How to Use Home Studio Equipment for Voice Overs
With so many options available on the market, choosing the right equipment for your home studio setup can be an overwhelming task for beginner voice actors.
That’s why we went straight to the source and asked a group of seasoned voice over professionals, our Voices Insiders, what equipment they recommend for voice actors who are just starting out. The Voices Insiders are a team of experts who share their insights and tips with the Voices community to help talent of all levels learn and grow in their voice over careers.
Your Home Studio Equipment Checklist
At a minimum, your home studio setup checklist should include a microphone, a pop filter, an audio interface, recording and editing software, and a quiet place to record.
While it may be tempting to select the cheapest microphone when starting out as a voice actor, you’ll find you need a more robust mic with higher-quality output very quickly in your career. But keep in mind that the most expensive microphone may not be the right option for your home studio setup either.
When choosing the best microphone for your voice over needs, you’ll want to consider the two most common options: condenser and dynamic microphones. The condenser mic is the most popular choice of microphone due to its enhanced response sensitivity, which picks up greater detail in the voice. Dynamic microphones are the less sensitive option, which can be ideal when soundproofing is an issue, though this is at the expense of vocal detail.
Before you commit to a microphone, try out as many different styles as possible and keep your budget in mind. If your perfect microphone is out of your price range, remember, you can always upgrade in the future.
Kim uses a Neumann TLM103 Condenser Microphone.
For beginners, I recommend the Sennheiser MKE 600 or other directional mics with a VOMO portable studio, or the RØDE NT1-A with a sound treated environment.
Sandra uses a Neumann TLM103 Condenser Microphone.
For recording equipment: A FANTASTIC starting microphone is the RØDE NT1A. It has incredible sound for the price. I’ve since upgraded to a Neumann, but I used the RØDE for some major gigs in the past and had quality sound.
Doug uses a Sennheiser MD 421.
I recommend beginners start with a good microphone like a Sennheiser or an Audio-Technica.
Laura uses a Neumann TLM103 Condenser Microphone.
I recommend buying three mic options and trying them out in your studio and returning what does not work. My first mic was a mid-range mic in terms of price, a CAD Equitek E100S. I think I brought home a comparable RØDE NT1, and there was a third. Everyone’s voice is different — I have a high voice with no bottom, so what is right for me might not be right for a lot of people. For example, I love the TLM 103, but the 102 is too dark for me. So, you’ll need to find a place that will let you try out mics within your price range.
Jesse uses an Advanced Audio CM87 Microphone.
If you’re just starting out, make your mic the biggest percentage of your budget. Don’t skimp on that.
If you go cheap on your mic, there is really isn’t much you can do to improve its sound. Potential clients can hear the difference between a cheap mic and someone with a higher end mic. You may give the best reads in the world, but if the mic and sound quality aren’t there, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
2. Pop Filter
A pop filter is a helpful tool to help eliminate unwanted sounds such as popping, sibilance, and plosives. These sounds generally occur when your mouth is positioned too close to the microphone. A pop filter acts as a barrier to cut down the impact of fast-moving air while helping you to maintain the appropriate distance from the mic.
While the Voices Insiders did not share a specific product recommendation, many of our experts encouraged the use of pop filters in your beginner home studio setup.
For voice actors of any experience level, there are two different types of pop filters you’ll want to consider: nylon mesh pop filters and metallic mesh or metal pop filters. Nylon is a budget-friendly option and is also the most popular type of pop filter, while metallic or metal pop filters are known for their durability and smaller size.
We recommend testing out a variety of options to see what works best for your voice over needs.
3. Audio Interface
An audio interface connects your microphone to your computer. The purpose of an audio interface is to convert your voice over and other air vibrations into digital audio so you can begin the editing process.
This video will take you through what audio interfaces do, how they work, and how to set up your own audio interface in your home studio.
Sandra uses a Universal Audio Apollo Twin audio interface and a Focusrite Scarlett audio interface.
Focusrite audio interfaces are on the more affordable side and I can’t recommend them enough. My Focusrite actually gives me less trouble than my more expensive interface.
Rob uses a Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity audio interface and a Focusrite Clarett digital audio interface.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a great audio interface and very affordable.
4. Audio Recording and Editing Software
Voice over recording and editing software is an essential component in your home studio setup. It’s the tool you’ll use to polish your audio files and edit out pauses, unwanted breaths, and other imperfections.
