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Equipment for a home studio set up

Curious about proper home studio set ups for recording voice overs? Buckle in. We’re going to break down the home recording studio equipment must-haves for you.

An interesting fact — most professional voice actors will say that it’s the recording space and acoustic treatment that matters most. 

It makes sense. You can’t record professional-quality voice overs if you don’t have somewhere to record them. And you can have the most expensive microphone money can buy, but it can sound completely amateur if the home studio isn’t up to par.

But we’ll talk about that a little later.

Audio recording equipment for a home studio set up

Computers for recording voice overs

First things first. You need a computer to start recording and editing voice overs. After all, everything is online now.

That said, it’s important to make sure your equipment is up-to-date. Meaning your computer should be able to handle your chosen DAW without its fan kicking into hypergear — fan noise is unwanted in your recordings!

You don’t necessarily need the newest, latest releases. Computers made within the past 5 years are generally sufficient for most tasks. As long as running your online business isn’t like chewing through molasses, and your computer fan isn’t heard when recording, it should be good.

A couple of suggestions for you to consider:

MacBook Air M1

The MacBook Air M1 doesn’t have a fan, and its processing power and RAM should be more than enough to run a DAW.

No fan, no noise, entry-level pricing for Mac products, it’s a great option! Just make sure you’re not getting the Intel CPU instead of the M1 chip — the Intel chip isn’t as powerful and the laptop has fans.

The M2 chip is rumored to come out in July 2021, so if you’re interested in the M1, you might be able to snag one at a cheaper price when the M2 comes out.

Equipment for a home studio set up

Amazon.com — unavailable at the time of writing

Apple.com — starting at $1299

Acer Aspire 5

A cheaper, non-Mac alternative is the Acer Aspire 5 A515. It’s got sufficient processing power, enough RAM, and has an SSD (solid state drive) for storage. Meaning it should be quick enough for voice over work, and at a good price tag too.

Basically, it’s like the M1 Mac above, but with fans. However with the processing power and RAM, it shouldn’t make that much noise.

Equipment for a home studio set up

Acer.com — starting at $899

Amazon.com — starting at $749.99

Check out our brief guide on microphones.

Before purchasing, make sure you understand the fundamentals about microphones for voice overs.

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Generally, you’ll want a large-diaphragm condenser microphone for voice overs. They’re able to pick up fine detail and depth in the voice, and they’re sensitive. 

We recommend XLR mics over USB mics, and suggest staying away from those sub-$100 packages you’d find on Amazon. If you’re looking for more info about the best voice over microphone and how to pick a microphone, be sure to check out our in-depth piece featuring experienced, professional voice actors.

It’s important to note that the XLR mic is just a small part of the recording chain. There are a lot of things that can affect the sound. As Matt Ellis, top-performing Voice123 voice actor, puts it:

“Working with my audio engineer... I've learned a lot about microphones, and that it's not just about the microphone. You can have a really solid mic and a very bad interface and preamp set up. That's just as important." - Matt Ellis

In any case, we’ve got two lists of mics for you — the industry standards, and the entry-level mics. First, the industry standards. They’re what the pros use, and you can’t go wrong with them.

Voice over microphones

Equipment for a home studio set up

Sweetwater.com — starting at $699

B&H photo and video — starting $799

Amazon.com — starting at $799

Equipment for a home studio set up

Sweetwater.com — starting $1095

B&H photo and video — starting at $1095

Amazon.com — starting at $1395

Equipment for a home studio set up

Amazon.com — starting at $3200

B&H photo and video — starting at $3250

Sweetwater.com — starting at $3650

Equipment for a home studio set up

Budget voice over microphones

B&H photo and video — starting at $229

Sweetwater.com — starting at $229

Amazon.com — starting at $269

Equipment for a home studio set up

Shure SM7B (This is a dynamic mic)

Amazon.com, B&H photo and video, Sweetwater.com — all starting at $399

Equipment for a home studio set up

Blue Yeti Pro (USB XLR hybrid)

Amazon.com, B&H photo and video, Bluemic.com — all starting at $249.99

Equipment for a home studio set up
Equipment for a home studio set up

Must-have microphone accessories

Pop filters block out excessive air produced by plosives when speaking. By plosives, we mean words that have the p-, b-, t-, k-, d-, g- sounds. Pronouncing these consonants uses a lot of air, which can cause a spike in your recorded sound.

They’re affordable and don’t differ very much, so it won’t matter which one you pick – although you generally get what you pay for, so don’t cheap out. It’s definitely a must-have to prevent unwanted noise in your recordings.

Equipment for a home studio set up

Windscreens are another defense against plosives, but keep in mind that windscreens can reduce high-frequency articulation and clarity. So choose wisely.

Equipment for a home studio set up

Shock mounts lessen the amount of vibrations picked up by the microphone from things that are physically causing the mic or boom arm to shake. Note that it won’t stop the sound of a foot stomp, but instead, the vibrations of the stomp that would shake the mic would be reduced.

Equipment for a home studio set up

The main difference between mic stands is whether it’s a standing tripod, or a desk arm. Your choice will reflect your recording space, and preference for recording. Some voice actors prefer to sit, and others prefer standing.

Equipment for a home studio set up

The XLR cable is what connects your mic to the audio interface. Quality can make a difference in how much interference is carried into the recording, but not by much. The main concern is durability and appropriate length

Equipment for a home studio set up

Audio interfaces

Choosing an XLR condenser mic means you need an audio interface. An audio interface is what receives the sound waves picked up by the mic, and converts the analog signal to digital. 

