I see that you’re thinking about taking a plunge into the voice over trade! That’s wonderful! But, as you set up your studio, you might be getting some analysis paralysis. Maybe you’re wondering what a good voice over microphone is. As you go over all the options, they start to boggle the mind a little. What’s with all this jargon and terminology? Let me give you a leg up!
Audio equipment has its own rich technical discourse that sometimes drags newbies down. After all, you’re trying to buy a product, not learn a new language, aren’t you? Also, you might get bogged down with unnecessary information that leads you away from an easy informed purchase. But hey, it’s a good thing you came to the right place!
In this article, I’ll share some of the most common microphone types with you. I’ll go over what makes them tick, and what they’re generally good for. Not all microphones are fit for recording voice overs, though! While it’s true that you can utilize them if need be, vocal artists generally have a preferred type. This is because they tend to be set up in a way that maximizes the richness and natural resonance of the human voice. There’s also (normally) no need to deal with stage or outside acoustics, as sessions are performed in studios or booths.
So, without further ado, let’s take a small guided tour!
What do you need to know about voice overs?
The first thing you need to know is they’re everywhere, and very lucrative. In fact, they’ve been lauded as one of the top 20 most lucrative work from home careers. The average hourly income for voice over artists is $72.70, which is nothing to scoff at!
The second is a simple definition of what voice overs are. They are a production technique where the human voice is recorded and use in a variety of media. Voice overs are very versatile and used to provide spoken-word audio to a multitude of commercial, artistic, or technical projects and endeavors.
The most common voice over type you may have heard is in movies. Remember the hard-boiled narration is noir films? It always goes something like:
“I was traipsing through the rain like a drunken tourist on Mardi Gras. The water kept coming hard and fast, like tears after a final heartbreak. Through the haze, I could make out the dim shape of a streetlamp, beckoning to me with its light. In the middle of the white, warm cone, a figure stood, seemingly untouched by the storm. That’s the night I met the woman of my dreams. And nightmares.”
Yeah, you probably read that in something right out of the Max Payne games, right? So, narration is just one of the many uses of voice over in film and culture. Let’s dive a little deeper before we talk about a good voice over microphone!
Some of the uses of voice overs
Voice overs cast a wide net. Just to give you an idea of this industry’s extension, check out this list, curated in our article about starting a voice over business.
- Voice over films
- Voice acting for animation shorts or films
- Toys and games
- Vehicle and transportation
- TV shows
- Movie Trailers
- Radio or audio dramas
- Video games
- Live events
- Awards shows
- A phone message and IVR
- Dubbed foreign voice over language films
- Voice over podcasts
And that’s not even half of it! There are so many subdivisions in any of these categories that the mind boggles! You can be a jack-of-all-trades, or specialize however you see fit! One thing’s for sure: you’re going to be spoiled for choice!
Getting to know the voice over microphone pattern
As I said, there are quite a few microphones to choose from out there. The first thing to do is familiarize oneself with their pickup pattern. That means that not all microphones are going to receive sound in the same way. Some are best for field recordings, or for recording dialogue in crowded spaces; some are made specifically to record documentary-style narration or anything that requires up-close recording, like cartoons or explainer videos; a few are perfect for recording interviews, as they pick up sound from two simultaneous directions.
Knowing voice over microphone pickup patterns will let you in on what to buy and what to stay away from. That’ll mean you’ll make better, more informed choices that’ll benefit your career overall!
Pattern #1. Omnidirectional
This pattern is pretty self-explanatory. They record audio from every direction, so you can’t really pick and choose which audio it records. It’s great for recording audio when you can’t have full control over the recording venue (think conferences, ambient sounds). Most lavalier microphones are omnidirectional.
Of course, this is not the ideal pattern for a voice over microphone.
Pattern #2. Cardioid
Cardioid mics are a staple type of voice over microphone. They have some directionality and will pick up background sounds if not in a controlled environment. My top choice for voice over mics is cardioid. That’s because its directionality will allow the mic to pick up the voice more clearly while parsing out extraneous sounds, but retaining room tone and natural resonance.
This would be the ideal pickup pattern for your mic. Some even have switches that allow the mic to be configured for picking up sound from the desired position.
Other, more specialized pickup patterns
If you want to know more about microphones, great! While they’re not going to be your desired voice over microphone, it’s best to have a modicum of knowledge in hand. That way, you can also dodge potentially harmful or useless purchases.
- Hypercardioid mics are extremely directional. They’re great for picking up an isolated audio source. These are commonly used for instrument recording.
- Supercardioid microphones are great for isolating sounds too. They do pick up more sound coming from the back and sides. They’re typically found in shotgun boom mics used in TV recording.
- Lobar microphones are also directed. They’re mostly used in narrative films and controlled sets.
- Bidirectional mics pick up sound from two simultaneous directions. They’re great for interviews, radio and podcasts.
Should your voice over microphone be dynamic or condenser?
You may have seen these terms flying around, and are completely in the dark about them. Fortunately, they’re mostly about how a microphone converts sound into electrical signals (which can then be digitized), and not how they pick up sound.
There are two main types of microphones:
They are also called capacitor microphones. These mics have a thin membrane — called the diaphragm — and a thicker metal plate. The diaphragm is made out of material that conducts electricity (usually something like gold-plated mylar). When air passes through the membrane, it changes the distance between the diaphragm and the metal plate. The resulting change in capacitance produces an electrical signal that gets converted into sound.
These microphones usually necessitate some sort of external power supply. Some USB ones don’t, which is usually why I recommend them for starting out.
These are also referred to as transducer microphones. These mics employ a small assembly with a diaphragm and a magnet. When the diaphragm vibrates because of air pressure changes, a small metal wire attached to the diaphragm vibrates. This wire (or coil) is attached to a small magnet that creates a small magnetic field around it. The motion of this voice coil and the magnetic field creates the electrical signal that corresponds to the noise that the mic picks up.
What’s a good voice over microphone to start with?
I recommend reading the whole article for further justification, but I would advise starting out with mid-range mics. Whether it’s a condenser or dynamic mic, you’re generally going to want a microphone with a cardioid pattern. Portability may also be an issue with some condenser mics, as they could require an external power supply.
I generally recommend the Blue Yeti Pro microphone, as it’s pretty much plug-and-play. This USB microphone removes a lot of the hassle with setting up and is a great choice among YouTubers and amateur podcasters. I’ve used it myself during my first audiobook gigs and it has a clean, warm tone.
Here’s a small peek into a longer article about this microphone:
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!
Finding a good voice over microphone doesn’t have to be a trying affair. Getting into any new business or career is going to entail some learning, though. That’s a good thing, but it can seem like a bit too much at first. After all, your background is probably not in audio engineering or any related subject. If you suddenly go from accounting into recording your voice, you may feel like it’s too much to take in.
Thankfully, it’s possible to keep things simple by clarifying some of the most commonly-used terms in the industry. I think this is my fifth time recommending the Blue Yeti Pro, and with good reason! It’s simply a sturdy, reliable, remarkable mic that offers plenty of bang for your buck. You’re going to find it’s highly recommended by a lot of sound professionals as well. If you’re looking to go with more recommendations or to deepen your arsenal, I recommend this list.
Here’s hoping you can get in on the action with voice overs, and enjoy a long, productive career!