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Hey voiceover sellers! Can any of you recommend equipment for newbies?

My husband is currently working for “Big River” - yanno, the “A to Z” one - as an at-home customer service agent. After 4 years of constantly hitting a brick wall for career advancement, he’s had it. He’s got a very appealing, smooth voice and has worked previously as a bingo caller at a large casino - I suggested to him that he dip a toe in the waters of VO work.

Now writing, writing I know. I could do that in my sleep. But this is uncharted territory to yours truly! Ever the pessimist, he’s convinced it will take thousands of dollars of equipment to even get started. I don’t buy that - I’m sure there’s a handful of beginner-to-moderate microphones, software programs, etc. that are common to the industry, and I’m hoping some of you can help a gal out with some knowledge. I’d be happy to quid-pro-quo it and take an editorial eye to your gig description in return, if you’d like! :slight_smile:

So hit me - what do I need to look at / consider / buy for a microphone, software, etc? Current assets: He’s got a pretty high-end gaming computer and we’ve got an upstairs closet with HVAC ventilation that wouldn’t take much to studio up with egg crate foam or panels, if need be. We have a whole-home wifi mesh system, as well.

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So I think there are 5 main areas you want to invest in, in what I think are an order from most important to least important (or at least, ‘will make the most difference’ to ‘will make little difference’).

  1. Room treatment
  2. Audio interface (the piece of hardware that gets the audio from your microphone into your computer)
  3. Microphone
  4. Headphones
  5. Software

Room treatment;
I’d google this, and see what options you have. There are options for every different budget and it can all be a bit overwhelming. Essentially, the problems you’re trying to solve are keeping external sounds out and away from your microphone (street noise etc) and minimising echo to as close to zero as possible. Echo is a killer when it comes to VO recordings, and you’ll need to invest in specific acoustic foam panels to achieve this. Also, remember that echo comes from above and below you, not just around you, which is why you get vocal ‘booths’ in the Pro world, both the floor and the ceiling are also treated. Bedding and blankets are a good makeshift for when you’re in a bind in a hotel room somewhere, but if you’re setting something up permanent, I’d see if you can spend a little bit of money.

We use something called an IsoVox 2. I won’t link, as I know forum members can be funny about hyperlinks, but Google it and see what you think. It costs around $800, but it’s worth it’s weight in gold if he’s going to take this seriously, we’ve made our money back more than 100 times over with this thing. Plus it’s portable, should you ever want to take your setup on the road. I really can’t recommend it enough.

Audio Interface;
You want something that will take an XLR input from a microphone, and convert it into a digital input for your computer. As ever, you’ve got loads of budget options. I love Universal Audio, and use the Apollo Twin. They’ve just launched a product called the Apollo Solo which is also excellent. They’re pricey, but worth it. If you’d like to try and keep the budget down, Focusrite are also very good. Just ensure you have XLR inputs, and Phantom Power.

Microphone;
Avoid anything below about $150, and avoid anything that’s USB powered, you want to go old-school XLR input to match your audio interface. We use Shure SM7Bs which have been industry standards for decades now (legend has it that Quincy Jones swore by them and Michael Jackson recorded Thriller on one). They’re built like tanks, and you’ll have seen them on hundreds of podcasts and YouTube channels. They give a very clean, neutral sound, which is what you want.
Neumann is a fantastic microphone brand, but a bit pricey.
In my experience, Sontronics is a good budget microphone brand. Great quality for a really fair price. We had the STC-20 before we switched to the Shures and it served us well.
‘Condenser’ is the type of microphone most commonly used in voice over work, but some VO people also use ‘shotgun’ microphones, you just have to work them into your setup slightly differently. For most microphones, you’ll also need to get a ‘pop shield’, a piece of foam which sits in front of the microphone and minimises plosives (harsh ‘Ps’ and ‘Bs’ etc).

