Tips for getting great sounding voiceovers and podcasts at home
In the new world of lockdown and isolation, many of us are having to work from home. For voice-over artists and podcasters, this can present a few challenges especially if you have never recorded at home before. There’s equipment to consider such as microphones and some form of recording device. And crucially, you need to consider acoustics, and how to you make your home sound like a studio rather than a bathroom with canyon-like reflections.
Firstly let’s take a look at possibly the most essential tool you’re going to need when recording at home and that’s the microphone.
If you’re recording using a computer, buying a USB microphone eliminates the need for an audio interface and mic preamp, saving on both money and time to get setup and get running. Lots of USB mics also come with a headphone output so you can monitor what you are recording. These types of microphones are relatively easy to setup and keep the whole process of recording very simple. But it’s worth noting that although USB microphones have come a long way in recent years, results can be mixed. So, make sure that you choose wisely and make your buying decision based on quality rather than price.
Dynamic Mics are very popular for live performances and find themselves just at home in broadcast situations which is why they are popular for recording podcasts. When your recording several people closely together dynamic mics are excellent at eliminating background noise. Dynamic microphones also typically pick up what is close and directly fed to the microphone and they also perform equally as well on their own. And if your environment isn’t treated quite as perfectly as a studio, then the Shure SM BETA7 or Rode Podmic maybe the perfect choice.
Condenser Microphones are the professional choice and will, as a rule, give you the best result. The sensitivity and the frequency response are greater and sonically, will offer you a full and “broadcast” sounding result. Condenser mics require phantom power and therefore means additional equipment, but don’t let that put you off. They will deliver the best sound for your voice over or podcast.
If you decide on a dynamic or condenser microphone, you’re going to need some way of getting your audio into the computer. This is done using an audio interface which will also provide mic preamps if you opt for a condenser mic, as well as giving you the ability to monitor your audio through headphones and or monitors. Audio interfaces come in all shapes and sizes ranging from 1 input to multiple inputs for recording many audio sources and most support both Mac and Windows. For the purpose of recording voice overs and podcasts you shouldn’t need more than a couple of inputs.
If the thought of using a computer and audio interface sounds too complicated, there is the option of a dedicated audio recorder. Often “handheld”, these versatile recorders are relatively straight forward to use and keep the process of recording simple. They often have built in microphones, but most allow you to connect a dynamic and sometimes condenser mic. The audio is recorded directly to the device, usually onto a standard SD memory card that can then be sent off for editing or downloaded to a computer and the audio files can then be emailed or transferred to your editor or client.
If space is limited, acoustic mic covers or isolators are great way to eliminate unwanted reflections and room sounds. These are typically made from foam and the microphone is inserted through a hole on the bottom them. They usually feature a pop shield filter to help eliminate plosives making them a great way to improve your sound and is absolutely essential for all voice overs.
These devices sit on your mic stand and shield your microphone from reflections behind the mic. Over the past few years we have seen a growth in the models available, with some interesting designs. These are a great option if you don’t want to acoustically treat your entire room and have the advantage of being portable, helping you get a better recording wherever you are.
While Isolators and Reflection Filters go a long way to improving your sound, acoustically treating your room is going to deliver the best results. This is likely to cost you a little more money, and you’re going to need to dedicate space or a room in your home for treating, and the size of the room will dictate how much you need to spend. Kits are available as foam panels or if you would like something more aesthetically pleasing to the eye, fabric-covered panels are available.
Other Considerations for great sounding voiceovers & podcasts
So, the microphone, audio interface or portable recorder, as well as some important acoustic treatment, will get you started and deliver good results, but there are still a couple of accessories that will be very useful.
Don’t forget about mic stands to mount your microphones (check out our Mic Stand Buying Guide) and maybe iPad or tablet holders so you can easily position any text or prompts. Pop shields aren’t always included with your mics or bundles, but as I mentioned earlier, are very much an essential tool for getting great sounding vocal recordings. And of course, you will need to listen to your takes, so it is important to use studio quality, flat response headphones (closed-back for voice overs and podcasting) and/or studio monitors which will give you the best way of making sure what you have recorded will please your engineer, client or audience.
If you want to know more or have any questions, feel free to contact any of the Studiospares team for help.