Have you heard the one about the three voice-overs bragging in a bar?

“My condenser has phantom power”, says the guy with the spooky voice.
“My shotgun produces killer demos”, retorts the man in black.
“My ribbon has a suspended diaphragm”
, snaps the girl in the Hogan baseball cap.
Waitress: “Anyone ordered a Blue Bottle?”
Unidentified customer: “No, I just got a Snowball.”
“Can I get some MixCubes on the side, please?”
Waitress: “Active or Passive?”

Hearing voice-overs talk is like listening to a Monty Python skit. It can be slightly surreal and silly. One thing’s for sure: many VO’s have opinions. Strong opinions, especially when it comes to gear. Whenever people take themselves too seriously, I’d like to tickle them a little. If you ever plan on messing with the mind of a VO-pro, go to an online voice-over group and type in the following words:
“Hello. I am new to this business and I would appreciate your advice. What’s the best voice-over mic?”
Unknowingly, you just released the beast. If you honestly believe that the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is a big deal, wait until you get voice-overs started on their choice of mics…. You’ll soon discover that some VO-Pros suffer from a condition the psychological community calls “Microphone Envy”. So far, there is no sound treatment for this auditory affliction. Here are some of the comments these hired voices might make about their precious sound catchers (in order to protect their identity, I decided to name all of them ‘Mike’).

Gear Geek-Mike: My mic has a 32 mm gold sputtered thin Mylar capsule.”
Show-off Mike: “Mine has a retail value of $7,775. I got it for 7 grand on Ebay.”
Frugal Mike: My cheap Chinese mic sounds almost like your pricey German one.”
Model Mike: “But I cut a deal with the Germans to endorse this microphone”
Macho-Mike: “Mine is bigger and better.”

If you happen to be in the market for a microphone, these message boards might not be the best place to solicit advice. In fact, I highly recommend not asking anyone for any recommendations. Period. Not online. Not in the shop. Trust me, you’ll sleep much better. Do your own homework instead.One man and his mic Researching mics can be good fun. Why not fire up your laptop on a rainy Sunday afternoon, and listen to a few microphone tests. The fellows on this page always manage to crack me up… They’ll say something like this:

Nethervoice Mic Test.mp3
(test: courtesy of Nethervoice Test Laboratory)

If this type of shootout still leaves you in the dark, try taking the blindfold test. The authors even provide a pfd form so you can make notes as you listen. I’m not sure how to do that while being blindfolded, so let me know how it goes.

OK, time to take the eyecover off and visit www.howaudio.com. Sound engineer Jeff Dykhouse (no doubt of Dutch descent), posted “Getting good Sound for Voiceover”, a 20-minute microphone throwdown, featuring the Neumann U87, Sennheiser ME66 Shotgun, Sennheiser 421, Rode Podcaster and the MXL UBS .009. It’s actually quite informative, and you can brush up on your Bible studies at the same time!


To end this audio tour, I invite you to visit the online microphone museum, the brain child of retired Professor S.O. Coutant. I’m especially fond of the gallery of “celebrities with various microphones”.

And finally, many of you have asked me what microphone I use to bring home the bacon, which is not an easy thing for a vegetarian…. Well, here’s my pride and joy: the Avantone CK-6 Large Capsule Cardioid FET Condenser Microphone. As you can see, it comes with a custom retro shock mount, an elegantly padded genuine wooden mic box and a padded aluminum storage/travel case.

If you experience a sudden attack of "Microphone Envy", remember this: writing about microphones is like ice skating about food. It doesn't really make sense. Just as you can't get wet from the word water, you don't know if a certain microphone is the one that will flatter your voice the most by merely reading about it or by staring at a picture. You've got to give it a spin and use your ears.

So, have you heard the one about the two voice-overs in a bar?

With tears in his eyes, the first one exclaims: "Why did Don LaFontaine have to go before his time? It is so unfair." The other one thought about it for a moment, took a deep but silent voice-over breath, and replied: "I guess God wanted his voice back!"

Paul Strikwerda
paul@nethervoice.com


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If you enjoyed this article, I invite you to visit my Double Dutch blog. It's packed with tips, anecdotes and insights.Whether you're a voiceover newbie or one of my more experienced colleagues, I'm sure you'll find it entertaining, amusing and thought-provoking!


