BenBax

Voice-over Recording Studio Tips

Contact me to have your question answered! I'll try to answer them, but if you ask me questions along the lines of "what do you think of the DF23905 compander with flange add-on?" then I can't answer - all the equipment I've used I have mentioned on these 6 pages! This is page 6 of a 6 page article - please read the first 5 pages before asking me - you may find the answer is already there!

Previous messages of note (and my replies):

i am thinking of starting a home voiceover studio to produce a language learning audio material by myself(using my own voice). i had no idea how to do about it so i'd been searching on the net but there's was no useful information available in japanese so i ended up here.

i have a couple questions about equipment.

#1. do you think the windshield shure A2WS could be a good alternative for my shure sm57? they don't sell A81WS here in japan and international shipping can be very expensive.

#2. what is the best mic pre-amp to be used with BEHRINGER MDX2600 and sm57? i have a terratec phase x24fw. i connect my sm57 directly into this fw interface but i'm not satisfied with its low input level. so i'm thinking of buying a mic pre-amp as well as MDX2600.

#3. or do you think just buying a condenser mic like at4040 would be a better option for what i have now?

thank you very much in advance.

Ben's Response:

Hi Yusuke,

The A2WS fits onto your existing SM57 and will prevent it from making 'pop' sounds and breath noises when you are speaking close to the microphone. Because it is simply a piece of foam, it is not heavy at all to send by post.

I'm really no expert in the pre-amps, but most modern mixers such as Behringers, have really good mic pre-amps. They are also very cheap to buy compared to prices a few years ago. This will raise the level from your SM57 for the MDX2600.

A condenser microphone will give you a slightly crisper sound, but they pick up a lot more sound from your room, and noise your neighbours make, PC fan, traffic noise, AC, etc.

Hope this helps!

Ben

Reply:

Thank you very much for your quick and kind reply. I will get an A2WS that's available here in Japan at $10. If I don't like it I will think about getting an A81WS from the US.

I will try Behringer mixer for sm57 and MDX2600 and see how I will like its sounding.

I think I should stick with my sm57 since the only problem I have at the moment is not enough input gain when I plug it into my firewire interface.

Thanks a lot. You've been a great help!


Hi Ben. Thank you for the site, I read it top to bottom.

I'm looking to get a new mic, I use a CAD dynamic that plugs directly into my sound card & I use Steinberg to edit. I would like a mic that has a rich sound to it, but gives my voice some ressonance. Basically I do VO, but for myself, I'm an amateur.
Was looking at getting an SM7 but then saw what you said about the 57. Then when I looked at your grid for value and sound quality, you had rated the AT2020 very high. I never talk directly into the mic, so a side-addressed mic would work well. I know I would need a power box and would have to make sure my accoustic situation was suitable (maybe record at night & create a little sound shield around myself).
What would you recommend if I'm looking for a clear, ressonating voice (voice of god)? I can edit mouth noises (but hate to have to).
Thanks again Ben! Love your demos!
Tim

Ben's Response:

Thanks for your kind comments. The SM57 should flatter your voice - I suppose you could call it a 'friendly' mic! With a windshield, it's impossible to pop, and is forgiving with regard to room acoustics because its pick-up is much smaller than a condenser's. The SM57 I personally found better than the SM7 - especially for the money.
The AT2020 is more crisp and clear sounding, but more accurate (more mouth noises, more room sounds pick-up). If you're wanting 'voice of god' stuff, you probably need a dynamic (like the SM57). With the windshield for the SM57, you can lip-mic with it and never pop. You will need to talk directly into it, because it will reject sounds that are off-axis.
Remember, with condenser mics you'll need phantom power, but most cheap Behringer mixers have this.
Although I haven't used one, the AKG Precision 100 is thought by some to be superior to the AT2020 and is the same price.

Hope this helps!

Reply:

You're the best. I love Ben Eden productions, wish I could hear more of your work, but I'm in the USA.

