Voice-Over Equipment

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Voice-overs are an essential ingredient in the creation of dynamic media. They can be an unseen character in a story, or just a friendly voice persuading you to buy pet food. Voice-overs are found in every form of media, from news reporting to experimental filmmaking. Even photo slideshows can benefit from a well-executed voice-over.

Creating a voice-over isn’t difficult to do, and the basic hardware required is fairly inexpensive. However, the quality of your voice-overs will only be as good as the methods you use to capture and control the sound. This guide will help you understand the different options for voice-over equipment, and help you understand how to properly use the gear. This guide assumes that you’re creating a voice-over for a video (or a photo slideshow), and that you’re using a computer with video editing software as your primary tools. The same information can be applied to create voice-overs for audio podcasting, audio book production, recording ADR (additional dialog recording) and other kinds of multi-media projects.

What equipment do I need to record voice-overs?

The essential components of a voice-over studio are:

  • Microphone: A microphone is required to capture the sound of the talent’s voice. The quality of your microphone will have a large impact on the overall quality of your recordings.
  • Headphones: The talent needs to be able to hear the material, so headphones are essential.
  • Microphone Stand: The talent shouldn’t physically handle the mic. When the mic stays in a fixed position on a mic stand, your recordings will be more consistent and even-sounding.
  • Shock Mount: A shock mount suspends the microphone and helps reduce unwanted vibrations and rumbling. 
  • Pop filters: Sometimes mics pick up too much of the plosive and sibilant sounds that the mouth makes (“P” sounds pop and “S” sounds hiss). A pop filter is a screen that diffuses these sounds.
  • Acoustic Treatment: Being able to hear the ambience of a room can be very distracting in a voice-over, so it must be controlled if you aim to achieve professional results.

What kind of microphone should I use to record voice-overs?

There are a few different kinds of microphones that people use to create voice-overs.

  • USB Microphone: This kind of mic plugs directly into a computer’s USB port and captures above-average sound. It’s ideal for low-budget podcasting and entry level voice-over work.
  • Dynamic Broadcast Microphone: Generally used in radio broadcasting, Dynamic Broadcast Microphones have a forgiving and warm sound, with slightly less detailed sounding upper frequencies. These mics are often installed in radio stations for multi-person setups.
  • Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone: These mics are often used in music studios to record singers and instruments because they have very detailed and lively sounding middle and upper frequencies. They’re also used to create rich and textured sounding voice-overs. 

What are the pros and cons of USB Microphones?

Pros:

  • A USB microphone connects to a computer through a standard USB port.
  • You can record directly into a computer without the need for additional equipment.
  • They’re relatively affordable.

Cons:

  • While it's possible for a computer to recognize more than one USB microphone at time, setting it up can potentially be difficult.
  • Most USB microphones are dependent on a computer for operation, so they’re not as versatile as regular microphones.
  • If your ultimate goal is to record the best sounding voice-over possible, you’re going to need to use a different kind of microphone.

What are the pros and cons of Dynamic Broadcast Mics?

Pros:

  • Dynamic Broadcast Microphones are more forgiving when it comes to plosive sounds (the “P” sounds that pop and the “S” sounds that hiss), and thus are a little easier to work with, compared to Large Diaphragm Condenser mics.
  • They don’t require phantom power to operate (phantom power is explained later in the guide).

Cons:

  • Even though they have a nice warm sound, Dynamic Broadcast Mics lack a little detail in the upper mids and high frequencies.
  • Additional equipment is required to use them with a computer.

What are the pros and cons of Large Diaphragm Condenser Mics?

Pros:

  • Large diaphragm condenser mics have a very detailed response, with lively sounding upper frequencies.
  • If you control room ambience and use proper recording technique, you can capture the highest quality of sound using one of these mics.

Cons:

  • The ultra-sensitive capsule in a Large Diaphragm Condenser mic is more susceptible to capturing unwanted plosive and vibration noises.
  • Additional equipment is required to use them with a computer.
  • They require phantom power to operate.

What is phantom power?

Some mics require a little flow of electricity in order to operate. This little flow of electricity is called “phantom power.” It’s a feature that’s commonly found on computer audio interfaces. Using phantom power isn’t complicated, and you shouldn’t be intimidated by it.

How do you plug non-USB microphones into a computer?

The best way to connect a professional 3-pin XLR microphone to a computer is to use an audio interface. An audio interface is an external piece of hardware that connects to a computer via USB, FireWire, PCI or Expresscard. Many audio interfaces feature dedicated XLR microphone inputs, headphone outputs and other jacks and controls that come in handy for recording voice-overs. You can learn everything you need to know about computer-audio interfaces in this B&H InDepth Buyer’s Guide.

Do audio interfaces deliver the best possible sound quality?

Plugging a microphone directly into a computer audio interface will get you a clean, flat sound, but if your goal is to create broadcast-quality voice-overs, we recommend plugging your mic into “outboard gear” before you connect it to a computer audio interface. Outboard gear is external hardware that enhances the overall sound of a microphone. USB microphones cannot be used with outboard gear.

What is the best kind of outboard gear to use on voice-overs?

There are many different varieties of outboard gear available, but for recording voice-overs you’ll mainly be using microphone preamps, dynamics processors and channel strips. A high-quality microphone preamp will have a much cleaner sound and the ability to bring out appealing sonic characteristics of a microphone. Dynamics processors (compressors, expanders and limiters) help smooth out an audio signal so it sits nicely in a mix. A channel strip combines a microphone preamp and dynamics processors into one box. Some channel strips are designed specifically for vocals, and include special tools for voices, such as “De-essers,” which make them ideal tools for creating voice-overs.

