VAM 039 | Q & A Session 04 – Microphone Levels & Portable Recording Solutions

VAM 039 | Q & A Session 04 – Microphone Levels & Portable Recording Solutions

Welcome to episode 39 of the Voice Acting Mastery podcast with yours truly, Crispin Freeman!

As always, you can listen to the podcast using the player above, or download the mp3 using the link at the bottom of this blog post. The podcast is also available via the iTunes Store online. Just follow this link to view the podcast in iTunes:

http://www.voiceactingmastery.com/podcast

In this episode, I’m going to continue answering the questions that my listeners have been leaving me on the podcast voicemail number. I’ve been getting so many good questions lately, that it seemed appropriate to go through a number of them. For those who don’t know, in past episodes,  I’ve given out a phone number where you can call in and leave me a question as a voicemail. From time to time, I’ll pick the most relevant questions I receive and answer them here on the podcast.

For this round of Q & A, I answer questions from Christian of Glendale, AZ and Leigh of the Washington D.C. area.

Christian is having some challenges with the recording levels with his Blue Yeti USB microphone. I give him some suggestions on how to avoid peaking when recording more extreme sounds.

Leigh is not only a voice actress, but also works full time. She’s looking for a high quality recording solution so she can submit auditions to pay to play sites like Voices.com and Voice123.com even when she doesn’t have access to her home recording equipment. I give her some suggestions on what she can do to get the best possible recording quality while on the go.

In the podcast I recommend a number of different pieces of equipment and software. Below is a list of them with links where you can purchase them. You can also find them in the Toolbox Section of the website. I hope you find them useful!

For Christian’s Question:
Shure PG-42USB Microphone – A more professional microphone than the Blue Yeti. The PG-42USB is a true large diaphragm microphone with a Pad Switch to allow you to have more control over the gain levels in your microphone.

For Leigh’s Question:
Solution #1 – Laptop Recording:
Sennheiser MD 421 Dynamic Microphone – A broadcast standard and my personal travel microphone. Very rugged and great at rejecting room noise. Unfortunately the signal it produces requires a lot of preamplification. In order to drive the MD 421, I use a…

Avid ProTools MBox Mini USB Interface with ProTools Software – I’ve been using MBoxes as my portable recording solution for years. However, it does require you to use a laptop in order to record.

You will also need a small portable microphone stand. I like the Konig Meyer 231/1 Tripod Table Top Mic Stand.

You will also need an XLR cable to connect the microphone to the MBox Mini.

Solution #2 – iPad Recording:
Shure PG-42USB Microphone
+
Pluggable’s Mini Powered USB Hub
+
Apple’s Camera Connection Kit for Dock connectors or Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera adapter

Here’s the formula, I plug the PG-42USB into Pluggable’s Powered USB Hub, connect the hub to either the Camera Connection Kit for older iPads or the Lightning to USB Camera adapter for newer iPads and then plug into the iPad.

You can then use any of these 3 recording apps: WavePad, GarageBand or TwistedWave.

If you absolutely must record without having access to an electrical outlet, the Apogee Mic or the Blue Spark Digital iPad microphones will also work, but they lack the low end warmth of the PG-42USB.

I hope you find my recommendations useful!

 

As a reminder, the number where you can call in and ask your question is:

323-696-2655.

Please don’t forget to include your first name and what city in the world you’re calling from. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Thanks for listening!

Download Voice Acting Mastery Episode #39 Here (MP3)

 

28 Responses to “VAM 039 | Q & A Session 04 – Microphone Levels & Portable Recording Solutions”

  1. James 'StarRunner' Rolls says:

    Ahh! I have an iPad as well and it’s good to know there’s a decent means to record on it. I’ll have to look for that camera adapter and that USB power booster!

    I’m glad you recorded this episode. I get asked about clipping (and general sound quality) a LOT since I have several friends wanting to voice act as well. Seriously! It’s the most frequent question I get! I’ll still help my friends of course, but I’ve started sending people your way. I can help tutor, but I’m no pro and I’m still trying to learn myself. I’m still picking things up while listening to the podcast again, which is great!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Excellent! I’m glad you found my iPad advice useful!

