What you need to set up a home studio for voiceover

Hi friends, welcome to my studio!

It’s time to make a blog post out of this content, which I’ve had on my site for a year as a static page. I’ve recently updated it and want to share with you the (not-so-secret) secrets of my home studio.

A lot of people ask me, “How do I set up a home studio for voiceover?”

Well, hopefully this post will help in providing some ideas for you. Let’s get right into it!

I built my home studio myself, with the goal of creating a professional quality sound from the comfort of my home. I consider my studio “open source,” so I’m happy to give you a tour and tell you exactly how I produce the sound that you hear from me. Here’s a picture of my desk, where I work every day:

standing desk

I’d like to describe several elements of my home studio for voiceover:

  • Microphone
  • Sound equipment
  • Computer and software
  • Standing desk

Microphone: My main vocal microphone is the Electro Voice RE-20 Cardioid Microphone, used with the DBX 286s Microphone Pre-amp Processor. The RE-20 is mounted on the Heil Sound PL-2T Overhead Broadcast Boom with Electro Voice 309 A Shockmount, which works very well in my standing setup.

To connect the mic to the pre-amp and the pre-amp to the mixer, you’ll need these cables:Monoprice 109441 6-Feet Premier Series 1/4-Inch Male Right Angle to Male Right Angle 16AWG Cable and Hosa Cable MCL103 Series Microphone Cables – 3 Foot.

The RE-20 has an internal pop filter that’s pretty good, but I still think it needs some additional dampening, so I use the MXL WS-002 Foam Windscreen.

I have some pop filters made from these: On Stage ASFSS6 GB Dual Screen Pop Filter, mounted to these: On Stage DS7200B Adjustable Desk Microphone Stand, Black. They are not necessary with the RE-20.

However, I also have two of the Audio-Technica AT2020 Side Address Cardioid Condenser Studio Microphone. They are not really high quality enough for recording voiceovers, but I used them for years, and still use them, for podcasting. They provide great sound for the price (less than $100) especially when combined with a few simple accessories – the MXL WS-002 Foam Windscreen and On Stage ASFSS6 GB Dual Screen Pop Filter with On Stage DS7200B Adjustable Desk Microphone Stand, Black mentioned before.

I also have a Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone – Platinum that I don’t use for voiceover, because it’s not really appropriate for that purpose. However I do use it for Skype calls, especially ones that are going to be recorded and turned into podcasts, and for podcasting sometimes. It plugs into your computer via USB and just… works. The platinum model has some nice controls for gain, volume, and recording type (it can capture sound omnidirectionally, bidirectionally, or in a cardioid pattern.) It’s heavy, which can be an advantage because it doesn’t move easily, but it does pick up vibrations from the table it’s sitting on and is not easy to hold in one’s hand. There are better microphones for handheld recording of interviews and podcasts, and potentially for recording voiceover auditions while traveling – my favorite being the Zoom H4N Handy Portable Digital Recorder. Neither the Yeti or the H4N really needs pop filtration, especially if you direct your speech over the top of the microphones to minimize plosive sounds.

Gosh, I could yammer about microphones forever, but let’s move on. If you have questions about microphones, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer your specific questions.

Mixer: My mixer is the Behringer XENYX X1204USB 12-Channel Mixer. This mixer has some built in compression and equalizer settings, which are nice and really improve the sound quality if you don’t have a separate pre-amp processor. It’s great for podcasting with the AT2020 mics. However, although they are pretty impressive, the compression and equalization on this mixer are not as good as a standalone processor.

20130710 In studio with waveforms

Headphones: We need a good pair of over-the-ear headphones to monitor our voices in real time and receive that important feedback. They have to be comfortable enough to wear for a long recording session (3 – 4 hours). I am using Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphones, and I have been really happy with them. They allow the listener to hear a wide range of frequencies so you can monitor the whole vocal spectrum, and are comfortable to wear for a long time. They are consistently rated very highly among radio professionals (and in fact these are the same headphones we use in the studio at Free Talk Live. In the past I have used a couple of other pairs of headphones – the Audio-Technica ATH-M30x Professional Headphones, which are good quality in their frequency range but not as comfortable as the Sony MDR7506, and the Audio-Technica ATH-M20 Professional Studio Monitor Stereo Headphones, which aren’t as good quality as either of the headphones I described previously – but hey, for $20, you can’t beat ‘em.

Monitor: I needed a nice, large monitor for audio editing tasks. I’ve been happy with the ASUS VS228H-P 22-Inch Full-HD 5ms LED-Lit LCD Monitor. I usually read text that I’m narrating off the bottom half of the screen while keeping my DAW in a narrow window at the top of the screen. I use a noiseless mouse because I know you don’t want to hear clicking in your recordings!

Studio Computer:  I’ve gotten this far and haven’t said a word about my studio computer. Doh!

The main consideration for me when choosing a studio computer was finding a machine that balanced quietness (i.e. no loud fans!) with having enough computing power to render audio quickly. I chose the ASUS EeeBox EB1033-B048E Desktop with Windows 7 Home Premium. It is awesome and does everything that i need it to do! It’s super quiet – and small – look carefully in the picture of my standing desk and you may be able to spot it (but it’s kind of like playing Where’s Waldo). Yep, that’s it, perched on top of the subwoofer! It’s almost like it’s not even there.

DAW: Of course, I use Audacity as my DAW (digital audio workstation). It’s free and runs on Windows, Apple, and Linux. Enough said! Audacity is another clear winner that does everything I need it to do. I use it all day, every day. I’m currently working on creating a Udemy course on using Audacity for podcasting. Stay tuned!

Standing Desk: I can’t say enough great things about doing voiceover work from my standing desk. It keeps my energy up so much better than with sitting all day, and it even helps with acting to get the whole body involved in delivering the voiceover. If you haven’t looked into the health benefits of standing desks, it’s worth some exploration!

I’ve created a setup that allows me to ergonomically record anything from 5 second tags to audiobooks. The key to this setup, which I spent a lot of time researching, is the Workez Standing Desk Adjustable Sit Stand Desk for Laptops & Desktops (BLACK). This is an affordable solution to converting an existing sitting desk into a standing desk. You stack the standing desk on top of the sitting desk, and put the keyboard and mouse (or perhaps a laptop) on the small platform, and a desktop monitor on the large platform. The position of everything is adjustable, from the height of the platforms to the angle. This works super well for me. I am 5’8”. My partner who is 6’1” is comfortable using it too.

Now, the monitor is at eye level, allowing me to see the waveforms comfortably during editing without straining my neck. The mic comes in at mouth level from the side, so I can also read whatever I’m narrating off of the monitor. The keyboard is a little below elbow level. The mouse is at about the height of my hand where my arm hangs naturally, with a little downward bend to prevent wrist strain. I also use this Genuine Joe Anti-Fatigue Mat, Beveled Edge, 2 by 3-Feet, Black underneath the rug. It provides a bit of squishiness to make standing for hours feel quite comfortable.

I hope you’ve found this peek inside the my studio helpful! If you are a voiceover artist and you are inspired to purchase any of these items for your studio, I appreciate it if you follow the links in this post because I will get a small referral tip through Amazon.

If you like my studio, why not hire me for your next voiceover project?

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