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Old November 16th, 2004, 10:30 PM   #1
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Microphone for voice over

Any suggestions for a reasonably priced mic $200 to $400 to use for voice overs? I am using FCP on a G5. I have an Maudio solo a/d preamp box.
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Old November 17th, 2004, 03:26 PM   #2
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There are two different approaches to a VO mic:
A- accuracy. It records exactly what the person's voice sounds like.
B- It makes the talent's voice sound good. This is subjective, but generally certain mics add warmth that would be appropriate for your piece.

Generally mics along the lines of B are used since most people go for the voice of god or authoritative voice.

Budget mics (along the lines of B):
Shure SM58- cheap and really tough (so quite ok to buy used).
Shure SM57

The two mics above are probably good enough. Spend the rest of the money getting a room with low reverb and good acoustics. You can either find a room like that and run long cables, or make sound absorption tiles. Jay Rose's book Audio Postproduction for Digital Video has great information on this (see dplay.com for how to get it for $30).

along the lines of A:
?AT4040
?oktava MC012
Not sure how accurate those two are, but they don't color the sound much from what I've read.

Measurement microphones. All but the Behringer one are cheap.

along the lines of B:
sennheiser MD421
electrovoice RE20 (very popular in radio)
?studio projects b-1, c-1

All of the mics above give great quality from a technical standpoint. The dynamic mics need a decent preamp, which I think you have.

Expensive mics aren't necessarily better. Your money can be much better spent on other things, namely acoustic treatment, and a mic holder/stand (see Jay Rose's book... you want it upside down). You should probably get Jay Rose's book as it tells you what you need (i.e. a copy stand), how to make DIY sound absorbing panels, where to position the mic, and otherwise has lots of excellent information.

If you are really on a budget, there's a $30 lav/lapel mic from Radio Shack. It's quality can be good enough, or at least RentaShack has a refund policy.

If your room sucks acoustically, a hypercardioid or shotgun mic may be able to give better quality.
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Old November 18th, 2004, 12:03 AM   #3
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Re: Microphone for voice over

<<<-- Originally posted by Tim Good : Any suggestions for a reasonably priced mic $200 to $400 to use for voice overs? I am using FCP on a G5. I have an Maudio solo a/d preamp box. -->>>

Good choice, going with the M-Audio products.

Here are your choices on the spectrum:

Shure Beta 58A. A little brighter than the SM58, and a little better for spoken words. If you're taking it on the road, rest assured that you can drop it on concrete and not really damage it. $160.

Sennheiser MD421. Very popular, very good in the studio. $339.

Shure KSM32. Get this if you want to spend a little more and get a really, really good mic. You'll get high quality, a shock mount, and a little carrying case to haul it around in. $500.

As was said, go with the cheaper models if the person doing the voice-overs has a strong voice, or go with the more expensive models if his/her voice is already solid and you're just looking to capture it nicely.
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Old November 18th, 2004, 12:36 AM   #4
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Wow, what a great thread! Simple, clear buying info. Thank you, Glenn & Ivan.

JS
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Old November 18th, 2004, 02:19 AM   #5
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Great thread! I have some questions regarding these 3 recommendations...

- Shure Beta 58A
- Sennheiser MD421
- Shure KSM32

1. Are they all XLR? Can they be used with or without XLR / phantom power equipment?

2. Can they be made to be wireless for use with a VX2000 or PD170? How would I do that and what would I need to buy?

3. Can they be used with a miniDisc recorder?

4. Will they do a decent job as a room or open-air mic as well as vocals?

thanks
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Old November 18th, 2004, 02:34 AM   #6
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Everyone's posted some great advice so far (somewhat along the lines of Glenn's approach 'B' - best flattery), so I'll just add by giving you a different slant...

The best VO mic depends on:

(a) if you're going to be bringing in different talents to work on your setup or if it's for mainly one person's voice AND

(b) the background/music bed (if any) that the VO is going to be sitting in on the audio track

If it's for different talents, then you'll have to get a good compromise mic that will, for the most part, work well with many voices. If it's mainly going to be one person's voice, say your own, for instance... then you have the benefit of trying out a few different mics to see what flatters, or works best for you in your situation. Different mics work differently with different voices. For example, I probably wouldn't use the same mic on James Earl Jones as I would on Katie Kouric since they both have very distinctive vocal and lingual characteristics. So, if it's just primarily for one person GO TRY A FEW MIC'S OUT BEFORE DECIDING!