What is a De-esser and why would I need one?

A De-esser is designed to suppress harsh sounding sibilant sounds. When an “S,” “Z” or “Sh” sound gets too loud in an audio signal and passes a set threshold, a De-esser singles out the problematic frequencies and makes them quieter so they’re not disruptive and unpleasant sounding.

What is a pop filter and why do I need one?

Voice-over microphones are very detailed sounding and do an outstanding job of bringing out the rich textures and nuances of a voice. However, one downside to using such sensitive microphones is that they also pick up unpleasant sounding sibilant and plosive sounds. Words with the letter “P” sometimes make a popping sound that can overwhelm the microphone capsule. Words with the letter “S” sometimes create a short, yet strident, harsh hissing sound. The easiest and most effective way to eliminate these problems is to avoid recording them in the first place by using a pop filter.

A pop filter is basically a small screen that attaches to a microphone stand with a clamp. A short gooseneck runs from the clamp to the screen, so you can position it a couple inches in front of the microphone capsule. The screen diffuses rushing air created by these problematic plosive and sibilant sounds. The screens themselves can be made of a metal, or a foam-like fabric which is often mistaken for pantyhose.

What kind of microphone stand do I need for recording voice-overs?

If your voice talent is going to be sitting at a desk or at a table during the recordings, then your best choice may be a desk stand or a studio arm. A desk stand is a compact, table-top version of a microphone stand. A studio arm is a balanced, articulated boom arm that can mount to a desk or a table with either a removable clamp or a permanent stud. Studio arms make it easy to quickly reposition a microphone without creating noise.

If your voice talent prefers to stand while they work, there are numerous microphone floor stands available. Taller floor stands with boom arms are recommended. The boom arm will give you more options for positioning the microphone.

What is a shock mount and why do I need one?

A shock mount is a small suspension system that prevents a microphone from picking up unwanted handling, vibration and rumbling noises. It mounts at the end of a microphone stand and holds the mic. A shock mount suspends a microphone with rubber or elastic bands (or utilizes similar kinds of suspension systems), which eliminates most of the vibration and handling noise the mic would otherwise pick up. The kind of shock mount that you need depends entirely on what kind of microphone you’re using. Sometimes shock mounts come as included accessories when you purchase a microphone.

Why do I have to worry about room ambience, and how do I control it?

Professional recording studios usually have a specially designed vocal booth that enables the engineers to record neutral sounding vocal tracks that are free of room ambience. Hard surfaces (such as desktops, walls, floors and ceilings) tend to reflect sound and send it bouncing around a room. Rooms with long corridors and odd shapes only compound the problem. You probably don’t notice sounds bouncing around your room in normal everyday life, but when a sensitive microphone is used to record a voice, and that voice is taken out of the context of the room and placed over video footage, suddenly the ambience of the room sticks out like a distracting, sore thumb.

The best way to control room ambience is to use sound-absorption material and baffling while you record. One of the most cost-effective ways to cut down on room ambience is to use an Isolation Filter. An Isolation Filter is a curved baffle that surrounds the back and sides of a microphone with acoustic absorption material. It prevents sound from reflecting into the back and sides of the mic, which reduces unwanted ambience dramatically. The best Isolation Filters are somewhat heavy, so purchasing a more robust microphone stand is recommended.

Another way to cut down on room ambience is to place acoustic paneling in key points around the room you’re recording in. There are different sized acoustic panel kits available (some of which include bass traps and adhesives) for various-sized rooms. These products are designed solely to control room ambiance. They won’t make your studio any more soundproof than it already is, nor will they prevent exterior noise from leaking into your workspace.   

Why do I need to use headphones?

It’s necessary to wear headphones when recording voice-overs because you don’t want the microphone to pick up sound from your speakers. It’s important to record in a quiet room, and headphones make it possible to listen to the video playback without speakers. If you record voice-overs with speakers on, the sound quality will decrease dramatically, and you run the risk of creating a feedback loop and damaging your hearing and equipment.

What kind of headphones should I use when recording voice-overs?

The best headphones to use for recording voice-overs are Closed-Back, Circumaural headphones. As the name implies, the back of the ear cups on closed-back headphones are solid, which prevents sound from leaking out (and thus less unwanted noise will be picked up by the microphone).

Is it possible to provide headphones to more than one person?

Yes, it’s possible to provide a headphone feed to more than one person, and there’s a much better way to do it than using an inexpensive splitter cable. You can set up for multiple users with a headphone amplifier, which enables you to turn a single headphone jack from an audio interface or a computer into several headphone feeds. One of the advantages of using a headphone amplifier is that you can lower or raise the volume independently in each set of headphones. This way, if you have an engineer and three voice talents working together, each person can have a different volume level that’s comfortable for them.

How should I monitor the sound when not using headphones?

Instead of plugging your computer into regular computer speakers or a home stereo system, you’re far better off using studio monitors. A good pair of studio monitors will give you an accurate idea of what your recordings and overall audio mix sound like. Consumer speakers (like the ones found on iPod docks and stereo systems) tend to hype certain frequencies to make them sound more appealing. Studio monitors provide a flat frequency response with equal representation given to all frequencies (no frequencies are hyped). This way you can hear exactly what’s been recorded, and make informed decisions on how to properly balance your sound mix.

