“Hey, what microphone would be best for me?”. What a loaded question THAT is! A relatively innocent question, but one that is sure to spark page after page after page of comments on any social media site. And yes….I too am guilty of asking that particular ‘newbie’ question.
I’ve been in the voiceover world for two years now. It’s funny how time flies, and perspective changes things, isn’t it? It really seems like just yesterday I was clueless about how the voice industry works, and was asking all those questions designed to annoy those I was asking them of. (Well, not really DESIGNED to annoy, but, you know what I mean). Now, I’m getting hit up by ‘newbies’ for advice (I know, RIGHT? ME???), and you know what the number one question I get asked is? Hint…look at the title of this blog entry…Yeah…’which microphone should I buy?’. Well, I’d LOVE to answer that question for you, but seriously, the BEST answer to that question is: the best microphone for your voice.
Yeah, I know…you think this is a cheap, cop-out answer. But the truth is (and I’ve learned this over the last two years from people far more schooled than I), it’s nearly impossible to tell someone, who I don’t know, what microphone would be best for them. I would venture a guess that even the likes of George Whittam, or Sean Pratt would be hard pressed to tell someone, sight unseen, what microphone they should buy! Too many factors involved. The BEST way to find the BEST microphone for your voice, is to TRY THEM OUT. The audiofile’s Disneyland, Guitar Center, has stores all over the U.S.A., and the great thing about them is that they’ll allow you to try out as many microphones as you’d like (in store of course), and they’ll even help you. Try a few out. See how you sound. Narrow it down to two or three, then bite the bullet and buy one. Take it home, record yourself and see how it sounds. If you don’t like it, take it back. Most audio type stores have great return policies. The bottom line is: this isn’t a quick fix answerable question.
But, to help you out just a bit, here are a few of the microphones I’d suggest:
- Neumann U 87.
- Probably one of the most widely used studio mic’s in the world. It has three polar patterns, which makes it GREAT for VO’s who do a wide variety of jobs. This one could be considered the Luxury SUV of microphones, and as such, carries a big price tag – $3,599. I’ve never used one of these, in fact, I’ve never even seen one up close. Unless you’re rolling in the dough, or, have been in the biz for a LONG time, this is really just a ‘wish list’ item
- sE Electronics sE4400a. Another that’s classified as ‘a perfect all around, all project microphone’. This large condenser mic is often referred to as a great vocal’s microphone, since it has a twin-diaphragm design (which offers a ‘cleaner’ sounding pick up). Again, another pricey mic, but MUCH less so than the Neumann. This baby will set you back $650. Whereas the Neumann is a ‘wish lister’, the sE is more of an attainable dream for most of us.
- AKG C214. AKG has been making microphones for a long time, and has really made strides at offering high quality microphones for a reasonable price. The C214 is the younger brother of the legendary AKG C414 – which you’ve most likely heard before but just didn’t know it. That is the mic used on thousands of hit records, on stage with countless artists and some of the biggest broadcast facilities in the world. With great sound quality, the C214 will set you back only $400.
- AKG Perception 220. This is the microphone I currently use, and have never had any complaints. In fact, I’m often told my voice sounds like ‘hot cocoa’ (whatever THAT means!).Seriously though, I have a rather loud voice, but the Perception 220 does a great job of making me sound pretty decent. And, at a price of about $200 (depending on where you find it), it’s a great microphone to move you up from the novice class to intermediate, and beyond. Plus, it comes with an awesome shock-mount!
- Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone. While, not a BAD mic (it actually does sound pretty decent), it’s best to steer clear of USB microphones if you’re trying to record professionally. I started with this mic (actually recorded our Disneyland podcast with the Yeti’s for a couple of years), and even recorded my first three audiobooks with it. But you can really tell the difference between this and an XLR mic. USB’s can be ‘noisy’, which is a no-no if you’re recording for a living. But, at $120 or so, it’s not a bad way to get your feet wet.
- MXL V250. A good, solid entry level microphone. The MXL is actually pretty decent for most voice work (more like short form instead of long form though). It’s not as warm as the AKG Perception 220, and it doesn’t really pick up as well, but for $49, this would be a good microphone to start with, as it is an XLR connection.
Disclaimer: I am NOT a professional sound engineer. The microphones I listed are really just my opinion, the ones I looked at while finding a good microphone for me. The only definite advice I can give is to steer clear of anything that plugs directly into your computer (USB), since they tend to create a messier sound. XLR connections into an audio interface (discussed in a future blog), is the best way to go. Do your homework. Test out a few mic’s and find the best for your voice. Voices are a lot like fingerprints. Each one is unique. Find your voice. It’s out there!