Also, if your VO work needs to go over a busy music bed or background track, then a mic that gives a solid midrange boost, such as the SM57/58 may work to your advantage over a mic that will reproduce the full range of a voice such as any large diaphragm condenser (LDC) mic. If the VO talent will be the main audio feature of your work, then going with a budget LDC may be to your benefit.

One more thing, LDC's (esp. those that are not omni in their polar pattern... which means the good bulk of them) produce a bass-boost induced by proximity effect, that is when the talent speaks close to the mic, there is a substantial bass boost that is recorded. If you ever listen th Howard Stern's show, his voice really exhibits that effect.

Now, to the crux of your question, "Any suggestions for a reasonably priced mic $200 to $400 to use for voice overs?" The suggestions below are just my opinion from my experience, YMMV depending on your room, the talent, or audio source (such as musicial instrument) that will eventually be recorded through the mic.

LDC's in your budget:

- CAD M179 ($200 or less): it's an okay mic that is slightly sibilant with some voices because of it's presence peak, but it's versatile since it has multiple polar patterns. For VO work, you will most likely not need that feature.

- Rode NT1A ($200 or less): great mic that's been used in a lot of budget studios, it has somewhat of a presence peak and does okay on transients

- Rode NT2 ($400 or so): similar to the NT1A, but a bit smoother to my ears. I like it for music, but for VO work, I'd venture to say it's not worth paying double the NT1A for the subtle difference.

Small diaphragm condensers:

- Oktava MC012 from Sound-Room.com (a bit shy of $200): I've heard these mics in the context of music recording, but not VO, but that's just my experience. From what I understand some people have used it with great success. I only repeat this here since Glen mentioned it before, but didn't indicate the Sound-Room mics. You can find the same mics during blow-outs at Guitar Center for $99 or less. When I looked at these a while back, the variance mic-to-mic from the GC mics were noticable. People I've spoken to who have gotten Sound Room Oktava's have been very happy with their purchase. I don't own the MC012, so I'm just related other people's experiences.

- Rode NT5's ($400 for a pair): I like these for SDC's. They are sold in pairs, and they are non-sibilant and fairly accurate from 10kHz on down. 10kHz and up they gradually roll off. Like the MC012's, I've never seen them used for VO work, but that doesn't mean they can't be. If you're considering the MC012, here's an alternative.

Great dynamics (that I have experience with... echoing what has been said):

- Sennheiser SM57/58 ($80/100): I'm not a fan of the SM58 for anything else other than PA, and even that's iffy... just my 2c there
- Sennheiser MD421: fuller than the SM57/58's
- Electrovoice RE20: like Glenn said, popular in broadcast

Dynamics that I've heard decent things about, but have no experience with:

- Audio Technica ATM41A (cheap alt. to SM58)
- Electrovoice RE50 (if you'd like to double-up your VO mic as a field mic, too. You're more likely than not familiar with the sound of this mic already from your local news broadcast as it's often called upon for as an ENG mic for field, VO, and interview duty)

The dynamics listed above tend to punch through with more clarity against a busy music bed or background. I tend to favor LDC's generally for VO if the track will be standing alone with the video, but I come from the audio side of things before I got into video, so I may have a bias here.

Oh, one more thing, that advice about a vocal booth, or at least acoustic treatment for your recording space goes a LONG ways in upping the quality of your recordings.

In the end, after all of this, the biggest influence of how great your VO comes out will be the talent behind the mic. It's the old adage of how B.B. King can play through a Hondo and still sound like B.B.!

Best of luck to you!
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Old November 18th, 2004, 02:58 AM   #7
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Replying to your questions...

1. All the mics mentioned are XLR. The dynamics don't require phantom power, but the condensers do. None can be used without their required connections and power requirements.

2. They can all be rigged for wireless using a wireless adaptor. Sennheiser (I imagine other makes, too, like Lectrosonics and Shure) makes a transmitter that provides phantom power for the mics that are mentioned here. I use a previous generation Sennheiser EW100-series wireless kit to rig a lavalier for interview use. Realize that you'll take a hit in audio quality in every case between wired and wireless. Some of the more expensive Sennheiser and Lectrosonic kits just make the difference less substantial. It sound like you'd be looking for the EW100ENGG2 ($600) for that type of connectivity. Remember though, the VX2x00 cams are 1/8" stereo plug-in only, while the PD150/170 takes XLR's. Beachtek makes a reasonable adaptor for bridging that connection for the VX2x00's.