      Please feel free to send people my way! I’m happy to answer whatever technical questions I can. It can seem like a lot of voodoo for those who don’t understand the basics of audio and recording. Glad you feel like you’re learning a lot!

  2. Meg says:

    That is very interesting and very cool epsiode, Crispin-Thank you 🙂 I heard that you’re going to Katsucon 2013 at National Harbor, MD on Feb 2013- hopefully I’ll be there. But, I have a question- I’m impress how iPad can be a great portable recorder- do you think the iPad mini can work for the recording as well? Thank you for your time.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I’m glad you like the episode.

      While I have only tested my iPad recording solution with my iPad 2, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work with an iPad Mini. I can’t guarantee it will work with an iPad mini, but it should.

  3. Jacob says:

    Greetings Mr. Freeman,

    I recently got into voice acting and was wondering if you have ever heard of a concept called abridging (if you have not its where you take an anime shorten its length and add humor or change character personality while retaining the same plot)I was wondering what is your take on abridging? It is a good way to practice voice acting? Would you recommend it as a way to break into voice acting and gain experience?

    Thanks,

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I am aware of fan parodies of certain anime shows that are called “abridged” versions. I’m most familiar with the Hellsing Abridged series, the first episode of which is unbelievably hilarious.

      I think doing fan parodies can be a good way to practice your voice acting. Frankly, I think any kind of practice helps. However, most producers will not be interested in your parody voice acting work. They will be more interested in your professional (meaning “paid”) accomplishments as a voice actor. So feel free to work on fan projects for practice, but I don’t know of any mainstream animation or video game producers who would take fan projects seriously when considering hiring actors for their professional projects. Independent video game producers might be interested in your fan work, but not mainstream ones.

      Hope that clarifies.

  4. Kalyn McCabe says:

    Yay, technical speak!

    I own a Shure PG42, and I can vouch it is a beautiful piece of equipment. I’ve had it for a year almost, and it works like a dream.

    I was wondering if a stand is required for mobile recording because I’ve heard that a pulse could be heard in the recording when handled. Sounds crazy, but just curious.

    Happy holidays, Crispin! Hope everything is bright and wonderful with you and your family.

    Much love,
    ~ Kalyn

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      It is always advisable to use a microphone stand with the PG42-USB. It is not designed to be a handheld microphone. In fact, I recommend a microphone stand in the Toolbox section of the website right next to the link for the PG42-USB.

      I also advised using a travel microphone stand in the blog post that you just commented on. So yes, using a microphone stand with the PG42-USB is required. In fact, all the microphones I recommend need microphone stands. None of them are handheld microphones. No one uses handheld microphones in voice over, only when singing on stage.

      Hope that clarifies. Happy Holidays to you as well!

  5. Eric Rivera says:

    Interesting. I plan on getting the Blue Yeti microphone sometime in the future. Hopefully my Technical Production II class has some teachings on sound mixing and such. Unfortunate for me, I know next to nothing about that sort of thing.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      The Blue Yeti is a solid starter microphone. I think you’ll find it useful.

      I’m sure your class will help as well. To become a voice actor, you just need to learn enough to record a high-quality audition.

  6. Melissa says:

    Hello! Thank you for all of your tips so far.
    I have a question on how you can be added to a call list. I live in the DFW and have acting experience because of the theater department at my school so I did some research. The Funimation website says “To be included on the call list, send an email to voice.acting@funimation.com with a request for information on voice acting, a contact number, and a brief summary of any acting experience you may have. ” Is there any way they want the e-mail? Should it be professional or casual? I just want to know if there is a proper way to write my e-mail for these kinds of things.
    Thank you and I hope this question isn’t a burden haha (:

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I am unfamiliar with this idea of a “call list”. I’m sure it’s something that Funimation created in order to handle the large number of aspiring voice actors who approach them in Dallas.

