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Microphone Setups – How To Find The Sweet Spot

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Did you know that each microphone setup has a ‘sweet spot?’ Depending on where you are physically oriented in relation to the microphone (e.g. far away or close up), you’ll get a very different voice over recording. This means that microphone technique is crucially important for getting your very best performance. Finding the microphone sweet spot can be easy with a few simple tricks.

Every voice over talent should know where their voice sounds best on a microphone. This skill is particularly useful when you go into a studio and are unfamiliar with the studio mic they have in the booth.

Every mic is different and has its own unique set of characteristics so it’s important to learn to play with your voice and get to know what sounds best and where to speak into the microphone so that you are giving your best voice recording every time.

4 Key Microphone Techniques for Success

Microphone Placement – Keep the Right Distance Between Your Mouth and the Mic
Your mic should be as close to your mouth as possible in order to only pick up the sound of you voice, and not the other sounds of the room. A good rule of thumb is to have the mic positioned about 6-12 inches away from your mouth. As you get closer to the mic, an increase in low frequency response can occur, causing your voice to be overly bassy.

Microphone Setup – Speak Right Into the Mic
High frequencies are very directional, meaning that if you turn your head away from the microphone at any point during recording, the recording captured by your mic will sound very dull.

Microphone Control – Aim the Mic Toward Your Mouth
You can aim your mic either above or below your mouth to minimize popping sounds or mouth noises.  

Microphone Filters – Use a Pop Filter
A pop filter will provide extra assurances that you won’t pop your “P’s.” The pop filter can also act as a guide and reference to help you maintain a consistent distance from the microphone.

Microphone Sensitivity and How to Reduce Background Noise

The microphone is a very sensitive piece of equipment that can pick up just about any external and unwanted noise that you may not hear until you are listening back to the recording.

The sensitivity of your microphone will vary depending on the type and brand. When exposed to the same kinds of sounds, different microphones may produce different output levels. A microphone’s sensitivity is the measure of its ability to convert acoustic pressure into electric voltage.

It is important to wear headphones while recording so that you can hear what your microphone is hearing and deal with external noises before you begin recording. Doing a quick test and listening back can really save you takes and editing time afterwards.

There are a few things you should be mindful of your microphone picking up when stepping up to the mic.

  • Mouth noises
  • Breathing
  • Coughing
  • Audible body movements
  • Jangling jewelry
  • Watches
  • Clothing ruffling
  • Touching the music stand
  • Rolling pencils/pens
  • Pages being turned
  • Room tone
  • Extraneous noises

A note on clothing – although you make not think too much about what you wear when recording behind the mic (especially if you have a home studio!) if your microphone is sensitive, you want to be careful on what you wear to record. Some items you should avoid include:

  • Clothing with too many buttons or zippers
  • Shoes with clicking heels
  • Long sleeves that could rub against the mic
  • Textured fabrics

Stick to clothing that is soft such as cottons or knots and shoes that have soft soles to ensure you are making yourself as silent as possible and the mic only picks up the sound of your voice.

Tips on how to provide the best audio quality for your clients:

Finding The Microphone Sweet Spot

Finding the spot and setup of your microphone that highlights the best qualities of your voice takes a bit of practice and trial and error. You can set yourself up for success before you even enter the booth by making sure that anything you are wearing or doing (such as taking notes during recording) won’t be picked up by your microphone.  

The spot on the mic where you voice is its absolute best will become instinctual over time and you will be able to eliminate any unwanted noises from your recording so that your voice shines through in the final product.

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Comments

  • Scott Fortney
    November 20, 2009, 7:32 pm

    Great article!

    Reply
  • Rachel Rauch
    November 20, 2009, 7:33 pm

    Thanks for posting this!!

    Reply
  • Stephanie Ciccarelli
    November 20, 2009, 7:34 pm

    You’re welcome 🙂 It really was a community effort. Go team!
    Best,
    Stephanie

    Reply
  • Jef Brown
    November 20, 2009, 10:25 pm

    Experiment! I’ve tried my mic from literally every angle; straight on, left, right, top, bottom, loud, soft, I’ve even tried seeing what it sounds like backwards from behind. Try it from 7 feet away all the way down to kissing the grill. The whole idea of a sweet spot is that a mic sounds different from different approaches, and the sweet spot is different for different reads. If I’m voicing a trailer style spot I may be straight on and up close. If I want a conversational sound I may back off a little. If I’m doing a character or cartoon I might be into the side just because it seems to complement the sound. Having just one “sweet spot” would imply that all your reads are exactly the same. I like to “work” the mic and go looking for the spot that best fits the project.

    Reply
  • steve hammill
    November 21, 2009, 11:30 am

    Jef really nailed it! 🙂

    Reply
  • Michael Anthony Petranech
    November 21, 2009, 11:56 am

    Thank you for all the replies. Voices.com continues to be a great resource.
    Happy Thanksgiving to all.
    Michael

    Reply
  • Oscar
    November 21, 2009, 12:40 pm

    Great article! I would have never guessed there were so many different ways to find the sweet spot. Thanks guys!

    Reply
  • Robert Ready
    June 10, 2011, 10:50 am

    Very helpful article, Voices.Com! Too many audition booths lack headphones, unfortunately, which makes talent dependent on the (often rushed) suggestions of the engineer/director in getting on axis…

    Reply
  • Debbie Irwin
    June 11, 2011, 8:51 am

    Great suggestions, Jef!
    Valuable insights all the way around.
    Definitely want to keep the audio engineers happy….
    They can be wonderful allies!

    Reply
  • Hans Jacobs
    August 10, 2019, 5:59 pm

    Our old M49 sits best at 10 inches with its center (diaphrapma) just half an inch under the centers soundsource.

    Reply