Toolbox

My Recording Gear Recommendations

Here is my short list for all the best gear, information and resources that I use as a voice actor. These are my recommendations based on years of research, trial and error and in the field experience.

 

Recording Software

For Mac or PC:
You can use any audio recording software
you are comfortable with, whether that’s Apple’s Garage Band for Mac, Adobe’s Audition, Avid’s ProTools or anything else. Each have different plug-ins and audio controls, but all of them have equal sound quality when recording since they are all simply manipulating digital audio data that has been imported into your computer via USB. I can recommend the free and cross-platform recording software Audacity.

For iPad:
I recommend either the free Twisted Wave Recorder App.

 

Recording Hardware

For Beginners:

If you’re just starting out, the simplest way to get high quality sound is to use a USB microphone. Unfortunately, very few USB microphones sound good enough to record professional voice over quality sound. Most are designed for podcasting and sound tinny or thin. Here are my recommendations for beginner microphones. If you want to get serious about voice acting, you’ll want to plan on upgrading your microphone in the future. (Prices below are approximate.)

USB Microphones:

 

Blue Yeti – $130Blue Yeti
For years, the Blue Yeti has been consistently the best value for a good starter microphone. The multiple polar patterns are not really useful for voice acting, so just leave it in cardiod mode. However, the direct headphone monitoring jack is essential to avoid any latency or “echo” when recording yourself into the computer. Just be aware that this microphone is large and heavy with a sizable desktop stand.

I also advise purchasing a Pop Filter for the Blue Yeti to protect the sensitive diaphragm of the microphone and to avoid wind noises.

 

 

Audio Technica 2020 USB Plus – $150AT2020USB+
If you’d like something a little lighter and more portable, I suggest the AT2020USB+ microphone. It doesn’t sound as warm as the Yeti, so I don’t recommend it for lower-pitched voices. However, if you have a higher pitched voice and would like something smaller than the Blue Yeti, the AT2020USB+ is a viable option. It’s even small enough to be a good microphone for traveling, something that can’t be said about the Blue Yeti.

I also advise purchasing a Pop Filter for the AT2020USB+ to protect the sensitive diaphragm of the microphone and to avoid wind noises.

The major disadvantage of the AT2020USB+ is that it has no input gain control. That means that you cannot raise or lower the input on the microphone if you are performing very loudly or softly.

 

Entry Level Headphones:

While your microphone quality is important, so is your headphone choice. You need to be able to hear the subtleties of your recording with headphones that accurately represent your voice. Most earbuds just won’t cut it. It’s best to use over the ear headphones that will block out as much outside sound as possible so you can focus on the quality of your recording. Here are the headphones I recommend for beginners:

Sennheiser HD 202 IISennheiser HD 202 II – $25
These are probably the cheapest headphones that can still be found in a professional recording studio. They can’t compare with some of the industry standard headphones which usually cost around $100, but if you’re on a very tight budget, these closed-back headphones are far superior to the earbuds that came with your smartphone.

 

 

 

 

AKG K 240AKG K 240 – $60
A musician’s favorite, the AKG K 240s are possibly the most common headphones found in any recording studio. They have a relaxed, un-hyped sound which prevents ear fatigue. They’re also supremely comfortable to wear for long periods of time. Their only drawback is that they are not completely closed so they do leak a little sound. That means that you’ll hear more of the room around you while using them, but it also means that if you turn up your headphone volume too high, your microphone might pick up the sound leaking out of your headphones. However, if you use them at a reasonable level, they are usually fine. In fact, these are the exact headphones that I use in my booth when I’m recording the podcast. I love them.

 

 

 

For Intermediates and Pros:

While USB microphones are an inexpensive way to begin recording yourself at home, when you’re ready to take your recording to the next level and be truly competitive in the voice over marketplace, you’ll need to use an industry standard microphone. Luckily, there are only a couple. All of them will require some sort of audio interface to take their analog microphone signal, boost it, and then convert it into digital audio for your computer over USB. (Prices below are approximate)

*To use any of these industry standard microphones, you will need a USB audio interface that has an XLR type input and supplies phantom power. The following interfaces satisfy those requirements.*

 

USB Audio Interfaces:

Focusrite Scarlett Solo

Focusrite Scarlett Solo (2nd Gen) – $100
If all you need is one channel of input for recording yourself for voice over, then the Focusrite Scarlett Solo is a great option. It has an XLR input with phantom power so you can use any of the condenser microphones listed below. It’s powered completely by its USB cord so there’s no need for an extra power cable. Plus it’s very small making it a good portable solution. The new 2nd generation version of the Scarlett Solo has even lower latency which is great.

