Voice-over Recording Studio Tips

MicrophonesPlease do feel free to 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-B compander with double-plus flange add-on?" then I'm afraid I can't answer - all the equipment I've used I have mentioned on the previous 4 pages. This is page 5 of a 6 page article - please read the first 5 pages before asking me - you may find the answer is already here!


Previous messages of note (and my replies):

What a superb article on voiceover mics, very helpful. I completely agree with you regarding the Audio Technica ATM31A, it does have a very rich sound to it and I've used one myself many times in the past. A very under-rated and often overlooked piece of kit indeed.

Q: Hey Ben, I found your article on voice over microphones very interesting. Since it seems that you like to answer questions, I was wondering if you have any tips for minimizing environmental noise. I am in NE Brazil and need to voice over about 18 hours of audio for an English course; my equipment consists of a computer with ProTools LE (MBox), and an SM57 and a set of Sony headphones. It is hot enough where I am that closing windows is not really an option, unless there is an air conditioner going (this would be very noisiy, and counterproductive). I am thinking of recording at night when it is quieter, and maybe surrounding myself with clothing to cut out any remaining noise. Thanks for any tips! Karl

Ben's response: It must be nice in Brazil. It's one of my favourite Frank Sinatra songs!

Seeing as you have an SM57 like me, you don't need to do anything about the noise except buy a Behringer Composer Pro MDX2200 (or updated equivalent). The SM57's pickup is so small compared to condensers, that you don't need any acoustic treatment in the room really (unless it's really bare and echoey). However, the MDX2200 has _the_ function you will need - a noise gate. After you've set it up (easy - only 2 knobs) you can have it so that any background noise below a certain level is automatically faded down, transparently. When you speak, the level of your voice will re-open the source. Depending on the quality of the recording required and the level of your voice, you may even be able to keep your AC on in the background - ideally as far away from the mic as possible, and behind it rather than in front of the pick-up. I'm not sure, but you may be able to do this filter in post in ProTools, but I find it easier to do at the source.

Seeing as you have an SM57, you don't need to do anything about the noise except buy a Behringer Composer Pro MDX2200. The SM57's pickup is so small compared to condensers, that you don't need any acoustic treatment in the room really (unless it's really bare and echoey). However, the MDX2200 has the function you will need - a noise gate. After you've set it up (easy - only 2 knobs) you can have it so that any background noise below a certain level is automatically faded down, transparently. When you speak, the level of your voice will re-open the source. Depending on the quality of the recording required and the level of your voice, you may even be able to keep your AC on in the background - ideally as far away from the mic as possible, and behind it rather than in front of the pick-up. I'm not sure, but you may be able to do this filter in post in ProTools, but I find it easier to do at the source.

I do recommend the large windshield for the SM57 or popper stopper - it will stop you popping the mic - the windshield A81WS will let you lip-mic. I love it, but it wasn't cheap. I prefer recording at night.

I don't have problems with temperature as I live in the north of England - the sound of rain outside is more of a problem!

Q: I (who know nothing about audio recording) have been tasked with buying a microphone and minidisc recorder to take out with me to Tanzania in 2 weeks for a friend wanting to make recordings of broadcast quality for bbc world service. My friend in TZ knows v.little about equipment requirements and other friend at BBC W.S was equally vague saying "Sony minidisc recorder about £150 + Beyerdynamic M58 mic" but also something about recorder being able to automatically adjust recording level to voice rather than needing a mixer...means nowt to me! Obviously it needs to be a portable recorder and have a usb connection but there are so many models and I don't understand the technical blurb. Can you recommend any particular sony models? I don't have a problem with the mic.
Cheers for any advice,

Ben's response: I have two portable minidisc recorders and I love them. One is the (now very old) MZR3 and the other is the MZR37. They both have mic inputs and were the standard for audio field recording for broadcast radio. I'm not sure what they use today - probably some sort of solid-state memory recorder. But for availability and price, portable minidiscs still win out. I bought a newer generation Sony minidisc recorder in about 2001 and was rather disappointed in the auto recording level function - it seemed to be overloaded very easily (unlike my old units) and I sent it back. I'm not too sure what they're like these days, what with USB connections and all, so I couldn't really advise you. My suggestion would be to buy one to test out before you leave the country to make sure it's not overmodulating the audio from the microphone, otherwise all of your recordings would be poor quality and potentially unbroadcastable. Get the one that uses your budget up (i.e. don't get the cheapest you find). You may be able to get advice from a minidisc forum or newsgroup?

