Home Studio Hardware & Components
Building Your Booth
Purchasing the components for a home recording studio for VO is an important professional investment, but doesn’t necessarily require a ton of cash. There are good options to get fantastic professional results on a budget.
DIY Vocal Booth: $200-$300
Yes, you can purchase a proper two ton vocal booth from vocalbooth.com or whisperroom.com or other companies. These typically cost three to six grand. Mercifully, there are now way more affordable options with some potential limitations, that can still fill the bill for professional at-home recording.
Here’s a DIY Vocal Booth (the 4th option he talks about). His PVC + sound blankets setup requires a modicum of DIY grit, but it’s simple and cheap. It may not deaden all louder ambient sounds, but depending on the type and amount of acoustic blankets, it might suffice to create an acoustically “dead” recording space. CLICK HERE
For my own run at making an inexpensive at-home PVC + blankets VO booth: CLICK HERE
For the acoustic blankets mentioned above, CLICK HERE They can be combined. I use these in a closet studio I’ve created and they work great! I’ve also purchased “US Cargo Control Large Sound Blankets” off of Amazon, which also work.
For even cheaper “moving blankets” CLICK HERE
Ready-to-go portable Vocal Booth kit: $1200
CLICK HERE for a nifty ready-to-assemble portable PVC-frame vocal booth kit along with some insightful articles about home recording. Just add your own recording hardware.
“How to Build a Home Studio for Under $350.”
Hard to believe, but listen up! Here’s helpful engineer-producer, Graham (therecordingrevolution.com), with a quick walk through of basic pro-level studio hardware. Most everything (but the booth) and he offers other options to upgrade this configuration on his website. For his run down of all his recommended inexpensive quality components, CLICK HERE.
“Booth Junkie:” Another inexpensive, movable home recording rig:
Here’s yet another take on an at-home recording rig. It’s a nimble, light set up and a coat closet doubles as the recording booth: CLICK HERE
CLICK HERE for the components he recommends.
Learn from those who know!
Sound engineer extraordinaire Randy has excellent insight into home recording, updates to come! CLICK HERE
Engineers Dan & George at Voice Over Body Shop also have lots of helpful insights: CLICK HERE
Connect your XLR mic to your computer with an interface.
What’s an “interface?” You need to connect your microphone with your computer. This means an “analog” signal must be converted to “digital” for a computer to process.
High quality XLR mics and cables can’t do this alone. They require a digital to analog converter “interface” as a bridge to your computer. Typically, it’s a small box or cigar-shaped device. Best to seek one that is powered by its usb connection, rather than having to plug it in (e.g. the Focusrite Scarlett Solo).
You plug your XLR mic into the interface with a cable, then plug your interface into your computer with another cable and set your sound recording software’s inputs to that. (An interface isn’t needed for a USB mic- more on that below.)
We are voice actors not musicians: The fewer the features on the interface the better.
Here are a couple inexpensive recommended interfaces you could use to connect any XLR microphone to a computer:
Focusrite Scarlett solo $110 (I use this and love it!) They bundle in recording software as well.)
Senal XU-1648 XLR to USB interface $90
XLR Condenser Microphones
For animation work, get a decent XLR condenser microphone. (Promos favor shotgun mics, such as the Sennheiser 416. Not for animation, really.) Fortunately, you don’t have to drop a few thousand for an industry standard Neumann!
Here are some more affordable XLR mic suggestions:
SE Electronics sE2200 -$300 (recommended by Corey Burton. I use this.)
Studio Projects C1 Condenser Mic $250 (Also recommended by Corey Burton, I use this as well.)
AT 2035 $150
AKG Perception series $150
For a great pop filter for your mic, use the Stedman PS101. Cheaper options exist.
USB mics are generally not the best choice. What you gain in simplicity and cost savings you lose in sound quality. Honestly, I think of a USB mic more as an “audition mic.”
USB mics plug directly into your computer (or iPhone) and don’t need an interface. This is convenient but you often sacrifice sound quality, though this is improving. USB mics often don’t produce high enough quality of clean sound for final use due to built-in pre-amps that are less than adequate with settings that can’t be overridden.
You generally don’t want a mic dictating processing but that’s what a lot of portable or “podcast” mics do. Sounds engineers hate this kind of added processing- that’s their job. Plus if your mic adds it, it can’t be isolated out. Another reason to avoid a lot of USB “all in one” type mics.
That said, Apogee makes good USB mics with decent pre-amps built in, that may be good enough for on-air use (maybe). Their Hype ($350) and Mic Plus ($250), for instance, are good, but if you’re shelling out that much, I’d get an XLR. Some engineers approve of the Blue Yeti USB mic, though some don’t.
If you go this way, a USB mic should have a separate “gain” level dial, a headphone jack and a separate dial for your headphone sound level as well.
Get flat headphones that fit “over the ear” to contain noise bleed while recording- not ones that rest “on ear.” You want wired not wireless, not bluetooth headphones. Comfort is key- you may be wearing them for a few hours.
A few recommendations:
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 250 $150 (what I use)
Sennheiser HD280 Pro $100
OneOdio A71 $40
Internet connection and speed
Source Connect and video conferencing require a strong, consistent internet connection with your recording computer, preferably ethernet (wired). A steady connection with a sufficient upload/download speeds are what matters.
I’ve heard that 9 or 10 Mbps upload is fast enough, but my experience is that more is better, since you could be doing video conferencing as well as Source Connect- and that’s a lot of bandwidth! (You need both speedy internet as well as a speedy computer!) My service gets me at least 30 up and 400+ down.
For Source Connect or iPTDL, they prefer you have an ethernet internet connection to maximize sound quality and minimize sound dropouts. An upload wifi speed of 25-50 mbps may be adequate if you can’t connect your computer to an ethernet cable. You will still probably be recording a “back up” master of your performance on your end, so they will get that, in addition to what they record over SC or iPTDL.
It should be noted that even with an Ethernet-connected Source Connect session (where they expect to record your performance on their end), SC/iPTDL may exhibit “drop outs.” It’s not a perfect service. It is thus always wise to record your session on your local machine as a back up for peace of mind in case SC isn’t cooperating that day- even if you are wired.
Conferencing software such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams or BlueJeans should be fine with a good wifi connection. (This is essentially a video conference with the voice actor all the recording, not them). But if you are doing ADR with video playback on their end- Ethernet is preferable (and still, the playback may stutter).
Some sessions do the visual session on Zoom and the audible portion on SC. Every one does it differently.
You can test your internet/wifi speed here: speedtest.net.
Where Do I Purchase?
I shop around on sweetwater.com, B&H Electronics, zzounds.com and even Amazon.