Headphones;
A good pair of ‘monitoring’ headphones or ‘studio headphones’ is a must. Monitoring headphones are ones which will give an accurate representation of what’s actually in your recording, without ‘colouring’ the sound too much to make it sound better. You need honesty and transparency when you’re editing your work. Again, loads of different budgets, but if he pays around $100, that’s probably about right. AKG I think do some very good professional studio headphones.
He could also get ‘studio monitors’ (the speaker version of the headphones), but there’s a couple of reasons why I’d suggest not for the time being. They’re VERY expensive compared with headphones, and it also necessitates having your work playing out loud while editing, which you might not want in a family home. Headphones mean he can work in private, any time of the day or night. Plus, some VO people like to wear headphones and hear themselves while they’re recording (I hate it, but my partner can’t record without them).

Software;
You want something designed for Voice Over, rather than something designed for music. I’ve been using Adobe Audition for years now, and it’s amazing. They charge about $18 per month for access to it, which I know some people hate (subscription pricing), but you’ve paid for it with one job a month, and then it’s profit from that point on. Audacity is a free piece of software to cut your teeth on, but I’d recommend moving to something like Audition as soon as he gets serious.

Education;
Obviously worth mentioning, but as well as having to learn how to read Voice Overs effectively, he’s also going to have to learn how to EQ, Compress, mix and edit his recordings. It’s overwhelming when you first get started, there’s a LOT to learn, and he’ll probably hate what he creates to begin with. YouTube is your friend, or look at signing up for a course which will take him through everything he needs to get started, and like anything, practice will make perfect.

Hope this helps!

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Thank you so much for such a detailed rundown - I really appreciate your time and willingness to share your expertise! The thinking was that if he didn’t take well to it, I was going to give it a shot - I’ve had (singing, granted) vocal training for years and done some off-the-cuff announcements, video VOs, etc. for various companies I’ve worked for in the past.

My main hesitation has always been concern over demanding clients. Maybe 1 out of every 30 jobs comes back for a substantial rewrite for me - things beyond “change the way this one sentence goes” - and as embarrassed as I am to admit it I can struggle with taking criticism. I worry they’ll dislike how my voice sounds, or steal the file - with writing, I can check for plagiarism but I imagine it’s harder with something as ephemeral as a voice snippet that may or may not be mixed/online.

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@cubittaudio - I was going to message you through the forums but it looks like your profile’s set to private. Did you do your video intros for your gigs yourself? I am not the least bit surprised you’re a TRS with that level of really impressive production value. I wanted to ask if you can be hired to do those, or if you can tag the seller that made them (if they’re on Fiverr) otherwise. I’d love to get one of those on my writing gigs!

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cubittaudio has offered you a lot of great advice. I’ll just reemphasize some points that are already made or highlight ones not mentioned.

Acoustic room treatment is absolutely the most important step before doing any VO work. Having a $3000 microphone and $2000 fancy tube Amp/Digital audio converter won’t save you and will actually makes things worse if in an untreated room. The more sensitive the microphone, the more it will pick up any room imperfections, so this is actually a case where a cheaper, less sensitive mic would be preferable.

For VO, you want as dead a room as possible, which is the exact opposite of what singers want!

The audio interface is the piece of equipment that most people don’t know or fully understand. It converts the analog waveform picked up by the microphone into digital zeros and ones for the computer and digital audio workstation to accept. I would say, stay away from tubes. There are people who love tube amp/DACS for bringing warmth and character to sound, but unfortunately, tubes degrade over time and must be replaced or else recordings made several months apart can sound quite different.

Choice of microphone is as divisive as it gets in the audio world. I concur with staying away from USB mics. Large diaphragm condenser microphones are commonly used in VO, but shotgun mics and dynamic mics are also common.

Shotgun mics have an advantage of having a highly focused hypercardioid pickup pattern, meaning that sounds not directly in front of it are negated quite well, useful if in a less than perfect recording space, but setting up a shotgun mic properly is trickier to do.

Don’t cheap out on the microphone, but also don’t sell a kidney in order to afford a top of the line Neumann or Manley unless you are absolutely sure voice over is a serious long-term career in the making.

For headphones, if you do wish to hear yourself live whilst recording, make sure the headphones worn are closed-back, or else the playback sound will leak into the live recording.

For software, people pay a premium for features, gizmos, and add-ons. For voice over, one really doesn’t need too much processing unless intentionally going for a crunchy compressed digital sound. The whole process of editing, cleaning up, and mastering audio is incredibly varied and too much to describe here.

Natural talent and a “good sounding voice” are great to have, but training, and most of all experience have a bigger impact.

