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Old April 18th, 2005, 06:52 PM   #1
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Need help picking voice over mic

I am in need of a good (for the price) voice over mic for my home studio. I want to use it in connection with a documentary I am finishing, and anticipate using it with a short I am about to start. My budget is about $400 (give or take a $100). I am looking for clean sound (with a bit of warmth). I know opinions will vary, but I want to know which mic YOU think is best for the money. Obviously I value actual experience with a particular mic over speculation. Thanks.
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Old April 18th, 2005, 08:41 PM   #2
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If you do a search, you can find several threads on this:
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...ice+microphone
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...ver+microphone

"Microphone for Voice-over"
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=35080

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" sound, the narrator sound, etc.

If you want a good VO, the most important elements are (in roughly this order, in my opinion):
A- The copy
B- The talent's delivery/tone

C/D- The talent's voice
C/D- Room acoustics (background noise, amount of reverb)
E/F- Signal chain quality (from a technical standpoint); I assume you are using relatively modern equipment, which is so much better than professional equipment decades ago.
E/F- The coloration the microphone imparts.

The best investment you can probably make is buying Jay Rose's book Audio Postproduction for Digital Video (see dplay.com for how to get it for $30). It's help you with the technical stuff (i.e. how to build your own panels to reduce room reverb, and how to position the mic to reduce reverb) and give you a little information on A/B (not that much though).

---
2- Alternate viewpoint:
If you own a decent microphone, forget getting a microphone specifically for voice-over. Your money is probably spent elsewhere. Buying a better microphone won't improve voice-over quality that much. Proper application of the tools can improve quality a lot more.

I used to intern at a studio that did lots of voice over, and microphone selection wasn't a big deal there. They had like 7 microphones (with one Neumann that costs around $1,500) and most of the time they used a pair of large diaphragm Audio Technicas (a few hundred). The pair was so they could record two talent. They use that mic for everything except for the one time when they used the Neumann.

Before buying a new microphone, I would try these things first:
Get Jay's book. (And/or read online resources.)
Find good talent, or train someone.
Get a quiet room with very low reverb (find a closet and/or build sound absorption tiles; or rent a studio).
If your recordings are hissy, fix your signal chain. May or may not require buying equipment.
Do some recordings and if you notice something wrong with them technically, then you may be justified in buying equipment (once you figure out where the problem comes from).
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Old April 19th, 2005, 06:12 AM   #3
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Good VO microphone

Whilst I agree with a lot of what has been said in the previous part of the thread, I was in the same boat several months ago, and decided to purchase a good quality VO mic. I haven't regretted the decision and feel that I have improved the quality enormously. I purchased a Rode NT1000 which I think is a superb mic, but I matched it with a DBX mini-pre - which is a small valve pre-amp - just giving it the right amount of warmth. I also send through a compressor (just a cheap Behringer COmposer Pro) - which improves things even further in keeping the voice levels consistent and makes the mix simpler and the sound much better.

Overall - I have to say the Rode is great for VO - particularly with the valve pre-amp.

All up these would just fit into your budget.

Hope this helps,

Graeme
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Old April 19th, 2005, 08:31 AM   #4
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I agree with both replies, and I'll add that I feel even more strongly about the potential influence of the room you record in. The Rode NT1000 is an excellent VO mic that I use and recommend, but only if your recording space works to that mic's strengths. If after reading Jay Rose's book it seems unrealistic that you'll have a good recording space to work in, a mic that's generally less capable may give better results. Obviously I recommend finding a great space and using a great mic, along with all the other important things that have been mentioned, but we all work in the real world.
Let us know what mics you already have and what kind of space you can work in. Are you able to isolate yourself from equipment with fans or harddrives, etc?
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Old April 19th, 2005, 09:02 AM   #5
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A superior microphone can be delightful, but it is useless unless all the other elements which Glenn has outlined for us are handled.

To me, after controlling the content (A - the copy, B - the delivery/tone, C/D - the voice), managing the acoustics is Job 1. Take a critical listen for ambient noise, reverberation and general "room tone" by recording a segment of "silence" (dead air) and discover how un-silent it may be. Then the challenge is to isolate your recording environment from things like the drone of HVAC, traffic and dogs barking outside, etc. This can take some effort and cash. In a pinch, I have used the interior of a car as a recording booth, parked inside a garage (in a quiet neighborhood). Bring the mic, on a baby boom, in the car with you, roll up the windows and leave the recording system out in the garage (in case of fan noise).

As for the quietness of the signal chain, I plug the mic into a Mackie mixer (you won't find quieter mic preamps) directly into an Apple PowerBook...no noise generated there!

For the mic, take your pick! It's pretty hard to find a "bad" one.

Just for the record, I use the same ol' mic I have been using for many years for VOG (voice of god) and everything else, a simple $99 Shure SM58. It is indestructible, and can be used for anything from lead vocals in a band (live sound) to videotaping interviews, and its sound characteristics are well-known industrywide due to its popularity. I use the lo-cut on the Mackie so it won't be bassy (due to proximity effect of a cardioid mic); of course you can EQ to your heart's delight.

Just in case I get the urge to play with a large-diaphragm condenser, the Mackie has phantom power, and there are a lot of those mics out there at attractive prices.

