(Pocket-lint) - Background noise is the bane of audio, whether you're calling a friend, recording a podcast or you're being interviewed live on the TV.
With a lot more people doing a lot more video conferencing, there's a lot more interest in how to make those calls better - and it's often the sound that's the most important part of the package.
Krisp.ai might have a solution for you.
What is Krisp.ai?
Krisp is a noise cancelling application that uses artificial intelligence to clean up your audio. It works in real time, creating what is effectively a protective layer between your microphone and the app you're using to make sure that background noise is filtered out.
Not only will it filter out background noise from your microphone, you can also filter out background noise coming from other people on the call, so the audio you hear is cleaner too.
As it's software based, it's a simple solution and it doesn't require any special hardware - it will work with the built-in mic on your laptop, the mic on your webcam or an external mic. It will also work with common apps, like Zoom, Teams, Skype, Meet to make sure that your video conferencing audio is nice and clear, although many of these apps offer their own in-app cancelling too.
All the processing is done locally on your device, you're not sending audio to the cloud, so it's private.
What platforms does Krisp work on?
There are several versions of Krisp, there's the desktop app which is available for macOS or Windows. These are ideal for typical home or office situations where you want cleaner audio for services like Zoom.
Then there is the Chrome extension, that will work within the Chrome browser and allow you to cancel noise when using web apps within Chrome or when using ChromeOS. That might be on Meet, the web app version of Zoom or something like Zencaster recording.
There's also a Krisp dialler for iOS. This is designed to make your iPhone audio cleaner when you're dialling in to meetings. For those who have to join a conference call when you're away from your desk, this is designed for you.
How to get started with Krisp
When you install the Krisp app, you'll be guided through the steps you'll have to take to get it working. We have installed it on both Windows and Mac, the latter seems to work a little smoother when it comes to changing audio inputs.
The important thing to understand about Krisp is that it's like having another microphone to choose from. When you come to use an app like Zoom or Teams, you'll have to make sure you have "Krisp" selected as your audio input.
As an example, let's run through how to setup Krisp with Zoom.
- Download the Krisp app and follow the installation instructions.
- Open Zoom and head to the Settings.
- Open the Audio settings and in the dropdown box select Krisp for your microphone and Krisp for your speaker.
- In the Krisp app, select the microphone you want to use and the speakers you want to use.
Essentially, what you're doing is telling the app to use Krisp and telling Krisp which hardware to use.
The setup process is broadly similar for other apps. In Google Meet for example you can select Krisp in the settings as soon as you open meet.google.com. In Skype you head to Audio & Video settings in the app and do the same.
In Slack you'd have to change those settings once you start a call - just remember to select the Krisp microphone and speaker as an option when you open up an app.
Does Krisp actually work?
Yes it does and it's surprisingly effective. Below is an example of a typical conference call on Zoom - reading some of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's coronavirus speech from 10 May 2020, with a Downing Street virtual background, while beating a piece of wood with an hatchet.
The results are typical of what you'll experience from Krisp. There's some clipping of audio when there's loud noise to cancel out, leading to a slightly artificial voice sound, but this is an extreme case in our test. Unless you're calling from a construction site, you're unlikely to need such strong noise cancellation.
Importantly, things like doors closing, traffic noise, aircraft, birds, kids running up and down the stairs and other things that normally can be heard on conference calls, are now gone - and we've tested this with all sorts of sounds and found that generally, unless it's a really loud or sudden noise, it doesn't disturb the audio.
But we have noticed that this does increase the demands on your PC. We've been testing it mainly with a MacBook Pro and we've found that even in short video conferences, the fans will fire up on the Mac as the demands are obviously higher than placing a standard video call. Fortunately, the sounds of the fans are also then filtered out.
How much does Krisp.ai cost?
There's free tier for Krisp that will give you 120 minutes - 2 hours - free per week. That will cost nothing.
The Pro tier costs $5 a month (if you choose to pay monthly) and that gives you unlimited time, as well as being able to use Krisp across three devices. There's also a Teams tier that costs $5 per user per month that will give centralised billing and admin for those who want Krisp for a larger workforce.