I currently use a dynamic Cardioid, but it's not that great. One quick question, would the SM57 muffle my voice? I ask only because I sell CDs where I give instruction, etc and having a clear sound is great... but editing mouth noise (and I still have them even with the CAD I'm using now) takes FOREVER...

So, muffled or no muffled?
Thanks Ben! Happy times to you my friend,
Tim

Ben's Response:

Muffled is a strong word. The SM57 won't sound as 'crisp' as a condenser at the very high end, but it's certainly not muffled. In fact, I often use it for non-broadcast voice work, and I get compliments much more often than when I used a C414. I don't think most people can hear over 16Khz anyway, so you're not missing much.

For the amount they cost, it's worth trying one out and if you don't like it (which I doubt!) you can stick it on eBay and lose very little.

Give it a go and let me know how you find it.


Whats your opinion on the Beyerdynamic M99?

I plan to use it with mbox2 pro tools LE for voice overs on video productions.

What alternatives do you recommend at a reasonable price to performance?

Ben's Response:

Looks like a nice mic - never seen or used one before you emailed, so have no opinion I'm afraid!

Probably will be better for you than a Rode NT1 which is a condenser with very low noise. Dynamics give a warmer more flattering sound, and I personally prefer them over condensers.

I'd love to hear how it sounds - let me know if you have success with it!

Follow up from enquirer:

After looking around I opted for the AT4040.

What's your opinion of this mic for voice-over/vocals and maybe a bit of foley?

I plan to use it on my computer desk, will it pick up computer noises on recordings?

How important is it to use one of those reflection/shield devices around the mic?

Do you suggest I use a pop shield with it, or a wind shield to protect it, or leave it as it is for best recording.

Appreciate your help.

Ben's Response:

I must say it's a pity you have gone for the AT4040 mic especially when considering what you will be primarily using it for. A visitor who emailed me (and whose response is on my site) said how he finds his similar AT4047 picks up EVERYTHING in the room. So yes, it will pick up your PC, and any other noises from your room or indeed your building. It is a very sensitive mic.

Again, it's a mic I've never used so can't really give you an opinion. I would have personally gone for the M99 - it sounded like it would be more flattering to voice and would be easier to control with regard to acoustic treatment, directionality, mic technique. To quote the blurb, "Beyer’s M99 cardioid dynamic announcer mic produces just the type of clean, robust sound required for on-air announcing and voice-over work with excellent off axis noise rejection and low handling noise. The large diaphragm neodynium element is specially tuned for voiceover warmth and clarity"

For a mic like the AT4040 you will need to treat the room acoustically, or you will sound like you are recording in a boxy room, which isn't the sound you want. Esentially, they are made for recording studios which are acoustically treated. I didn't find the Reflexion Filter worked for me - I needed more acoustic treatment behind me, not in front.

If you have excellent mic technique, you will not need a pop shield or windshield. If you are not used to speaking close to large diaphragm mics, you will need one or both to prevent many ruined recordings due to pops.

Let me know what you think, and/or your reasons for opting for the AT4040. I'm just talking from my limited experience - I had a large dia. AKG C414 but have sold it in favour of using my dynamic mics because they don't pick up my PC or any extraneous noise I don't want to record.

Follow up from enquirer:

Yes I think you may be right. I am in the process of returning this the AT4040.

My needs are that of clean, low noise, high quality voice over and foley work to broadcast televsion standards.

Would you recommend the shotgun type mics used on film and tv work as a decent voice over/foley mic? Instead of getting the specific voice over such as the M99 as it could also be used out on location for sound recording. I would have dual purpose so instead of buying 2 specific mics I would just buy 1 high quality shotgun and use it for multi purpose uses.

Do you the signal to noise ratios of shotguns, when I was using one it picked up alot of noise on the recording compared to the clip on mic I also used on that shoot. So ended up using the audio from the clip mic.

I am considering the shot gun mics from Beyerdynamic's broadcast range, is there one in particular you would reccommend?

