Good Microphones For Recording Voice

We touched upon this on a previous post on how to get into voice over work. However I wanted to do a specific post on good microphones for voice recording that you should consider buying for if producing voice overs, podcasts or explainer videos.

The types of microphones and specs can be confusing. Here some simple things to watch out for:

Dynamic or Condenser Microphone?– For recording voice in studio, only ever use a condenser mic. Dynamic microphones are cheaper, more portable and pick up less frequencies, their purpose is not for studio recording.

What is a Microphone Diaphragm? – A thin piece of material than vibrates when hit by sound. The larger the diaphragm, the better. Smaller sized diaphragms are not really useful for human voices, only instruments.

Which Microphone Pattern should I choose? – There are generally 3 types; Omnidirectional, Cardioid and Figure 8. If recording 1 voice, for Voice Over or Vocal purposes, choose cardioid – this picks up the sound from the area at the front of the microphone only and blocks out everything else. If you choose one of the others, it will pick up from different directions, good if you have multiple voices or want to pick up room sounds but otherwise it’s picking up sounds and frequencies and muddying up your voice.

good microphones for recording voice
Patterns when viewing a microphone from above

How much should I spend on a good microphone for recording voice? – You should spend roughly $100 / £70  on the microphone itself, but remember condenser microphones require a preamp (interface), a mic stand and an XLR cable as well. Spending $100 on a microphone can be daunting, especially if you’re new to the business and don’t have many clients, but this is actually relatively cheap as condenser microphones can go up beyond $1,000. As well as that the cost of a decent USB microphone will set you back much more than an XLR mic.

What are some good microphones for recording voice? – There is nothing production software can do to make a bad microphone sound good. It’s vital you get the right microphone, it will be 80% of the work done in producing a professional standard voice over.  Below is our top tip for value and quality;

Behringer B1

I can’t endorse this enough. The Behringer B-1, is an excellent choice for a top quality microphone at a reasonable price. I know tons of radio studios and home studios that use the Behringer B1 for voice overs and vocal recording. At roughly£70, It represents incredible value for the professional sound you get from it.

I was quite the amature when I first purchased this, I had secured a commission to produce some animations for TV. Having previously recorded audio on a really cheap dynamic mic, I knew I needed to improve on audio quality. The Behringer B-1 was recommended by a friend who knew his microphones, and it has been one of my best ever investments. Going from recording on a cheap microphone to this was chalk and cheese. The difference was incredible, suddenly I was recording quality that was good enough for any format.

I have owned a Behringer B1 for over 10 years, it’s extremely durable and records clear, crisp vocals. It also has a couple of different settings on board, namely a low frequency roll off and a -10bd limiter. They are very subtle and minor adjustments, not something to think too much about, if you’re not overly familiar with what they do.

how to get into voice over work
My own Behringer B-1 10 years on, still going strong

Below are the Behringer B1 specs:

Type Condenser
Pattern / Direction Cardioid
Diaphragm 1″ (25.4mm)
Frequency Response 20Hz-20kHz
Max SPL 138dB
Output Impedance 50 ohms
Signal to Noise Ratio 81dB (A weighted)
Self Noise 13dB (A weighted)
Low Cut Filter 75Hz (-6dB/octave)
Pads -10dB
Color Silver
Connector XLR
Weight 1 lb.
Included Accessories Shock Mount, Windscreen (Mic Sock), Aluminum Carry Case

 


 

USB Microphones

What are USB Microphones good for? – 3 Options

USB Microphones have become rather popular in recent years, they don’t require buying a separate preamp or mic stand, and are so easy to plug in and use. Where USB microphones can be good is for recording podcasts or training / explainer video voice overs.

In these instances, sound quality is less important than the quality of the content, it’s not going to make or break it. However when recording a voice over, quality is king and your biggest asset when selling to a client. USB microphones are not up to a good enough standard for commercial voice overs or music vocals.

What are good USB microphones for podcasts or e-learning videos?

Audio-Technica AT2020

This is probably the closest you can get to a professional standard with a USB microphone. Audio-Technica are a reliable brand. However at £85, this will effectively cost you the same as a Behringer B-1 with a preamp, mic stand and pop shield. It also wouldn’t be as reliable, so you are really paying for convenience here. You’ll need to keep it as far away from you’re desktop or laptop as possible so not to pick up the hum of the machine.

Choose this microphone if;

  • You will be doing all you’re recording in 1 studio location.
  • You will not be having guests in studio.
  • You are not tech savvy and would rather the convenience and of ease of use of a USB microphone.

 


Blue Microphones Snowball USB

A nice looking piece of kit and very easy to use.  At £64, it provides something a little more affordable. The snowball has a few different options in terms of pickup patterns (cardioid and omnidirectional) which makes it very versatile, it could be used for indoor interview locations, or as a home studio mic. It’s worth learning what the different options do if you buy this mic.

The quality is not going to reach anywhere near what a Behringer B-1 will give you, and it’s not up to the standard of and Audio-Technica either. However, if you are just a beginner and using a microphone for fairly casual recordings or interview based podcasts, this is a decent option. It’s also worth using some post-production techniques to boost the standard of the raw audio of anything recorded with this mic. We’ll cover that in a later post!

Choose this microphone if:

  • You will be recording both in studio and other locations.
  • You will be conducting interviews.
  • You need something that is easy to set up.

 


Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB

This is a USB dynamic microphone. As I explained earlier, a dynamic microphone is not for recording voice in a studio. Dynamic microphones are not as good condenser, they will always sound less impressive. However they can be handheld, and used outside, so if your podcasts or recording involve travelling around and meeting people in numerous different locations this might be one you’d consider. As far as dynamic mics go, this one will do a good job at £99.

Choose this microphone if:

  • You want something portable and durable
  • You will be recording in lots of different locations
  • You need something handheld
  • You’ll be conducting interviews

 


A Summary of Choosing Good Microphones For Recording Voice

Be very careful in choosing your microphone. Make sure you ask yourself as much questions as possible and choose based on what exactly you’ll be using it for, where will you be using it and how impressive do you want it to sound. If you’re a beginner in audio recording you may think any microphone will do, you may not notice the difference between the different types, but believe me, many people do and when recording voices it’s always for an audience, so you need to make sure you’re satisfying that audience.

The price of the above microphones may scare beginners, why pay this when you can pay $30!? Well, there is always a reason why theya re $30, and investing in a microphone will improve the standard of you’re work more than you could imagine. If you are currently using a cheap microphone, find someone who has a more expensive condenser mic, record on that and try to tell me there is no difference then!

 

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