The coronavirus pandemic made voiceover home studios more common and acceptable, and despite in-house studios opening up again, I think much of the convenience of having a home studio to record from is still a popular option. During the pandemic, I helped hundreds of artists get set up with tailored setups ready to launch their businesses forward. Effectively all you need is a microphone, an audio interface, a pair of headphones, and a computer. The microphone is an electronic ear, though it is super sensitive and will hear so many sounds we might otherwise not hear. The audio interface takes the sound waves picked up by the microphone and converts them into something a computer can understand. On your computer, you will need to download what’s known as a ‘DAW.’ This is audio recording software. With that said, you are good to go!
Some equipment works better for some people than others. There are microphones for example, that complement higher-pitch voices and others that complement lower-pitch voices. Some variations in equipment don’t always work as well as others, but I will come on to that a little later. I wrote the intro to 4 equipment spreads in The Buzz magazine to give people a huge range of content, evaluating the pros and cons along with the prices and specs. Vocal booths, microphones, interfaces, and headphones are all things I looked at. A budget set up can be gained for around £200 to $250. This will give you a decent microphone, interface, and headphones to start you off. However, what type of microphone do you need, and where do you record?
Creating Your Space
There are several types of microphones out there, such as dynamic, large diaphragm, small diaphragm, and ribbon mics, to name a few. They all serve a purpose, but in voice over in particular, the typical standard is a large diaphragm condenser microphone. Most agents, casting directors, or clients will be expecting these types of microphones. It is key to make sure that you do not deviate from this as you want to make the experience as easy as possible to book work. There is, of course, the odd exception to the microphone large diaphragm condenser rule, but unless you are at a sound engineer level of experience, it is best to stick to what is normal in this instance.
Mixing Equipment and Elevating Your Performance
Several clients in the video game and anime genres prefer to work with Neumann TLM103s and U87s. A friend of mine said an Aston Spirit was a good substitute for the Neumann TLM103, so I decided to put this to the test. I compared several microphones to the TLM103, and ultimately the TLM103 outperformed in nearly every way, and some of the other microphones in the hustings proved to be better than the Aston Spirit. Amongst these microphones were the Rode NT1a, Imperative Audio Lucent, Vocaster, Aston Origin, Spirit and Stealth, and the Shure SM7b. I was in the process of upgrading from a Scarlette 2i2 to an Audient ID14 MKii.
These tests were conducted on the 2i2, but then I started to repeat the practise on the ID14. It was interesting that the Rode NT1a sounded amazing on the 2i2, yet on the ID14, it sounded ‘okay.’ Conversely, the TLM103 sounded great on the 2i2, yet on the ID14, it sounded exceptional! It does seem that the higher quality equipment does work better together. I can only assume a lower-budget interface with a higher-budget microphone does not pull through all the beauty the microphone is picking up.
Maximising Voiceover Home Studios
People often get concerned about where they are going to record. This can be due to external noise or rented accommodation. Sometimes it can be just down to space! But the good news is that there are plenty of options. Ideally, you want a reinforced acoustically treated soundproof workspace, but if that’s out of your budget or you do not have the price, do not worry. You can get portable vocal booths that fold up so that they can be stored away after use. The additional perk is that you can pack and put them in your car for traveling.
Portable booths range from tent-styled setups using blankets and sticks to rather heavy, thick, and dense materials. So, to summarise, there is the option of portable booths, which are lighter and thinner and offer more convenience, or a larger and heavier booth that sounds much better but is a bit more awkward to move about. Of course, there are products on the market, such as the Isocube and the Kaotica Eyeball, built to cover microphones, creating a decent size chamber that is not circulating the microphone.
Investing in Your Studio Brings Returns
Though the £200 to $250 bundles are incredible, for an extra £75 to $100, you can probably get something more tailored to your voice type and detailed needs. If you’re on the main road, in a terraced house, living with housemates and under a flight path, then you need to make sure you are doing things perfectly and waiting a couple of months to save up that extra couple of hundred pounds/dollars will be worth it in the long and short term. The good news is the home studio setup is always an evolving piece; even now, all these years in, I am still tweaking and changing my setup because it can always be better.
As I learn and technology evolves, I want to stay up to date with the latest tips, tricks, and trends, so I sound fantastic and competitive. Sometimes that super awesome sound might just be what gives you the edge. The good news is nothing is lost! If you upgrade, the old kit now happily resides in your travel kit bag or stands as an alternative should your client want to try a different sound or one of your components break. To close on that note, I always recommend two inputs rather than one for your audio interface because if one breaks, at least you have a second one to lean on.
Have fun building your studio. Make it personal to you; make it yours!