Double Dutch


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Comment by Paul Strikwerda on August 13, 2010 at 12:26pm
Glad you enjoyed my blog, Linda. It's funny how my articles make the rounds these days. This was a post I wrote last year, and somehow it was picked up by Mr. VoiceOver Universe (and I couldn't be happier!). For those who are interested, there's lots more at http://www.nethervoice.com/nethervoice/. That's the home of my Double Dutch blog.

I agree with you on George Whittam's sound advice. For those who haven't visited his website, here's the link:
http://eldorec.com/ George and his team are the real deal!
Comment by Linda Ristig on August 13, 2010 at 8:14am
I enjoyed reading your article, Paul. It's tricky business picking the right mic. Just because it sounds great on someone else's voice, doesn't mean it will work for you. The DLF lab is a wonderful endeavor to that end! George just helped me secure a better acoustical balance in my recording studio over Skype and the internet, and I highly recommend his guidance for anyone out there in the VO world that would like some extra help. From microphones to recording software in the PC and Mac camps, his rates are reasonable, he knows what he's talking about, and he's an all-around nice guy! Thanks again, Paul, for the playful article on the mic debate!
Comment by Paul Strikwerda on August 4, 2010 at 6:58am
I'll be the first one access your database, George. As far as I'm concerned, you're the go-to person (together with Dan Lennard), when it comes to getting independent, reliable advice. I am also excited about your involvement in The Don LaFontaine voice-over lab. That place must be pretty 'geared-up' by now.

Thanks for being a consistent resource I can truly trust!
Comment by George Whittam on August 4, 2010 at 1:51am
During my seminar at VOICE2010 I brought up the SM58 vs U87 blind test that had so many fooled a few years back. Mic technique and room acoustics have MORE to do with the sound you record than the mic itself. Trust me, I've heard awful stuff from expensive mics and great stuff from <$100 ones. We'll be creating an extensive database of recordings comparing all of the mics we have on hand at the Don LaFontaine Voice-over Lab over the next few months. Everything from a Harlan Hogan VO:1-a to a Manley Reference Cardioid will be used with the same voice, in the same room, with the same placement and the same mic preamp. While it is no substitute for coming in and trying the mics for yourself, it should serve somewhat educational for those who aren't in the Los Angeles area.
Great article, Paul!
Comment by Paul Strikwerda on August 2, 2010 at 3:05pm
Thanks for your kind words, Mitch! I wrote this article a while ago and things have not changed. I guess they never will. I like what you did with the handheld Shure. Hopefully, that proved the point. Ultimately, even the most expensive violin will sound bad in the hands of an amateur.

If you're interest in more of my writings, explore my blog: http://www.nethervoice.com/nethervoice/

Have a great week!

Paul
Comment by Mitch Faulkner on August 2, 2010 at 2:30pm
Thanks for the video and the article. Very well put. When I use to do seminars about commercial production, I would go around the room and ask the audience which Mic they used and of course it was various. It would spark debates about which mic is better, then I would quiet the room, and say ok experts here is an exercise! I would play a spot and ask, can anybody tell me what type of mic was used to record the voice over, of course the bold ones would swear they knew the answer and all would be wrong. All the time I would play spots that were done on a simple handheld Shure 58. They would say you are lying. The final comment is it does not matter what mic you use as long as it fits the purpose. Making your voice heard for the client and intended audience!!!!! Then I would tell them about the processing and the pre amp used in the process and then another battle would begin about what processor is the best and so on and so on!

You are right about opeing the topic in a room full of production or Voice over folk, pull out the boxing gloves and ring the bell (lol)

You gave some great info!

Mitch
Comment by Paul Strikwerda on July 23, 2010 at 12:41pm
I just noticed that the "blindfold test"-link isn't working anymore. The test must have been removed. Here's a link that does work... it's from a recent voice-over mic shootout from our friends at Recording Hacks:

http://recordinghacks.com/2010/03/31/voiceover-microphone-shootout/

If you'd like to read the full version of my article, just follow this link:

http://www.nethervoice.com/nethervoice/2009/08/08/the-best-voiceove...

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