A microphone sits in a stabilizer.

Which Microphones Are Best for Voice Over in 2020?

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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.

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Comments

  • Glendy Artes
    November 26, 2018, 11:49 pm

    So what specific brand of microphone i need to use/have to start my VO career. It doesnt matter how much because I know if i can use it for years and years to come it’s gonna be worth it. It’s an investment.

    Reply
    • Tanya
      November 29, 2018, 8:26 am

      Hi Glendy,
      Great question! As you can imagine – we get this one a lot. While we do not tend to recommend one brand over the other, what we have compiled is research into what brands (and microphone types) other voice actors say that they prefer the most. You can find that information in our full report: https://www.voices.com/company/reports/how-to-become-a-successful-voice-actor
      All the best & good luck on your search for an amazing new microphone.
      – Tanya

      Reply
  • John Drake
    December 1, 2018, 8:18 am

    Industry-Standard Voiceover Microphones
    ———————————————

    Sennheiser MKH 416
    ———————–

    Neumann U 87
    —————-

    Electro-Voice RE20
    ——————–

    Shure SM7B
    ————-

    Reply
    • anthony v bono
      December 11, 2018, 11:00 pm

      You basically nailed it, the top contenders, like them or not, there they are. My opinion, owner of stations and studio and 48 solid years in the media is that there are a few others to note. First of all, I would try to focus on the Double Diaphragm models in most cases they have better proximity for working close, better bass control and more uniform EQ. Secondly, microphones, good ones, with expensive transformers, warm up the audio and tend to smear the bass in a good way. For example, the RE20 dynamic has a transformer…….and the Charter Oak E700 and AT4047 has a double diaphragm and a transformer, giving them a warm, round kind of sound. Here is my list, dynamics and condensers…..my code “DD” is double diaphragm and “ts” is for transformer, “HB” humbuck coil. I will include price…my choices:

      DYNAMICS: Shure SM7B HB ($399), EV RE20 ts ($440), Telefunken M82 ($399), Sennheiser MD421 ($379), Sennheiser MD441u ($899), Heil PR30 ($210), Heil PR40 ($245).

      CONDENSERS: Shure KSM44A DD ($1000), Shure BETA27 ($399), Shure SM27 ($299), Shure SM81 small diaphragm pencil ($349), Neumann U87ai DD ($2550), Neumann TLM107 DD ($1250), Neumann TLM103 ($1,070), Neumann TLM102 ($699), AKG C414 XLII/EB etc DD ($1000), AT4047SV DD ts ($699), AT2035 ts ($145), Charter Oak E700 DD ts ($999), Gefell M930ts ($1400), RODE NT-1 Black ($265). Sennheiser MKH 416 pencil shotgun ($1000), Sennheiser MK4 ($399).

      These are practical well priced mics, if you can afford a Bock, Brauner, Sony, Telefunken ELA M, Gefell, Josephson, then great. But for broadcast and V-O thats a lot of money. I do not recommend tube mics because you will forget about the tube and be weirded out later when the mic gets noisy. Stay away from ribbons for V-O unless it is for a purpose. People do not know how to use them properly. If you like ribbone: Mesanovic, Shure, Samar, AEA, Coles, Cloud. ATAY AWAY FROM CHINESE and CHINESE PARTS, hybrids, rebuilds. They are junk and it is a risk always. Yes even Lewitt, Cascade. Some Lewitt dynamics are OK and CAD. I hear a lot of good reports about the CAD E100S, but I never used one, all American made, not the rest of CAD. Charteer Oak is made in USA. Stick with big name companies. The Blue Snowball I like, I would say the rest of Blue, Violet, Russian, Latvian, all a roll of the dice. I hear horror stories how they stop working after a year or two. Shure, you send them back, they send another. Goos luck on Latvia or Russia. Best mics made are USA, German, Austrian, Japan! Sure, UK for Coles, Japan Sanken and Sony. Peluso is a reputable guy, but for V-O and Broadcast, don’t venture off the path and you will be fine. Big companies make duds also. My “AVOID” list is just as important:

      EV RE27, EV RE320, EV RE16, RODE Procaster & Podcaster & Broadcaster, anything MXL, Neumann BCM705, Neumann BCM104, Behringer B-1 etc, AT2020 and 2033, RODE NT-1A, Blue, Octavia, any Russian or Latvian, Lewitt except for the drum mics and the MTP440s, NADY, Warm, Samson, SE, Mojave, ADK, Audix.

