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Home Voice Over Studio Acoustics and Equipment

Home Voice Over Studio Acoustics and Equipment

Home Voice Over Studio Part One: The Set-Up

Let’s keep this simple: you want to set up a home voice over studio with a low noise floor. Also, how to do you re-create the quality audio sound you have at professional studios in your home environment? Studios have a high-end production signal chain from your voice, to the mic, to the equipment, to the software. Let’s try to to get as close as we can with no weak links in the chain. But the first step is the acoustics of the home studio. Without that, nothing else sounds good! I have written previously about what I use in my studio. Let’s get you up and running in your home voice over studio!

First Step: Choose your home recording area.

Find the quietest room in your house. A walk-in closet is good only if it’s truly large. Small closets sound boxy and boomy: the lower frequencies bounce around in a nasty way. Then, pick the corner of the room away from windows, doors, and any other noise.  Close off that area as much as possible with dividers or tall furniture covered with thick blankets and pillows, and put blankets or other absorbing material on the walls of that section. Full bookshelves are a fantastic sound absorber and refractor. If you can record in a corner of a room with bookshelves, choose that. Have carpet on the floor, and put carpet or blanket on the desktop you’ll be using there. Hard desk surfaces bounce sound right back at the mic in what is called ‘early reflections’. If you can somewhat close off and acoustically treat a 4′ x 6′ to 6′ x 8′ area in your room  you’ll be in great shape. Make sure you can access and turn off your home’s HVAC system temporarily when recording. For high quality affordable sound blankets that do the job properly, check out Vocal Booth to Go. And for acoustic panels and bass traps, consider the excellent GIK Acoustics.

Second Step: Choose Your Microphone

For a home voice over studio microphone, you need a Condenser (Not Dynamic) microphone that is either Supercardioid or Shotgun in regards to its microphone polar pattern. That way, the mic will be focused straight ahead on your voice, and not taking a wide shot of all the noise and sound reflections in your room. Think of it as normal lens vs. wide angle lens in a camera. You want the normal lens. For Shotgun microphones, quality choices range from the Audio Technica AT875R ($169) to the Rode NTG2 ($269), up to the industry standard Sennheiser MKH 416 ($1000). Non-shotgun condensers like the Shure Beta 27 and CAD E100S are more rare. But, there are good affordable choices like the Rode NT1 ($269) that are plain cardioid not supercardioid but sound more focused. For even less money I can highly recommend either the AKG P220 or AT 2035 (both around $135) which sound excellent, especially on female voices. None of these affordable choices have a very wide cardioid pattern.

Third Step: Pick your Audio Interface

So far, so good for your home voice over studio. Now you need an XLR cable to plug in your microphone to your Audio Interface. The Audio Interface will power your microphone with Phantom Power and will convert your analogue audio signal from the microphone into a digital signal which will then be recorded by your computer and recording software. I highly recommend Mogami Gold or Canare cables for your microphone, but whatever you can find that is decent quality will do the job. You will also need cables to plug in your speakers to the output of your audio interface. Usually 1/4″ jack cables are required.

Audio interfaces have come a long way in the past ten years. I still have the original Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 sitting in storage, and it’s a piece of junk compared to the newest Third Generation version, which I would recommend. Anything by PreSonus, MOTU, Focusrite, or Steinberg under or around $200 will be all you need for quality recordings. Just make sure it works well with your computer and computer inputs. Search for reviews on the particular audio interface that interests you.

Fourth Step: Speakers/Monitors and Headphones

Now it’s time for speakers/monitors and headphones. Mackie and PreSonus both make speakers that are good enough for checking mono voice over recordings for $100 a pair. If you want to spend more, Yamaha and KRK have good options. Headphones are crucial, especially for being able to set up your home voice over studio to make sure the sound is good. Here are the best options for $100 or slightly less:

Shure SHR440 : These are comfortable and very accurate.

Audio Technica ATH-M40x : They are very comfortable, but have a hyped bass response.

Sennheiser HD 280 PRO : These are not comfortable at first, and slightly heavier than the others; but they have extremely accurate sound.

Note that these are all closed-back headphones. This is very important. Opened-back headphones let the sound leak out, so the voice of your client will bleed into your microphone signal. You don’t want that!

Now you will have the acoustic environment and equipment you need to start making quality recordings in your home voice over studio. In the next post I will discus recording tips in your DAW recording software, with links to many valuable online tutorials for Audacity, Audition, and REAPER.

Good luck!

 

 

Yamaha MG10XU for Voice Over

How Do You Playback Audio to Voice Over Clients?

A Full-Solution Mixer for the Voice Over Studio

Voice Over Talent and some producers and directors ask me “How Do You Playback Audio to Voice Over Clients?” for remote recording sessions. Yamaha recently released their new small format audio mixers in the MG line. I’m pleased to report that my MGX10U is an all-in one solution for the voice over studio that makes audio playback easy. It has:

1.) Great sounding mic preamps that are clean and have great headroom
2.) Solid USB Interface with nice converters. They’re same ones found in Steinberg interfaces: yes, Yamaha makes those.
3.) Ability to playback any computer audio source to a director/client (including your DAW) without extra routing. Just press the red button on channel 9/10 when you need to play audio down the line.

I added it to my voice over studio because I wanted a 2-in/2-out USB interface like the Focusrite Scarlett but with better preamps. Unfortunately with Scarlett interfaces, even when one goes line-in from an external preamp on the bigger Focusrite models, the audio still goes through the Scarlett preamp. That’s not terrible, but I wanted something better, with the ability to run a gentle 80 Hz HPF as I recorded if possible. The MG10XU mixer is an audio interface and preamp all-in-one. And yes, the preamps, conversion, and playback all sounds better than the Scarlett. As a bonus, it’s not huge or heavy, and can fit easily in a briefcase for travel.

The Game Changer: Playback any Audio to Your Clients

But this isn’t just a Yamaha mixer, it’s an invaluable voice over tool. You can playback any audio source from your computer to the client without doing any routing tricks. The 9/10 Channel controls the playback from your computer…and it goes right back down the main output as long as the red button on that channel is switched from Monitor to Stereo output. So anything you just recorded in ProTools or Audition you can just cue it up and play, and control the output with the volume pot. Any streaming sound from YouTube or Vimeo can go down the line too. This works with all the remote recording solutions like Source Connect, ipDTL, Skype, and SessionLinkPro. If the client can hear you, they will hear the playback on command.

Update: I discussed this with voice over tech guru George Whittam and he said that the Yamaha AG03 also has this ability in a smaller travel-size mixer for half the price. If you don’t need the extra inputs and additional routing then the AG03 is a great solution also. I think I’ll be getting one for my travel rig!