Advances in audio technology are powering the new and growing market for audiobooks, and porn being porn isn’t about to miss out. Just as there is a rise in the demand for spoken stories, the demand for audio erotica has never been higher.
In this four-part series, we’ll be covering the rise of audio erotica from special niche interest to multi-million dollar industry. We’ll look at all aspects — for creators, consumers and the companies that are stacking profits.
In this first part, we’re looking at the tech and equipment requirements for audio content creators. What does it actually take to produce audio erotica?
Let’s find out!
- What is Audio Erotica?
- Creating Audio Erotica: Before, During and After
- Before: Preparing to Record
- During: Sound Design and Recording
- After: Post-Processing and Delivery Platforms
- End Tape
What is Audio Erotica?
With audio erotica, a narrator records sexy stories that can be enjoyed through specialist sites like Dipsea, Quinn or Audible. We’re talking “talking” books, or rather, dirty-talking books, and whether they are a short story or a full-length novel, they are becoming as popular now on audio as they have always been in print.
Back in the 1940s, charities for the blind exploited audio technology and sound recording, and used it to produce the first talking books. Audio stories originated on shellac discs, otherwise known as 78s, or 78-LPs, which were sent to customers by mail.
Things became easier, cheaper and much lighter with the advent of cassette tapes, and easier still when CD recordings came along. As the tech developed, so the recording of storytelling became digital, more professional and more commercial.
So commercial that everyone now wants in on the audio action, and luckily, there’s good news.
Previously, to record a talking book, you’d need a big expensive studio with a huge mixing desk, a paid actor and technicians. These days, you can record a story or an entire book in a bedroom. And you can make a lot of money by doing so.
However, no-one can produce a sellable talking erotica book without two things:
- A good book
- Quality recording equipment
Let’s assume we’ve got the book. What about the tech?
Creating Audio Erotica: Before, During and After
Sites like SquadCast allow authors to read their own books into a program which produces an audiobook. However, the creator still needs a good microphone, a good narrator and, of course, a good story.
Tempting though it is to rush straight to a site like SquadCast, if you want to produce a quality audiobook, the traditional route is still the most popular way to go, and it doesn’t need to be expensive.
There are three basic stages to producing audio erotica:
- Before: Preparing to Record
- During: Sound Design and Recording
- After: Post-processing and Delivery Platforms
Before: Preparing to Record
In this guide, we’re focusing on the tech. We will assume the narrator already has a good speaking voice, has read the script, discussed the performance with the producer/author, and is a top-class, ex-RADA actor who will sell his/her soul to erotica for the sake of making some income.
After that essential requirement… comes the microphone.
Investing in a Good Microphone for Audiobooks
A good microphone is essential when recording anything, but as there are many niches of storytelling, so there are many microphones available for recording sound.
For smaller budget projects, a USB mic offers more affordability. Among those currently being recommended for audiobook recordings are:
- HyperX QuadCast – USB Condenser Gaming Microphone – $139.99. Very popular for the small, home studio.
- MAONO 192KHZ/24Bit Plug & Play – $61.99. Popular for podcasts and YouTube recordings.
- TONOR USB TC 777 – $34.99.
- The TONOR USB TC3 10 gaming mic ($29.99) is a popular, more up-to-date version.
Those mics plug straight into your PC via a USB cable. More traditional and more expensive, are the XLR mics; those that plug into recording equipment via an XLR cable. Some we can recommend include:
- Shure SM7B – $399.00. A mic suitable for all environments; studio, podcasts, streaming.
- Or: Shure SM58 Cardiod Dynamic – $99.00. Excellent for vocals; the kind of mic used in live performances.
- MAONO XLR Condenser – $65.99. Needs to be connected to a 48V Phantom audio interface, but gives excellent recording results.
- Rode NT1-A Large-Diaphragm Condenser – $200.
If you have the budget, then, like the big studios, you’ll be after something like the Neumann U 87 Ai Set Z. Although Neumann recommends this mic for singers, it is perfect for audiobook recording, despite its eyewatering price tag of $3,695.
We’ll have a more in-depth look at ASMR microphones in a moment, but for now, we’ll assume the best mics are in place, and the producer has decided on the best binaural recording techniques to employ for the most immersive result.
Hold on. The best what?
Binaural Recording Techniques
As adult movie making has moved from celluloid to videotape to digital, so sound recording has moved on from wax cylinder to tape to microchip. These days, producers of audio erotica books favour digital recordings for a clearer, better-quality sound.
But things don’t stop there. As adult movies have progressed from classic point-of-view filming to virtual reality, 360° look around, so audio erotica sound recording has developed from mono-directional to multi-directional, and producers now favour binaural sound recording.