What kind of software should I use to produce voice-overs?

This depends on what kind of software you’re most comfortable working with. Many video-editing programs have dedicated voice-over tools that enable you to record sound directly into your video projects. There are also many audio-production programs with video capabilities that enable you to import video files so you can create elaborate sound mixes and sync them with the moving images.

If you prefer using audio software and you don’t mind creating a sound mix that’s entirely separate from the video edit, then you should use the audio program you’re most familiar with. If you’re more comfortable using video-editing software and aren’t interested in creating a complex sound mix, you should stick with the video-editing program with which you’re most familiar. 

How do software plug-ins help you make better sounding voice-overs?

Audio software plug-ins are useful for blending a recorded voice-over into a mix. Think of plug-ins as software versions of outboard hardware. It’s common for professionals to use outboard hardware to control the dynamics of a voice-over when recording, and then to use virtual processor plug-ins in post production to dial in the sound exactly the way they want it. The nice thing about applying these tools in post production is that you can experiment with them until you achieve the desired result.

There’s a lot more you can do with plug-ins besides simply adjusting the EQ and dynamics. There are lots of incredible-sounding effects that you can add to a voice in post production with plug-ins. Some of the more obvious effects are reverbs and echoes (which are useful for dream sequences and disembodied voices), but there are many less obvious effects that are useful, like telephone emulators and pitch correction

Why would I add sound effects and music to a voice-over?

Adding music, sound effects and atmospheric sounds to the mix with your voice-overs can really give your work a professional luster, especially if you’re completing the project yourself (and not sending it to a professional sound editor to create a custom sound mix). If you’re using commercial music in your project, you have to be mindful of licensing issues. Using commercial music without obtaining permission can be problematic, especially if your project is going to be shared on the Web or made public through other means. The best way to avoid these licensing issues is to only use royalty-free music. Sound effects can be used to punctuate your voice-overs, and to help illustrate a point you’re trying to make. There are vast libraries of sound effects CDs and DVDs available at B&H. Many of those collections also include longer environmental sound samples, enabling you to create the aural ambience of locations ranging from the beach to farms to cities, etc. Any sound effect or environmental ambience you need is likely already available at B&H.

Is there any other way to record a voice-over?

It’s certainly possible to record a voice-over without having to be tethered to a computer. You can use a handheld portable digital recorder and create voice-overs anywhere you travel. You are giving up some of the power that you have when recording directly into a computer. For example, it will be more difficult to watch the playback of a video clip and record a voice-over for it with a portable digital recorder, because you will need a separate device to play the video clip. But, the fact that you can make excellent-quality vocal recordings anywhere you go is a huge plus. You can also use your pocket recorder to capture your own collection of sound effects and ambient recordings. For more on portable digital recorders, check out this B&H Buying Guide.

The Takeaway

  • A microphone isn’t the only piece of equipment you need to create voice-overs.
  • Headphones are necessary to monitor audio tracks as you record voice-overs.
  • Microphone stands will help you record cleaner, more even sounding voice-overs.
  • Room ambience is very distracting for the audience to hear in a voice-over.
  • You may need sound-absorption material to deaden the reflections of the room you’re recording in.
  • A pop filter helps to cut down on the plosive and sibilant sounds that the mouth creates.
  • Plug-ins and sound effects help sounds sit properly in a mix and relate more to the on-screen imagery.
  • Two kinds of mics are used for creating voice-overs: USB microphones and analog microphones.
  • A USB microphone connects directly to a computer and is capable of capturing excellent-quality sound.
  • Condenser microphones have a very detailed response, with lively sounding upper frequencies.
  • Dynamic microphones have a warm and detailed, yet slightly more forgiving sound.
  • The best way to connect analog mics to a computer is to use an audio interface.
  • Audio interfaces are pieces of external hardware that connect to computers through USB, FireWire and other ports.
  • You should use the video or audio production program you’re most familiar with to make voice-overs.
  • If you’re going to be sitting at a desk or a table, the best mic stand to use is a desk stand or a studio arm.
  • A studio arm is an articulated boom arm that mounts with either a removable clamp or a permanent stud.
  • A shock mount is a suspension system that prevents a mic from picking up vibration and rumbling noises.
  • One of the most effective ways to cut down on room ambience is to use an Isolation Filter.
  • An Isolation Filter is a curved baffle that surrounds the back and sides of a mic with acoustic absorption material.
  • The best kind of headphones to use when recording voice-overs are Closed-Back Circumaural.
  • Headphone amplifiers enable you to turn a single headphone jack into several headphone feeds.
  • Studio Monitors give you an accurate idea of what your recordings and overall audio mix sounds like.
  • Outboard gear is external hardware that is used to enhance and control the sound of a mic or an audio signal.
  • Microphone preamps are amplifiers that boost the signal from a mic so it can be properly recorded.
  • Compressors make the softer parts of an audio signal louder and the louder parts of an audio signal softer.
  • A channel strip is a piece of outboard gear that combines a mic preamp, dynamics and EQ.
  • A De-esser suppresses harsh sounding sibilant sounds.
  • You can use a handheld portable digital recorder tocreate voice-overs anywhere you go.

Add new comment

The article is informative but it lacks in showing the many combinations that could be used.  

