Today I decided that its about time I talk about Voice Over starter kits for those interested in starting their own home studio.
As a few of you might know I have a daily routine of reading through my Gadget blogs and voice over articles and whatnot… and one of the interesting new products that Engadget wrote a blog post about was by M-Audio
Right now, we have three Pro Tools Essentials packages for you, including: the Pro Tools Vocal Studio USB condenser mic (includes a stand and a case for $99), the Pro Tools Recording Studio comes with a Fast Track 2-in / 2-out USB audio interface with mic / line / instrument inputs ($129), and finally Pro Tools KeyStudio 49-key MIDI keyboard (bundled with M-Audio USB Micro soundcard for $99). Of course, for prices this low you can’t expect the full-blown ProTools treatment, but even the streamlined version here should be sufficient for most would-be Johnny Marrs: 5 GB of instruments and loops, 60 virtual instrument sounds, and the usual reverb / chorus / delay / flanger / phaser / compression / EQ effects. To be released mid-September
So what does that mean for ye fledgling voice over artist… well for one thing you can get your hands on a USB condenser microphone (untested so I can’t vouch for the quality of the mic) along with one of the most advanced audio editing softwares for around $220. That’s pretty darned affordable…
Lets look at a few other packages.
I saw this youtube video floating around since back in 2008 when it was first posted. The kit is sold by http://www.vomasterclass.com/ the video puts the price at £199 + VAT and shipping. When I went looking for his website to figure out how you can order from him… I found out that the price has jumped to £249 plus vat and shipping … this translates to about $407 or so without shipping. I would personally just go to Home Depo and make my own screen using acoustic foam from www.foambymail.com and cut down on the price. This also does not include any software so you’re still in need of that.
Moving right along
Kit #3, 4 & 5
About a year ago I decided that I needed to build my own voice over studio at home. Which meant that I had to do some research for the best equipment to price ratio. One of the more helpful sites I went to that provided a comprehensive set of Voice Over Kits was http://www.bhphotovideo.com. There I found no less than 3 voice over kits available for sale from 3 reputable audio brands:
which can be found here http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/342255-REG/Electro_Voice__Voice_Over_Microphone_Kit.html
Electro Voice Voice-Over Microphone Kit
- RE20 Voice-Over Microphone
- Electro-Voice 309A Shock-Mount
- Pop Filter
- XLR Cable
which can be found at http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/342252-REG/Rode__Voice_Over_Microphone_Kit.html
Rode Voice-Over Microphone Kit
- Complete Kit
- Includes Broadcaster Microphone
- Includes Pop Filter and Cable
which can be found at http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/342247-REG/Shure__Voice_Over_Microphone_Kit.html
Shure Voice-Over Microphone Kit –
- SM58 Handheld Microphone,
- On Stage Desk Stand
- XLR Cable
Ran out of Options
I spent quite some time trying to find a “VoiceOver kit” without much success other than the items you’ve already seen. Then it hit me that Podcasting might be a little more popular than being a professional voice over. When I searched for that… I found a whole bunch of kits available with price ranges from $99 to $300.
and quite a few websites talking about how to build your own podcasting setup.. like here:
http://digitalaudio.consumerelectronicsnet.com/articles/viewarticle.jsp?id=38585 (this one is pretty good actually)
here’s a podcast kit from Alesis:
And that’s it folks… if you have any leads on any good voice over starter kits… post them in the comment section and I’ll place them in this article. Ultimately you’ll have to look for the right microphone for your voice (I prefer my MXL’s natural deep sounds) but that suits your practical needs (I prefer my Audio Technica’s low self noise and decreased pickup range). For women look for a microphone that increases the warmth of your voice if its too high or one that adds a little treble if you have a warm alto (whatever works for you).
Read up on these kits before you dish out… ask professionals and last but not least have fun.
I am a composer/voice actor and have had a home studio in my house for 20+ years. Over that time span I have searched out inexpensive gear that functions at a high level and have come to some conclusions. I have a neumann U87 and also an MXL mic that retails for under a $100. I have placed them side by side and have found that they are no where near $4000 difference in the quality. In building a starting studio you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a pretty good setup. You can easlily get what you need for under $500-$600 (not counting the computer which doesn’t have to be the greatest either. Just have a lot of ram and most things run smoothly) if if you shop. I am a Pro Tools user but there are many programs that do what you need. Just get one that you can learn and go to work. I think the most important thing to learn is how to use the EQ and compressors. That’s really where the sound is. I don’t care what anyone says…If you’re good with an EQ and a compressor and maintain good gain control, you can make almost anything sound decent. I could talk all day about this but I really came here to share a page that will cut to the chase…This page will give you a ton of options that are well within most peoples budgets. This is not a store but a site that reviews and categorizes gear. They have tons of studio configurations and feature inexpensive, yet good gear. Currently they have 21 home studios to look at…Check this page out…bookmark it like I have and window shop till you drop…this is a great page….
Enjoy the day
I buy all my equipment from http://www.sweetwater.com based in Indiana in the U.S. Talk to a sales rep on phone and they listen and advise you and offer three price options on whatever you need…lower, medium price, high end options. Then go to their website, look it over, decide. Their tech support is fabulous. Free. I have absolutely NO vested interest here. They don’t pay me anything although they should…lol. So check it out.
About ProTools…I think it is too complicated if the person isn’t familiar with recording or maybe not even too good with computers! I prefer the free download “Audacity” software recording program for students totally unfamiliar with recording. Personally, as a pro audio engineer for fifteen or so years now, I like Sony’s Sound Forge program and the multi-track program “Vegas” also by Sony for mixing, editing, post production adding music SFX etc. Yes, I know all about ProTools and work with it at other studios but for my own studio, I still do not need it. Unless you do music, you really have more than you need.