      People buy blindly, there are exceptions. Stay away from Chinese and Chinese hybrids. If you think I am wrong, years later you will agree. Like, I was so excited I bought Lewitt condensers, until I put them to work and could not explain the crunchy peaks. I sold all of them but their small dynamics. Bob Heil builds quality mics, so does Schoeps, Lawson, Samar, Hammer, Horscht, they are not made for V-O and Broadcast. You can disagree with me, the majority want to see my collection of economicals.

      If I could only have a handful what would they be? Dynamic: EV RE20, Shure SM7B, Telefunken M82, Heil PR30. Condenser: Shure KSM44, AKG414EB or XLII, Neumann TLM107, Neumann U87, AT4047SV, AT2035, Charter Oak E700. These are GOLD, can’s go wrong!

      Reply
      • Andy Varga
        March 4, 2019, 6:53 pm

        May I ask why you don’t like the BCM 104?

      • Kelehua Kawai
        May 16, 2020, 4:49 am

        Thank you Mr. Bono. Of these, do you ever recommend a specific microphone for female voices?

      • oliver
        May 20, 2020, 2:13 pm

        Hi Kelehua,

        All vocal microphones should be good for male or female voices, but make sure to try a number of microphones out to find the one that’s the right fit for your voice.

        Happy mic testing,
        Oliver

    • Jamsinneripia
      July 5, 2020, 12:09 pm

      Hello I want to say that we need that microphone that we are comfortable

      Reply
  • Paul
    January 7, 2019, 4:08 am

    I’ve been using the Neumann TLM102 to record voice overs on a professional basis for 6 years. It’s a great and lower cost option to the TLM103.

    Reply
  • R.V.
    August 29, 2019, 8:40 pm

    This is all great analysis but to match the pro recording studio one may want to invest in the same microphones they use there.

    Reply
  • William E Orrock
    May 18, 2020, 6:26 pm

    I keep hearing that USB microphones are not considered professional and most likely you would be losing your money and jobs in the voice over industry. I am purchasing mostly for voice over and auditions. My budget is less than $200.00. Any advice would be good. Please don’t sell to me as will just turn me off to your advice. I would honest answers.

    Reply
    • oliver
      May 20, 2020, 1:25 pm

      Great question, William. You’re completely right with your research. Generally speaking, USB mics tend to offer less quality than XLR style microphones. There are a number of reasons, but the biggest being that the hardware and components are typically geared to a consumer level and not professional studio quality. That said, there are many exceptions and we’ve seen talent be very successful with the better quality USB microphones. For convenience, USB mics certainly prevail. I would recommend checking out something like the Rode NT-USB or similar if you choose to go the USB route. The best bet would be to visit your local music store and try a few mics. See if they let you test them before purchasing. Run them through the ringer, and see which works best for your voice. I hope this helps! Please feel free to check out our YouTube channel as we just posted some guides for microphones. All the best.

      Reply
  • Jennifer K Vergamini
    June 20, 2020, 9:16 am

    I would love the opportunity to share my miss your voice my young voice and my happy voice and my sad voice

    Reply
    • Oliver Skinner
      June 25, 2020, 10:57 am

      Hey Jennifer,

      When you sign up for a Voices talent account, you’ll have the opportunity to list all the vocal styles and roles that you can perform – including youthful, happy, and sad.