      I would advise you to write as professional an e-mail as possible. If you’re unfamiliar with writing professional cover letters, I’m sure a couple of google searches can help you get some ideas of formatting and tone.

      Imagine yourself as a producer getting hundreds of e-mails from prospective voice actors. What kind of e-mail would you like to read? What would inspire confidence in you as a producer? Keep that in mind and I’m sure you’ll be able to write a very good cover letter.

      Hope that helps.

  7. Terance says:

    Thanks for the information Crispin. I have a few questions about a proper recording environment. How do you achieve a proper recording environment when on the go? Have you had experience with any Porta-Booths like this http://amzn.to/WoGKg8 or a sound isolator like this http://amzn.to/R3VgqQ? If so would you recommend them or do you think they’re a waste of money?

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I am familiar with Porta-Booths and sound isolators, however I have never actually used them myself. I need to take some time and try them out in a reverberant space and see how they work. From what I can see, the Porta-booth seems like it would work better than the sound isolator, if only because the porta-booth also has acoustical padding both above and below the microphone. When I get the chance to review those devices, I’ll definitely make a blog post about it!

      But yes, if you’re using a condenser microphone, you’ll definitely want some sort of acoustical treatment. The other option is to actually put up acoustical foam on the walls of a room you want to use as a recording space. Small wedges of acoustical foam from Auralex should work quite well and I advise you to read the acoustical treatment information on the Auralex Website.

  8. Lydia Michelle Gray says:

    I love this Podcast it’s very helpful! By the way Crispin I have a question for you, Well you see I was wondering.. how can I stop my voice from cracking when I voice act? because I notice that when I sing or talk, my voice tends to crack. Should I drink tea or more water or something? Thanks a bunch!(:
    – Lydia Michelle♥

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      One’s voice cracks when there is not the right balance of air pressure and space in the back of your throat. If the back of your throat is too closed, you’ll need to open it in order to allow your voice to work properly. If the back of your throat is open, you may need more air pressure in order to support that space. That’s the theoretical answer. However, the only way to work on your voice practically is to actually work with a vocal coach. There’s really no way for me to coach you over e-mail or blog posts. Vocal production requires someone with a tuned ear listening to what you’re doing and assisting you with your vocal production. Drinking tea or water will not help. Vocalizing requires the coordination of many tiny muscles in your throat. Just like any athlete, you’ll need a coach in order to truly train professionally and to avoid hurting yourself.

      You’re more than welcome to try and find a coach in your area, or to work with me in class either in LA or online. Hopefully that helps.

  9. Lee Kanne says:

    Hi Crispin. I was curious. I’ve been looking for a good compact travel mic for awhile. I have the Apogee MIC and have never been impressed. The Sennheiser md421 intrigues me.

    1. Do u know whether the md421 will work well with a Micport pro?
    2. How about pop filter? Do u use one with the md421 or the Shure pg42 USB u had mentioned.
    3 do u feel comfortable recording actual gigs with these two mics as well as auditios?

    Thank you for all the helpful info….Lee Kanne

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Hi there Lee. Let me see if I can answer your questions.

      1. I know that the MD421 will work with the MicPort Pro, the question is whether the MicPort Pro has sufficient gain to amplify the signal of the MD421. I don’t actually own a MicPort Pro, so I can’t tell you from personal experience. However, of the “barrel-style” XLR to USB converters out there, the MicPort Pro has the lowest inherent noise. That means that when turning it up loud enough amplify the MD421, you’ve got the greatest chance of getting a clean signal out of the microphone of any of the “barrel-style” converters.

      2. While I do not carry a formal pop filter when I’m traveling to use with my MD421, I do use a foam windscreen, the type you find on other dynamic microphones that are often used on stage. I find the windscreen, coupled with my technique I outlined in one of my recent newsletters about speaking into the mic slightly off-axis or even talking of the top of a dynamic microphone pointing up tends to work quite well in portable recording situations. I use a similar foam windscreen on my PG42-USB as well. Since I’m only doing auditions when traveling and I have pretty good microphone technique, I avoid bringing an entire pop filter with me. There’s no reason why you couldn’t though. They’re not terribly large or heavy.