There are a number of voice over recording software options out there to fit any budget. Audacity and GarageBand are commonly used free software options, while Adobe Audition, the most popular software program according to Voices talent, offers a monthly subscription. If you are looking for more advanced recording and editing software, Pro Tools and Logic can be purchased outright.
Ultimately, the software you choose should depend on your comfort level. If possible, take advantage of the free trials that may be available on the software’s website to assess what works best for you. Before you purchase your recording and editing software, you’ll want to ask yourself what your specific needs are, if the software is compatible with your computer system, and if it will provide you with the results you’re looking for.
Kristy uses Nuendo and Adobe Audition.
While there are some free software choices out there, I would highly recommend purchasing Adobe Audition. As you get deeper into VO, editing will become your life, so you’ll need something that is intuitive, yet powerful and flexible enough for you to get the job done. If you already have other programs like ProTools, Logic, Nuendo, or others, those are fine too, but you don’t need programs as complicated and expensive as they are.
I also recommend purchasing some high quality noise reduction plugins to help your sound be competitive. You may have a killer voice and the perfect audition, but if your audio is noisy, it could cost you the job. Waves Z-Noise and NS1 are great options for our industry. Make sure to watch some tutorials to understand the settings before you use them. While they are great, they can also cause your audio to sound very computerized and unnatural. As with everything in life, there is a fine line between not enough and too much when it comes to plugins.
Tiffany uses Audacity.
I very much recommend using Audacity as your recording software. Simple to use, even for a beginner. It does everything you need, and it’s FREE.
Kristen uses Adobe Audition.
The other tool that has made my life a lot easier is investing in quality software. I started out using Audacity (FREE!), but I upgraded to Adobe Audition after about 6 months and I’m so glad I did. I also invested in a program to help me eliminate the clicks from my recordings called iZotope RX 7. SO worth it!
5. A Quiet Space to Record
When building out your home studio, you’ll want to choose a space that’s not only quiet but that you’ll feel comfortable working in. After all, you’ll be spending a lot of time in there! Your home studio should be large enough to stand and move around so you can get the most out of your performance.
Once you’ve chosen your space, your next step will be to soundproof your room. As a beginner, it is recommended to start with cost-effective materials like rugs and moving blankets to address the issues in your space before progressing to more costly options including home renovation.
The basic steps you’ll need to follow to soundproof your home studio are outlined in our interview with Bob Breen from Armor Pro Audio.
One of the most important things is making sure your studio or your recording space is acoustically treated properly. Make sure to research the best ways to soundproof your area, which can vary depending on size, materials of the walls/floors, and whether you are on the ground floor or above.
First, you’ll want to find a quiet spot in your home to record. If you don’t have the space or don’t want to spend a ton of money on padding and soundproofing, I highly recommend just recording in your closet—it’s what I do! I also use a padded isolation shield that my mic fits into to block more sound.
It can’t be overstated how important the sound quality of your studio is. When I started out, I found a bunch of old moving blankets in the garage and hung those on my walls for sound absorption. They worked great, but eventually I got tired of the musty smell, so we upgraded to some foam tiles.
You can always buy extra blankets and sound absorbing material at second-hand stores for cheap (make sure you wash them first!) so treating your recording area can be done very affordably and you can always upgrade that later once you’re landing work.
The key is to make sure you’re working in a quiet space and keeping your process simple and stress free.
Bonus Home Studio Equipment Tips from the Voices Insiders
Now that we’ve covered the essentials for building your own home studio setup, our Voices Insiders are here to help with a few more tips to take your studio to the next level.
Be in Facebook groups with other voice actors because as others upgrade you can often get great gear second-hand.
Right now, something that is VERY important to clients is having a way to connect despite the pandemic. I highly suggest researching Source-Connect software. It is a valuable way to connect with production studios anywhere in the world.
Understand that it takes time to build your setup and it’s easy to get paralysis by analysis. I would make sure that each time you do get something new, you learn it inside and out before moving on to the next equipment upgrade. A great way to start is to understand your DAW and how different plugins can affect your sound. You are a voice, but you can be so much more if you take the time to immerse yourself. And it’s a ton of fun!
What tools and equipment do you use in your home studio? Let us know in the comments!