There are obviously a lot of choices out there. So, what is the best voice over mic? Great question! I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is, there’s no single answer to that question. However, the good news is, there are a lot of good answers, so chances of you getting something useful here are pretty good. Although, I am going to reveal a huge secret, which is the best bang for the buck I’ve ever seen for microphones that only a handful of pros know about! I promise, you won’t be disappointed. Trust me, just keep reading!
First things first…what is your setup?
There are a couple of things you need to take into account before mic shopping. One, do you have or are you about to have an acoustically treated room? You can take very small steps to get a room fairly well treated, whether it be hanging a few blankets around the room, or putting up mattress foam. Just put up something in the room that can kill any echo. Believe it or not, I know voice over artists that have recorded national spots from a walk-in closet. The clothes provide great acoustics. Once you’ve got a room that’s been treated in some way, then you need to ask, what do you have in your recording room that may cause some background noise (computer with a loud fan, ticking clock, air conditioning vent, etc.). In many cases gentle computer fan or air vent sounds can be removed during the editing process. Now, if you have a sound proof booth, then first, this is probably old news to you, and second, a condenser mic is a great way to go.
Condenser mics pick up even the smallest detail in your voice, giving it that HD sound. This is why most studios use condenser mics. The most popular of condenser mics being the Neumann U87. It is one of the more expensive mics because of it’s ability to accommodate a wide range of voices. Condenser mics are the first type of mic for you to consider.
The second type of mic is called a dynamic mic. This is a great mic for a situation where you’re in a noisier room. These types of mics are standard for radio stations, because you frequently have elements that will cause background noise, such as people/guests walking in and out of the room. The industry standard for mics like these are the Shure SM7b and the Electro-Voice RE20. The only con to having a dynamic mic, is that it won’t pick up as much detail in your voice like a condenser will.
Is there a best of both worlds? There absolutely is! That’s where the boom or shotgun mic comes into play. These are mics that can pick up great detail in your voice and are very directional. If someone is standing even just slightly to the side of where the mic is pointing, they almost can’t be heard. The most popular of this kind, and very industry standard for voice over artists, is the Sennheiser MKH-416. This one is used by many of the famous voice over artists…as well as some non-famous ones like yours truly.
Closing thoughts and…
As said by Joe Cipriano (voice of Fox and CBS), “You don’t have to break the bank; just get the best you can afford.” Some of the more expensive mics don’t work with cheaper equipment. If you’re using a cheap preamp, it might not be able to handle a higher end mic, meaning that getting an expensive mic may not be all the expense you have to endure…which brings me to a little secret I promised. Actually, who am I kidding? This is actually a huge secret, and it’s actually a time sensitive one. If you are on a tight budget and you need a good microphone, there is a mic that is not made anymore but still available from several websites for purchase…and it will blow your mind. Ready? It’s the M-Audio Nova. What’s so great about it? Well, as I told your earlier, the most widely used condenser mic in the world, is the Neumann U87, which costs from most reputable dealers, about $3000. The Nova sounds so similar, you would think it was a mistake by the manufacturers. How similar? I know of 3 professionals right now who recorded spots in a studio with a U87. A few days later, they were asked by the client to pickup a line and they did it at home using the Nova and the studio could not tell the difference! I personally used this microphone for several months and had clients ask me, “Did you upgrade your studio equipment.” Little did they know, I was actually using a cheaper mic than I had been using. Believe it or not, the M-Audio Nova costs less than $100! I’m not kidding, this is THE best mic if you are on a budget or you’re beginning your voice over career. I want to quickly point out that I am in no way affiliated with M-Audio. I just think I need to give credit where credit is due. And speaking of credit, I want to leave you with something that was said very often by perhaps the greatest voice over artist of all time, Don LaFontaine…”The microphone doesn’t matter”.