Champagne Dreams, Beer Voice

What’s the best microphone for voice over? Ever heard that question? Are you a voice actor, who has struggled to find the best microphone for your voice over business?

I have struggled with this question since DAY 1 of my voice over business. There are several questions I continually ask myself. What is the best microphone to use on my voice? Which microphone will sound best in my studio. What is the dreaded “industry standard”? Do I need to spend a lot of money in order to get a great sound?

This last question is perhaps the one that has plagued me the most. I started out my VO journey with the venerable, AT2020 from Audio Technica, a mic that retails for $99 and can sometimes be found for as little as $50, used. It sounded good to my novice ears and I used it for work right away. Before long, however, I started to wonder, all the above questions. So, I decided I needed to upgrade. I moved to another model from Audio Technica the AT3035. Also, sounded great, and I used it to record my first 3 audiobooks. In a pattern that will soon become evident, I decided that the 3035 was too sibilant, and was picking up too much mouth noise. Enter the NTG 3, too boomy, Oktava MK 319, too dark, SM7B, too muddy, MXL 990? Too brittle. So I tried a few other microphones, mostly Large Diaphragm condensers, the full list of which will make you either click away, or think I’m completely insane, neither of which is good!

Fast forward to the new year. I have now been through 25 microphones, and a funny thing happened…I am now BACK to using the Audio Technica AT2020!, two of them to be exact. I have always liked having 2 microphones in the studio. The reason is, I like to have the ability to stand or sit as the mood strikes me, and being slightly OCD (massively depending on who you ask…my wife perhaps?) I don’t like to move the mics for fear of not being able to get them just right back into the sweet spot. Most reads I do standing, however, for audiobooks and really anything over 15 minutes in length, I like to sit. So, I now employ the AT2020 USB for long form work. So what has changed? Why would I go back to the same mic on which I started? There are several reasons.

  1. After going through several brands, it is my opinion that certain manufacturers have the same tonal qualities in a lot of their products. For my voice, in my space, Audio Technica as a whole are a really good fit.
  2. The AT2020 is not a large diaphragm condenser. The capsule is 16mm. For me, a less sensitive mic is good for a few reasons. My Whisper Room has some bleed through of highway rumble. I used to use shotgun mics to deal with this, but the smaller capsule of the AT2020 helps with this as well. The other reason is that the lower sensitivity helps with mouth clicks. It turns out, I just have a clicky mouth!
  3. The price! I have tried microphones at nearly every possible price, from a $100 AT897 to a $1700 TLM 49. The AT2020 holds up for me. Did the NTG 3 sound great? Sure it did! Did it sound $500 better? NO!

So it appears, in spite of my champagne dreams for microphones, it really turns out that I have a beer voice! The simple yet effective Audio Technica AT2020 sounds great on my voice in my studio, and as our friend George Whittam is fond of saying, “If it sounds good, It’s good!”

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