Equipment for a home studio set up

Audio interfaces tend to have different sound qualities after the analog signal is converted, it’s just a matter of finding one that doesn’t impact the sound of the mic negatively. Again, you’re likely to get what you pay for. Choose wisely, or consult existing purchasing guides for help. SweetWater has a great audio interface buying guide. 

Scaling higher on audio interface quality usually affords you more XLR ports. Do you need more ports? Probably not. For the sake of being futureproof, get an interface with two inputs, if you like.

Gravy for the Brain has a great list answering how to choose the best audio interface for voice over. They’ve got many options listed, but the most helpful part is the voice sampling it provides with each one.

One option we think could be added to the list is the Focusrite Scarlett Solo. It’s similar to the 2i2 and 4i4 models, but cheaper and only has one XLR port. If it’s just you, it’s an affordable pick for a decent audio interface – and it’s very popular among voice actors.

Equipment for a home studio set up

Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

If you’re wondering how to choose a DAW, it comes down to personal preference. Some people can’t bear to work without their industry premium — Avid Pro Tools — while others love the free DAW Audacity.

Equipment for a home studio set up

It’s important to choose a DAW you’re comfortable with, as you’ll be spending a lot of time editing voice over recordings and demos with them. It’s where you can remove background noise, apply compression, remove distracting breaths, and do preliminary editing before submitting a voice over.

Audition has a free trial, which is nice. Paying for Audition won’t improve your sound quality, but it may improve your workflow. It’s better for multi-track editing (which you probably won’t be doing), and exported sound files are typically smaller.

Equipment for a home studio set up

It’s free, simple, and provides what you need to edit voice overs, although the tools in the DAW might not be as robust as other DAWs. But hey, it’s free, and gets the job done for voice overs.

Equipment for a home studio set up

Pro Tools is an industry standard that’s been used for audio production for a long time now. It’s got everything an audio producer needs to edit audio. Avid has free trials for their programs but you won’t get the full package until you subscribe.

Want to know more about DAWs? You can check out our list of top 5 DAWs!

Equipment for a home studio set up

Studio headphones you can’t go wrong with

Studio headphones are a must-have when it comes to recording voice overs. Not just any headset will do. So the noise-cancelling Beats, the gaming headsets, the airplane earbuds just won’t do.

Editing with speakers is also an absolute no. The point of studio headphones is to be able to clearly hear every detail of your voice over. Every breath, every mouth click — however unpleasant — must be heard in order to ensure a clear and professional voice over recording.

It’s best to stick with closed-back headphones, instead of open-back headphones. Open-back headphones may improve the sound quality when purely listening, but closed-back headphones are preferred because they don’t leak sound, which a recording could pick up.

A bonus: studio headphones are comfortable enough to wear for hours on end.

The Sennheiser HD280 Pro closed-back headphones are considered to be the industry standard. It’s affordable too, starting at $99.95 on Amazon, and $79.95 on the official site at the time of writing.

Equipment for a home studio set up

Another option, still on the lower end of studio monitors, starting at $63.99 on Amazon, Sweetwater.com, and B&H photo and video.

Equipment for a home studio set up

Another affordable option is the Sony MDR-7506 studio monitors. They’re closed-back and leans on Sony’s reputable audio products.

$99.95 on Sweetwater.com

$99.99 on B&H photo and video

$119.95 on Amazon

Equipment for a home studio set up

Look at bundles

Some recording equipment stores sell “packages” or “bundles” that include everything you’ll need to record yourself – from microphone to software. Buying one of these packages is often considerably cheaper than buying all the items individually, but keep in mind that one size rarely fits all and if the aim of the package is to hit a certain price point, compromises will be made somewhere.

If you are interested in exploring this route, we spoke to our quality control expert, Jairo Pineda, for some suggestions of recording gear bundles.

How to set up your home recording studio

If you told a voice actor from the 2000s that home recording studios were going to be the next big thing, you would’ve heard a good laugh.

Now, it’s much less of a joke than it is a necessity. Since then, people have figured out how to replicate broadcast-quality voice overs from the comfort of their own homes. 

Closet studios are a thing. Foam padded walls are a thing. DIY Whisper booths are a thing! Here’s how to make it your thing.

Ask most professional voice actors - they will tell you, when setting up your home recording studio, it’s the recording space and acoustic treatment that matters most. Click To Tweet

Choose a good space

Start with choosing a recording space that won’t bounce your voice everywhere. The last thing you want is to record in the centre of an empty room with hardwood flooring. Every echo imaginable will be picked up by your mic.

You’ll want to find a space where you can control the sound, like a walk-in closet. It sounds silly, but recording surrounded by thick coats and clothes helps absorb stray sound.

Cover reflective surfaces

Consider adding carpet or a rug to hard floors that can reflect sound, like tile and hardwood. Walls can be covered with thick moving blankets or acoustic foam to absorb bouncing sound waves.

You may not think there can be much of a difference, but if you record in an open space, and then record in your closet between a lot of hanging jackets, you’ll notice a big difference in your sound.

Isolate your microphone with a shield

If you happen to find a great recording space and are able to reduce the sound that bounces around within it, you may not need a microphone isolation shield or box.

If you’re having troubles finding a space and acoustically treating it, the box and shield might be a good compromise.

Conclusion

It comes down to research. Knowledge is power. If your goal is to become a successful voice actor, come to grips with the tools of your trade and learn how to use them well. 

Technology changes so often. And because everyone’s voice, budget, and available space varies — it would be impossible for us to provide you with a suggestion for a full home recording studio setup that would be sure to work for you in particular.

So it’s up to you to do the research! We know it’s a long, extensive list to consider. But after you’ve prepared all of this, you’re ready to rock your voice over business and have a solid home studio set up.

Thinking about your next step? We’ve compiled an ultimate voice over resource page for voice actors. Check it out!