Equipment for New VO Actors (if I could do it all over again I would get...)

I am sure that many of us when we first started bought equipment we didn't need but didn't find out until it was too late. Then we had to sale it at a lower price just to get something else. I was thinking you guys can contribute to this post and help out new commers with their equipment. Although we are all different and some of us have a preference for equipment, it would be cool for you to share the mistakes you made and where you are now.

For instance, if a new VO actor needs equipment (mic, pre, computer, software etc) what would you recommend to him/her if all he/she will be doing is MP3 and WAV submissions? If you can describe the equipment by name and why you recommend that particular set up that would be great...

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Thx J...any input on equipment for newbees?
Hi Luis,

Someone asked me this just the other day. Here's what I said:

"You need a quiet room, away from traffic, kids, dogs and people walking around overhead (or the option to make all these stop whenever you need them to). You also need to look at deadening the reverberations when you talk. I'd suggest buying "The Mic Thing" for £190. It will double as a heavy-duty microphone stand (looks the part, too) and is the best thing I've seen in ages. My mate Trish has one, and it stunned us both. Put it in front of you behind the mic, and behind you make sure you've either got some curtains or are in an absorbent corner full of books and shelves to break up the reflections. You'll have to play a bit to get the best sound.

Here's what I'd buy, in your situation:

- A microphone. Your choice. You could consider an AT 4033/4040, Rode NT2a, or dig around the forums for suggestions. Try before you buy if that's possible.
- The cable to connect it (an XLR to XLR cable. Buy longer than you think you'll need: you might want to move the mic further from the PC.)
- A pop shield
- The Mic Thing with The Mic Stand
- An Mbox 2 Mini
- Some Beyer DT150 headphones
- Some monitor speakers around £100 which will connect to your computer

The Mbox will work with your existing computer, whether that's a laptop or desktop, PC or Mac. It also comes with Pro Tools LE, but you can get yourself started with some less "ambitious" software if you want (Pro Tools scares me).

This setup will do you to get started. The Mbox isn't the best Mic Pre in the world, but it's a good starting point. Later you could look at upgrading it to something like a dbx 286 or a Focusrite Voicemaster Pro (or if things are going well, something by Neve……)


I believe in starting small, testing the water, not spending a fortune and seeing how you go. All of the above can be had for about £800/$1000 (it upsets me to see that £800 is now only $1000, but hey) and all are eminently re-sellable if the whole thing goes "pop" after six months.
Mike thank you so much. Not only for this comment but for all the other information you have contributed to the site. You are very talented and your input is always welcomed. Thank you for so much...Great info as always.
You Rock JS...great info brother...Always awesome to heat experts like you guys put in your .02 cents...thx
JS I bought the MIC port pro from our very own George Whittam at ElDorado recording....I picked it up at his place and sat on his couch while we set it up......George will sell you the Mic port AND help you set it up.....over the phone if it's not handy for you to pop over to his house near LAX. I couldn't be happier! My MicPort and the 416 are all I need. This thing is much easier to use than so many pre-amps with their pretty lights and dials and knobs and meters. The Focusrite is on the shelf gathering dust! My biggest investment was the whisper room.....I live in Hollywood across from an elemantary school....150 happy childhoods at recess make a LOTTA noise.....the Whisper Room allows me to work anytime.
Thanks for the shout-out, John!
I have a couple MicPorts, and if you are interested you can buy directly from eldorec.com.
I recently posted an audio test of several popular audio interfaces on my website, so you can hear how the MicPort sounds compared to the Mbox, the Apogee Duet, and a few mic preamps.
Thanks for the compliment - I appreciate that very much Luis!
On the equipment for Newbies topic. If I had to give one piece of advice, it would be to get the best condenser mic you can afford. You don't want a dynamic mic for v/o studio work. Regards to all, Dennis
Hi, J.S. Points (all good) taken! I guess the reason I recommend the best condenser mic that the "newbie" can afford is related to the mouth noise issue. Typically, they are not prepared to edit takes and clip out mouth noises, normalize, EQ, or anything else for that matter. Nor are they equipped with pop filters that would help minimize these noises in the first place. I also have an SM58, but still prefer my AT 3035 for any voice work. Best regards, Dennis
Well, if the new VO actor is buying equipment, I'd say they're spending money in the wrong place. Put the money in training, get good, practice and get better, and learn about equipment on the way.

Chances are good that the first mic you buy will be your first mistake, simply because you were eager, you bought it blind and didn't test it first. That was me, anyway. My first mic was the Sennheiser MXL 2006 ... it was a simple cheapie on eBay and I bought it before I was knowledgeable enough to know not to buy it. Still, it proved its value for auditions at home and booked me a few jobs a few years ago, but I would never recommend it to anyone.

That is, of course, unless you sound amazing on it. In which case, I'd recommend you buy it.

The thing about mics and pres, editing programs, and on and on, is that it'll come down to what works best for you.

I did an extensive mic showdown at Guitar Center last year, special ordering a few mics simply to get them in the same room (you have to deposit 1/2 the cost of the mic if they don't have it, but are under no obligation to purchase). I brought extra ears with me (that is, people to listen), recorded each mic at as close to the same performance level and recording level as I could, and had the Guitar Center engineer do blind playback. Half the mics were eliminated quickly, even those some people swore by, and we listened again and again...until finally, there was an actual consensus on ONE mic. (I also didn't offer my opinion to influence anyone's; I had chosen the same mic.)

Same thing goes on the pre-amp front ... some people swear by the Mic Port, but for my voice and my set up, the John Hardy M-2, with bells and whistles, does an amazing deed. But for you, perhaps a Tube pre-amp is best, perhaps a solid-state pre, or perhaps something in the middle, like the Avalon 710TF, which has a dedicated solid-state pre AND a tube pre in the same unit, allowing you to go full solid-state, full tube, or somewhere in the middle.

Editing software is another personally preference. I started with Audio Suite II back on the Amiga! When I started VO, I used ProTools ... got quickly lost using it and switched to Audacity ... then to GarageBand, back to Audacity, and then finally back to ProTools, where I'm actually comfortable now. Haven't tried Logic or TwistedWave yet, but I will.

Ultimately, the best recommendation is to try stuff out. Mics, pre-amps, software...some sound better than others, some are more intuitive to use.

I've heard the Studio Projects C-1 mic can be a close approximation of the Neumann U87, but haven't tested it yet myself. For around $200, it's a great price for a very well reviewed mic ... but again, it may not be right for you. So test, test, test, and find a retailer, online or b&m, that'll let you return things or test in-store.

Also, a quick note about testing mics in the store -- if you do a mic shootout and you pic a winner, BUY THE MIC FROM THE SHOOTOUT. Don't let them get you a "new" one from the back, NOT without testing it, because often times the construction quality is slightly different, meaning you won't sound the same on the "new" mic as you did on the floor model. Buy the one you sound good on.
Ed, the CEntrance MicPort is not to be compared to a high-end, studio mic preamp. It is a USB interface with a preamp and phantom power for pros working on the road. I'm sure some people use them in their studios, but in my book, they're for recording on the road. ...as for budget mics sounding like a U87, I'm sure they don't to people with good ears. (http://www.centrance.com/products/mp/)

If you listen to the sound tests George did, you'll hear very little difference in the sound between mic preamps when he's running the Rode NT3a (I think that's the shotgun mic).

The newbie has to spend a little money on equipment to get into the game and to practice on; then they can spend money on training. ...but you're correct that to go out and spend $20k to setup a V/O studio would be foolish until they've got a hold on their craft.

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