Always buy mics new, never used, unless you know who owned the mic and trust them. And always buy mics on sale. Get more expensive one on sale. And you do NOT need a mic costing $650 or above for voiceovers. You just should spend your money on other things like TRAINING. And remember…you have to have a portable recording studio to take with you when you travel if you are truly a voice talent who works steadily. So you’ll then need an at-home studio and also portable one on laptop. Think about things and get advice. Don’t just rush out and build a studio without being a working voice talent who is GOOD.
Hope this helps.
Jason and Bettye both make excellent points about how someone just getting started in VO does NOT need to spend a lot of money on equipment. In the past decade, technology has advanced to the point that – what used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars – can now be put into an extra bedroom for under $300… and sound just as good! I’ve had a home studio of one sort or another since I was 12. (That’s 1962 for those of you who care!) I cut my audio teeth on reel-to-reel editing and analog technology. Audio was a LOT more complicated in those days.
If you’re just putting your home studio together, don’t believe the retailer who tells you you need ProTools because it’s the industry standard. For high-end music recording… yes. For home studio voice tracking… absolutely no! I agree completely with Bettye that the free Audacity (www.sourceforge.audacity.com) is excellent for the beginner. It even has some features that won’t be found in some of the expensive software.
For a mic, I’ve used the MXL-990 (about $70) which I like better than my Neuman TLM-103 or AKG-C414. I always recommend a condenser mic for best quality. Although a dynamic mic might be useful for practice, it is only the expensive dynamics (like the EV RE-20) that will come close to the quality of a condenser.
The choice of a USB interface will depend on how you are using your home studio. If you need to record on your laptop while “on the road” you might consider a USB mic or a CEntrance MicPort Pro (to use with a condenser or dynamic mic.) Personally I don’t recommend the USB mics because control of recording levels must be done through software – no knobs to turn (I’m an old-school knob turner). Also, you are limited to the length of the USB cable (usually about 6′). The MicPort Pro is very compact, has excellent headphone monitoring and controls for both record levels and headphone. I also like the M-Audio MobilePre when 2 mics are needed, but the headphone monitoring is much weaker.
Absolutely follow Bettye’s advice and ask a LOT of questions before you spend dime one! Talk to other voice talent to get their opinions. And if you work with a coach, ask what they recommend, but research the equipment before you buy. If your coach is recommending ProTools, you might want to look for a different coach.
Hope this is helpful.
Lots of useful, and timely information for us all. It’s great to make a one-time purchase that includes all of the essentials.
I have been wondering for some time now: Is ProTools really that much better than some of the other software programs, like Adobe Audition or Audacity? Is the sound quality really that much better? I understand that it is the industry standard, and that you can calibrate the timing to the exact second (a definite advantage), but is the sound quality really that much greater?
I researched microphones this summer, and although the Shure SM58 got AWESOME reviews, it is a dynamic, not condenser mic, and is generally best for live performance. Although there are a few found in recording studios, onstage is really where Shure excels. From what I’ve read, you can drop these mics from 20 foot buildings and they still perform. In our line of work, a condenser mic is really your best option.
The advice from Jason, Bettye, James and Julia is spot on!!
I used to be an announcer/narrator, but now I guess I am a voiceover artist and have been since 1971. I have a 30 year old Sennheiser 421U that works like a champ. It is still sold today for under $400.00. I have Pro-Tools and an M-Audio mini box. Never use them. The program is too complicated for my needs and my feeble mind. Audacity is simple to use and very versatile. I work for two television stations and can record, trim and compress for time quickly and efficiently. I blew 400.00 on Pro-Tools for nothing. Spend your money on good coaching and attend all the copy reading workshops you can.
To all you aspiring and perspiring voice actors, good luck!!!
I use Garageband with a Shure SM7B unidirectional and M-Audio’s Fast Track single input interface. Gets the job done quickly and efficiently. Audacity is my backup.
I agree on most of the things already said, like ProTools being overkill for VO recording and mics don’t need to be in the $500+ department. However, some of Mrs. Zoller’s points made me go hmmmm… I quote:
1: “ALWAYS buy mics new, NEVER used…”
Well, no one should EVER buy a mic without testing the actual mic in question, or at least an identical model. Not only to test functionality, but more importantly, to test if the mic fits YOUR VOICE! Feel safe buying a used mic when you know a little about microphones, but as a first time buyer, you’re probably better off buying from a shop with good customer service, that IS true.
2: “You have to have a portable recording studio…”
Are we talking beginners or experienced voice artists again? As a beginner, maybe you should concentrate on getting gigs AT ALL, before you invest in portable gear. And as an experienced voice actor… there’s this thing called… vacation? If I weren’t divorced already, I would be the second I brought my recording equipment along on a family vacation.
3: “Don’t (…) build a studio unless you’re a GOOD working talent.”
Personally I can’t see why a beginner shouldn’t spend a few hundred bucks building at least a demo studio for practicing purposes. It’s true that the best investment any beginner can do is in coaching, but few people go directly from the voice acting classroom to the next-door studio and record a $1000 gig. The rule of thumb is “learn, practice. Learn some more, practice some more”.
So allow me to rephrase your point to something like: “Don’t rush out and and spend 1000’s of $ on a state-of-the-art studio BEFORE you’re a GOOD working talent, instead start out with a good Starter Kit”… which, as I happen to believe, was kinda the purpose of this blog to begin with.
Another Good software just for your use..Very inexspensive and very easy to use is Mixcraft. http://www.mixcraft.com
Check it out. You will not be sorry. It records multi-channel. Mixes music well with demos and is VERY easy to use. It is the PC equivalent to Garage Band.
James Bobik – New Voice Over Talent..Long time Sound and Computer Technician.
Forgive me I posted the wrong link.
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