Wow…Finally a Simple Portable Voice Over Studio Solution!

Can you relate? This past March, I was in Atlanta for a little over 24 hours and three auditions from past clients came in. While I was able to put one on hold till I was back in my studio, two auditions were very time sensitive and I missed both of those jobs (and I’m about 100% convinced I would’ve booked both). A friend of mine told me a great way to have things like that make a lasting impression. He said write the amount of money you missed on a piece of paper, and then burn it.

 

Well, I decided that I wasn’t going to have that happen again, so I decided to put together a portable voice over studio. I found this to be much simpler than I initially thought.

 

What do you need? (what I use)

portable voice over studio

The Mic

There are some great travel mics out there that can plug straight into an iPhone or iPad (Apogee Mic, Blue Spark Digital), however, I think one of the best mics to use on the road is the Sennheiser MKH 416. The reason for this is because it is more forgiving of less than perfect rooms, which is what you’ll find in a hotel. I go into this more in depth in my blog post, “What is the Best Voice Over Mic”.

 

portable voice over studioThe Audio Interface (USB)

I’m actually pretty pleased with the Shure x2u. It’s a great way to connect a mic to a computer in a very non-cumbersome way. There’s also the added bonus of having monitor control.

 

The Computer and Software

Early last year, I made the switch to Mac after being PC for my entire life, up to that point. I’m happier with that decision than I ever thought I would be. That doesn’t mean it’s the right decision for you, but one of the main reasons I went with Mac is because the laptops are so quiet and, as you know, the smaller amount of noise, the better. I have a MacBook Pro with a 2.5 Ghz processor, 8 GB of RAM and a 500 GB hard drive. While I wouldn’t go any less than that, I don’t think you need to go any more than that. As for software, I currently use Adobe Audition CS6, which can be found for both Mac and PC. I’ve heard great things about GarageBand as well as Twisted Wave. Some people also use Audacity, which can be downloaded online for both Mac and PC, as well.

 

Odds and Ends

Headphones are always nice to have and I also have a collapsible, table-top mic stand.

 

Treating the Room

portable voice over studio

The big question is, how do you turn a hotel room into a studio? Taking into account that I use a Sennheiser MKH 416, which does a fairly decent job with non-treated rooms, I use a few items provided by the hotel that can turn a hotel room into a pretty decent recording environment. What I do is find the smallest room with carpet, if there’s more than one room. If there are curtains, I close them because that surface won’t reflect sound nearly as bad as a window. When possible, I grab that extra blanket out of the closet that no one uses and find something semi tall to drape it over. This past weekend, there was a bed that folded down from the wall and I simply draped the blanket over the top of that, when it folded into the wall (see in the picture). Then, I try to setup shop fairly close to one of those locations, either the curtains, the blanket or both, if it’s possible to have them close together. Also, if it’s a high ceiling, try to position the mic higher than your mouth and tilt it down. This seems to provide a little better sound. Another option, that can sometimes be quicker, is the backseat of a car. I’ve actually talked to many voice talents that have used this option.

 

And believe it or not, that’s pretty much it. Besides the mic and headphones, which I already owned, I bought the laptop, refurbished and the Shure x2u. I paid under $900 total and this past weekend, I got contacted by a client while on a 2 day vacation and booked a voice over job. I definitely believe that anyone who does regular voice over work should have a travel option. Why leave money on the table?

About the Author:

Bryan Saint, a magician, speaker and voice over artist, based out of Charlotte NC, is a multi-award-winning entertainer.

2 Comments

  1. Drew A. January 21, 2019 at 5:33 pm - Reply

    Hi, Bryan.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas on a good portable studio.

    I too own a Shure X2U, but I find that the noise floor is absolutely horrendous. Do you find any such issues with your own, or do you think I may have a defective unit?
    Additionally, my mics include a Shure PG-42 XLR and a Rode NT1. What are your thoughts on either of these mics for voice-over?

    Thanks for your time.

    • Bryan Saint January 25, 2019 at 6:52 pm - Reply

      Hey Drew! Thanks for your comment. I’ve actually never experienced noise issues with the Shure and I’m pretty sensitive to that, as I’ve had issues with other equipment in the past. Possibly, you got a bad one right out of the gate. It would be hard to believe that they all have that issue since so many of my VO friends use them on the road.
      As far as VO mics are concerned, I’ve definitely used the Rode NT1. I think overall, that’s a great start up mic. However, the best one I’ve found on a budget is the M-Audio Nova. I talk about it in one of my other articles. It’s an insanely good sound for the money. It’s not made anymore but you can still pick them up on eBay. You can always go in a Guitar Center and test out some mics before you buy. The Blue Spark even has an impressive sound.
      Good luck with it!

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