The Beyer M58 is okay as a journalist's microphone for news conferences, etc. It's an omnidirectional dynamic. I personally love my Audio Technica ATM31a which is a cardioid condenser mic which sounds so good - studio quality on the streets - but that's because I'm not a journalist and look after it (they bash mics around quite a bit). Audio Technica have a few stereo field mics that may be interesting to use...

I would assume you can borrow this sort of equipment from the BBC. But most importantly you must gain a good grasp of the equipment and recording techniques before you go out recording in the field, or your recordings will show inexperience. Take lots of batteries, and I would advise a back-up mic too.

The Electrovoice RE50 is another popular omnidirectional reporter's mic

Best wishes, & good luck!

Q: Hi, Ben ! I`m 30 years old musician, composer, radio & TV (sound) advertising, VOICE OVER maker from Serbia. I have a litle private studio (special isolation room, PC with EMU0404 card, Tannoy Reaveal monitors, Alesis RA150 amp, Behringer mix...) So many years i work with dynamic Shure SM58, than with Beta SM58a. Now it`s time to get a some condenser microphone in a budget. I`m thinking about AT 3035, or RODE NT1a.What is your sugestions? Thank you, very much !

Ben's response: I would go for the Rode NT1a - it has very low self noise and comes with a suspension mount. As an alternative, I would choose an AT4033 over the AT3035 - I've seen more AT4033s in studios and radio stations than I have 3035s.
Either way, you'll find they're completely different sounding to the Shure dynamics you've been using and you'll really appreciate your isolation room!

I used to use large condenser microphones, but recently I've been using an SM57 and have been receiving more compliments than before! (although they are all 'domestic' clients).

Other people will advise you to go to a microphone shop and try a few microphones out to hear which one sounds best with your voice, but I've always felt this is impractical.

Good luck & best wishes, and let me know how you get on.

====================FOLLOW UP======================

Hi, Ben !
I must praise, 3 days ago I became the proud owner of a RODE NT1000 !!! Price-260eur in Belgrade.
Great microphone, with much more brightness than my dynamic Shure Beta 58. 20hz-20khz sounds amazing, but I have a some problems.When I record my voice onto the computer, some letters, such as a P and B get to be too high, dramaticaly higher then other letter. Please tell me, what can I do about this problem? Today, I come to buy POP killer. I plan to by some compressor-limiter such as a TC Electronic C300, or something else...My budget is not presently. I think about 200 eur to spend.What do you think about this?
Thank you Ben for your patience and for your time !!!
Excuse me for my bad English !

Ben's response: Yes - you are 'popping' the mic. Maybe you are too close to it. If you can angle it so that it is slightly to one side of your face, then when you say anything with a "P" the microphone capsule does not receive the full-on force of plosive air from your mouth. A popper-stopper should stop it though.

Behringer's compressors are excellent and cheap. I have added an extra section on page 2 which talks about them - just next to the mixer photo.

Q: Dear Ben

I am trying to set up a cheapo voice-recording studio in my bedsit, I have a Compaq D310 PC and an M-Audio Mobile Pre - I have a Shure (48 I think), but I can't get a good response - which is the best microphone for £70 or under?

Ben's response: If you have phantom power, you could get an Audio Technica AT2020 (left). I have one and it's very good. A Studio Projects B1 might also be a good pick. AKG have a new mic just out called the P100 (right). It received a favourable review in Sound On Sound magazine and I know people who love it. These are all under £70.

Condenser mics, especially larger diaphragm ones like those I've suggested, will reveal the acoustics of your bedsit. Use duvets and blankets to deaden the sound if it's echoey. Ultimately though, you need a proper mixer to be able to EQ the sound before it goes into your computer.

Q: Hello, I'm making a short film with a very low budget on a Panasonic PV-GS65 Camcorder. Hey, you got to start somewhere. Anyway, I need to record a great deal of Voice over and I was wondering if you had any ideas of what someone can use for cheap. Any advice would be great.

Ben's response: If it's on a camcorder, the audio quality will probably not be 'broadcast quality' so you don't have to worry so much about the frequency spectrum of professional studio microphones to record your narration with.

Almost any good microphone will do - condenser microphones (some use batteries to power them) will sound richer than dynamic mics - just make sure that you don't make any handling noise when you're recording (by moving your hands or the mic cable) and avoid plosives (whenever your narrator says the letter 'p', e.g. postman) as it will overload the microphone and distort the sound. To get a sound without hearing the acoustics of your room, record them under a duvet which will prevent sound waves bouncing off bare walls and ceilings.

