If you want to get started in this whole “voice over” thing, you’re going to need an adequate tool. Knowing what the best microphone for voice over is could save you plenty of time and money.
It’s not necessary to start big unless you’ve already got a pretty sweet deal lined up. And hey, if you’re just starting out and got lucky, that’s great! But, most of us who have tried our hand at voice overs started out smaller. Even Usain Bolt started with baby steps before he started running mad 100s.
That’s why getting your mic is not necessarily about going big or going home. In fact, you’ll probably be home while you’re recording – one of the perks of the freelance life. So, here are some things to know about what your microphone needs will likely be as a voice over artist:
- You probably will need a mic that’s set differently than for singers and live performers.
- You’re going to have to think about what the mic is relative to your home or studio setup.
- Is portability going to be a big factor?
Remember: if you’re already an established voice artist, this article isn’t for you. Past a certain quality standard, it’s going to be a matter of preference and brand loyalty. Not all microphones are made equal, but a lot are excellent, especially when you’ve got cash in hand.
This guide is aimed at those trying to get their foot in the door, so to speak. So, after some deliberation, I’ll get to what I think is a quality, affordable choice that’s been tried and tested.
Ready to go?
But if you prefer to watch a video instead, click here:
Voice Overs: a small primer for a big industry
Voice overs are a production technique where a recorded voice is used in media. If it’s aural or visual, it’s probably got some form of voice over in it. Film, music, radio, podcasts, narration, audiobooks, ads, announcements; all are forms of the ever-present voice over.
Why are voice overs so prevalent? The simple answer is immediacy. It’s a re-application of the “Keep it Simple, Stupid” Navy acronym. You can think of simplicity as the shortest distance between two points. And, when you make us humans listen, we take notice.
In English, sight is precedent. It’s #1 in our hierarchy of senses. Incredibly, this is not universally true. Some cultures prioritize other senses. But it doesn’t change the fact that, while it’s handy information to have, the sound is a great way to reach people.
A late 2017 report confirmed that voice over was an industry worth over $4.4bn annually. The numbers certainly seem to back up my assertions. And, if anything, voice overs seem to be growing as a market. With brands facing ever-increasing demand to voice their content, things are looking up!
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many on-demand markets where voice overs are necessary, that lack of work is not an option!
But we’ll get into finding jobs later. First, you have to at least acclimate yourself to basic industry standards. No use in knocking at the door of potential employers when you haven’t got the basics down pat.
On to learning about the best microphone for voice overs!
Best microphone for voice over essentials
First thing is to get some terminology down. Not all microphones are created equal, so it’s best to know about common terms you’re going to encounter when shopping around. After all, audiophiles may have their own language and know these things like the back of their hand, but it’s all new to you.
Now, there are many more, but for our uses, we’re going to contemplate these broad categories:
1. Condenser mics (with large or small diaphragms)
This is probably the type of mic that pops to mind immediately when you think about recording. They’re also called capacitor microphones. You don’t really need to know the physics behind it too much, but it’s interesting.
The condenser capsule in these mics consists of a thin membrane – called the diaphragm – and a thicker solid plate. The diaphragm is usually constructed of an electrically conductive material like gold-sputtered mylar. When air is passed through the membrane, the distance between the diaphragm and the metal plate changes, producing an alteration in capacitance. The flow of sound makes the capacitance change, and that gets converted into an electrical signal. Hence, amplified and recorded sound. Yay!
By the way, these microphones usually necessitate an external power output due to the way they produce sound. There may also be some issues with noise levels from the built-in electronics. Good designs generally don’t have those issues and have almost negligible noise levels.
2. Dynamic (or transducer) mics
Shure.com describes dynamic microphones in the following way:
“(they) employ a diaphragm/voice coil/magnet assembly which forms a miniature sound-driven electrical generator. Sound waves strike a thin plastic membrane (diaphragm) which vibrates in response. A small coil of wire (voice coil) is attached to the rear of the diaphragm and vibrates with it. The voice coil itself is surrounded by a magnetic field created by a small permanent magnet. It is the motion of the voice coil in this magnetic field which generates the electrical signal corresponding to the sound picked up by a dynamic microphone.” Note that these microphones are better at picking a higher sound variability. They’re generally preferred for stage use too because they don’t need external power.”
So, pretty easy to understand, right? The main thing to take into account is how they produce sound, and whether they require external power. There are also many other details to consider, sure. Our main concern is what the best microphone for voice over is, especially when you’re starting out. Let’s not get too bogged down in details better left for experienced enthusiasts.
Another important thing to consider is the pickup pattern from the microphone. This article is a good primer on why microphones have different pickup patterns. Simply put, sometimes sound needs to be recorded from different spots in a room; room tone may be necessary when recording acoustic guitar parts, for instance; ambient sounds and conversations may factor into a scene for a movie, but the main conversation needs to be into focus. Now, here are the most important types for you.
- Omnidirectional mics listen to sound from all directions.
- Cardioid mics are usually unidirectional. That means they’re focused on the sound that’s coming from one direction, generally the front or the sides of the mic. Sound from the back is generally toned down or rejected outright. That’s what we want when performing voice overs. A good focus on our voice, and parsing out of extraneous sounds. If you’ve got insulation (as you should) around, even better.
- Figure 8 or bidirectional mics take the sound from two directions. They’re not really our main concern now.
The best microphone for voice over
For my money, there’s one contender on this list. It’s been at the top of “best of” lists for a while, and one I own personally. The Blue Yeti Pro USB microphone is a great, great starting choice for would-be voice artists. It’s widely used by tons of YouTubers and upstarts. Also, it doesn’t require external amplification, which is already great for a cardioid mic.
Its USB plug and lack of need for an external power source also make it super accessible for newcomers to the business. The Pro version also offers an XLR cable, which is the reason I’m recommending it over the base one; you can connect the XLR cable to a preamp, mixer or console if you want to take things to another level. If not, it’s just a basic plug-and-play USB mic. You connect it, record your voice overs in your insulated environment, and you’re good to go!
If you do plug into a preamp, it gives you more flexibility with EQ settings and the like. But even that’s not necessary, as the mic itself offers a good array of options. For example, you can choose the pattern on the mic.
Here are the pattern options offered by the Blue Yeti Pro.
- Cardioid (you’re going to want this one, mostly, when doing voice overs)
- The mic’s also got a solid 24-bit/192 kHz audio resolution and built-in AD converted if you go with the USB route. It also comes with a headphone amplifier with zero-latency monitoring.
The best part? It won’t even cost you a small fortune! You can find great deals for it on Amazon at about $100-120. For a starter mic, I’d call that a bargain! Considering you don’t have to get any external hardware to plug it into, that’s a double whammy! Most mics require a preamp, a console or a mixer; this one’s ready for you to start.
For newcomers, the Blue Yeti Pro is undoubtedly the best microphone for voice over.
I’m glad you came on this small journey with me. It can be daunting to get started with any career and becoming a voice over artist is no exception. Keeping your own hours, freelancing and being disciplined is not for the faint of heart. If you don’t have any gear, it feels like you have to learn a new vocabulary just to get started.
If you want, you can also check out this article on voice over tips. It’ll be good whether you’re starting out, or want to produce in-house voice overs for your company. It may all seem like too much at first, but I assure you it takes almost no time to get set up and going.
Now that you know what the best microphone for voice over is, you’re good to go!