From the outside, it may seem like voice acting does not require much gear at all. However, for those serious about the craft, some great pieces of gear can really push audio recording to the next level. Depending on budget constraints, use, and available space, there is almost no limit to the amount of gear that could be helpful.
To get started, here is a list of the eight best gear products for voice actors. Many of these fall into important-to-fill categories rather than relying directly on the listed product. Some voice actors swear by certain brands, for instance, while others shop around for the best deal. Read on below to see our recommendations for the best gear.
What Is The Best Mic For Voice Over?
As you might expect, the microphone is one of the most critical pieces of gear for a voice actor. No other piece of equipment will have as much of an effect on the audio quality of recordings. Plus, a bad microphone is always noticeable – even to untrained ears. Getting the best microphone for your budget is essential.
This is an age-old question, and new answers come out all the time. However, modern microphones can generally be split into one of a few categories. These are:
- USB Microphones
- XLR Microphones
- Cardioid Microphones
- Shotgun Microphones
USB and XLR microphones are the largest categories and determine how the microphone plugs in. Cardioid mics and shotgun mics are different ways that the microphone picks up sound. XLR microphones are almost universally better quality than USB microphones, making them a better choice for voice-over work.
Both shotgun and cardioid microphones are acceptable for voice-over. Shotgun mics pick up sound directly in front of them, not capturing almost any other sound. Cardioid mics pick up sound in a wide, almost heart-shaped area while minimizing background noise.
While USB microphones offer plug-and-go ease of use, they often suffer from lower crispness and body. Voice actors are better off springing for an XLR microphone and a solid audio interface (covered later in the list) to get started.
The best microphone for voice acting work will vary depending on what kind of microphone you are looking for. With that said, the best microphones can quickly get expensive. So consider setting a budget before moving forward.
A standard recommendation for top-of-the-line voice-over work is the Neumann TLM-103. It is a condenser microphone that effectively minimizes background noises, boosts your voice, and produces a full sound. As one of the best on the market, it runs over $1100 and is likely only a good option for established talent.
A more common recommendation for beginner voice actors looking for a quality microphone is the Rode NT1. It is a much cheaper option that produces a better sound than a USB microphone. Plus, it is commonly available in kits that include some other gear on this list. This makes it a great choice for an instant starter option.
Shotgun Mic Options
Those looking for a shotgun microphone will find the Sennheiser Pro MKH416 a fantastic and professional option. Once again, it runs close to $1000, so it is likely not a good choice for non-professionals. The Rode NTG4+ is a budget shotgun mic that produces tight, clear sound.
A Good Pair of Headphones Is Essential
Headphones are an essential piece of gear for any voice actor. They are used to check sound, ensure the quality of the recording, and edit the piece later.
Headphones are another area where you get what you pay for. Most studio-level headphones cost at least a few hundred dollars for larger drivers and clearer sound. While not as important as a quality microphone, they may be the next most expensive part of the kit.
Good headphones for voice acting are comfortable, neutrally tuned, versatile, and clear.
Comfort level is often dependent on the material of the headphones. A lightweight set featuring cushioned ears and oversized pads is likely to be worn for hours. You do not want to need to take off your headphones constantly or hurt your ears during long recording sessions, so this is an area that deserves special attention.
A neutral tone is the single most important part of voice-acting headphones. Just like when recording music, it is vital that all sounds come through equally and crisply. Otherwise, you may miss parts of the recording that others will hear. Headphones that are good in this category are often marked “studio-quality.” The clear sound fits in here as well.
Finally, the headphones should have some versatile ports. You may want to plug them in directly to your computer or an audio interface using a different kind of connection. This is not an essential feature, but it is often an excellent quality of life upgrade.
Sennheiser Pro HD280PRO
One of the best pairs of headphones available for voice actors at any budget is the Sennheiser Pro HD280PRO. They are a closed-back design to help with ambient noise, well-adjusted for a neutral tone, and comfortable during long sessions. Plus, Sennheiser is one of the longest-lasting audio brands globally, so their quality is quite high.