Binaural recording is a method used to capture audio with two microphones, simulating the way human ears hear sounds.
This technique creates a three-dimensional sound experience that makes listeners feel like they are present in the scene.
‘Isn’t that just stereo?’
Stereo recordings are made with two separate channels of sound, so the left channel sound differs from the right. Although this gives the impression of immersion in a scene, it doesn’t give you a multidimensional or interactive soundscape. Listen to Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, and in one track, the sound of running feet travels from one ear to the other. That’s basic stereo.
Binaural audio captures sound and replays it exactly as a person would hear it if it were being made in front of them. One way to record binaural sound is to take the head of a mannequin, drill holes in its ears, insert one mic in each, and place that head in a room where the sound is being created. The mics pick up the sound exactly as a person would hear it if they were in the room.
Spatial audio is where “sounds are processed to make them appear to come from their real location in space.” [according to High-Fidelity CEO, Philip Rosedale.] I.e. A door slams behind you; you hear the sound from behind; you turn to the sound and the sound turns with you.
Audio erotica stories don’t need spatial audio. Not yet, at any rate. Right now, audio erotica books focus on the words, the dialogue and narration, and there is no need for multidirectional voices, sound effects, or immersive, spatial sound.
What’s needed is a good narrator, and just as importantly, a good binaural microphone.
Binaural Microphone Placement
Binaural audio is just the right level of immersion for most audio erotica porn.
To create binaural audio, strategically place two microphones to mimic the positioning of human ears. One microphone records audio for the left ear, and the other records for the right ear.
If you want an example of a binaural microphone, check out the 3Dio FS Binaural Microphone as an example. This mic has ear-shaped receivers and captures 360° sound. Keep in mind, though, this one costs around $400.
Don’t expect your outlay to be cheap.
What About ASMR Microphones?
ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. In simpler language, ASMR is a more pleasant form of paraesthesia (that tingling feeling you get when you sense something pleasant). In sound terms, ASMR creates auditory-tactile synaesthesia.
It does what?!
At the most basic level, it’s when a sound sets off a physical response. A door slams; you jump. The lyrics of a song bring tears to the eyes. You listen to heavy metal music; you get a headache.
For effective ASMR results, any good microphone will do as long as:
- It’s suitable for recording vocals.
- It can pick up low-level sound.
- You use a large diaphragm condenser.
Yes, but, we want the best for recording audio erotica, and there remains the question:
What Audio Recording Equipment Delivers the Best ASMR?
With expectations high, and the audio-erotica market blooming, readers are going to vote with their wallets for the best tech.
In 2022, Will Vance of Magnetic Mag ran through some of the best microphones for delivering ASMR, which could prove invaluable for anybody looking to record audio erotica.
Here are the five top-level mics currently popular with audiobook narrators and recording studios. Included are some of the technical specs and an average price.
- Audio-Technica AT2020
- Large diaphragm condenser design
- Low self-noise
- Suitable for both studio and home recording
- Neumann TLM 103
- Large diaphragm condenser
- Natural and warm sound
- Low self-noise and excellent transient response
- Rode NT1
- Cardioid polar pattern (reduces background noise)
- Low self-noise
- Wide dynamic range
- Shure SM7B
- Flat, wide-range frequency response
- Built-in pop filter
- Built-in shock mount
- AKG C214
- Large diaphragm condenser
- Switchable 20dB attenuation pad
ASMR Terminology Summarised
If you are new to this space, you might not be down with the typical ASMR lingo. So here’s a useful overview of terms you’ll be encountering:
|Large diaphragm condenser||The diaphragm is the conductive membrane inside the mic. The larger the diaphragm, the more signal it captures.|
|Self-noise||The sound/signal the mic itself makes.|
|Transient response||The response of a system to a change. In this case, soundwaves.|
|Cardioid polar pattern||The soundwave pattern combination of the sounds coming from in front of the mic, and the least sensitive from directly behind the mic. I.e., the sensitivity of a microphone to sounds arriving from different angles.|
|Dynamic range||The ratio of the loudest peak to the quietest, expressed in decibels (dB)|
|Pop filter||The nylon or metallic mesh positioned between mouth and mic to eliminate air blasts, such as the ‘popping’ sound the letter P can produce.|
|Shock mount||Shock absorber mounting to protect the mic from unwanted vibrations.|
|Attenuation pad||Used to protect the mic from signal levels that might damage it. I.e., the pad reduces potentially damaging loud noises.|
Ready to roll the tape, we have the book, the narrator, the sound-proofed studio or bedroom, and we have opted for two ASMR binaural microphones with all the (silent) bells and whistles. We are ready to record.