Thanks for your help

Ben's Response:

Shotgun mics do not work as voice-over mics in a studio setting. They are far too directional and give a very metal sound - not warm on the voice at all. I can see what you're trying to do, but these two applications are very different and I think you should try starting off by buying a VO mic such as the M99 and see how well it does when used for foley work to see if you can get away without needing another mic. It would have to be much nearer the source than a shotgun would be to pick-up the sound though.


I'm a new v.o just starting out- got a decent voice reel etc, and about to send it out, but many agents won't accept you without your own recording equipment, or access to cheap facilities. I'm London based...any suggestions? I'd really appreciate it as I have no idea where to start. I'm not thick- but not over-tech-savvy either!

Ben's Response:

Please read the previous pages of this article on this website - you are the reason why I wrote it.


Hello Ben,

Thanks very much for the chance to ask these specific questions. A colleague recommended your site for its considered assistance and straight-talking opinions; I know that, for those of us not yet up to speed on technical home-studio issues and choices, your website and accessibility are comforting and appreciated.

I'm hoping you won’t mind addressing the specific decisions I face in setting up my home studio. I'm a former broadcaster/professional speaker who's been out of the game for a while; I’ve now been asked to take on some (narration/audio book) voiceover projects for former speaking clients and realize that, as production technology has largely passed me by, I’m in rather urgent need of informed technical guidance (in the past, I was able to depend on sound specialists to handle the technological/engineering end of a project; with those folks long retired, I’m learning a new field).

My first need is a microphone. In the absence of a realistic opportunity to 'test-drive' various models to gauge their compatibility with my voice, what would your recommendation be to maximize the voiceover result in the following voiceover circumstance?

I know that, based on previous work on a similar voiceover project, the optimal vocal effect will result from my mouth’s being very close to the mic and my narrating in a deep, intimate timbre with controlled volume but, of course, plenty of inflection (my speaking voice is deep, rich and mellow, suggesting seductive authority).

The recording environment will vary: on some occasions, the work will be done in a quiet, remote location (little ambient noise but, otherwise, no special soundproofing in the carpeted, panelled room); on other occasions, the work will be done in whatever circumstance I happen to find myself (cottage, rural accommodation, etc., where they could be the distant din of traffic, birds’ chirping or a door’s closing).

Based on that limited description, could I ask you to offer a couple of suggestions regarding likely microphone candidates (money is always a consideration, of course; however, realizing how this key component can affect/complement the end product, I’m willing to consider a higher-end option if, in your opinion, its superior performance justifies the greater price.

Based on the above mic recommendation, may I ask what additional components/accessories (preamp/mixer, etc.) you’d recommend? Would you say that, whichever mic one selects, those additional components should be individually selected based on their proven compatibility with that specific microphone...or is it more likely that today’s components typically have crossover compatibility and should be expected to perform well regardless of pre-existing mic/component configuration?

I do recall a number of people saying to me, over the years, that no one mic would serve all circumstances or projects/voices; in the event that I later acquire additional, more specialized microphones, would all of the components you might suggest for my home studio be presumed to work well with the specialized microphones in that collection? (In fact, would it make sense that, since roughly 50% of the VO work will be done in a quiet home studio and the other 50% will be in areas of likely greater environmental background noise, I should consider two mics, with each one specifically suited to one of those scenarios?

Finally, Ben, has an industry-standard software application emerged for professional voiceover work? While my immediate projects will involve primarily narration, I expect to also need to create some future commercials, trailers, etc.

Again, thank you so much for your time. I know this is a rather detailed inquiry and I hope you won’t mind addressing these issues for me; it really is appreciated.

Ben's Response:

Microphone: although a 1" diaphragm condenser is oft used, I would worry that its wide pick-up may hear too much ambient noise if you aren't always in a acoustic studio environment. In this instance, I would recommend the Beyer M201. I recently bought one and am very impressed by the clarity, directionality and price. It's a dynamic, so it doesn't even need phantom power. I know these are used on the major BBC speech network on FM here in the UK.