Boy, this post was long.

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I concur with cubittaudio and enunciator on everything. USB mics are to recording what wireless headphones or headsets: 20+ years we’ve had them and they’re still generally meh, both in quality and value for the money. This said, there’s actually a lot of good USB mics for cheap (Sanjay C did this video not too long ago which is great), but if your mind is just a little more set, go XLR mic + audio interface.

This said, the search for entry-level equipment doesn’t constitute a huge barrier money-wise honestly:

  • Good analytical monitoring headphones: anywhere in the 99-199$ price range if new. You can get industry standards like the Sony MDRs or opt for something a little bit better like the early Sennheiser HD line headphones… also Beyerdynamics ones, etc. – if they’re closed on the back and people like them, then they’re good.
  • Good analog mics: same price range as the headphones. Audio-Technica, Shure, Neumann, Telefunken, and Røde are all good brands that I know of.
  • Audio Interface (don’t know what it is? Imagine a better soundcard for your PC, but on your desk): you can buy a Behringer audio interface or one of the new M-Audio economic line ones for 39 to 59$ or something, but please don’t – invest 100$+ on one. RME Babyfaces and Apollo Twins are all good, but you don’t need to spend a thousand to get great interfaces. There’s a lot of packages and brands so I suggest
  • Soundproofing: no minimum budget on this one! You can do it using carpets or spend more to get some foam… of course, the more you spend, the more convenient it is. Remember though: you need to have your computer in another room, unless it’s a laptop that barely makes any noise, and you’re gonna have to run cables through the hallway when recording. The HVAC you mentioned is also a definitive dealbreaker for that space. Then there’s also portable booths which are really funny and probably nice but I know jack bout those.
  • Software: audio is one of the few fields where you’re obligated to spend money if you want things to flow smoothly. The free alternatives are miles behind the paid stuff, but you can do some good mileage even with Audacity if you know how to EQ and clean audio properly, IMHO.

Basically, if your hubbie thinks spending about 300$ (“cheapo USB preparation” kit) or 500$ (for proper beginner stuff with an interface and some more) is fair for an hobby he may have wanted to explore for years, then he can calmly go ahead.

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Man, Voiceover Fiverr is a really kind and generous group :heart:

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You’ve had some excellent ‘pro’ advice but I’m going to offer a slightly different perspective. Assuming that your husband doesn’t have lots of money to burn, before he goes investing hundreds or thousands of dollars in kit, I would advise that he tests the water first with a cheap (but acceptable) set up. Why?..

By far the majority of voice over jobs you get through online platforms like Fiverr are for YouTube videos / whiteboard animations / business presentations / voicemail messages, etc. These jobs require ‘okay’ audio quality and tend to pay quite low rates (by traditional voice over standards anyway). In other words, it would take a long time to recoup any investment in proper top end kit.

There are two things that really influence the technical quality of a recording. One is the acoustics of the room, and the other is the mic.

Once your husband is on his way to becoming a voice pro - then he can invest in expensive acoustic grade panels for the wall. But until then, a cluttered room with some curtains or blankets hanging from the wall and any large windows will do. Basically, anything that will stop the voice bouncing of walls. This can be at no cost. A definite winner when you’re testing the water.

When it comes to choosing a microphone, while the advice about not going for a USB one is generally quite sound, actually when you’re testing the water they are generally good enough for the majority of low cost jobs you get on platforms like Fiverr. They win on price and simplicity (because they eliminate the need for a costly separate audio interface and / or mixer). For example a new Blue Yeti mic can be had for around $100. Is this going to win your husband ‘voice of God’ cinema trailer jobs? No, absolutely not - nowhere near good enough quality. But it’s fine for the majority of lower-end jobs I listed above.

Now before others tell me I’m crazy (audio pros hate stuff like I’ve mentioned), if your husband has never done voice overs before, it does actually take some time to ‘find your voice’. Some people never do. Think of investing in voice over kit as like putting a learner driver behind the wheel of a new Tesla - the learner driver is never going to drive far enough or fast enough in the first year or so to benefit from the expensive technology. They might even prang their car a couple of times - or never pass their test.

