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7 essentials for your voice-over home studio


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Has anyone told you that you have a golden voice and should try your hand at voice acting? Or perhaps you've already tried but are struggling to build a great-sounding home studio? 

Even the best voice needs a well-equipped studio to sound good. 

Even after eleven years in the business, I'm still learning about acoustics, gear, and everything needed to produce a high-quality voice-over. 

Here's my list of seven home studio essentials if you want to become a voice-over actor. 

This list is based on a blog post I wrote (in Norwegian). This is a shortened and translated version. 

#1 – A good microphone

This is a given. You don't want to be working with cheap USB microphones. It might be enough for your Youtube channel, but not if you plan to take this seriously. 

With that said, there's a catch to buying expensive microphones: they can be very sensitive and, therefore, less forgiving of a poorly treated recording space. 

You also need to identify which microphone works best with your voice. For me, that's Røde Broadcaster for audiobooks and Sennheiser MKH416 for almost everything else. 

The latter has become an "industry standard" in promo and commercial work and is used by many of the top VAs. Other tried and tested microphones for voice-overs are the Neumann TLM 101, 103, and U87. 

Just remember: the best mic doesn't have to be the most expensive. It depends on your voice, studio, and what it will be used for. 

#2 – Mic accessories

The accessories you choose will also affect the sound quality you can produce. You should have a: 

  • Pop filter. This prevents plosives from hitting the microphone membrane. It's usually made of nylon or metal mesh. It can't perform miracles, so training to avoid plosives in the first place is vital. 
  • A stand for your mic. When voice-acting, your hands should be free to gesture, helping your performance. A good stand will be sturdy and adjustable. I've had the Røde PSA1 Studio arm ever since I got started. It's still great, which is a testament to this stand's quality. 
  • Shock mount. This mount allows your mic to hang freely from elastic bands within a frame. It stops vibrations from affecting the mic, e.g., if you bump the table. Not all microphones will fit all shock mounts, so do your research. 

#3 – Software and a decent computer

You need software to record and edit your voice-overs. This is referred to as a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). You should also have a decent PC or Mac since editing on a slow computer can take all the fun out of work. 

I prefer Adobe Audition as my DAW. It has all the bells and whistles you need, like multitrack recording, EQ, and compressor. It comes with a monthly fee. 

A free alternative is Audacity. It does pretty much the same as Audition, just not as well. It's less intuitive and looks like it was developed in the early 90s. 

If you're willing to pay a reasonable one-time fee, Reaper is an alternative. It has a steep learning curve, but the time you spend learning it can be well worth it. Reaper is super-adaptable and perfect for voice-overs, if you spend the time setting it up. Just search for "Reaper for voice-over" on Youtube, and check out Booth Junkie's tutorials. 

#4 – Audio interface

This hardware connects the microphone to your computer and amplifies the signal before converting it to digital. It is usually done via USB. Some mics also need a pre-amplifier (e.g., a Cloudlifter) to strengthen the signal further. It depends on the interface and is often the case with the "King of Podcast" microphones – the Shure SM7B. 

#5 – Studio headphones

Headphones often go by the pet name "cans" in the industry. There's a lot that separates studio headphones from regular ones. They are specifically designed for studio work: 

  • You get a more accurate sound. Ordinary headphones modify the sound by adding bass or lifting the high-end. You don't want that when listening back to your voice-over recording. It's important to hear it "as is" to identify problems and adjust the audio as needed. 
  • You get a bigger frequency range. Regular headphones can't reflect background noise in the highest and lowest frequency bands. 
  • High quality. Studio headphones tend to be high-quality, built to last, and more comfortable. If you wear them for hours on end, you'll appreciate this. Trust me. 

#6 – Monitors 

Having just one monitor is fine, but if you want to avoid background noise caused by your computer fans, having a separate monitor connected to your studio can be a great idea. With a mouse and keyboard, you can increase productivity in your recording space, even if your PC is in a different room. 

Then there's a different type of monitor: Studio monitor speakers. These do the same job as your headphones but allow you to listen back to your voice-over recording more naturally. 

#7 – Acoustically treated recording space

This is just essential. It doesn't matter if you have the most expensive microphone in the world, the best voice and software worth thousands of dollars; if your recording space isn't treated correctly, you'll end up with echo, reverb, or boxiness in your recordings. 

If you have kids, screaming or crying can ruin a recording session. The noise of a neighbor's dog can do the same. 

A proper studio stops unwanted sounds from reaching your microphone, but it also works to achieve perfect acoustics. It shouldn't sound like a box or cause troubling reflections that end up as reverb in your take. 

This can be solved using a dedicated audio recording booth, like the WhisperRoom, bass traps, acoustic foam, or a treated closet. If you're desperate, egg cartons and pillows can do the trick! I don't recommend the latter, but it's what I call my hotel studio. You have no idea how many national TV commercials I've recorded from my hotel pillow fort. 

When you have all of this stuff in place, find yourself a great coach. The chances of succeeding without one are slim and just like in any other industry, you need training and experience to become good. 

I hope this helps you, if you're an aspiring voice-over actor! 

 

Edited by smashradio
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