3. For use with a MD recorder, they'll need a preamp (that provides phantom power for the condensers). Beachtek again comes to mind in your budget range, though I've owned and think really highly of the Sound Devices MixPre. At the low-end of portable preamps, you can try Rolls.

4. Really depends on what you'll be using it for in open-use, whether in-room or outdoors. There's no straightforward answer for you there; best pickup a good audio recording book to give you a better understanding of the scope of this question. The LDC's are studio mics, so I wouldn't be using them outdoors... they handle very poorly. The only one that can easily work in many situations (except for recording music) is the RE50 (built-in shockmount, low freq. rolloff, pop-filter, rugged, etc.). The SDC's CAN be used, but really depends on the use... they're great for some situations, but horrible in others.

BTW, I forgot to mention... don't forget to get a good pop filter with your mic purchase for VO work. If you can't afford to spend the $20-50 for one ($10 during Guitar Center givaaways for cheap ones), a wirehanger and pantyhose stretched in a circle is VASTLY better than nothing at all!.
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Old November 20th, 2004, 11:37 AM   #8
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Hi,

I have been reviewing mics for a long time and have archived those review on my site. Take a look for yourself.

http://www.tyford.com

Good thoughts here from everyone.

Sennheiser doesn't make the 421 anymore. They do make a 421 II, but I don't like it for VO. If you decide on a 421, get one used. Hear it first to determine if it still sounds good.

A Sennheiser 416 shotgun worked just off the side of the mouth works very nicely and you can use it in the field.

If your room is live and slappy, you may find that LD condenser mics hear too much crap...er slap. With good preamps, yu can almost use some of the better ones to determine how many layers of paint you have on the walls.

RE20, SM7 (the new model sm7 a or b sounds fine). even RE15.

The Neumann KMS 105 works well in noisy environments and so does the less expensive Audio Technica AE5400.

Good luck

Ty Ford
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Old November 20th, 2004, 12:41 PM   #9
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Rode NT<<<<< most used mic in studios. Is around 150 now. Great choice.

I use the MXL 990 mic of 99 dollars. GReat sound for that price. Add plugins and the sound is a winner.
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Old November 23rd, 2004, 05:05 AM   #10
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How do you guys think the Sennheiser ME66 shotgun might fare as a voiceover mic used off to the side of the mouth? Obviously that mic would have a lot more use than just for voiceovers and would be a nice compliment to my next camera which will be a PD170 or it's successor.
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Old November 23rd, 2004, 07:26 AM   #11
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<<<-- Originally posted by Nick Hope : How do you guys think the Sennheiser ME66 shotgun might fare as a voiceover mic used off to the side of the mouth? Obviously that mic would have a lot more use than just for voiceovers and would be a nice compliment to my next camera which will be a PD170 or it's successor. -->>>

That'll work as long as you're not in a slappy room. As you may know, shotguns are a lot more omni at mid and low frequencies.

I've done VO in video edit suites using a shotgun. We created a minibooth with those 2x3 foot, fabric on frame, light flags to knock the reflected sound down.

Do try to ccompare the me66 with the 416 though.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old November 23rd, 2004, 08:03 AM   #12
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Indoors I find shotguns sound weird/artificial/hollow to my ear. It's probably because of all the echoes hitting the shotgun mic from the sides, where it has really uneven response (if you have a shotgun mic, you can go ahhhh and walk around it and hear your voice change drastically). Matt on this forum has a clip comparing the ME66 and the Azden shotgun where you can hear what a shotgun sounds like indoors. You will need acoustic treatment if the room is not that dead. You kind of need it anyways, but with other mics any reverb/echo will sound natural.

2- You could get the Shure SM58, which would double as a field interview mic. It's cheap (more so if you can get it used) but still gives really good sound. Your audience probably won't be able to tell it from a better microphone as they would be limited by their sound equipment (i.e. their TV which doesn't even do stereo) and they're probably not paying attention to the sound quality that much (in the same way most don't notice compression artifacts while watching the Superbowl).

The copy and the talent is by far the most important thing for a voiceover. On a technical level, the room is important, then the compression you apply (you can do this with plug-ins; it can bring out nuances in the talent's voice if that's what you're after), then the microphone (unless you want the microphone to impart a special sound).

