Choosing a Voiceover Mic: My $.02

Seems like everybody has been writing about microphones these days.  I've seen lots of advice, with most of the desire going to the high-end ones, like the Neumann U87.  As an audio engineer, I've worked with a lot of mics, studio or live, and, quite frankly, I can't recommend a $2000 investment just because someone told you you'll sound better on an expensive mic.  Actually, you'll sound exactly like you sound on it, which is good if you have a perfect voice, good diction and none of those annoying mouth noises or vocal habits.

 

I've heard my voice on ribbon mics (even one of those aged ones that can be destroyed by a direct breath), condensers, electrets, dynamics, what have you; I even worked at a studio that had those old, eccentric ones that have their own outboard power supplies and, quite frankly, my voice needs coloration. All you really have to look for is a large-diaphragm condenser without a lot of spit in it (yes, that does collect on the windscreen and change the sound!).  One thing I've found about older mics of any kind is that they drift as they age.  They no longer all sound the same as they did when new.  Sound engineers know their mic stock and use each one according to how it colors the audio signal as it passes it on.  If you buy an expensive used condenser, please listen to it first.  You may be surprised.

 

Or you may not.  So many other things affect the signal that it's often hard to tell your mic cost a lot.  Or, as often happens with less-experienced talent, you may not be able to hear or interpret the difference. 

 

As for me, I prefer to work in the cardioid pattern, for two reasons.  One, I can aim the mic so the off-axis rejection minimizes the bounce back from my computer screen, the one thing you can't cover with sound diffusers.  And second, the characteristic bass boost of the proximity effect can be very useful to a higher-voiced female-type person who is voicing a deep-voiced man.  Yeah, I know it's all about the characterization, but I have a pretty wide vocal range and use as much of it as I can to create believable and distinct characters.  Knowing where the bass boost is and being able to work it-vary my distance-is a tool I use to create a wider variety of voices.

 

When I bought my mic, I listened to a lot of condensers before deciding.  Knowing what I know about the U87's transparency and how it works against me as well as having worked with the other name brands, I started looking at smaller brands.  I'd run into the Audix line while working sound reinforcement and was pleased with the gain-before feedback and price range, but they didn't have a large-diaphragm model.  Eventually I bought my OSP mic on the basis of an online A/B and I've never regretted it.

 

So, the moral is, once more, use your ears, not your vanity when picking microphones.

Oh, and stay away from the USB mics because, well, that's a whole other discussion.

 

Talk on!

 

 

 

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