 

 

Shure X2u

 

Shure X2u XLR to USB Signal Adapter – $100
If you want to go super small, Shure offers the tiny Shure X2u XLR to USB Signal Adapter. It’s as straightforward an XLR to USB converter as you can get. The noise floor on the Shure X2u is a little higher than on the Scarlett Solo, but if space is a premium, it’s not a bad option.

 

 

 

 

Below are the industry standard microphones I recommend.
*Each microphone below will also require:*
A Weighted Microphone Stand to hold your microphone.
An XLR Cable to connect your microphone to your interface of choice.
A Pop Filter to protect the sensitive diaphragm of the microphone.
(Prices below are approximate.)

 

Studio XLR Microphones:


AKG C214AKG C214 – $340

The AKG C414 is a workhorse microphone and has been used for voice over for years. In fact my demos were all recorded on an AKG C414. The C214 is the stripped down, less expensive version of the 414, but it retains the same capsule as its larger brother. The bottom line: you get the same sound as a 414 while spending less than half as much.

 

 

 

 

Sennheiser MKH416Sennheiser MKH 416 – $1000
The Sennheiser 416 is the film industry standard for recording dialogue of actors on a film set. It’s a shotgun microphone that is designed to pick up sounds at a distance. Voice actors realized that when used in close proximity, the sound of the 416 was very punchy and allowed a voice over to cut through loud music and sound effects. Because of this, the 416 is used extensively in trailers and in promo work. However, it is rarely used in animation work as its biting sound can seem harsh over long periods of time.

In order to use the MKH 416 with a normal microphone stand, you will need a Shotgun Microphone Shock Mount.

 



Neumann TLM-103Neumann TLM 103 – Best Bought with a Shockmount $1300

Neumann microphones are the most commonly used microphones in voice over. Almost every studio I go into uses Neumann microphones. The standard is the U87, but it costs over $3000. The TLM 103 is the entry level version of the U87. It has the same capsule as the U87 but simplifies the circuitry to create a microphone that captures the essence of the Neumann sound at a more reasonable price.

In order to mount the TLM-103 on a normal microphone stand and protect its delicate diaphragm, you will need to buy the TLM 103 as a set with the Neumann EA1 Microphone Shockmount.

 

 

Studio Grade Headphones:

If you’re going to spend the money on a truly industry standard microphone, then it’s time to make sure your headphones are of equally high quality. There are a number of industry standard headphones that are used in almost every recording studio I visit. These are the ones I recommend:

Sony MDR7506Sony MDR7506 – $80
These are arguably the most popular headphones used in Hollywood productions. I’ve seen them used by more sound people on set and in studios than almost any other headphones. There’s good reason for that. They are closed back so they isolate sound well, they’re built solidly to withstand abuse, and they’re sound is very accurate. Some people find them a little hyped and not completely neutral in their sound, but they give you a great idea of what’s actually happening in your recording. If there are any flaws in your recording, you’re gonna hear them with the Sony MDR7506s.

 

Sennheiser HD 280 Pro

 

Sennheiser HD 280 Pro – $100
The HD 280s are extremely neutral. Their flat response gives you an uncolored view of your recording. They’re also more padded than the Sony MDR7506 so if you’ve got large ears or would like extra cushion in your headphones, the HD 280’s might be your best bet. The only thing to note is that they are very tight fitting so if you have a larger than normal sized head they might be too snug.

 

 

Beyerdynamic DT-770-Pro-32 OhmsBeyerdynamic DT-770 Pro – 32 Ohms Version – $200
If you’re looking for a true upgrade, Beyerdynamic headphones are the luxury brand for studio grade headphones. Closed back headphones can often sound boxy and closed in. The DT-770s do a good job of making closed back headphones sound more natural and open. They’re also probably the most comfortable closed back headphones I’ve ever worked with. When I need to block out the rest of the world and hear what my recording sounds like, I reach for my own pair of DT-770s.

NOTE: The DT-770s come in 3 different impedance levels, 32 Ohms, 80 Ohms and 250 Ohms. If you don’t know anything about impedance, that’s fine. Chances are if you’re plugging directly into a USB microphone or USB audio interface, you’ll need to use the 32 Ohms version of these headphones. That version uses the least amount of power and is most suited to portable or home studio recording environments. It’s also the version I own.

