Voice over audio interfaces, when to spend a little $$

I am always on the quest to find the next great piece of voice over gear.   Not that I need it, just never know what I’m missing.    A couple of days ago I did a ‘why the hell not’ purchase of a new USB audio interface after hearing a fellow VO friend mention it was a good unit.   I was using a Focusrite FORTE for voice over recording (keep in mind, only using it to convert the analog output from my audio gear to digital, wasn’t using the preamps in the unit) and I liked it.   But had heard some good things about the Audient ID14 usb interface.     Got a good deal on a ‘as new’ one ($200) vs the retail price of $299, figuring I wouldn’t loose much if any if I didn’t like it and needed to resell.    In the past I had used an RME Babyface for voice over recording, but actually found it too clean and sterile.  I know, you don’t expect a USB interface to introduce character to a voice file, but the converters can add some flavor.    Anyway, got the Audient hooked up and dialed in and love it.   It’s kind of a mix between the Forte and the Babyface in terms of some character but also very clean.    I hear good things about the preamps in the Audient interfaces, but since I don’t plan on using the phantom power/preamps, I can only attest to the sound of the converters….love it.       My ‘studio B’ setup (that I do auditions on a dozen or so times a day) uses the Scarlett 2i2 For converting and it’s a good box.    You can get those for like $100 street price.         So Audient ID14 interface,  $225 or so street price, AWESOME interface.   Not too complicated, seems solid, hope to last for many years.     Focusrite Forte, about same street price.  VERY good interface.   The drivers and digital control system can be a bit sketchy, it treated me right, but for some reason I was expecting it to start smoking at anytime.   Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, good box, many MANY voice talent use this and have great results.   I read some voice talent saying they fail after a while, so we’ll see what happens.    A GREAT portable usb converter/preamp is a Shure X2U.  This is what I use on the road and it’s a great tiny ‘in line’ interface.    REALLY a smart purchase.  I did work on the road with it this summer with my Sennheiser MKH416 and nobody noticed I wasn’t in my $8000 studio.

Why the voice over microphone you choose is so important

I’ve been doing voice overs for the last 15 years full time.   The one thing that amazes me still after all this time is how much a microphone can contribute to the feel of a voice over read.    It’s subtle, but the different sound characteristics of a microphone can change the feel of a read a LOT.     I have gathered up a selection of microphones that work with my particular voice talent style that covers most of the bases.   Things like transformers/frequency response/etc all determine how things will sound once your yap hole hits the microphone diaphragm.    There really is no ‘one perfect’ voice over microphone for all talent and all applications.  But there are some ‘fail-safe’ microphones that won’t be ‘wrong’ either.    If you want a very clean and neutral microphone that is nothing special, but will be ‘okay’ on all voice over applications would be the Neumann TLM 103.   If you don’t have that kind of money sitting around ($700 or so used), you can always go with the CAD E100S ($250 or so used) or a MXL V67G ($70 used).   All sound similar.    I sold my TLM 103 once I heard the CAD E100s.  Same sound, but for much less cost.   I didn’t use the TLM 103 that much, but wanted ‘that sound’ incase I needed it.     The MXL has similar frequency response and saturation, a great mic for the TLM 103 sound without the cost.     I’ve guided a couple voice talent to the MXL and they’ve been happy with it.      Another popular voice over microphone is the Sennheiser MKH 416 shotgun mic.    It’s the ‘lazy mans’ voice over microphone.   Pretty good to use if your recording booth isn’t very good and you don’t like to do any EQ work.    I have one that I mostly use for travel and also auditions that I record in my main open area (not my booth).   Voice talent also like the MKH 416 due to the frequency push in the upper mids that make it push through the mix….it’s okay that way but can get annoying/shrill pretty quick.   Do NO use it for long form narrations..also has a tendency to respond better to male vs female voices.     The Neumann U87 mic is kind of the ‘holy grail’ for voice overs.   However, this seems to be one of the most ‘picky’ in terms of the voice style that it makes sound good vs absolutely awful.     It’s enhances voices that have a naturally lower register.  Anyone who has a neutral voice or higher pitch will sound awful on this mic…’like ass’ due to the mid low frequency hype.   I have had talent get all excited about getting a U87, then use it for one or two session and then shelve it because they sounded awful.  Most of them had a mid range to higher pitch voice (females).     One of my favorite microphones is the Blue Baby Bottle mic ($250 used).    It can be temperamental if EQ is not set right, but it’s fairly smooth, doesn’t hype frequencies that interfere with voice overs (such as REALLY low frequencies that turn the reads into mud), has a natural push in the upper mid frequencies, but still maintains pretty smooth voice sound.    I use that most of the time for long form or commercial work.      Then a very HI-FI voice over microhophone, with a very full frequency response is the Mojave Audio 201Fet mic.    EXTREMELY clean/clear.   Not much saturation sound at all, very easy to EQ to get the rumbling low end and clean high end.    That’s the mic I use when I know I am going to process my voice over a lot with compression in post.       So these are the microphones I like most for my voice over style and what I need to do day in and day out.