      Reply
  • Bruce Robert Stevens
    July 4, 2020, 7:31 pm

    I have been having fun experimenting with different microphones. I usually prefer dynamics with a FETHEAD and Phantom power. Most recently I have dialed it in to an Electrovoice large diaphragm EV 76 Cardioid. do not like Condensers, because quite frankly they can pick up a gnat fart at 100 yards. Sounds comical but to save money I take advantage of reasonable proximity, speak at an angle away from the mic at 6 to 8 inches to eliminate P pops, and like warmth. presence, clarity, and above all high fidelity sound. Aside from doing vocals and speech, play with different things like pen clicks, coffee mug taps, kids playing in the distance, and shaking your car keys. Keep in mind to try and avoid recording in MP3 because when you do key shakes, you will hear absolutely unacceptable artifacts.

    Reply
  • K Mallaiah
    July 15, 2020, 9:37 am

    I have good voice to be employed.

    Reply
    • Oliver Skinner
      July 15, 2020, 11:44 am

      Hey there,

      To start auditioning for voice over work, I’d encourage you to sign up for a Voices talent account! From there, you’ll be able to fill out your profile, upload your demo(s), and get access to our vast job board of voice over casting calls.

      Happy auditioning,
      Oliver

      Reply
  • JUAN JAVIER TIRADO GIL
    July 17, 2020, 6:45 am

    Para empezar me gustaría probar con alguno que me recomienden y luego comprar otro mas profesional .

    Reply
  • Jessica S
    July 18, 2020, 5:37 pm

    All this info is extremely overwhelming for someone just starting out. What mic will get looks for an audition? One that works well with a Mac setup.

    Reply
    • Oliver Skinner
      July 20, 2020, 9:51 am

      Hi Jessica,

      I’d suggest looking into the Blue Yeti and Rode Podcaster mics. You can read more about equipping your home studio here.

      I hope that helps!
      Oliver

      Reply
  • Rajib Dutta
    July 22, 2020, 12:49 pm

    awesome discussion

    Reply
  • Aeshel Marie Perkins
    July 26, 2020, 5:53 am

    I’ve used a standard proformance microphone with cord.

    Reply
  • Bailey Dixon
    August 6, 2020, 9:43 am

    I had a question about the hand held mic comment, it says stay away from them and I get why holding a mic would effect the recording in a bunch of ways, but if the stage mic or hand held is mounted in a shock mount connected to the table is that fine? Or is it the fact that it is the small typical performance mic that we should stay away from?
    Specifically I’m looking wondering if buying a Focusrite Scarlett bundle with their mic included is safe or if i should just by a separate mic from the interface.

    Reply
    • Oliver Skinner
      August 19, 2020, 1:57 pm

      If the mic is mounted and connected to a secure surface, then you should be good to go! Take a look at this video to learn more about voice over home studio setup.

      Reply
  • Bethzaida Caro
    August 17, 2020, 5:47 pm

    Thank you for videos which further enhances my understanding by connecting new vocabulary to a visual. It truly makes my life more at ease when the information is clear. However, my ST 3000 has a mic 🎤… use it ?

    Reply
    • Oliver Skinner
      August 19, 2020, 11:55 am

      Hi Bethzaida,

      Try it out and see how your voice sounds!

      Reply
  • Jack O'Malley
    September 8, 2020, 12:52 pm

    Does anyone have good sources to recommend on how to properly set up your at-home studio? I have zero background in audio engineering, so I don’t have the slightest clue as to how to set up my microphone to connect the audio to my 2019 macbook pro.

    Reply
    • Oliver Skinner
      September 10, 2020, 10:18 am

      Hi Jack,

      I’d suggest reading this blog post filled with tips about setting up a home studio as a beginner.

      I’d also recommend watching this video playlist that covers everything from improving your voice over audio quality, to audio interfaces, to setting your microphone gain levels.

      Reply
  • Rachael Philip
    September 9, 2020, 5:50 am

    Can’t I use my phone recorder?
    Must I have a microphone?

    Reply
    • Oliver Skinner
      September 10, 2020, 10:21 am

      Hi Rachael,

      There are a number of mobile apps that will allow you to record good quality voice over. However, for the majority of job postings listed on our platform, the client will expect to receive top-notch quality voice over recorded using a professional microphone. It’s best to be honest and upfront about the equipment you’ll be using to record, because if you’re the perfect voice for a particular project, the client may be alright with receiving a recording from an android phone. It all depends on the job.

