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’).
- Room treatment
- Audio interface (the piece of hardware that gets the audio from your microphone into your computer)
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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!