Voice-Over Equipment Guide: Essential Gear for Voice Actors

Whether you’re recording voice-over for a TV show, film, commercial, podcast, or audiobook, great audio gear can make your voice shine—and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. The rise of advanced (and affordable) audio technology has democratized the market, and you can practice, record demos, and quickly lay down vocals for competitive jobs without leaving your house. Today, many voice-over artists simply work from home studios, where they’re more comfortable and can control their hours and output.

10 Types of Voice-Over Recording Equipment

Whether you’re a seasoned voice actor or a novice without an agent, a home audio recording setup is a worthwhile investment for your career. Start with the basic voice-over equipment, then upgrade gradually when you’ve established yourself.

1.Computer

The first piece of equipment you will need is a computer, which allows you to store and send audio files to clients. If you don’t already have one, look into refurbished newer model Macs and PCs that can support the work you want to do. To back up your files and avoid taking up all the space on your computer, it’s worth paying for cloud storage like Google Drive, iCloud, or Dropbox, or a plug-in external hard drive.


2.Recording and editing software

Every home studio needs software referred to as a Digital Audio Workstation, or DAW. This allows you to record, edit, and enhance voice-over recordings so your finished recordings sound pristine. For beginners, use Audacity or Pro Tools First. GarageBand, which comes preloaded on most Macs, also gives you basic mixing capabilities, albeit less sophisticated ones than you’ll ultimately need for professional voice acting. For more advanced audio mixing and editing capabilities, try Adobe Audition. From there, the next upgrade is Pro Tools, the top-quality recording software used by most recording studios and voice actors.


3.Microphone

USB mics are portable and plug directly into a computer, making them a fine budget voice-over microphone choice, but the best microphone type for voice-over work is an External Line Return microphone. Home studio XLR microphones require an XLR cable and fall into two main categories: cardioid condenser microphones and shotgun microphones. Cardioid condenser mics minimize background noise and pick up bright, full sound even if you speak at an angle; the Rode NT1-A is a lovely mid-level option, while a more established voice talent may spring for a top-of-the-line large diaphragm condenser microphone like the Neumann TLM-103. Shotgun mics primarily pick up sound from straight ahead, allowing you to back further away for gesticulation and still capture high sound; the Rode NTG4 is a quality shotgun mic, and the high-end Sennheiser MKH416 is a more upscale option that’s excellent at eliminating superfluous noise and capturing quality voice recordings.


4.Audio interface

An audio interface is the hardware that controls and translates the signal from your mic to your computer, enhancing the sound of your voice. Good interfaces have a strong built-in microphone preamplifier system—mic preamp, in industry shorthand—which boosts sound and drives the microphone’s signal strength. A microphone preamp also provides phantom power (direct current voltage that drives condenser mics), so it’s compatible with any microphone. A budget-conscious pick is the Behringer Q802USB, and if you’re ready to step it up a notch, try the standout Universal Audio Apollo Twin.


5.Headphones or monitors

Headphones and studio monitors make it possible to play the true recorded sound without filters that change the signal via bass boost, compression, or other sound limiting. Sony MDR7506 headphones are durable and produce true sound playback, plus they’re comfortable, which is key for long recording sessions. OneOdio makes solid, inexpensive DJ studio headphones. As for monitors, the floor-standing KRK Classic 5 is a common sight in professional studios, due to its dynamic sound and sheer power.


6.Pop filter

The pop filter (also called a pop screen), a shield you attach to the front of your microphone, is essential to voice recording. It blocks the air your mouth expels while speaking consonants produced by blocking airflow with the lips, teeth, or palate—a group of sounds collectively known as plosives. The filter minimizes the harsh pop noises, so you get a cleaner, more pleasant sound. Without one, announcing a “P” or “B” results in a spike, where an analog volume meter’s needle jumps into the red. Pop filters come in traditional nylon (cheaper, but prone to tearing) or metal (expensive, durable, easy to clean). The Nady MPF-6 is a common, affordable nylon filter for basic home studio setups, but you can go as luxe as Blue’s outstanding metal filter, The Pop.


7.Microphone stand or boom arm

Depending on your setup, you might need a mic stand or boom arm to hold your microphone in place—crucial for home recording, even if you’re moving your body a bit to achieve sounds. A scissor arm mic stand, like the InnoGear Microphone Arm or RØDE PSA1, attaches nicely to a desk, when you’re recording and editing in the same location. If you’ve got a separate recording booth from your editing setup, an On-Stage Tripod should do the trick.


8.Shock mount

Through the use of a suspension system, a shock mount eliminates unwanted mechanically transmitted noise from your audio recordings. For instance, a shock mount prevents your mic from picking up vibrations that travel up the mic stand from the floor when you move your feet. If you use a boom arm attached to a table, a shock mount prevents your mic from picking up vibrations caused when you touch the table.


9.Music stand

Some work still comes in the form of printed scripts; it’s best to have a stand handy, so you can free yourself up for body movement during reads without rustling paper. The Kasonic 2 in 1 Dual-Use stand sets up on either the floor or a desktop. But you can probably rig your own stand with items you have laying around the house.


10.Soundproofing

After you obtain the necessary gear, it’s time to use soundproofing and acoustic treatment to rid your home recording studio or vocal booth of unwanted noises. Learn how to soundproof a space and block outside noise by applying acoustic foam to your walls and sealing air gaps under your doors.

Ten articles before and after

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Vocal Exercise Guide: 8 Vocal Exercises for Voice Actors

How to Get a Voice Over Job with No Experience: Voice Acting

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How to Become a Voice-Over Actor: 7 Tips for Landing a Job

Voice-Acting Guide: 7 Tips to Improve Your Voice Acting Skills

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Guide to Voice Acting: 3 Types of Voice Acting