      3.The MD421 has been a workhorse microphone for broadcast and for animation for years. As I say in the toolbox section of the website, I first noticed the MD421 in a behind the scenes video of the Disney animated series, Gargoyles. Every actor on that show was recorded with a MD421. Tastes change over time, however, and these days people are starting to expect the exceptional clarity of a condenser microphone. While you could use the MD421 to record an actual gig, it might sound “darker” in comparison to newer condenser microphones. However, it all depends on your signal chain. If you were to use a very punchy tube pre-amp with the MD421, they might balance each other nicely, whereas that tube pre-amp with a condenser might sound overly-hyped. There is no formula, just rough guidelines and the need to actually try combinations and see what they sound like.

      P.S. One last thing that might help you with the MD421 and the MicPort Pro. If you cannot get enough gain out of the MicPort Pro, there is a cool device called a Cloudlifter that uses the 48V Phantom Power on a preamp to boost the actual gain of a dynamic microphone. It’s pretty slick and works very well. The only problem is, it’s another piece of gear to carry around with you. However, my good friend Juan Carlos Bagnell did a great video review of the Cloudlifter on YouTube. You can check out Juan’s Cloudlifter Review here.

      Hope that helps!

      • Lee Kanne says:

        Hey Crispin… thanks for the reply.. wow. .I noticed you’re from Chicago. me too.. I’m still based out of Chi – Town.

        I find the game has changed as such that more and more I need to be prepared to record and emergency gig when I’m away from the studio.. while an audition – ready rig is cool, an audition – ready, gig – ready gig is even cooler.. While I havent had any complaints yet on my Apogee MIC, I need to EQ the crap out of it in order to get it to sound like it works on my voice, more of a deeper, richer baritone.. Then of course there’s the issue of getting the auditions off the IPad for P2P site submissions, but that’s another kettle of fish altogether.

        I know a lot of people that travel with a Senn 416 and a MicPort and a net book or Mac Book, but I don’t feel comfortable traveling with a $1000 mic.. Trying to travel as light as possible and still have a rig that gets studio quality is tricky..

        I think the Senn md421 issue of its darker quality can be rectified with with EQ.. I’ve fixed darker mics with a cut @ 500Hz and a bump between 1500 – 5000khz.. So it sounds like a winner if it can play nice with the Mic Port.. by the way, there’s rechargeable battery powered USB thing from Tekcharge that would eliminate the need to plug in for power when recording to IPad.

        I think you may have talked me into giving that Shure PG 42 usb a whirl.. I’ve heard about it, but my luck with USB mics has not been all that great..

        take care

        Lee

        • Crispin Freeman says:

          I agree that I find the Apogee MIC to sound a little anemic, especially on baritone voices. My friend, Steve Blum, has the same issues with most USB microphones. Steve has always used a Shure KSM series microphone for his home auditions, I believe it is the discontinued KSM27. I really liked the sound of that microphone on his voice, especially since he’s got such low resonance. When listening to the Shure PG series, the 42 seemed to have a similar sonic signature. The PG27-USB sounded too tinny to me, like it was in a can. I’ve done A-B comparisons with the PG27-USB and PG42-USB and the PG42-USB is far superior to my ear. I think you will find it quite useful.

          The 416 is a great microphone, but I can understand why you might feel uncomfortable traveling with it.

          Thanks for the EQ advice. The MD421 has a roll off selector at the base of the microphone that lets you dial in more low-end reduction, but it’s a little crude. I just leave it at “M” for music and do any EQ in my program of choice. The “S” setting on the MD421 for speech sounds far too thin.

          Hope that helps!