During: Sound Design and Recording
Before you start cracking out bestselling audio erotica, you need to be aware of sound design, and whether you need to plan any audio enhancements.
Sound design is a key element of anything with audio; books, film, TV, theatre, concerts… If you want your production to sound realistic, you need sound designers and Foley artists. These guys create ambient sounds that enhance the storytelling, thus giving listeners a more immersive aural experience.
In our experience, sound effects and Foley are rare in audio erotica, mainly because the content producers choose to focus on the spoken word.
But that doesn’t mean producers and authors can’t add in effects to enhance the listener’s experience.
While these effects are less commonly used in audio erotica, you can expect to hear more of them as the genre continues to grow and innovate.
Creating immersive environments often involves layering ambient sounds like wind, rain, city traffic, or nature sounds. These ambient soundscapes add depth and context to a scene.
Whether we need them to enhance audio erotica is up for debate. In a perfect world, the words of the story should be enough to fuel the listener’s imagination.
Foley & Sound Libraries
Have you ever seen ‘Foley’ come up on the credits of a movie and wondered what it was? It’s simply the sound effects that the Foley artists put on a film’s audio tracks after editing.
Imagine being the Foley artist for an erotica audiobook. What noises would you have to record, and how would you make the sound?
He ran his hands up my back and gently undid my zipper. [Easy: sound of a zipper.] His kisses were hot. [Mwah, mwah, made by a foley artist’s lips on the back of their hand.] He caressed me lower and lower until my loins were aflame. His kisses exploded like landmines of ecstasy… [Hold on a moment…]
Okay. If the erotica is well written (which that wasn’t), you won’t need sound effects. Besides, what do ‘loins aflame’ sound like, and wouldn’t the sound of exploding landmines detract somewhat from the sexual tension?
Answer: Yes. Which is why sound effects and Foley are rarely used in audio erotica.
However, if you want to produce Foley for a recording, the current ‘must have’ tool for Foley design and performance is the Cinema Sound Foley Library.
Cinema Sound Foley Library
Coming in at around $179.00, this sound library contains over 54,000 sound effect samples and over 30 FX models. It needs 6 GB of disc space, 4 G of RAM, and is compatible with Apple M1, Intel i5 or equivalent. It needs the Kontakt Player to run the program, but that’s a freebie from Native Instruments that can be downloaded here.
Other Foley libraries are available, such as:
- Krotos Studio Reformer Pro, $400.00
- Foley Collection Originals, $350.00
- Edward Ultimate Suite, $400.00
Other Sound Effects (SFX)
Authors are always seeking ways to enhance the telling of their story, and including sound other than the voice, although still rare, may well become the next big thing in erotic audiobooks.
For erotica, these SFX could go beyond the sound of zippers being undone, lips on body parts, and the exploding of metaphorical landmines.
To make an erotica novel more realistic while, somehow, not distracting the listener from the story, the recording producer could include:
- Environmental sounds, such as the weather, clocks ticking, or the hubbub of unsuspecting coworkers outside the office where the dirty deed is taking place.
- Fantastical sounds suited to sci-fi and fantasy erotica. The throb of an engine matching the pulse of his ‘throbbing member’, the shapeshifter becoming a wolf, the sound of alien lovemaking — which you’d probably have to invent because who knows what that sounds like?
In our view, additional sound can add to audio erotica as much as it can detract from it, so proceed with caution.
In film, TV, theatre and other visual media, sound designers work with composers or select pre-existing music tracks to complement and enhance the storytelling.
Again, you may not want or be able to afford a musical underscore for your audio erotica, but there’s no reason why you can’t start it with play-in music, and end it with play-out music.
If you want to create original music, you can add several hundred more dollars to your budget. At least, that’s how it used to be. These days, there are alternatives such as monthly pricing and open-source software.
Some of the best tech for producing, recording, and composing a musical soundtrack include:
- A range of products costing from $99.00 to $600.00 or more
- Notion 6
- Over 100 pre-recorded musical tracks included.
- $150 +
- MuseScore 2
- The basic software is open source and free.
- MuseScore Pro costs $6.99 per month or $49.00 per year.
- From Avid
- Sibelius First is a free download.
- Sibelius Sequence Xtra costs $249.00
- Various offers and pricing according to the user.
- Finale version 27, $600.00
- MagicScore Maestro 8
- Full licence, $69.95
- Per month, $6.99 or $27.99 per year.