As for software, I’m surprised nobody has mentioned Audacity. It’s been around for years, it’s still very much actively developed, it has a massive user base, there are some fantastic online tutorials, and best of all - it’s free. It can’t fully compete with the likes of Adobe Audition, but it chops up audio and allows you to save it, plus it has some useful features including audio processing (an important and sometimes controversial aspect of home voice overs).

Too many people try to run before they can walk with voice overs by over investing in kit that never recoups its initial outlay. Am I qualified to offer the above thoughts and advice? Yeah, I think so. I spent many years in the world of broadcasting and commercial production, and up until a few years ago I used to dabble in home voice overs myself (hence my Fiverr username).

To the audio pros reading what I’ve written, I know you’ll hate me - but seriously, we are offering advice to someone who has never done voice overs before (maybe has never even listened back to their own voice before?), and who is looking to sell on Fiverr where the majority of voice jobs are low end. If the op’s husband finds they have a talent for voice overs and is getting work, then they can upgrade - but I know of so many people who have invested in decent kit and it sits gathering dust.

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Absolutely not going to argue against what english_voice recommends. If you are just testing the waters, there’s absolutely no need to invest an immense amount of money and DIY effort to create a “professional grade” setup.

Truthfully, many “professionals” simply choose the same equipment that they see other “professionals” use, and that eventually creates the “professional standard.” Now, if you ever happen to work with “professionals,” they very likely WILL be particular because they are so accustomed to hearing audio generated in meticulously treated booths with Sennheiser’s, Neumann’s, Manley’s and Rode’s.

A closet full of clothing, a small portable Zoom recorder, and a mic of your choosing may be all you really need to start off.

Yes, USB mics have a bit of a bad reputation behind them, but they have indeed made improvements especially over the last decade. The biggest advantage of USB mics are their price point, no need for an amp or DAC, or XLR cables. There is a definite difference in quality, but a serviceable mic is better than having no mic at all.

Oh, if you do plan to go the XLR microphone route, do not cheap out on the XLR cables. An audio chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and if you have cheapo depot cables, they have a bad habit of introducing interference, hiss, crackling, pops, and other unpleasantness into the final product.

—This thread is basically becoming a “So you want to be a voice actor” information pamphlet.

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And I can’t argue against what you’ve written. I used to have a home studio set up with a Neumann condenser mic. I bought it second hand off a colleague - and even then the mic cost me the equivalent of $700 (and that was a bargain!). Back in the day I had an analogue desk (an Alice Soundtech series A, which was very popular in Britain in the 90s and early 2000s) and I used CoolEdit Pro which went on to become Adobe Audition. I say this not to show off - but to demonstrate I do have some understanding of the market, rather than being some random person chucking in their thoughts!

However, I had all that kit because I was working in the industry and making my living from it - big difference from simply giving it a go, never having had any experience before (like the op’s husband). Back then, voiceovers tended to be only for radio ads, company phone systems, documentaries and corporate videos - where quality very much mattered and clients were prepared to pay a decent rate. Nowadays the voice over industry has fragmented to the point where the majority of opportunities are very much at the low end and sadly expectations are much lower as well.

To put things in perspective, I know of a couple of colleagues who use their iPhones to record voice over demos on the go, while another uses a plug in mic via a lightning connector to record (voice track) radio shows. That’s how cheap the industry has become, as domestic kit is (in some cases) good enough for professional purposes.

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Hey! There’s already been so much great, thorough advice given here.

I know when I started becoming serious about voiceover, I found it to be pretty overwhelming because of the sheer volume of STUFF, so hopefully this will be a really easy starting point, where you can get an idea of some good starter mics depending on your budget.

For room treatment, consider acoustic panels. If you google “diy acoustic panels booth junkie”, Booth Junkie on YouTube has a great tutorial for making acoustic panels (and is a great resource for voice over in general). These are amazing for cheap sound treatment, and I’ve used them myself. Way cheaper than something you can buy online, and leaps and bounds more effective that those typical foam stick on tile things you can get.