Q: Hi Ben, great VO article on your site . . . thanks for posting that. Have you ever used a Shure SM7 mic (now called SM7B)? It's fairly common in U.S. radio broadcast studios. I'm considering buying it because my existing large condenser (A-T 4047) picks up EVERYTHING and I just can't acoustically treat this place as much as I would like. My primary use is not VOs exactly, but rather webcasts and personal audio journals. Thoughts?

Ben's response: If the pick-up zone of the SM7B (left) is anything like the SM57, it will make a huge difference to you. It may be a bit overkill for webcasts and journals, especially price-wise. I know you get what you pay for, but you may like to try out an SM57 with a windshield and if you're happy with the sound congrats - you've saved a bundle. Sennheiser do (did?) a headset with a really good broadcast mic arm, which most commentators use - e.g. ESPN Baseball, BBC, etc. I can't seem to find it online though. Maybe Beyerdynamic do something similar. It's almost a lip-mic, and because it's designed for noisy events, has excellent off-axis rejection and sounded beautifully warm from my experience.

Ben's follow-up: I bought an SM7B after this email, and you can read the review on page 1 of this article.

Q: Hi Ben I have a Yamaha emx 512sc powered mixer with Peavey bass bins and Yamaha tops and I use a Shure SM58 I get a lot of feedback and I get a lot of popping! I sing solo to backing tracks pop and musicals, some of the musical numbers require soft high notes, you need to be close to the mike and powerful notes away from the mike it pick up my breath on high notes and pops on powerful notes unless I am a long way of it can you suggest a mike I could use to eleviate this problem.

Ben's response: I use an SM57 with the huge windshield that Shure recommend for it for use in winds up to 30 mph, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot pop it at all! I'm not sure if it would fit the SM58, although a conventional windshield would stop popping quite a bit. Worth a try.

Behringer do a Feedback Destroyer rack mounted unit. This would solve problem 2! I think it delays the signal by a matter of milliseconds and it makes all the difference.

Q: I live in California and am trying to set up a home VO studio. I was thinking about getting an AT2020, but it doesn't seem like it will do very well. I can't afford the SM7B, as much as I would love to have it. I was wondering what would be a good mic to purchase in the $100 range. Also are MXL or CAD good brands. I would appreciate any help you could offer, and thanks for creating such a great site. I learned a lot today.

Ben's response: Thanks for your comments on the site. I'm afraid I live in England so I'm not familiar with product prices in dollars. The AT2020 is cheap. The AKG P100 is cheap too. I'm not too sure why you've decided the AT2020 won't do very well. Could you explain?

Why not get an SM57? They sound so similar to SM7Bs that it's really hard to hear the difference. They don't lose much value, so if your financial situation improves you can eBay it and use the funds to buy a more expensive mic.

Anthony replies: Thanks for the reply. I guess I assumed that since you used the AT2020 for applications other than VO that it wasn't very good. I've also read that it was designed for project studios. Not sure exactly what that means, but I guess I assumed that it wasn't the way to go for VO.

Ben's response: Not at all - it's a very good mic. It's just that for a time I used it for voice recognition because it was quite cheap and would be on my desk all the time where it was liable to get dusty and knocked and sneezed on all the time, where I wouldn't want my AKG C414 (which cost about 10 times as much!).

I actually use an SM7B or SM57 for voice work now because they're warmer and less clinical sounding than my large diaphragm studio condensers.

A project studio is simply a home studio for doing mini personal projects in - i.e. not recording full orchestras, but perhaps vocals or guitar, etc.

Q: Greetings Ben,

Thanks for your informative site. I am a musician (cello) in Melbourne and have some podcasting ambitions (classical music related and radio plays) using an old broadcast console. I have been seeking cheapish microphone alternatives to the SM7 (which our national broadcaster uses, and which I like) and read with great interest your comments on the SM57. Just wonder if you did the transformer removal mod at all? This seems to be a well received upgrade, although levels are lower. Any thoughts as to the best way to suspend the SM57 and an appropiate arm arrangement? I was thinking of a long gooseneck in preference to a "folding lamp type" arm..? Also where would you recommend the best place to source the mega windscreen you use? Many thanks for any ideas, and congratulations on such an informative and friendly website.

Ben's response: Thanks for your nice email. I'm glad the site was useful!
Your podcasting idea sounds excellent - I'd always assumed podcasting was just opinionated people mouthing off, but to have a musician finding an outlet for playing is a fab idea.