1.) Home studio voice over - 

2.) Setup for a 4 piece band

I am still not sure if I should have  microphone preampsdynamics processors and channel strips all in in one setup and mixer board.  It isn't clear.

Hello -

You will need to determine exactly what you want to do within your budget.  We can help you determine how to choose the gear.  One size rarely fits all, but you can start with a simple set-up that would allow you to build a comprehensive, flexible and cost-effective studio solution one component at a time.  Please e-mail us at: askbh@bhphotovideo.com for help with a specific solution.

Very comprehensive and informative article.  Thanks.

One footnote:

ADR, where I come from, stands for "Automated Dialogue Replacement", and not "Additional Dialogue Recording" as you have stated above.

Really, a great first step guide ... plainly they could go thru a lot of setups ... like the comment about the band setup ... not for me but maybe of general interest ... would it be helpful to do, say an interview situation ... there are various ways and tools ... from the cheapest to the most expensive ... a Zoom recorder and two Seenheiser cordless ... an under mount audio interface on a DSLR to one or two corded mics ... they can't go thru every possibility in a page or two ... I hope they keep adding stuff ... thanks ...   

>A computer can’t recognize more than one USB microphone at time.

This is not true. I have two MXL USB microphones plugged into a Macbook Pro running Soundtrack Pro and I can record two people speaking on two separate tracks at the same time, then mix them later.

Hi Chris,

Thanks for your comment. The article has been amended. It is possible to create an aggregate device in OS X to use multiple USB microphones, but from my experience, this is typically a more involved process. The beauty of USB microphones is that they're really easy to use. However, when you need to use more than one, things get complicated.

Here's a link to Apple's instructions for creating an aggregate device in the AudioMIDI Setup application, and as you can see, this is no longer a plug-and-play situation:

http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1215

I've searched for a similar solution for Windows users who want to use more than one USB mic at a time, but so far I haven't come up with any workarounds. This is why it's standard for us to recommend using an audio interface and non-USB microphones for people who need to record more than one mic.

Best,

Sam Mallery

Good information for the beginner voice artist. Very informative. I would like to add a few things to keep in mind when building a home based studio. I made a thousand mistakes along the way. I learned the hard way to research and plan every detail. Just recently, I sweated over if I really needed the Aphex Aural Exciter. I decided it would be better to record clean, then add the needed effects in editing. It's fun tool to have, but not absolutely needed.

Technically, the most important piece in the signal chain is the preamp interface. A good tube preamp can make a $5.00 mic sound good. Put your $$ there first, then decide on a mic. A good trick is to buy a $200-$300 tube, then install higher end tubes into the preamp. It's very easy to do and there's lots of info about it online.

You can treat a room fairly inexpensively. I was lucky enough to find homemade panels on Craigslist for free, but good, insulated furniture blankets will treat a room beautifully. I paid $14.95 a piece at a U-Haul storage place. You want them to hang a few inches away from your walls, so pick up a grommet/eyelet kit at your local home improvement store (under $8.00) and some 3-4 in. screw hooks. The purpose is for the sound to travel through, hit the wall and bounce back into the blanket. DO NOT wallpaper the entire room with them. Too much dead sound isn't a good thing. My vocal booth is the closet in the spare bedroom. If you can't setup in a closet, find an open corner to hang the blankets. When you're not recording, you'll be able to take down the blankets and store them. I tried the clip-on isolation panel and found it didn't work nearly as well as advertised. A closet full of clothes actually works better!

If you are truly green with recording, a good (free) recording software is Audacity. In technical terms, voice recording is a fairly simple process most of the time. Some of the best recordings I've listened to fall into the KISS category...Keep It Stupid Simple. Once you understand Audacity, you may choose to upgrade to Adobe Audition, Cubase, Reason/Record, etc... But, I'll bet my first born child you'll keep going back to Audacity. I love that program. Btw, my child is officially a teen, so I think I would win either way. lol. Note: I believe Protools to be too much program for voiceover. Even the big v.o. studios don't use 1/100 of what Protools offers. If you want it, buy it, but you don't need it.

On to mics...It's ALL preference. Always try BEFORE you buy. A good starter is an Audio Technica AT2020, but I guarantee you will love the Rode NT1-a. I use an AT4033 almost exclusively. Not a fan of usb mics as they use your computer sound card. An XLR mic interface is a much better sound card.

Lastly, to become a successful voice talent, you must practice, practice, practice and market, market, market. In the beginning, you will audition at least 100 times for every ONE gig you're rewarded. Stay focused! Hire a vocal coach and attend seminars. You will be rewarded tenfold with the knowlege you gain from those willing to help you in your success. The best equipment money can buy doesn't make the talent good. Voiceover is what happens behind the microphone.

I hope that helps you save some $$ on your journey into the wonderful world of voiceover. It's the best gig in the world when you start getting the jobs. 

Thanks Jeff for this submission. It was helpful to me and much more simple. I have been wanting to get into recording for a number of years and now have the perfect opp to get into it. Thanks for the tip on 'audacity'. I'm so excited!

I have read reviews on the Rode NT1-A and it doesn't appear to be as gracious on the high's where as the NT2-A is. It also has 3 different pick up patterns, high pass filter and variable pad. I'm toying with purchasing the NT2-A to get myself going. Most of the radio station I workedout used Shure mics but thet don't seem to feature in the list of must have mics for voice overs. Why is ths? Cheers.