I interned at a place that does a lot of VO recording and IMO it's the copy and the talent that matters the most. You can improve these things by knowing a little about writing copy and directing talent... Jay Rose's Audio Postproduction book is a place to start (that's the only good recommendation as far as books go unfortunately).
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Old November 23rd, 2004, 08:35 AM   #13
 
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Glad Ty threw the 5400 in there, it's a great choice. There also is the Studio mics, and of course the Rode.
Go to a store that has a huge selection, find a room that doesn't have a lot of noise happening around it, and listen thru either headphones or good monitor speaks. Mics are just so dang personal in the grand scheme of things. Too many possibilities, too many preamps to go with them. Mics and Preamps are really partners. You can buy a great mic, and buy a great preamp, and they might not go together.
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Old November 24th, 2004, 12:35 AM   #14
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AS you know, the mic is just one element in your audio recording setup. The cable, mic pre, A/D's, room, and mic placement all play big roles in the overall sound. The processing that takes place once its being edited is vitally important as well, e.g. dynamics, EQ, etc.

My advice would be to go with a dynamic mic like a Shure SM7a, MD421(II), or EV RE20-27ND. Dynamics are not as sensitive as condencers--and for VO's, that's often a good thing. Condencers are more prone to sibolence, proximity effect, room and stand noise than their phantom-power-challenged cousins.

Trust me, it's easier to add a little high shelf and low mid cut to brighten up a VO than it is to edit out suliva clicks and pops and all the other nasties that come from a so so recording with a condenser, (often a cheap, brittle, and noisy one at that...).

That being said, if you have a decent room and the skills to work a mic, the Studio Projects C1 is killer on vocals, just be sure to use a pop filter if the talent is close. AT mics like the 4050, 4047, and 4040 all have their own flavor, but overall are very smooth on the top end and have good self noise specs. These might be a bit out of your range. Unless of course you can find a used one on ebay...
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Old November 24th, 2004, 07:33 AM   #15
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<<<-- Originally posted by Kevan Forrest : AS you know, the mic is just one element in your audio recording setup. The cable, mic pre, A/D's, room, and mic placement all play big roles in the overall sound. The processing that takes place once its being edited is vitally important as well, e.g. dynamics, EQ, etc.

My advice would be to go with a dynamic mic like a Shure SM7a, MD421(II), or EV RE20-27ND. Dynamics are not as sensitive as condencers--and for VO's, that's often a good thing. Condencers are more prone to sibolence, proximity effect, room and stand noise than their phantom-power-challenged cousins.

++Um, it's not been my experience that condensers are more prone to sibilance unless the condenser in question has an overly exaggerated top end due to design compromises.

Lets be very clear that we are only talking about mics with directional patterns. While omnis do have some proxomity, it's far less than cardioid and figure of eight patterns.

Cardioid condensers are no more prone to exhibit proximity effect than cardioid dynamics with the exception of "Variable D" dynamics like the RE20 that are ported down the side to allow LF to enter the backside of the capsule, thus reducing the proximity efffect.

As to stand noise, that depends a lot on which mic we're talking about. Some condensers have excellent isolation, others simply suck in that particular department. If you're doing voiceovers and you're getting vibrations through the stand, move your studio OFF the fault line immediately!!++

Trust me, it's easier to add a little high shelf and low mid cut to brighten up a VO than it is to edit out suliva clicks and pops and all the other nasties that come from a so so recording with a condenser, (often a cheap, brittle, and noisy one at that...).

++Ah, well that's different. Cheap dynamic mics suck as bad as cheap condensers. Saliva clicks should be handled by fixing the problem, e.g. Get a better VO person, get them hydrated. You really can't blame all good condenser mics for the limitations of the talent and the use of "cheap, brittle and noisy" condenser mics.++

That being said, if you have a decent room and the skills to work a mic, the Studio Projects C1 is killer on vocals, just be sure to use a pop filter if the talent is close. AT mics like the 4050, 4047, and 4040 all have their own flavor, but overall are very smooth on the top end and have good self noise specs. These might be a bit out of your range. Unless of course you can find a used one on ebay... -->>>

++I didn't like the C1 as much as I did the others C3, T1 (or was it a T3). I liked the ATs you mentioned MUCH better. If you are looking for info on mics, I have an archive of reviews on my site. www.tyford.com.

Most recently, when not using Neumannn or Schoeps for VO, I am impressed with the Rode NT2-A.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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