 

For Recording on the Road:

Voice Actors are expected to record auditions on a moment’s notice. This means that it’s vitally important to have a portable recording solution for when you are traveling. Allow me to offer you two types of solutions:

  1. For when you are traveling with a Laptop and want to use a standard USB type connection.
  2. For when you are traveling with an iOS device want want to record without bringing a laptop computer.


Laptop Travel Recording Solutions:

Samson Meteor

Samson Meteor – $70
While not as robust sounding as the Blue Yeti, the Samson Meteor sounds surprisingly good for it’s small size and small price tag. Not only does it have the ability to work on a standard USB connection, but it also has a built-in screw mount that allows you to use it on any normal microphone stand.

It is possible to use this microphone with an iDevice, but you have to use the Apple Camera Connection Kit in order to connect the standard USB cable of the Samson Meteor into the Lightning connector on your iDevice. You will also need a recording app like the free Twisted Wave Recorder App.

 

 

Audio Technica 2020 USB Plus – $150AT2020USB+
As I mentioned above, the AT2020USB+ is much smaller, lighter and more portable than the Blue Yeti. While it doesn’t sound as warm as the Yeti, it can double as both a studio microphone and a travel microphone in a pinch.

I also advice purchasing a Pop Filter for the AT2020USB+ to protect the sensitive diaphragm of the microphone and to avoid wind noises.

The major disadvantage of the AT2020USB+ is that it has no input gain control. That means that you cannot raise or lower the input on the microphone if you are performing very loudly or softly.

It is possible to use this microphone with an iDevice, but you have to use the Apple Camera Connection Kit in order to connect the standard USB cable of the AT2020USB+ into the Lightning connector on your iDevice. You will also need a recording app like the free Twisted Wave Recorder App.

 

Shure MV51Shure MV51 – $200
Shure has just released a series of new microphones called their Motiv line. One of the major advantages of these microphones is that they can work with both your computer and your iOS devices using the included lightning cable. The best of the Motiv line for voice over is the MV 51. It has a 1 inch diaphragm which is the largest diaphragm of any microphone in its class. I’ve actually purchased one myself to use when I’m traveling. While it’s no replacement for my home studio, I’m very impressed with its sound quality and convenience!

 

 

 

iOS Device Travel Recording Solutions:

If you are looking for a microphone that connects directly to an iDevice without the Apple Camera Connection Kit, there are two options. Unfortunately both are more expensive than the Samson Meteor and the AT2020USB+: 

Shure MV51Shure MV51 – $200
Shure has just released a series of new microphones called their Motiv line. One of the major advantages of these microphones is that they can work with both your computer and your iOS devices using the included lightning cable. The best of the Motiv line for voice over is the MV 51. It has a 1 inch diaphragm which is the largest diaphragm of any microphone in its class. I’ve actually purchased one myself to use when I’m traveling. While it’s no replacement for my home studio, I’m very impressed with its sound quality and convenience!

 


Blue Spark Digital
Blue Spark Digital – $160
While the Blue Yeti is far too big to be an effective travel microphone, the Blue Spark Digital is Blue’s attempt to pack studio quality sound into a microphone that can plug directly into an iDevice. While the microphone is relatively small, the shock mount it comes with is not. It’s actually ironic how large the shock mount is for what is supposed to be a portable microphone. Nevertheless, this microphone sounds far more full and balanced than the popular Apogee MiC 96k so if you have the room to spare for its large shock mount, you’ll probably get better results with the Blue Spark Digital.

 

 

 

Crispin’s Personal Recording Equipment:

The Big Kahuna:

Neumann U87 – Best Bought as the Set Z for $3600
If you really want to have the ultimate voice over microphone and use exactly what the best studios in the world use, you need go no further than the Neumann U87. Its richness and silky smooth tone have made it the most common microphone in voice over. I record on this microphone more often than any other, no matter which studio in LA I happen to visit. I fell in love with it so much, I got one for myself to use in my own home studio. Every episode of the Voice Acting Mastery podcast is recorded on this mic. If money is no object and you want to use a world class microphone, you have now arrived. Just make sure to get the Set Z package since it includes the shockmount for the microphone which is an absolute necessity.

 

 

My Studio Equipment:

For those who are curious, this is the actual recording equipment that I use:

Neumann U87
ProTools MBox Mini 3 (Discontinued)

Headphones for Tracking:
AKG K 240 Headphones
Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro – 32 Ohms Version

Headphones for Mixing:
AKG K 702 Headphones

Genelec 1029 Studio Monitors (Discontinued)
Genelec 1091 Subwoofer (Discontinued)

When traveling I use a dynamic microphone with my MBox Mini 3:
Sennheiser MD421

 

Happy Recording!


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