Don't mic too close though. What it sounds like you're doing is forcing the proximity effect - a bass increase as the mouth is nearer the mic pick-up. In perfect circumstances, it should be a hand's width away. But if extraneous noise is being picked-up, then you may have to get nearer.

I would suggest you get a few acoustic panels - perhaps just 24" square size, mounted on pegboard. You can then create your own make-shift booth wherever you are. Failing this, carpet, blankets, duvet or matresses can be used to deaden bare walls.

To stop recording the noise the mic will pick up when you are not actually speaking, you should get a 'gate' like the Behringer one I mention on the site. It will not only limit your mixer's signal (no accidental overloads), but also compress it (more even signal) and silently mute the microphone when the signal level has dropped below the level of your speech. i.e. when you're not speaking, the mic is automatically muted so that it doesn't pick up any ambient noise. When you're speaking, it won't hear the noise anyway because your voice will be many times louder than the noise by comparison.

You should get a mixer - even just a small one with a few mic channels. Behringer do a lot of very nice priced ones. It will probably have phantom power, which you may find you need in the future if you buy other microphones.

If you're doing studio voice work, then a large diaphragm condenser would be fine - e.g. AT2020 or AKG P100. For location work, you will benefit from a tighter polar pattern which large diaphragms don't really do. So therefore a dynamic such as the M201, an SM57 (if you don't need incredibly crisp high-end). I would highly recommend a big windshield for any mic you buy to stop it from popping - especially as you'll be so close to it.

Cool Edit 2000 was the industry standard, which is very old now. I think the new name for the package is now called "Adobe Audition".

Hope this helps!

I'd be interested to know how you get on.

Response:

Thanks so much for your reply. I'd meant to ask whether you felt the Electro Voice RE20 may be particularly suited to the type of work I described. Could I get your opinion?

Ben's Response:

I wasn't over-impressed with it as I'm sure you've read on the first page of my website.
You get a lot more high end with the M201. Plus it's hyper cardioid rather than just cardioid.
The RE20 also needs a LOT of gain - I totally maxxed out my Mackie mixer.
I sold mine in the end. Some people love 'em but not me.


Hi there, i would just like to say how sensable and easy to understand your articles are.
I have 1 question and is the reason i found your site was i had seen the akg d202 microphone come up as a good speech microphone (as used in the houses of parliment) and although you say you had one i could not find any referance to it in your articles. Could you let me know if they are indeed as good as they say they are. Many thanks for your time.

Ben's Response:

Thank you. I suppose the Rocket (as it used to be nicknamed) was a very good dynamic mic at the time. It's no longer made of course.
You'd see it in all the BBC radio studios, local and national, as the main presenter mic in the 70s and 80s. Some local BBC stations
were even using them into the 90s! The intriguing thing about it is that it lets the bass sounds in the back near the XLR connector.
I don't really know whether they "are as good as they say they are" because to be honest I've never heard anyone talk about them or
seen any reviews of them on websites. It was pretty good - I suppose the modern equivalent would be the Beyer M201. I bought mine
from the USA 2nd hand and sold it a few years ago. I seem to remember an engineer friend telling me to be really careful with it as
they seriously don't like being dropped! Hope this helps.

 

The Archive

Here are parts of this article that have been moved here because the microphones are discontinued.

Electrovoice CO4

I noticed Electrovoice's CO4 (AKA Cobalt 4) has a similar look and purpose to the SM57, but with an extended response that goes up to 18kHz. At less than half the price of the SM57, it receives very favourable reviews in audio forums (although no frequency response graphs are available). EV seem to have frequency response graphs for dynamic mics that go way higher than other manufacturer's, but every methodology for testing may be different between manufacturers may be different. I saw an eBay listing for one recently and the seller said, "used this next to a Shure Beta 57 and SM57 and it beats them hands down for gain and clarity."

CO4

 

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