      You can read about android mic attachments and recording using a mobile phone here.

      Reply
  • David J. Brumbaugh
    September 17, 2020, 9:16 pm

    Thanks for giving me information on the best microphones so I can do a clean and clear demo of the voices that I perform…

    Reply
  • syedshoukatabbasa
    October 11, 2020, 2:50 pm

    Great

    Reply
  • Glen H. Kippel
    October 12, 2020, 2:33 pm

    As a veteran radio broadcaster and sound engineer, please allow me to post a couple of comments.
    First, when trying out different mics, you need to know that many (if not most) announcers don’t really like the sound of their own voice. It’s best to have someone else, like a trusted friend, give you advice. Also, you need to record your voice and play it back using a good set of headphones. Listening to your own voice while you are speaking doesn’t give you the best idea of what you sound like. And listening with a pair of speakers in the same room in which you are recording will just magnify the effects of the room acoustics. Always use headphones. And not the kind that boost the bass, either. No DJ cans. Use the best ones you can get your hands on, within a reasonable price range. AKG or Sennheiser are my faves.
    Also, a mic quality that is rarely if ever mentioned is its polar pattern. That is, its ability to focus on you and not pick up all that stuff that’s going on around you, whether it’s the neighbors having an argument, air conditioning hiss or just plain room resonance. A lot of mic manufacturers will claim that their mic has a cardioid (heart-shaped) pattern, but it’s like pulling teeth to get them to specify just how much rear or side rejection they really have. I got an MXL V67 some time ago that claims to be a cardioid but I found that its back side is only 8 dB down and it may as well be an omnidirectional mic for all the crud it picks up. Even harder to find is a mic’s polar pattern all across the audio spectrum, since manufacturers only give a spec at 1 kHz. That doesn’t do you any good if your room resonates at 150 Hz or so. (You can find sites on line where you can enter the dimensions of your room and it will calculate your room resonance frequencies.) For dynamic mics, the Shure SM-7B is good. It is based on the SM-5, which is now selling for a king’s ransom. The E/V RE-20 is pretty good, too and its main plus is its almost total lack of proximity effect, which is why so many radio stations use them. DJ’s with poor mic technique still sound OK. My money would be on the Heil PR-30, as it has slightly better rear rejection across the audio range than the PR-40, costs less, and besides, you don’t need the extreme bottom end that the `40 has anyway. For condensers, I outfitted a radio studio with an AKG C-4500B-BC and it was awful. It might as well have been an omni. I was picking up so much room ambience that I swapped it out with an AKG C-1000-S which worked fine, but needed a pop screen because small-diaphragm condensers are more susceptible to P-popping. For guest mics I got a pair of Oktava MK-319s and they also did so well that I bought one for my own use. They actually provide a graph showing the frequency response from the back side, and it is quite good. There are some mods that supposedly make the mic sound better but I don’t know how those would affect its polar response so I’m leaving it as stock for now. Lauten Audio has their LS-208 and LS-308 condenser mics which are supposed to be very good at rejecting off-axis sound, but I haven’t tried those. Maybe later, when I can afford one. You might want to go to their website and check them out. I have heard that the Sennheiser MK 4 is good, too. At one radio station I worked for they had a Neumann U-67 gathering dust in a corner. I asked why they weren’t using it and they said it was picking up trucks going by and everything else. I swapped it for a pair of RE-20s and they were as happy as anything.
    So, that’s my limited experience anyway. (Almost 50 years in the industry.)

    Reply
    • Tori Clay
      October 16, 2020, 5:48 pm

      What a fantastic, scholarly and generous post! My first day on this site and looking into this stuff and I learned a ton here. I am profoundly grateful for this. Thank you so much!

      Reply
      • Oliver Skinner
        October 19, 2020, 11:22 am

        Hi Tori,

        Welcome aboard and thank you for the kind words!