Great comments for a great article. I'm one of the newbees also and I'm working on my setup as we speak. You really do sweat every detail and now I'm trying to see if I have to keep the Mac 15' away from recording or if I can set it on a table and use a table stand for my Rode NT1-A mic? I started with coaching and working towards being able to get my first demo which will be professionally done. I know my limitations!
Will Audacity work with a Mac?

Thanks so much!

Don

Hi Don -

You can use the sE Electronics Project Studio Reflexion Filter to effectively achieve proper microphone isolation in project recording environments. It  minimize reflections, ambiance and other artifacts that would otherwise affect the quality of vocal and instrument recordings.

Audacity offers a version for Mac OS 10.4 and later:

http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/mac

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Dear Jeff,

I read your comment on this article and it seems that you have a lot of experience regarding voice over projects.

I am here to ask you a professional advice. I am about to begin a career in voice over jobs offered online (for family reasons I need to work from home for the moment). I can do projects in arabic, english and italian. I have been surfing the net for the last few days to decide which usb mic is best to begin. A friend of mine recommended Apogee 96K, but I don't have any mac device. I am considering a zoom digital recorder to simplify the mission, what do you think? if you know the brand, which one would you recommend ? H4N or H6 or H2 or what? 

I cannot spend a fortune, I am coming of 5 years of non employment, but I want to have a good professional start as a voice over talent.

One last thing, in case you recommend a mic, which affordable or free download recording software would you recommend? I have a dell pc and an acer notebook and both works with windows system.

Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it.

Haver a nice day,

Isla

Hi Isla -

Here is an excellent USB  Mic"starter" kit:

Those looking for an all-in-one package for recording vocals, instruments, or podcasts should check out the Senal UB-400 USB Mic Desktop Recording Kit from B&H. It includes the Senal UB-400 large diaphragm condenser USB mic, a 6-inch pop filter with gooseneck, and a nearfield absorber.

The UB-400 has a cardioid polar pattern and is capable of recording your audio in up to 16-bit/48kHz resolution. It features a built-in preamplifier as well as a headphone amp with a 1/8" stereo output that allows you to monitor both input and playback from your computer.

To reduce plosives and other vocal noises, a pop filter is included. It has a 13.5-inch gooseneck that allows you to position it as needed. The nearfield absorber further reduces noise your mic will pick up by providing isolation from the natural sound of your room while reducing reflections.

    If you decide to go the portable audio recorder route , the Zoom H6 offers the best quality and ease of use of those you mention.  For VO work,  The DR-100mkII from Tascam would do  a nice job.  Although the built-in mics are very good, an external, separate mic is recommended for the best results:

The Rode NT1-A Complete Vocal Recording Solution is an anniversary microphone package that includes a professional-quality NT1-A microphone and a number of useful recording accessories.

The NT1-A is a large-diaphragm side-address condenser microphone intended for general instrument and vocal recording. The mic features a 1" diaphragm with a gold-plated membrane, which provides a wide frequency response and exceptional signal-to-noise ratio. The cardioid polar pattern provides excellent off-axis rejection, minimizing noise caused by room ambiance, instruments, monitors, headphones, etc. The balanced, transformerless output circuitry results in quiet, low-noise signal reproduction at high output levels. The NT1-A is powered via 48V phantom power and has a standard XLR connector.

The bundled accessory package includes a studio-grade shock mount with an integrated pop filter, a 20' premium cable, and a dust cover. It also has a bonus DVD presented by Rode founder and president, Peter Freedman. The DVD covers a variety of tips and techniques to help you get the most out of your NT1-A.

Live 9 Intro from Ableton is an update to the company's "think different" DAW software that is particularly popular with electronic and beat making creators. The Intro version contains all the basic features of the Standard and Suite versions, but with limited audio and MIDI track counts and fewer effects and sounds. It does retain the two GUI views that include a traditional, vertical-track display with time moving from left to right (Arrangement View), while Session View is a place for experimentation that provides room for improvising, playing and performing with musical ideas without the constraints of the timeline.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Dear BandH,

I would like to podcast, in my wish list i have list Sennheiser PC 161, Sennhieser 280 hmd xq,

audio interface Tascam 200 and 100.

1st question: are these appropriate for podcasting? are the microphones appropriate?

or

2nd quetion should i choose

B and H brodacaster bundle #BLYETIBK

I have been told that this microphone is more appropriate for podcasting.

thankyou for help in this matter.

Shalom, Paul

Hello Paul -

The Sennheiser boom mic/headsets you have selected are designed for PC gaming and IFB communnication applications.  They are not recommended choices for podcasting.  The Blue Yeti THX Broadcaster Bundle has been designed specifically for the novice podcaster and offers smart value in one easy to acquire package.  Just add headphones and a computer and you are ready to start podcasting.  If you have more questions - feel free to e-mail us at: audio@bandh.com

This article has a lot of great information, and was just the sort of thing I was looking for as an audio newb. I still have questions though.

I do freelance work for a company that goes around the country teaching classes on how to use certain software. Specifically, I've produced training DVDs that they then sell online. It pretty much consists of me recording a screencast using the software, and puting in a voiceover that I record separately.