I didn't try the mod, because I find the mic excellent as it is. I think the mod is more for recording engineers who have a lot of SM57s miking up drum kits and amp cabs, where the sources to be recorded are very loud. Doing it for the purpose of recording the human voice may be risking too much of a noise floor to make it worthwhile. As I say on the site, I have an SM57 and an SM7B and for the difference in price, there's no huge difference in sound when you put the windshields on.

I have a mic arm from a radio studio that the SM57's on, but I have in the past used it on a conventional mic stand with boom arm joint, and it doesn't tip it over. It doesn't need a suspension mount or anything. You can get little table-top ones for little money, like they would have on a talk show host's desk. I have one, but I'm quite tall so I find myself stooping down to talk into it. Anything up to an 18" gooseneck will support an SM57, but at certain angles it will topple over. Goosenecks can also make a creaking noise when moved about, which conveys to the microphone capsule and is very loud on recordings, so that's why they tend to be used on church podiums, etc rather than in broadcast studios. It's like a big coiled spring inside them, so I'm not sure if oiling it regularly may prevent this?

I got my mega windscreen from an online UK audio shop. It might be worth checking out Shure dealers in Austrialia? It would be a great investment - you'd never have to re-record anything to get rid of a pop.

Hope this helps. Let me know how you get on!

Q: For voice over...what are your thoughts on the Sennheiser MKH-416? Which mic preamps would you suggest? I have access to a totally rebuilt and updated tube TL Audio mic pre. Your thoughts? Please compare the AKG 414 to the Sennheiser 416. Also, what sound card do you suggest into mu laptop?

Ben's response: Corey Burton has a view on the MKH-416 for voice work which is worthy of reading:

I have since purchased one after seeing some (hilarious) Ernie Anderson voice-over clips on YouTube... it's certainly an alternative to large diaphragm condenser mics, and doesn't pic up room noise. Not cheap - mine was £583.
A tube preamp would sound nice and warm - the opposite of how the clinical MKH-416 sounds - as long as it's not too noisy.

Q: Thanks for bothering to write "Voice-over Recording Studio Tips". It's interesting real-world, non-star-struck stuff.

One thing that caught my eye was the use you're making of the AT2020.

I'm looking for a microphone to use with my computer:

I want something I can use every day for calls over the Internet.
It shouldn't be too expensive (though accumulating various mediocre mics when one could have had one or two good ones seems an easy trap to fall into).
I need to sound good (I'm a professional singer with a strong, low, very resonant voice).
For everyday use the mic might be 18 inches to 2 feet away.
Ideally it might also be useful for other purposes like voice-overs (though trying to get something too all-pupose might be a mistake).
It should be robust enough that I can leave it set up permanently (and in an ideal world, even take it on the road - though this is not top priority).
An omnidirectional mic would not be suitable as I will often be listening to calls through speakers rather than headphones.

I have phantom power, and decent preamps and A/D convertors but currently have no mics other than an unsuitable measurement microphone and a poor mic on a very basic headset.

I'm considering everything from boundary mics (AKG C 400 BL, Audio-Technica PRO 44 and the like - it's a shame the Beyerdynamic MPC 70 USB isn't cardioid), through dynamics (I wish the Beyer M 99 were a bit cheaper) and small condensers, to large condensers (anything from the AT2020 to something as versatile as the NT2-A).

I'd welcome any advice and recommendations. Might the low response of the AT2020 below 500Hz be a problem for me, and also the lack of a shock mount?

Ben's Response:

Thanks for your nice comments.

Two feet is quite a long way to be from any studio microphone. It's normally a hand-span that's recommended for the correct pick-up from studio mics recording voice if you don't want to pick up too much room reverb.

If you have your speakers on as well, you'll need something like a hyper or super-cardioid polar pattern, otherwise you'll get feedback.

I'm not greatly experienced in boundary mics, but I'd have thought that these were the last thing that would be appropriate for your application. Their pick-up field is huge and room-sized and would again lead to feedback.

I don't have a shock mount for the AT2020, but if I was doing VO work with it, I wouldn't put it on a table stand without a bass cut as the vibrations from the PC would be picked up through the desk.

Condenser mics pick up more than dynamics I have, but will also pick up what your speakers are doing. A dynamic wouldn't so much, as it would have a smaller pick-up field, but you'd need to be closer to it so that it could hear you.

Not sure if this is of any help really. You could try a Rode Podcaster or one of these USB direct mics?

Contact me to have your question answered!

Fun stuff:
Voice-overs in a limo - see a video of five big names from the VO world

Next page > Part VI: More Q&A > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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