For all of the benefits that these headphones offer, they are practically a steal at $100. While you can spring for more expensive headphones that come with better sound, their value is unlikely to be as high as the Sennheisers.
People interested in an open-back pair of headphones should look no further than the Audio-Technica ATH-R70x. Audio-Technica is another well-established and trusted brand. Plus, they specialize in reference headphones for some of the best neutral tones on the market, making them a great option for reference and editing.
A Microphone Stand Will Keep Your Audio Free From Effects
A microphone stand is a simple piece of equipment that really helps prevent mistakes during recordings. These are simple metal mounts that hold up the microphone. They most often come with a clamp arm that can be attached to a desk or other raised surface, but a classic microphone stand that reaches the floor is also an option.
Microphone stands should be made of durable metal, hold their shape, and be easily movable. You want to have complete control over the microphone placement without needing to worry about the mechanism slipping. Adapters for different microphone sizes are a major bonus as well.
One of the best desk clamp microphone arms is this offering from InnoGear. It is a great budget option with thousands of reviews and comes with different thread sizes to fit almost any microphone out there.
It also helps nullify vibrations, although not as much as the shock mount featured next on this list. Vibrations directly affect microphones and can ruin an otherwise good recording. For an example of this, you can bang on your desk and see how your microphone picks it up.
While a microphone stand on its own will not fix large vibrations like that, small ones like typing on a keyboard or moving the stand will be dealt with.
Shock Mounts Help Eliminate Unwanted Vibration
Shock mounts are made up of a small ring of suspension bands that hold your microphone. They connect to a microphone stand and are an essential part of professional voice work. The suspension bands of the shock mount work to absorb vibrations and keep them from affecting the microphone.
Great shock mounts can even negate large vibrations like a fist pounding the table or an accidental kick to the stand. It may be helpful to imagine the shock mount like a small trampoline for the microphone – the same principles apply.
One of the best shock mounts out there is the AUPHONIX PRO. It is a low-cost option that fits with the majority of microphones, including XLR options. It also supports multiple thread counts to fit on any microphone arm.
However, one thing is important to note: you may be able to get a nice bundle on a microphone and shock mount combo or find a microphone stand with a shock mount built-in. If these options work well, there is no need to replace the shock mount with another.
You can test the effectiveness of your shock mount by purposely moving the microphone during a recording session and listening to the audio. If the movement is noticeable, it may be time for an upgrade.
A Pop Filter Will Help With Editing In Post
Pop filters do as the name suggests – they help filter out popping sounds and stop them from reaching the microphone. For example, when we use certain syllables or read some letters, such as the letter “P,” it can create an unpleasant sound when picked up on the microphone. A pop filter stops these from being picked up.
Pop filters are great at eliminating:
- Wind noise
- Breathing sounds
- Extremely quiet sounds
- Popping noises
Basically, any slight noise that you do not want a microphone to pick up, a pop filter will fix. They also have the added benefit of preventing spit and dust from hitting some of your microphones.
Most are crafted from layers of foam and metal mesh, although some top-of-the-line models mix layers with other materials.
- If it fits your microphone, a rounded pop filter like this one from PEMOTech may be your best option. Because it covers three sides, it offers better protection from wind and other sound sources.
- However, for a true catch-all solution, a gooseneck attachable pop filter like this one from LILALIWA can’t go wrong. It clamps anywhere on a microphone stand and is sure to cover the microphone from at least one angle.
Regardless of your choice, a pop filter is a cheap way to immediately improve your sound recording and help future you during editing.
Recording Software Is An Essential Piece Of Gear
While not a physical piece of gear, good recording and editing software is an essential part of any voice actor’s toolbox. There are plenty of options out there, and some fantastic free programs as well. How advanced the program needs to be depends on your requirements.
Most voice actors do not need to alter their voice too much. Simple cleanup and boosting are often enough to make your voice shine. However, if you often heavily edit and add effects like reverb or alterations, better software may be necessary.