I've been getting by so far with a relatively inexpensive headset mic (that most people use for gaming or Skype). It records well enough, but requires a lot post-production work to get the quality decent: noise removal, sibilance, popping, tongue clicks, etc. to say nothing of noise from the headset itself. If I don't have it sitting just right on my head, my jaw movement can cause the moving parts to shift and click, which the mic picks up. Sometimes I can edit them out, but sometimes they're right in the middle of otherwise good audio and I have to record it over. Needless to say, this is very tedious, and one of my least favorite parts of the process.

I'm looking to upgrade to a more professional setup, but there are a few things. I don't have a lot of money to spend, and I want to make sure that what I spend is worth it, and that what I buy is appropriate for my needs.

I don't have a treated recording space, or the wherewithal in my current situation to make one. I typically just wait for a quiet time to record. My concern is that in this environment, better recording equipment will not give me any real advantage, and in fact might cause more trouble for me. I can't really know until I try it, and it's not an insignificant expense. If I'm going to have to do as much post-production correction with a large-diaphragm condenser mic hooked up with a studio arm, shock mount and pop filter and plugged into an audio interface as I would with my headset, I may as well stay with the headset and save money.

Can you tell me how much merit my concerns have, and give me any more advice?

To get the best bang for your buck,  here are some suggested items that will take care of the audio issues from your headset mic.

Also, regardless of your working environment, having better equipment will save on post-production correction work in the long run.

Please check the links below:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=AUAT2020USBK&N=0&InitialSearch=yes&sts=ma

This kit includes everything you need to get started with high quality voice overs.

Using this gear will definitely diminish the amount of work in post production cleaning up the sound.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/433797-REG/Canon_Powershot_A1200_Digital_Camera.html

Even this kit includes the stand and pop mount that you need to get started.

I recommended USB mics as opposed to XLR mics with an audio interface as this would be more cost effective for your application.

Here is another cost effective kit:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/859297-REG/MXL_Tempo_USB_Microphone_Bundle.html

Thanks for the info! I went with the MXL Tempo bundle, and so far it's been working out very well. It took a little adjustment to my recording setup, but I'm happy with the results. My voice comes out a little deeper than my old headset mic. With the microphone level set low, speaking close to it, I also pick up my voice clearly and hardly any of the outdoor noises. One noise pass in Audition and it's as clean as I could like, and I've had none of the other problems I had with the headset. This has already made my job a lot easier.

This is a very helpful article but I wanted to ask a question. I noticed under Dynamic Broadcast Mics there was a picture of the Audio Technica AT2020 XLR(not to be confused with the USB version). Under Dynamic Broadcast Mics, it says that they don't need phantom power. But the AT2020 XLR must have been accidentally placed into the photo because it is not a Dynamic Broadcast Mic and also requires 48V phantom power. I just wanted to inform you so that nobody gets confused here.

Hello -

It can be confusing and we thank you for your input.  The image we included of the  Audio-Technica AT2020 - Cardioid Condenser Recording Microphone actually refers to the section just below it, titled:

What are the pros and cons of Large Diaphragm Condenser Mics?

If you have additional questions or need help with someting else, please contact us via e-mail: AskBH@BandH.com.

My intentions are to get involved with voice over producing my manuscripts as audio books. After reading your articles I realized this is an amazing field. With shallow pockets what equipment would you recommend to get me started that can be added on to later? I've heard my voice evaluation and am satisfied with my abilities.
Your explanations in the articles of equipment was exceptional!

Hello RW -

 A simple USB microphone would offer the least expensive and simplest solution.  It will not be expandable.  The Blue Snowball USB Condenser Microphone with Accessory Pack (Ice) is a great entry-level choice.  

The Blue Snowball incorporates Blue's revolutionary Ball microphone design with the added convenience of a USB output. The USB output allows an audio signal to be fed directly to software-based recording applications without unnecessary preamplifiers or hardware. The Snowball features a cardioid pickup pattern for a more focused pickup and generally "hears" whatever the mic is pointed at. The sensitivity and signal character of the Snowball result in outstanding clarity and detail while capturing vocals, guitars, drums, and more at CD-quality rates of 16-bit/44.1kHz. The mic comes complete with a desktop stand and a USB cable so you can begin recording right away.

A more professional, expandable choice would be to select a USB interface and a condensor microphone:

PreSonus AudioBox USB - Audio Recording Interface - he AudioBox from Presonus is a two-channel USB computer audio interface. It utilizes high-grade components to ensure optimum performance and features 24-bit converters that sample at 44.1 or 48kHz, two high-quality PreSonus microphone preamps with switchable 48V phantom power, MIDI I/O and solid drivers.

Audio-Technica AT2035 Cardioid Condenser Side-Address Microphone - The Audio-Technica AT2035 Cardioid Condenser Microphone is a well suited solution for home studios, project recording and live sound reinforcement alike. The side-address condenser microphone features a cardioid polar pattern for minimal feedback and off-axis noise. The element and output stage combine to produce a smooth yet natural audio quality with low noise.

If you have more questions  - please e-mail us at: AskBH@BandH.com

Hello, I purchased this kit two weeks, very good quality. I have a WIN7 OS 64 Bit and we are having latency issues causing major delays in the headphone signal while recording no matter the audio software (Reaper, Audacity, AVS).

I am assuming, after reading NUMEROUS threads on other sites, that the solution is to not use the computer for monitoring and that we should a device that amplifies the microphone signal and sends that signal to my headphone before the signal gets to the computer. Well, as you know from teh kit below teh mic uses a USB connector.. I cannot find any audio interfaces on your site that would work the kit we bought below? Please help?