Then, I’d recommend getting a Focusrite Scarlett Solo interface (second hand is fine), and one of these XLR mics, depending on your budget. I would say that the price reflects the quality, but all of these mics would be a fine starter mic:

  • $​75: MXL 770
  • $​100: Audio Technica AT2020
  • $​130: Audio Technica AT2035
  • $​200: Blue Spark
  • $270: Rode NT-1
  • $​300: Warm Audio WA47jr
  • $​400: Shure SM7B

A lot of these have decent resale value too, so if your husband decides it’s not for him, or wants to upgrade later on, you shouldn’t have too much trouble reselling them. And buying second hand is often a fine option too as long as the equipment has been treated with care!

Edit: Just want to add that these are just recommendations based on what I’m familiar with - there are plenty of other great audio interfaces and mics out there at similar price points to what I’ve listed, and starting with a good quality USB mic like the $​90 Samson C01U for example would also be totally acceptable. I started with a USB mic myself, but you will get better quality with XLR most of the time

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As someone who misses the industry, this is a pet love of mine - hence the copious posts from me! I can vouch for the AT2035. I’ve used one before and they offer great value / audio quality for the price. Also, the SM7B is generally regarded as a bit of a classic - but to my mind it’s definitely at the upper end of the beginner market.

Generally speaking the more you pay for a mic, the better the audio quality. But doubling your budget for example, doesn’t mean double the audio quality. It instead tends to result in a very modest improvement that can (and again, audio purists will reel back in horror at my suggestion) to a certain degree be replicated using a cheaper mic with careful audio processing.

To be clear, my budget suggestions aren’t aimed at someone looking to do commercial grade recordings. But they will be perfectly good enough for someone finding their feet and wanting to try their hand at a few low end voice over jobs through Fiverr for YouTube videos and whiteboard animations in order to discover if they have a talent for this.

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I agree with everything mentioned!

To clarify, a $400 mic certainly isn’t just a “starter” mic, the Shure is a mic that you could absolutely use for years without a need to upgrade.

I included it on the basis that it’s what some people would consider affordable enough to get off the bat, depending on their own economic situation, and is still much cheaper than high end $1k+ Sennheisers or Neumann’s for example.

As I wasn’t sure of OP’s budget, I decided to include it (as well as mics covering a range of budgets), especially due to their high resale value and longevity. While it is a hefty starter investment, it is something you could easily resell if it wasn’t for you. :relaxed:

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Wait, all this in depth technical discussion of voice over gear, and a critical piece of equipment has been neglected to be mentioned! :astonished:

The humble but ever important microphone stand! :studio_microphone:

Without one, simply holding a mic that is never intended to be held will result in absolutely terrible sound. With a weak, cruddy, wobbly one, you risk damaging your precious mic from falling down.

It would be an absolute tragedy to have a multi-thousand dollar microphone destroyed due to being mounted on a $30 mic stand, but I am absolutely certain that this has happened on more than one occasion.

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I am like @english_voice in this. Most of you know me, but for any who don’t, I am a Mix Engineer who mixes not only Bands but Audio Program for Doctors, Lawyers etc. (they pay their, and therefore my, bills).

While it is lovely to have the fanciest, bestest, expensivest of gear in your perfectly anechoic chamber (at whose door no raven may ever be allowed to tap tap) the reality is probably better different. I get plenty of work sent from gear (and rooms) that claim best-ness yet they are poor. I get material that is basic gear but is good work.

The human driving is what matters more than any amount of gear.

While people will wax lyrical about Condensor microphones and their famed sensitivity, I will wax heretical and remind that they are hard to use and very easy to get a nastly sound with so suggest a cheap as chips Dynamic like the Behringer XM8500 as perfectly suited to getting it done.

Again with the Audio Interface & Mic Preamps. Sure if Frank Sinatra is coming over, buy the gold plated doohickey with the big knobs (and expect a slap in the chops when you can’t use it). Otherwise, the again cheap as chips Audient Evo4 will do a fine job.

The things I will say to really avoid are the Podcast mics that look very fancy and connect by USB as they are ok but not for the price compared to the gear I mentioned above.

And yes Mic placement, on a stand no less, is at least 50% of your battle.

I have a couple of articles on my site written for clients I would share if I could. This is my pic on Mic Placement

:slight_smile:

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Wow, you have such great advices here. I was about to start writing my answer but almost everything was said regarding your question, and you have lots of good recommendations here from real and good professionals. I feel trilled to see, once again, that people are so open to help and welcome people at our industry. :star_struck:

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