  10. Robert says:

    Hi Crispin, I have a question. If one does not have acces to an iPad, would the same setup work on an iPhone or iPod? Would an iPhone or iPod be able to handle the Shure PG-42USB Microphone, Pluggable’s Mini Powered USB Hub and Apple’s Camera Connection Kit for Dock connectors or Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera adapter? Thanks in advance. Also I really enjoy the podcast, it’s very informative and I’ve learned a lot!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      That’s a good question! I had to actually break out my iPhone 4S to see if it would work!

      Unfortunately, while my setup works great with my iPad 2, it doesn’t seem to work with my iPhone 4S. When I connect the Camera connection kit adapter to my iPhone 4S it tells me it’s not supported. I don’t know why.

      If you absolutely need to record on your iPhone with a condenser microphone, I’d probably go with the MIC by Apogee. It’s a USB microphone that’s designed for iOS devices and can work with an iPhone with a 30-pin connector. If you need to use it with a lightning connector, you’ll need a 30-pin to Lightning Adapter.

      To me the MIC by Apogee doesn’t sound as full bodied as the PG-42USB, but you can probably tell that simply by looking at the size of the microphones. the PG-42USB is a true large diaphragm condenser while the MIC by Apogee is a cute little iOS mic.

      • Lee Kanne says:

        Hi Crispin.. there’s a new product out called the iTrack solo by Focusrite. Audio interface that allows you to recording with standard dynamic or condensor mic and an iPad/iPhone.. are you familiar with it?

        Also, when traveling do you use your iPad/Shure PG42 combo or your your laptop/Mbox/Senn 421 combo? Does the Shure PG42 require a pop filter normally? I find that the pop filter kills the portablity factor.

        thanks.. Lee Kanne

        • Crispin Freeman says:

          Actually, I only recently became aware of the iTrack Solo. I’ve never worked with it myself so I don’t know what it sounds like, but it’s probably a solid piece of equipment. I’m not sure if the preamp in it is powerful enough to handle a dynamic microphone, however. You’d have to do some tests to make sure. My MBox 2 Mini only barely has enough power to drive my MD 421. I don’t know if the iTrack solo has similar specs to the MBox 2 Mini or not. I’m sure the iTrack Solo works great with condenser microphones though.

          When traveling it depends on whether or not I’m bringing my laptop and my ProTools interface. If I am bringing my laptop to an event, chances are I’ll need my ProTools interface as well so I just bring my MD 421. However, if I can get away with just bringing my iPad, then I bring my PG 42USB instead, connect it to my iPad with the USB camera connection kit and power it using an external USB hub. It’s a much smaller package than a laptop and an MBox 2 Mini. I use foam windscreens when I’m on the road for both my MD 421 and the PG 42USB. I never bring a real pop filter. You’re right. It’s too much of a hassle.

          Hope that helps.

  11. John T. says:

    Hi, Crispin. I was looking through the toolbox section and noticed you don’t mention any type of preferred sound card. Is the built-in audio on the motherboard sufficient, or is buying a sound card recommended? Also, I’ve seen where people have made homemade pop filters using nylons, is this a decent alternative to purchasing one?

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Sound cards are a little antiquated. Unless you’re building a professional studio with a ProTools HD setup, you’re much better off using a USB microphone or a USB audio interface. The majority of people use laptops and all in one computers now, not towers. USB interfaces are far more flexible and transportable to new computer setups. I haven’t used a “sound card” since the early 2000’s when I was working on my Mac Tower. Plus sound cards live inside a noisy computer tower with a lot of electromagnetic interference. You’re much better off with outboard USB gear.

      You are free to make a pop filter using nylons. Pop filters aren’t that expensive, but if you’d rather make your own, go right ahead.

      Hope that helps.

  12. Cyn says:

    I just thought of a suggestion as I was browsing the site in search of the Q&A podcasts … what about making them a category for the menu to the right? That way they’d be easy to find if someone wants to listen to these specific installments. Of course, I guess one could always use the search tool. Didn’t try that yet. :p

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I do have some plans on reorganizing the site and having a more comprehensive list of the episodes is on my to do list. Thanks for the suggestion.

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