Which Microphones Are Best For Voice Over?
Finding a microphone that will highlight your talent as a voice actor, and bring confidence to your recording can be a bit of a challenge. The market is flooded with varying vocal microphones, and everyone has an opinion on which ones are the best. However, the question which voice acting microphones are best comes up often.
There are many factors to consider when purchasing a microphone, such as your budget, the sound you are trying to achieve and the space you will be recording in that can be helpful in choosing the right microphone. In a recent Voices.com survey, 25% of respondents say they chose their microphone through trial and error.
Audio expert, Bob Breen, from Armor Pro Audio, has been working in the audio industry for over 25 years, and has heard his fair share of microphones. In this part of the Voices.com studio build series, Bob gives his tips on how to help find a microphone that will complement your voice, and set you up for success.
What Are the Different Types of Voice Acting Microphones?
There are wide selections of vocal microphones on the market, but generally there are two types of mics that are most common: condenser and dynamic microphones.
Condenser microphones have enhanced response sensitivity. Since the diaphragm is thinner, it is capable of reacting quickly to very faint sound waves. This means that it is able to pick up a lot of detailed sound. A condenser mic is most recommended for studio voice recordings. Even though it is super sensitive to sound, it works well for voice recordings as there is only one sound (your voice) that needs to be picked up, which won’t be competing with any other sound (such as different instruments in music recordings).
On the other hand, a dynamic microphone is not as sensitive, which means that in comparison to condenser mics, there is less detail captured in recordings. However, this can be a benefit for recording quality, as it also means that the mic won’t pick up any background sounds. Generally, removing background noise can be beneficial if you have soundproofing challenges with your space. However, this may not be a worry on your end if you have already taken the steps to soundproof your studio space.
Now that you know the differences between the main types of microphones used in recording, you can now get out there and start browsing for your perfect mic.
How Do I Go About Choosing the Best Microphone?
Testing out your mic
If you are unfamiliar with the different types of microphones available on the market, Bob recommends looking into borrowing a microphone first. If you have a friend or colleague who already has their own microphone, see if they can lend it to you so that you are able to bring the microphone into your recording space and test it out that way. “Get the microphone into your space, use it how you intend to use it and listen,” says Bob.
Try many types of microphones before you decide on one
If you are able to get a mic into your space to test out, and you feel it sounds good, don’t stop there. Test out many different types of microphones before you settle on one. It is good to have a comparison between different types to help you narrow down your choice
Choose one that picks up the most detail in your voice
Bob says that the most popular kind of microphone is a condenser mic. Condenser mics tend to pick up the most detail in your voice
Stay away from handheld mics
A stage mic or handheld mic is not best suited for voice over recordings. You microphone should have a stand and leave you hands-free to prevent any external sound
Consider the price of the microphone, but know that expensive doesn’t equal better
The best microphone for your voice won’t necessarily be the most expensive one on the market. From one perspective, the best microphone is the one that is affordable and gets the job done which is why many of these criteria could be considered “nice to haves,” and not “need to haves.”
Having said that, the microphone, along with the preamp are the pieces of technology that are between you and your computer so get the microphone that makes your voice sounds best but also fits in your budget.
Consider the Microphone’s Frequency Response
Some microphones like the RE20 (the stereotypical radio microphone) are large diaphragm microphones designed to pick up lower frequencies such as a deep male voice, a bass drum or even a bass guitar.
The small diaphragm or small capsule microphone is designed to pick up higher frequencies such as the female voice, the brightness of an acoustic guitar or shimmering cymbals. You may have seen these as the overhead microphones on a drum kit or above an orchestra.
Hertz, named for the German physicist Heinrich Hertz, measures the number of cycles per second. Where the human voice is concerned, this means the number of times the vocal folds vibrate per second.
How Many Hertz is the Human Voice?
- A healthy male voice usually falls between 110-120 hertz
- A healthy female voice usually falls between 200-210 hertz
- Children’s voices usually fall between 300-400 hertz
The higher the vibrations per second, the brighter the sound.
USB Microphones for Voice Actors
A note about USB microphones – when it comes to what mic you choose, understanding what makes a USB mic different from a traditional analog microphone might help you pick what you’d like to use. A USB mic has hardware built in that creates a digital signal, whereas an analog mic relies on a computer to transform the audio. You can also find out more about the benefits of each type of microphone.
While the debate about which microphone type produces better audio is alive and well, it’s up to you to choose what you’d prefer. It’s one of several factors to consider, but these microphones tend to be easy to set up initially and that in and of itself can be a big selling point if you’re looking to dive right in.
How to Test and Compare Microphones
If you do have the opportunity to test a microphone for yourself before you buy, it’s good to know that some of them are designed to be used at different distances.
According to Bryant Falk of Abacus Entertainment, voice over professional and on-camera commercial and corporate producer-director, studio microphones generally give your voice more bass as you get closer to them. Most condenser mics are designed to be placed only a few inches (a hand width or two) from your mouth, however, you would be wise to make use of a pop filter to avoid plosives.
In any case, it can always be useful to go into your local music store or head to a site like SweetWater. In either case, you’ll find professionals who can guide you through the process of testing and purchasing a mic.
Which Microphones NOT to Buy- a Note of Advice from Voice Actor, Coach and Recording Expert Tommy Griffiths
I coach hundreds of voice actors from around the world, and I’ve seen/heard it all. For example- do not use:
- gaming headphones with a mic attachment
- a handheld recorder like a Zoom
- a stage mic (or dynamic mic)
- or a web cam mic
You’ll waste your money and never win an audition. Please. Believe me when I tell you this.
One more thing- most microphones require extra gear like a preamp and/or a digital interface. You’ll also likely need to consider a mic stand and a wind screen or pop-filter.
Understanding the Importance of Preamps
You also need to take the preamplifier (or preamp) into consideration. A preamp is a device that amplifies low-level signals to a standard operating level. Essentially, you need a preamp for any source of sound.
A lot of interfaces come with a built-in preamp, but the win of having an external preamp that you can plug the microphone into allows for a better sound quality and helps to lower external noise levels.
Here’s more on How Preamps Improve Voice Over
If you are just starting out, don’t worry too much about purchasing an external preamp, you can instead opt for an interface with built-in preamps. You can still make great voice over recordings with your audio interface preamps and a condenser mic.
The most important thing to remember when purchasing a microphone is to not make an impulsive decision. Give yourself time to test out different microphones in the space you will be recording your voice overs. Shop around, do your research and record sample reads and listen to how your voice sounds.