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=AUAT2020USBK&N=0&InitialSearch=...

Hello Skip -

The latency you are experiencing is completely normal with your set-up.  That is why some manufacturer's include a headphone monitor output on the USB mic itself to eliminate monitor latency issues at the source.  A simple solution would be to trade up top one of the USB mics withh this feature:

The MXL Studio 24 USB Microphone is ideally suited for podcasters, musicians, singers or anyone in need of a quality microphone for recording audio directly to Windows or Mac OS software. The large diaphragm condenser element features a cardioid polar pattern, and the microphone's USB port is completely plug-&-play and doesn't require any drivers to run.

The Studio 24 USB features latency-free headphone monitoring with its built-in headphone output and level control. The microphone also features software controlled tools such as noise gate, adjustable leveler (limiter), high-pass filter settings, microphone input gain, output level and more. The Studio 24 USB includes a microphone stand, microphone stand mount, USB cable and case.

Gotcha, can I get partial credit back for the mic I bought in the Kit and pay the difference? Please let me know how...

Hello Skip -

Products cannot be substituted in our kits but you will  need to contact our Customer Service department for a return and/or exchange of merchandise:

How to return or exchange an item:

  • In order to return an item you need to first obtain an RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) number.
  • To request an RMA number online click here.
  • To request an RMA number by phone, call Customer Service at 800.606.6969 / 212.444.6615 .
  • E-mail:  CS@BandH.com

 If you have additional questions - please e-mail us at:  AskBH@BandH.com

please help,i have a laptop computer,and a mxl 990 mike that i have going into an art tube phamton power preamp from the preamp what kind of interface would you suggest and also would you get a small mixer as well,Now all i am doing is going directly from the mikes preamp into the mike input on the side of the laptop.

I would look at the ART XConnect, it will connect to the output of your preamp, and the USB port on your computer. There will be no need to an additional mixer.

By using the art x connect will this improve my quality of this mike i am using,what i am tyring to do is enter the voiceover business...and than would you advise later going into a small mixer?

This will be the proper input level for your system, and will provide better quality audio. If you plan on adding mics in the future, you can use a mixer like this one.

If I'm using a Shure SM27 mic going into a DBX 286s channel strip, after that point, could I just go with something like a Behringer UCA202 rather than paying triple the price for a computer audio interface with many of the features I would already have on my channel strip? It's strictly for VO with 1 mic. Would I be losing quality by going with the very basic interfaces? I read the Audio Interfaces Buying Guide but it didn't mention instances where you're using other equipment other than the mic. What are your recommendations?

I'd appreciate your input, thank you.

The audio interface would play a big part of the quality as well. I would recommend using an audio interface that would have balanced audio connectors like the DBX 286s. There are interfaces like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 that would offer balanced line inputs, as well as better audio converters then that of the Behringer UCA202. Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions: AskBH@BandH.com

This is the best guide I have yet come across for the fascinating world of video making and voice over work. I have already worked as a voice talent, recording voice for two children's books. I am also a member of a video editing club and we have made two movies so far. The biggest challenge of the editing process was - you guessed it - sound! There is so much to learn, and I seem to be learning by mistakes ;-)

This spring we shall embark on a historical short-film about the burning down and subsequent planning and rebuilding of Vaasa in Finland.

I'd just like to say thank you for this great guide!

This was an awesome guide. Very helpful and informative. Thanks!

Hi what an informative article.
I do need advice though. I am a professional voice over artist and have recently been working from home. Think I have lots to learn re set up and quality though Ive recently upgraded from a portable marantz unit and because of increase in work have what I thought upgraded and set up in a spare room.
My audio interface is a Focusrite Scarlet 2i2, I bought a Behringer B1 microphone, freestanding mic stand and shock mount and pop shield Gold plated XLR lead and use it with my lap top resting on desk.
I have some treatment in the room ,a type of vocal box with auralex foam, which I position the mic in.

However when I record the sound waves are quite small and the recording quiet, and if I turn the scarlet up there is some noise on the recording. However though the actual recording set up etc is easier, I had expected the quality to be better than the Marantz.
I did get back to customer support at Focusrite as it had been advertised as low noise. They however blame my microphone obviously not thinking a lot of the Behringer.

Ive been doing work on a minor scale and clients have been pleased.
However a recent client asked for recent samples (whod been happy with the Marantz recordings in the past) and rejected them saying thgeyb were not professional quality.
I cant afford to record in a studio every time for small jobs so I want my home set up to be a good compromise.
I wondered if I should upgrade my mic to a AT 4040 as I know other VOs that use this. However would this pick up more external noise?
eg noise from my laptop fans.
What do you think.
Also in the article you refer to "outboard gear". Is this where I am going wrong.
Heelpp I cant afford to pay too much to upgrade if Im only going to get small jobs but perhaps ill never get bigger jobs if the quality isnt as good.

Hi Jay Jay -

The Audio-Technica AT4040 is an excellent choice in a large diaphragm, cardioid capacitor microphone.  It compares well with mics costing hundreds more.  I expect you will notice a lowered noise floor as well.  You may also want to consider the Studio Projects VTB-1. It's a single channel low cost microphone preamplifier, incorporating true class A/B switching. The unit is perfect for the professional and home project studio doing production, broadcast and voice over work. The difference it can make will astound you!

