities, it can be difficult to identify the perfect one for ASMR recordings.
As well as using earbuds with a microphone to record ASMR there are various other (much easier) methods available.
There are three main types of microphones. These are condensers, dynamic, and ribbon mics.
These can even be connected to your mobile phone using an audio interface so you can record and edit without needing a computer. Also, all in one solutions that have a professional quality microphone and audio interface combined are available such as the Saramonic Smart Rig.
This clever recorder records high-quality ASMR directly to your phone and converts the analog recordings into digital, ready to be edited on your mobile phone. This is a much smarter way than attempting to record through the microphone of your headphones or earbuds.
Condenser Dynamic and Ribbon mics vary in terms of its inner components, frequency response, power requirements, and polar patterns. Generally, the best choice for recording ASMR is a condenser.
Condenser microphones come in all shapes and sizes, but their aim is the same – to record audio in the clearest and most detailed way possible.
Indeed, ASMR is all about the small details and slight nuances, and this is the reason that condensers are preferred for this purpose.
Before you rush off to purchase any old condenser mic, it’s important to note that there’s a lot of variance from model to model.
Some condensers are built specifically for recording vocals, while others are tailored for drums, acoustic guitars, and so on. Once you understand the way that condenser microphones work, it’s quite straightforward to identify a suitable model for recording ASMR.
Check out my “Ultimate Guide To Starting an ASMR Channel” You can read it here.
In the table below, you can see a comparison of the average attributes of the three main types of microphones:
|Mic Type||Frequency Response||Max SPL|
|Condenser||20Hz – 20kHz||140dB|
|Dynamic||40Hz – 13kHz||160dB|
|Ribbon||50Hz – 14kHz||160dB|
The extensive frequency response of condenser microphones makes them ideal for capturing the fine details that are integral to good ASMR recordings.
Dynamic and ribbon mics aren’t as capable in this area, and therefore are rarely used for this specific purpose, although both are very useful for other types of recording.
Many people are getting started and having success using a simple Blue Yeti Microphone set up.
The Downside Of Recording ASMR With Headphones
To understand why condenser microphones are such integral components in a setup for recording ASMR, we need to investigate the way that they operate. Condenser microphones utilize two charged metal plated. One of these is known as the backplate, and the other is known as the diaphragm.
The diaphragm is movable, while the backplate remains fixed in one position. The combination of these two plates forms a capacitor, which is an essential device that allows condenser microphones to work.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re using a condenser microphone to record some ASMR-style speaking. When the sound leaves your mouth, it enters the grille of the microphone and comes into contact with the diaphragm. The air pressure causes the diaphragm to move, and therefore the distance between it and the backplate fluctuates.
The process of the fluctuation of the distance between the two plates is commonly known as capacitance. The variation in spacing caused by your speaking produces an electrical signal which carries the information of your recorded voice.
This illustrates just how sensitive the process of recording with a condenser microphone is. It underlines the fact that they are so well suited to ASMR recordings, a style that is defined by subtleties and sensitivity.
It also highlights the massive drawbacks you will come across when attempting to record ASMR on earbuds. This quality simply can’t be achieved (yet) on this type of headphones.
Check out this popular ASMRtist for a good example of high-quality ASMR recording.
The Best Polar Patterns for ASMR
We’ve established that a condenser microphone is your best bet for recording ASMR, but within the field of condensers, there is plenty of variation. One of the main variables that decide how effective a condenser microphone is at recording ASMR, is its polar pattern.
Polar patterns, or pickup patterns as they are also commonly referred to as are terms used to describe the directional makeup of the microphone.
- For recording ASMR, mic direction is vital, which we will get into in detail later.
Polar patterns decide how sensitive a condenser microphone is to the sounds that it receives from various directions or angles. Every microphone, whether it be a condenser, dynamic, or ribbon mic has at least one polar pattern, but some condensers house several of them.
Different polar patterns are best suited to specific purposes. For ASMR recordings with headphones or earbuds, there are some polar patterns that are certainly more effective than others. The main types of polar patterns are:
- Super cardioid
- Hyper cardioid
Understanding what the different polar patterns mean is vital if you want to choose the right condenser microphone for your ASMR headphone recordings.
Choosing the wrong one could limit the stereo imaging that you are able to implement into your recordings, which is one of the defining characteristics of ASMR.
The most common type of polar pattern for condenser microphones is cardioid.
Although this is a solid choice for ASMR recordings, it isn’t the best suited, because it is most sensitive at the frontal area of the microphone. There is less sensitivity at the back, and the pick-up potential is reduced from both sides.
Cardioid condenser microphones are great for recording in loud live environments, and if you use two identical models you can position them at a 90-degree angle to each other, which creates the X/Y stereo technique. The advantage of this is that it allows you to capture separate left and right recordings for your ASMR sound source.
Likewise, super-cardioid condenser microphones are a decent choice for your ASMR recordings, but not the best option.
