A lot of voice over performers come to us for guidance in designing and building their own VO (voice over) studio. Recording vocals isn’t too technically taxing, but there are a few major considerations. I’ll outline the primary components of the modern home voice over studio and talk a little bit about each piece.
1. The Room/Vocal Booth
Probably the single most critical part of your home studio is the space you record in. You’ll want to choose a space free of external noises that could find their way onto your recordings. It should be comfortable and be relatively “dead” in acoustic terms. This means you’ll want the walls to be covered with materials that dampen high frequency reflections. A room full of glass windows and plaster walls will require substantial acoustic treatment to make it a feasible recording space. Many home studio VO artists build a recording booth in their closet (it’s a small space easily lined with soft, absorbent materials to deaden the sound), others purchase or build actual recording isolation booths, while some will do fine just putting up acoustic treatment on the walls of a spare room. Even nailing up some old sleeping bags or comforters on the walls of a room will help improve the sound! Make sure you design a space that is comfortable to work in, as you’ll be spending a lot of time here.
2. The Microphone
The iconic studio tool for voice over makes a gigantic impact on how your recordings sound. This is usually the most expensive single component in your studio and can range from $100 – several thousand. For VO, you’ll most likely want a large diaphragm condenser mic. Some people use “radio broadcaster style” dynamic microphones, they offer substantially less detail and definition but have excellent noise rejection. I wouldn’t recommend a dynamic mic unless you are in a noisy environment that can’t be avoided.
3. Audio Interface
Once you’ve picked out a mic you’ll need a way to connect your microphone to your computer and get the sound into your software. The device you’re looking for is called an, “audio interface” and in most scenarios actually includes 3 devices built into one! You can buy an Interface that has all three, or some people choose to purchase each component as a separate piece of hardware to give themselves more control over their sound. Whatever method you choose, here is what you need!
a. Microphone Preamp – Able to affect the sound of your audio almost as much as the mic, the microphone preamp will amplify the low level signal coming from your microphone into a “Line Level” signal that can be used with other studio electronics. Even if you buy an all in one interface, you can always bypass it’s internal preamps and use a stand alone mic pre for better sound.
b. Analog to Digital Converter – This component reads the line level signal that comes out of your preamp as voltage and turns it into a series of 1’s and 0’s that make up a digital audio signal. Quality of conversion determines the accuracy of the “digital sound” in comparison to the original sound. (similar to megapixels on a camera)
c. Interface – The interface is a digital processor that allows your computer to communicate fluently using streams of digital audio. High quality interfaces will allow for hundreds of channels of audio in and out of your computer simultaneously. For purposes of voice over, this is one of the least crucial components.
You’ll need a way to listen to your voice in the microphone and hear playback from your recordings. You can buy speakers if you like, but you’ll still need a nice set of headphones no matter what. I recommend buying headphones based on comfort. You’re going to be wearing them for long periods of time and you don’t want them to cause pain. Studio headphones range from $50-$500 per set. Many great options can be found for around $150.
There are a few miscellaneous items every voice over studio will need in addition to the aforementioned big ticket items.
a. Cables- You’ll need 1 microphone cable to plug in your mic as well as cables for your speakers (if you have them)
b. Mic Stand- To hold your microphone. You can get freestanding units, tabletop units, wall mount, ceiling mount, boom arm, swivel arm, spring loaded, the sky is the limit!
c. Pop Filter- usually a circular screen with stretched nylon or a metal grill that is placed between your mouth and the mic. This stops large gusts of air/wind from causing the microphone to “pop”. Particularly effective at stopping plosive sound when forming words with p’s or b’s.
That’s the whole shebang! You can put together the entire studio for anywhere between a few hundred, and a few thousand dollars. We do a lot of voice over consultations and training at Vertigo, if you want some guidance in making the right gear choices, and learning how to best use the gear, I’m always happy to help!