Free programs can offer great mileage for most voice actors. Mac users can opt for GarageBand, a program automatically included on your computer, for getting started. While technically made for music production, it includes nice options for recording from an audio interface and basic editing.
PC users should opt for Audacity, an open-source project with powerful plugins. It is available on Mac and Linux as well, if GarageBand does not suit you. Audacity includes a powerful multi-track editor and extensive plugins for additional editing. Not only is it one of the best free editors available, but it is also one of the best editors in general.
Professionals who want to integrate easily with the larger industry may want to choose another option. There are plenty out there, and different companies may have different standards. Consider:
- Who your clients are (and what they use)
Data from Voices.com says that the five most popular options for audio recording software among professionals are:
- Adobe Audition (paid)
- Audacity (free)
- Pro Tools (paid)
- Logic (paid)
- GarageBand (free)
You will not go wrong with any of these – experiment as much as possible and make sure you like the final sound you are getting. Remember that the software is there to help you and should not be a hindrance.
Acoustic Foam Panels Or A Room That Can Deaden Echo
There is a reason that professional music and most voice actors use recording studios for their recordings. Soundproofing and deadening panels dramatically upgrade the sound of audio. They are often responsible for the professional, echoless vocals we are used to hearing in professional productions.
Unfortunately, you may not have access to a full recording studio with the best equipment. However, that does not mean that the effect can’t be recreated. Acoustic foam panels such as these from JBER are available online.
These panels help absorb echo and reduce unwanted noise. When enough of them are placed into a room or recording space, you will notice a dramatic difference in sound quality. They can also be used on a much smaller scale to craft a mini square around your microphone. While the change will not be as dramatic, it is still effective if you are on a budget.
Other materials can also be used to deaden sound. If you look at recording studios in person or online, you may notice that many feature carpets strewed across the floor. Any thick, fibrous material can help absorb sound and reverb. Of course, the panels linked above are specifically made to absorb sound, but there is no reason not to get creative.
These also have the added benefit of helping with soundproofing, although they may not be the best option out there.
An Audio Interface Lets Your Computer Pick Up The Best Microphones
An audio interface is the last piece of essential gear for any voice acting setup. Anybody using an XLR microphone (as you should) will need some sort of interface that the microphone can connect to.
At their core, audio interfaces allow specialty microphones and other devices to hook up to a computer. For voice actors, this is really only the microphone you use to record. For musicians, it also covers things like electric guitars or synths.
Most audio interfaces also offer a host of unique features and tuning knobs to improve their product. How many of these bells and whistles you need depends entirely on your preference. Most of what these audio interfaces can do is also possible during editing; it just comes down to when you want to make the changes (if you do at all).
As such, try not to focus on the extra features too much. Audio interfaces offer varying levels of sound quality. You should find ones that focus on sound quality and support for your microphones first.
Audient iD4 MkII…or the Universal Audio Apollo Twin X DUO
One such example is the Audient iD4 MkII. At $200, it is a relatively low-budget option that offers superb sound quality and a lovely host of features. It is a 2-in/2-out USB interface. This means that it can support up to two device inputs at a time – for example, one microphone and one synthesizer – and output to two different devices. This could easily be your headphones and your computer.
The iD4 MkII includes knobs to adjust gain, monitor the mix, and adjust volume through to the computer as well. Finally, it comes bundled with software to make recording and mixing on your computer easy (although final changes should still occur in a separate and dedicated software).
While not the flashiest option – those looking for extra features may be interested in the much more expensive Universal Audio Apollo Twin X DUO – the iD4 MkII is an excellent option for most voice actors.
There is plenty of gear out there for voice actors, covering all levels of budget and features. For most categories, providing one piece of equipment is challenging. Professional voice actors change kits all the time, but the different types of gear are almost always the same.
Focus on setting up a great microphone, audio interface, and headphones with the majority of the budget. Then gradually make smaller purchases like a microphone stand, shock mount, and pop filter to upgrade the sound. Finally, use free software for editing, and deaden the sound as much as possible with acoustic foam panels.