They have a narrower direction of pickup than cardioid mics, which is completely focused at the front. The advantage they provide when recording ASMR and mixing with headphones or earbuds is that they reject unwanted background noises very well.
Hypercardioid condenser mics are the most focused of all pickup patterns. If you’re recording a single sound source for ASMR and require very little stereo imaging, they are a great choice. However, they cannot pick up sounds from the rear and sides.
Omnidirectional condenser microphones are a great choice for ASMR recordings with headphones.
They boast equal sensitivity at all angles and therefore capture an even level of sound from every direction. Additionally, omnidirectional mics deliver the flattest frequency response and most accurate bass response of all pickup patterns.
The microphone capsule doesn’t need to be specifically directed to capture your ASMR recordings, which is ideal for stereo imaging.
The only downside to omnidirectional microphones is that they are prone to feedback and handling background noise. This shouldn’t be an issue if the room that you are recording your ASMR audio in is properly acoustically treated. I’ll provide you with some tips on how to do this later in this post.
Finally, perhaps the best choice for recording ASMR is a microphone with a figure-of-eight polar pattern. These can record an equal level of audio from the front and back of the microphone, whilst rejecting it from the sides.
This is great for recording two ASMR sound sources simultaneously and can be used for the mid-side stereo recording technique.
Some condenser microphones have inbuilt switches, that allow you to choose between varieties of polar patterns. These mics are generally a little more expensive, but worth it if you intend to record a variety of ASMR sound sources.
Headphones/Earbuds For Monitoring ASMR
The good news is, that you don’t need particularly high-end headphones or earbuds to record ASMR.
However, the better quality headphones that you use, the more clearly you will be able to monitor your recordings and check that they evoke the desired sensations from the listener.
Earbuds are convenient due to their sizing, and portability.
Over-ear headphones generally produce better audio quality, though. If all you have at your disposal is a pair of earbuds, don’t let that stop you from making a start recording ASMR audio – it’s perfectly possible.
If you want to aim higher and ensure that your recordings are of high-quality, I would recommend using some over-ear headphones that boast certain attributes. This will allow you to improve your recordings as you go along, and be beneficial to the mixing process.
ASMR requires a high standard of detailed audio. Consequently, it’s advisable, although not essential, to use a pair of headphones that are capable of playing back your recordings with pinpoint precision.
If you’ve had some experience recording audio, you’ve probably come across the term “transients” before. This describes the peaks in an audio wave, which are an integral part of the ASMR listening experience. Transients are produced when a consonant is spoken into the microphone.
With headphones or earbuds that have good detail retrieval, you will be able to hear the transients. This will allow you to mix the audio with more accuracy, and also improve your skills by listening back and taking note of aspects of the recordings that perhaps could be done better.
Headphones are commonly categorized by their “sound signature”. This term refers to the unique quality of the headphone, and the intentions of the manufacturer when they designed the device. Some common descriptions used for the sound of headphones are:
- Neutral (or balanced)
These descriptions are similar to presets that you would find on an equalizer on your car stereo or hi-fi system.
They essentially refer to the frequency response of the headphones, where certain ranges may have been boosted or subdued to create the overall color of their output.
For recording ASMR, neutral headphones are by far the best option. It’s advisable to avoid headphones that overly color the audio because this will mean that when you listen back to your recordings, you are not hearing a true and accurate representation of the frequencies.
I use Roland RH-5 headphones for an unbiassed, uncolored sound, (they are super comfy also)
If you were to choose a pair of headphones with weakened low-end frequency response, for example, you may overcompensate for this when mixing your audio.
Subsequently, when another person listens to your recordings on a pair of balanced headphones, they may get an entirely different frequency response than you did originally.
Likewise, a pair of headphones that is described as having a “bright” sound, will add more emphasis on the treble frequencies. This could cause you to EQ some of the higher frequencies out of your mix because they sound too prominent in the headphones, but on other, more balanced ones, the high-end may sound noticeably weakened.
For the absolute best ASMR listening experience, it’s recommended to use noise-canceling headphones. Also sometimes referred to as closed-back headphones, these devices fit securely around the ears and block background noises. They essentially isolate the sound source.
A good-quality set of noise-canceling headphones should reduce background noise by a minimum of 10dB.
This significantly improves the overall listening experience and is especially beneficial when recording or listening back to ASMR. The lack of background noise causes your brain to focus exclusively on the sounds being played.
This is another advantage that headphones have over earbuds. Earbuds sit inside the ear, but they don’t provide the same level of shielding, and therefore background noise is still very audible.
Comfort is also a factor that needs to be considered when choosing headphones or earbuds for ASMR recordings. Firstly, you need to be relaxed and comfortable to focus fully on speaking into the microphone, or recording whatever other variety of ASMR that you choose.
Due to the intimate nature of ASMR recordings, your level of calmness and tranquility is bound to be conveyed to the listener in the audio. For this reason, you need a pair of headphones that sit on your ears without causing an obstruction. They should also be easy to wear for long periods when you are mixing.