For original music you will, of course, need to know how to compose, but another way to go is to use non-exclusive sound libraries. These contain unlicensed music (royalty free), although some kind of agreement and payment is usually necessary. There are plenty to choose from, including:
- Epidemic Sound
- 40,000 royalty-free tracks
- 90,000 sound effects
- $24.99 per month for commercial use
- Free Sound
- A collaborative collection of 616,493 free sounds.
- SFX and music, plus other services in a range of subscriptions.
- From $9.99 per month to $39.99 per month.
Sound designers collaborate with audio engineers to balance and mix all the audio elements to ensure clarity and emotional impact. This involves setting levels, adjusting equalization, and positioning sounds spatially to create a cohesive auditory experience.
In audiobook terms, it’s vital to ensure the words are clear, and a good mixing desk or program is vital.
If you are using a USB mic, there’s no need for a separate audio interface to convert the captured sound into digital format, because they have this function built in. However, if you are using an XLR mic, a separate audio interface is a necessity.
Separate interfaces offer improved quality results and increased adaptability, making it easy to manipulate the sound recording to your advantage.
We’ve spoken to various audiobook creators, and here are some of their recommendations for sound mixing equipment:
- Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface – $139.99.
- Favoured by musicians.
- Simple, basic, easy to understand, not costly, but gives great results.
- PreSonus AudioBox 96 with Studio One Artist DAW recording software included – $99.99.
- Two channels, portable, mixer bundle includes software.
- UA Volt 276 USB Audio Interface – $398.00.
- The price includes a cardioid condenser mic, but the unit is also sold separately.
- The UAD Apollo Twin X Duo with a Thunderbolt 3 Interface would give even better results, but it costs $879.00.
Creative Sound Manipulation
Just as the cutting room floor is the ghost of moviemaking past, so the cumbersome mixing desk with its multiple sliders is a piece of equipment gone digital. These days, in the audio erotica studio, manipulating even a single voice requires a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).
Sound design involves creative manipulation of the voice to evoke emotions, create tension, or help convey abstract ideas. Voice effects, if we call them that, include time-stretching, pitch-shifting, or applying other audio processing effects to enhance storytelling.
Others offer some free access followed by a subscription:
- 90-day free trial.
- Ableton Live has 15 price structures, depending on use, costing from $79.00 to $1,278.
- Logic Pro
- Designed for use on Mac computers.
- Free trial available, $199.99 to buy.
- ‘Intro’ version is free.
- Pro Tools version has a free 30-day trial followed by three packages ranging from $99.00 per year to $599.00 per year.
Other Equipment for Recording Audio Erotica
There are a few other necessities that add up to a great sound recording session.
- Soundproofing for the studio or room.
- Acoustic foam wall and surface covering (egg boxes are the cliché, but they work).
- Pop Shield—to stop the ‘popping’ of certain letters when spoken.
- Vocal booth, if you have the room to isolate the narrator.
- Mic stand – Handheld will not do. It creates too much noise interference.
- PC or Mac for processing the media. (At least 8 GB of RAM is recommended.)
- iPad or screen to see your digital mixing desk and other equipment.
- Sofa and Coffee machine
- Recording an entire novel can take days. Be comfortable!
After: Post-Processing and Delivery Platforms
Stage three of making audio erotica is what happens to all the audible words you have created, manipulated, and recorded.
In film and TV land, this is called ‘Postproduction.’ Among actors and those in the biz, it’s just called ‘Post.’
There’s also a thing called ADR, Automated Dialogue Replacement (also called Additional Dialogue Recording), which is where actors return to a sound studio after the filming to ‘drop in’ parts of the dialogue that need an audio retake, or add the grunts and groans over a chase or sex scene.
It’s unlikely an audio erotica recording will need ADR; you’d simply ask the narrator to reread a section during recording, and then edit in the better version during postproduction.
However, there is more work to do:
Post-Processing and Mixing
Audio professionals use post-processing techniques to refine recordings and create a balanced and immersive final product. This includes adjusting levels, adding reverb and spatial effects, and fine-tuning the binaural audio to ensure a lifelike experience.
You’ve invested in a good DAW, so you already have all the tools for postproduction, mixing, adding the music and any sound effects.
If there’s any advice to give here, it would be ‘Less is more.’ Listeners have come for the erotic story, not the sound of wind under the eaves, the crackle of crisp, white sheets, or the leading lady’s orgasm. Keep the sound simple.
That is unless you are considering your audiobook to be interactive.
Interactive and Adaptive Storytelling
We’re not really talking interactive here, we’re identifying the best tech for audio erotica, but as the future rushes up to greet us, it may well bring an audience that wants more than words.
Interactive storytelling has been around since the early days of video games.
Click Yes to go to the castle, click No to slay the dragon… that kind of thing.