Oh yes, and read Jay's book.
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Old April 19th, 2005, 12:54 PM   #6
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Rode NT1a

I've used a Rode NT1a (got it from B&H for ~$160) and used it a couple of times for VO work. I don't have a lot of experience, but the mic sounded great to my ears and the price is right, especially since it comes with a shockmount. It does require phantom power. I used it with a yamaha mg10/2 mixer (i think $99) which has ok mic preamps, phantom power, and a switchable highpass filter on the inputs. Mark
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Old April 19th, 2005, 08:06 PM   #7
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I've bragged up the nt1000 and nt1a so many times now that I didn't want to sound like a broken record... even though when I read your initial post I felt compelled to bring these two mics up again.

I'm glad to see some other people did it first. I've been really happy with those Rode mics and I think they're perfect for VO. You'll be surprised at how well they hear though... you gotta' get your house quiet. REALLY quiet.
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Old April 19th, 2005, 08:50 PM   #8
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True, Matt. A potential owner of this mic needs to be ready to think about spending more than the price of the mic on room acoustics. (of course, you can get a dozen of these mics for the cost of one Neumann!)
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Old April 19th, 2005, 09:56 PM   #9
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I bought a sh*t-load of super-thick wool blankets... directly from the manufacturer which supplies the US Armed Services with wool blankets. People told me to go to military surplus stores for a great deal... what I found is blankets that are about 1/3 as heavy... and NOT actual military surplus. These blankets cost about $50 each normally and I got "seconds" for about $18 each... My intention was to have a portable VO box... and I use these a lot on interview shoots where I'm stuck in a somewhat live room... I've got enough to have blankets an inch deep across a hardwood floor... or else I'll hang 3 or 4 layers over a window. It helps but it takes a TON of material to create a studio-like space... forget the notion of making your own anechoic chamber... you'll be lucky if you can get the room acoustics to point that's acceptable.

The other option that nobody's mentioned is that you MIGHT want to consider a mic that doesn't HEAR the room... I had a Shure SM86 and you had to EAT that mic... so there was NO chance of room interaction... of course it sounded like crap compared to these Rodes.

I just thought I'd give you a little junk-food for thought.
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Old April 20th, 2005, 09:27 AM   #10
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Well, the Rode NT1000 seem to be the front runner in this category. Does anyone use VO mics from Sure or AT? I will of course go into a sound store and demo the mic before buying, but this conversation is very helpful in assisting me in narrowing the mics I demo.
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Old April 20th, 2005, 10:02 AM   #11
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[QUOTE=Matt Gettemeier]I've bragged up the nt1000 and nt1a so many times now that I didn't want to sound like a broken record... even though when I read your initial post I felt compelled to bring these two mics up again.

Hey, Matt. Just put my order in today to a DVInfo-Net
sponsor for the NT1000, partly based upon your
recommendation. I wanted to go with the Rode tube
amp but all my recordings are in the field so ...
Anyways, you probably don't remember but a long
time ago I helped you out with some mics ... and
now you have helped me out. Thanks, Matt.
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Old April 20th, 2005, 06:36 PM   #12
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What about the AKG 414, any takers? Dave, which dvinfo sponsor was that, and if you don't mind me asking, what was the price?
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Old April 20th, 2005, 08:53 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dwight Flynn
What about the AKG 414, any takers? Dave, which dvinfo sponsor was that, and if you don't mind me asking, what was the price?
Hi Dwight,
It was B&H. They have a real good price on it
of $254. They have a special shock mount for
it but I didn't get that because I don't really
know yet that I will be needing it. Wait and
see on that one.

P.S. I was originally looking at the NT1A but
I heard a sample of it and it didn't sound too
impressive -- a little raspy. I was considering, too,
the NT2A but got the feeling from one of Matt's
posts that it might not sound as good as the
NT1000. He had mentioned an NT2000 he heard
which is, I guess, simitlar to the NT2A. But listen
to both and decide for yourself. Unfortunately,
there are no pro audio shops near me to compare.
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Old April 20th, 2005, 10:58 PM   #14
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Thanks Dave... I'll be the first to say that I'm not an audio professional, but I do know what I like when I hear it... and yes, it was you and Beas that sent me running away from EVERY mic I had when I first heard your clips. I don't have a single one of those original mics after you guys opened my ears to better choices. Obviously I went insane in my audio pursuit shortly thereafter.

The guys who ARE audio pros on this board like the sound of the newer Rodes... so I don't think you could go wrong with the NT2a or maybe even the NT2000 either... it's just that when I got the 2000 and put it up against the 1000 there was no comparison to my ears... the 2000 sounded super-neutral (probably a good quality) and the 1000 sounded super-intimate (which is more important to me).

I had that Shure SM86 for only about 3 weeks and I could never decide if I liked it or not... but that mic also sounded totally neutral. I tried to get Beas to give me a breakdown on some clips I sent to him... he said it didn't really do anything for him but it sounded like a good mic... maybe even a great mic... but no excitement. I knew exactly what he was talking about and I returned it.

So as you guys said from the beginning... the mic's SOUND has got to grab you first... then consider the other stuff... and as always, this is all subjective.
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Old April 20th, 2005, 11:11 PM   #15
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From what I gather, the NT2a and the 2000 sounded
kind of flat.
And I remember reading here from one audio pro that
even if they prefer the 2000 now, at one point
they really did like the sound of the 1000, too.

It doesn't seem like Beas has been very active on
this forum lately, or maybe I just missed it?
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