You’ll also need to consider the length of the headphone cable. (The Roland RH-5 is 5 meters)
When recording, you may need to stand a certain distance from your audio interface, phone, or computer. Having a headphone cable that is plenty long enough will prevent you from having logistical issues and allow you to focus solely on producing the best possible ASMR recordings.
Are expensive headphones actually worth it? Find out here.
ASMR Editing Software & DAWs
Once you’ve decided on the microphone and headphones that you will use for ASMR recordings, you’ll then need to consider which software you are going to recording the audio into.
There are some great options out there, both free and paid. Generally speaking, if you intend to produce high-quality ASMR recordings it’s worth investing in one of the premium DAWs.
The best free DAWs for recording ASMR include:
Although it’s possible to record ASMR audio using the software listed above, the issue with most of them is that they are limited in terms of the processing options they offer.
For ASMR, you’ll need to perform some mixing of your recorded audio if you want it to have the desired effect on the listener.
Some of the best paid DAWs for recording ASMR are:
Each of these three DAWs offers a broad range of built-in effects and editing facilities.
They all have their unique strengths and weaknesses, for example, Ableton is popular for live DJing and triggering effects, while Logic Pro is has an extensive bank of onboard instruments.
Protools is viewed as the industry standard for recording audio, but it doesn’t offer the same level of production content that Ableton and Logic do.
Whichever you choose out of the aforementioned trio, you will be able to record and mix ASMR audio with headphones or earbuds without any issues.
Granted, without a decent quality microphone and the proper recording technique, it will be difficult to improve your ASMR recordings through mixing. With that being said, if you record your audio cleanly and ensure that the levels are all correct going into your chosen DAW, mixing is the next logical step.
Many people consider mixing to be a complicated skill that takes a long time to learn. The truth is, although high-level mixing does require experience and knowledge when it comes to ASMR recordings, you only need to know a few basic techniques to make a start.
Arguably the two most important mixing processes for ASMR are EQ and panning (or stereo imaging). If you can get to grips with these two processes, then you’ll be well on your way to producing high-quality ASMR content.
EQ, or equalization, is a tool that is used for adjusting the frequency response of a certain sound source. All of the sounds that you record for ASMR purposes will be composed of certain frequencies. The higher the frequency, the higher the pitch of the sound will be, and vice versa.
Most EQ units offer a graphic display of the sound’s frequency output. They are separated by “bands”, which simply refer to sections within the frequency range. By analyzing the graphic display when a sound is playing, you can see where it’s strongest frequencies reside, and where there is less action.
For example, if you are recording ASMR in the form of spoken word, the average frequency response for a male would be between 100Hz – 120 Hz. For females, it averages around 160Hz – 255 Hz. When you analyze the recording in the graphic EQ, you will likely see a peak around these frequencies.
There is also likely to be other frequencies present, perhaps caused by knocks on the microphone stand, or plosives being spoken into the capsule. To clean up your ASMR speech recording, you would need to identify where the unwanted sounds were on the frequency range and use the EQ to lessen their prominence in the mix.
On the other hand, you might find that certain frequencies need to be boosted slightly to make your ASMR speech recording as effective as possible. Due to the emphasis on certain tones and sounds that are produced when a person speaks in ASMR, EQ is vital when trying to draw attention to the subtle nuances of the recording.
Panning and stereo imaging are also vital parts of the ASMR mixing process. This is one of the reasons that using a good quality pair of headphones or earbuds is so important. Panning is the process of giving a sound its own space within the stereo field.
For example, when mixing a drum kit, the producer is likely to set the panning of each drum to reflect the positioning of the kit. The ride cymbal may be panned into the right speaker, the kick central, the snare just off-center to the left, the hi-hat further to the left, and so on.
This process is vital when recording ASMR, especially if you are using more than one track. It allows you to create the illusion within the listener’s headphones, that the sounds are being projected to them from different angles. For ASMR content that simulates a trip to the hairdressers, or a conversation between multiple people, panning is essential.
Panning is easy once you get the hang of it.
Each channel that contains recorded audio will be set to 0 panning initially. You can then move the number left or right, and the sound will be sent through that speaker or headphone to the degree dependent on how far you push it.
If you set the panning of an ASMR recording to 25L, there will still be some of the sound present in the right speaker, but it will predominantly come out of the left.
Related Questions On ASMR Recording
Can you record ASMR with an onboard iPhone microphone?
The onboard microphone on an iPhone won’t provide you with the best-quality ASMR recordings, but it can still be used for this purpose. Phone microphones generally compress the audio, which leaves less room for mixing.
What is a binaural recording?
A bin-aural recording is the process of recording by using headphones or earbuds in reverse. You simply plug your headphones into the microphone-input and record into them as you would do a microphone.
Do I need an audio interface to record ASMR?
Although it is possible to record ASMR using a handheld recorder or a phone, using an audio interface with a good condenser mic is the most reliable method. This allows you the most freedom over setting the levels and provides the phantom power that the condenser microphone needs.