Purists say that audio erotica is there to be heard and not interfered with, but some audio erotica experiences, such as those on chyoa.com, incorporate interactive elements, allowing listeners to make choices that influence the narrative’s direction. These choices are often integrated seamlessly into the storyline, making the experience more engaging and personalized.
If you are going down that route, your story-option creations, alternative storylines, SFX, Foley, and sound manipulation are all done in post on your digital-sound DAW.
Delivery Platforms for Audio Erotica
There are several audio porn websites delivering high-quality erotica, allowing listeners to access a library of content. Subscriptions and pay-per-listen content models are common ways to monetize these experiences.
Where the self-publishing market is booming for print and eBooks, the audio market is slowly catching up, but the audio erotica market is lagging.
Expect this to change in time, because more and more erotica story sites and apps are embracing audio erotica, and although many are aimed at authors willing to contribute for free, there are some that allow you to monetise your work.
Fans of erotica will have heard of Dipsea, Quinn, Literotica and Audible, sites and apps where you can subscribe to a library of text and audio erotica stories. If you want to earn money from your recordings, however, go to a place that doesn’t give away your writing for free.
The industry standard for paying royalties to online publishers is 70%, but there are often restrictions on selling audio erotica. Publishing platforms have guidelines concerning not only content but also cover images, and for audio, they will have minimum specs for quality control.
When you want to sell your audio erotica, the two best places to investigate are:
- Amazon ACX
- Audiobook Creation Exchange via Kindle Direct PublishingUp-front fees; shared profits.Hire a narrator or do it yourself.
- Pays between 20% and 40% royalties.
- 25% royalty payments on audiobooks (40% if you go exclusive)
- This is below the industry standard (Amazon pays up to 70% royalties on self-published print and Kindle books)
Other sites, like Literotica, may offer paid-for placements as contributors, but you will need to contact individual sites to see if they have joined the audio bandwagon, and will pay for your hard work.
Can I Cut Costs With AI-Driven Voice Synthesis?
AI has a solution for everything these days, and that includes reading your erotica out loud.
AI-driven voice synthesis can generate realistic and customizable voices, which in theory can be used to tell your stories while mitigating many of the production costs.
Its use cuts down the cost of hiring an actor, because this technology uses neural networks to mimic human speech patterns, intonation, and emotion. By combining text-to-speech (TTS) and AI algorithms, creators can produce character voices that cater to the specific desires and preferences of their audience.
TTS is in its early days, but authors are already divided on the subject of AI vs human. There are arguments for and against AI generally, not to mention AI-generated audiobooks, and the differences raise questions.
|Human-Spoken Audiobooks||AI Voice Synthesis Audiobooks|
|Human voice recorded live||Computer-generated voice|
|Gives narrators employment||Doesn’t|
|Expensive||Free (in return for a royalty cut)|
From the technology we’ve played with in 2023, it’s clear that a human narrator will better understand the emotions and nuances in the story, and will be better able to convey them, thereby making a stronger connection to the listener.
If you don’t want to inflame the rage of traditional audiobook creators, then don’t use AI-generated voices. However, like everything new, we expect this shift in voice production to become more acceptable.
There is no argument that AI Voice Synthesis will allow for the production of audio erotica (and all audiobooks) at a scale that simply isn’t possible using good old fashioned humans.
Amazon’s AI-Driven Audiobooks
There is currently a storm blowing up over at Amazon HQ.
Indie authors, who create a high percentage of Amazon’s erotica market, have traditionally used human narrators to produce audio erotica. Now, though, Amazon is developing an automated, AI-driven audiobook option for its authors, the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX).
As of November 1st 2023, the program has just been opened up to Beta testers in the USA.
It remains to be seen if the fear of using an AI voice for narration is justified, as we’ve not yet heard the Amazon AI-generated audio book’s voice so we will reserve judgment. We have, though, long been able to hear Alexa read to us. Even our PCs can read back text, and over time, the quality of inflection and delivery has improved.
Their current system for self-publishing erotica is simple, and there’s no reason to think the audio version won’t be just as accessible.
Amazon is not the only one offering ways to convert text books to audiobooks. Other services are available, including:
Audio stories have been around since the 1940s, and the technology making it possible has undergone immense changes. Whereas mechanical voice recording equipment was the bulky and noisy way to go about things, these days, audio erotica recording is driven by digital technology, and it’s only the AI-generated narration that’s mechanical.
That’s about to change as AI voicing develops, and before long, it will be easier and cheaper for anyone to record their own erotica and make money from it.
Remember, though, technology is only half of the equation.
You will always need a sexy story to tell!