A "Tube Drive" control allows the user to blend as little or as much of the 12AX7 tube circuitry as required. The VTB-1 can go from a pristine solid state sound, to any combination of Tube Drive, including hard distortion for guitars and bass.

Microphone Preamp
Vocal microphone preamp with warm transparent character that doubles as a Tube DI Box. Discreet, current-source fed, paralleled-transistor balanced input stage feeds a bipolar opamp balanced-unbalanced converter. A dual feedback design provides for low distortion performance while a two stage design provides up to 45dB gain with the second stage contributing up to 15dB gain.
 
Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

This is a very good read.   Very informative.  But it does indirectly suggest that usb voice over microphones are not suitable for voice over work.

hi there;
Can someone explain to me how to connect outboard gears, how to microphone preamp, dynamics processors and channel strip into audio interface.
Audio Interface : Line6 Ux8
Mic Preamp: Behringer mic2200
Dynamics Processors: Behringer mdx4600
channel Strip: Still looking for one
Can you please tell me asap

Hi   -

Connect in this order:

Mic preamp >dynamics processor>channel strip> audio interface.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

I am just starting out in the voice over business and this was the most informative, straight forward and unbiased article that I have read. All of the other articles that I have read on the various voice over websites really never explained what was needed and why. This article really clarified all of my questions. When I finished reading the first thing I did was to bookmark the page and put the B&H address in my contacts so I can stop by there next week.
Thank you for the information!!

This HAS to be the best unbiased article on how and what you need to do voice over, podcasting or any audio work.
I've been away from the VO biz and am just now getting back into it.
Very informative!

Thank you.

hello,

This article is a great one. I finally figured out why people use headphones while recording in a great thorough answer. I have been trying to get an answer for this for some time now and it was all mixed answers honestly.

I have a question though I have a studio headphones Fostex. So I would wear these while plugged into the computer while recording then? I had to purchase another item after this in order it to plug into the pc. So If I am understanding correctly I would plug it into the headphone jack site and then record the voice-over? Would this automatically cancel out the noise in the computer of normal sound then? And hearing playback while recording how do you do that hearing your voice as you record? I thought you would have to record the voice-over and then just listen back to it again?

Hi -

You wear the headphones to monitor the mix you are creating and also to listen to the playback.  You may need to turn off your computer's internal speakers manually if this does not happen automatically when your headphones are connected.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Hi there,

One of the most comprehensive well written articles that I have come across on podcasting equipment- well done!

Can I please ask - I have a Rode Procaster XLR mic, a DBX286s and a Mackie 802 mixer along with a Tascam DR07 digital recorder. Is there anything in that set up for podcasting that you would regard as a weak link or is there anything else I could slot in to further improve recording quality especislly in terms of de-essing?

Many thanks

Neil

Hi -

The recorder does not accept XLR inputs but that may not be critical to a podcast.  How about a USB interface to bring it all into your computer?  You do not need to get fancy:

The AudioBox 22VSL from PreSonus is a portable 2 input/2 output USB 2.0 audio and MIDI interface that allows for monitoring with low-latency effects. It features two combo microphone/instrument inputs with Class-A XMAX microphone preamps, and ships with Studio One Artist DAW software.

The compression, limiting, semi-parametric EQ, high-pass filter, reverb, and delay effects are the same as found on the company's StudioLive 16.0.2 mixer. Additionally, the AudioBox Virtual Studio- Live "kernal mode" cuts monitoring latency to under 2 1/2 milliseconds, which is virtually inaudible.

The unit is USB bus-powered and housed in a ruggedly built, metal chassis. Phantom power can be switched globally. Clip lights are provided for both channels

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Thanks for quick response. Can I ask (as a newbie to podcasting) what would be the advantages of slotting the Presonus into my set up? I take your point about the XLR/USB connection, but is there more to your suggestion? Can I also please ask the order in which the above bits of kit would all be connected together? Many thanks
Neil

To begin with, thank you for the detailed and informative article.  Like others have already mentioned, I found it to be more helpful than any other single article on the web.  

I am in the process of purchasing equipment for voice over work.  Before I submit my order to B&H I would like to confirm that I have an understanding of what I'll need (meaning what will provide professional results).  From all the reviews I have seen, I have settled on purchasing the RE20 microphone.  Through your article I believe that I should also be purchasing a channel strip as well as an audio interface.  For the channel strip, I am leaning towards the dbx 286s and for the audio interface possibly the focusrite scarlett 2i2.  My questions are:  Am I correct in understanding that if purchasing the RE20, a channel strip and audio interface are necessary?  Also, will the equipment I mentioned provide professional results (assuming all else being equal) or do you suggest looking at something different?  Finally, I recently had someone tell me that I should buy only cables that have gold connections yet I am almost certain that years ago I read somewhere that cables with gold connections have no measurable functional value over other cables.  

Thank you again not just for the excellent article, but also the comment section that B&H continues to answer.

Hi Brendan -

The gear you are considering will yield professional results.  Although the channel strip is not required, per se - most VO pros would agree that it is essential to ensure the very best recording. The USB interface is absolutely necessary to route the audio signal to your computer for recording and editing.  Gold connectors may deliver a slight edge (measurable but not easily heard) in transferring of the audio signal, as they afford better conductivity.  I feel their best feature is that gold anodized contacts resist oxidation (rust) which will degrade a signal and may damage the equipment that they are connected to. 

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Interested

voice over setup