By Stephanie Ciccarelli
February 9, 2011
When it comes to buying a microphone, you want to be sure that whatever you purchase does justice to your voice and brings your talent to the fore.
In today's VOX Daily, you'll learn about some factors you'll want to consider when going about determining if a microphone is suited to your voice.
After you've read the article, be sure to comment with your thoughts!
What microphone is best? Which microphone should I buy?
These are questions that frequently pop up from people who are entering the voice over field. After receiving another question of this kind today, I asked David Ciccarelli, CEO of Voices.com, if he could collaborate with me on an article that would help people select the best microphone for their voices. David is an honours graduate of the Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology (OIART) and has a wealth of knowledge at the ready when it comes to audio recording.
While we can't give a definitive answer to anyone who asks "What microphone should I get?" what we can do is provide people with tools to help them decide for themselves.
The best microphone is the one that you can use with the fewest technical problems. If all other things are equal, choose the simplest setup that you can that will enable you to record as quickly as possible, hence the saying "plug and play."
Some microphones like the RE20 (the stereotypical radio microphone) are large diaphragm microphones designed to pick up lower frequencies such as a deep male voice, a bass drum or even a bass guitar.
The small diaphragm or small capsule microphone is designed to pick up higher frequencies such as the female voice, the brightness of an acoustic guitar or shimmering cymbals. You may have seen these as the overhead microphones on a drum kit or above an orchestra.
I was just at a voice over workshop where hertz was explained in terms of the human voice. Hertz, named for the German physicist Heinrich Hertz, measures the number of cycles per second. Where the human voice is concerned, this means the number of times the vocal folds vibrate per second.
à¹ A healthy male voice usually falls between 110-120 hertz
à¹ A healthy female voice usually falls between 200-210 hertz
à¹ Children's voices usually fall between 300-400 hertz
The higher the vibrations per second, the brighter the sound. To give you an example, you might be familiar with A440, also known as Concert Pitch. As an orchestra prepares to tune, the principal violinist will play this pitch to help others in the ensemble tune their instruments.
Decide which type of directional pattern, also known as a microphone's polar pattern, best suits your needs. For voice overs, a more focused directional microphone is likely best. The polar pattern you should be looking for is a cardioid or a hypercardioid.
This type of polar pattern will minimize room tone and ambient noise as it's designed to pick up sounds within close proximity of the front of the microphone.
A pop filter is considered a standard accessory for voice over artists. The pop filter acts as a screen that helps to reduce the impact of the air from your mouth onto the microphone capsule which results in the minimization of sibilance, plosives and other mouth noises.
If you're curious about pop filters or want to learn more about whether or not you should use them (some people prefer not to), take a look at this article discussing the benefits of using a pop filter.
To Pop or Not? Are Pop Filters Necessary? (47+ comments)
A shock mount is a mechanical fastener that holds your microphone in place, suspending them by elastics. I have one of the USB microphone that we use at the office for podcasting. One of the benefits of a shock mount is that the microphone is isolated from stand vibrations. For instance, if there is a low rumbling under foot, the shock mount can absorb it.
Experiment with a friend's microphone or borrow a handful of microphones from the music store and test them out. If you're looking at a high end microphone, you might consider renting a few mics for a couple hundred dollars overnight to test a few pieces of equipment before investing a couple of thousand dollars on the right microphone for your voice.
The best microphone for your voice won't necessarily be the most expensive one on the market. From one perspective, the best microphone is the one that is affordable and gets the job done which is why many of these criteria could be considered "nice to haves," and not "need to haves."
Having said that, the microphone, along with the preamp are the pieces of technology that are between you and your computer so get the microphone that makes your voice sounds best but also fits in your budget.
Some time ago I posted an article asking voice talent to comment with their favourite microphones and why they loved them. If you're looking for some firsthand recommendations from people who love their mics, I encourage you to read this article:
The Hottest Microphones on the Planet (32+ comments)
There are many reviews online where people describe their experiences with various microphones. A quick Google search can lead to more information quickly on a particular microphone of interest.
If you have any tips or a story to tell, be sure to add a comment on this posting for all to see and benefit from.
Looking forward to your reply!
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