Microphones: Choosing The Right One For The Job.

Originally printed in Voiceover Insider Volume 6, No. 7. Check out their website.

I caught up with Christopher Currier, a studio project specialist with Sennheiser, at the Sennheiser and Neumann booth at VOICE 2012. Christopher also did a presentation on the first day of the conference called Microphones: Choosing The Right One For The Job.

Q: Christopher, what are some of the factors a voiceover artist needs to look at when trying to discover the right mic for his or her voice?

Christopher: One of the first things is to not be afraid of the technology. A lot of people get intimidated by mic technology very quickly. And then there are a couple of factors to take into consideration: budget, which is number one for just about everyone; the type of work you’re doing; and then looking very carefully at the specs of the microphone, and is a particular mic going to complement the type of work you’re doing.

Q: Are there any mics that will fit across a range of voice types?

Christopher: As an example, the TLM 103 and the newer TLM 102 are kind of Swiss Army knives of microphones. They’re going to sound pretty good in front of just about anybody.

But when you start defining your signature sound, then you start looking at the characteristics of your voice and the characteristics of the type of work you’re trying to do.

For example, if you’re doing a lot of radio stuff, where you have to cut through a mix, and there’s a lot of stuff going on and you want to grab people’s attention, you want a mic that’s going to emphasize the high end of your voice, so it’s really going to shine in that mix and it’s going to grab people.

But if you’re doing narration or corporate work, or maybe guidebooks, you want a mic that’s a little less harsh, something that’s going to be a little warmer, and complement some of the softer sides of your voice.

I look at microphones as paintbrushes. I don’t think there’s one paintbrush to do everything, and I don’t think for voice actors there should be one microphone to do everything. You might have one go-to mic that does most of it, but I think everybody should have some different colors.

Q: What are some of the basics of matching a microphone to your work space?

Christopher: First of all you need to look at your home studio set up a little bit. If you have a very noisy set up, that’s when you might start looking at the shot­gun mics, because they can help to actually isolate you can reduce some of the background noise.

cardioid mics have this wonderful thing called proximity effect. Each make reacts just a little bit differently, but it gives the performer another tool. If you’re positioned six inches or further back from the mic, it doesn’t really come into play, but as you get closer, it’s going to help bring out the low end of your voice. So experiment with that, and see what kind of colors and character you can get out of just a single microphone. Because you might be surprised, as you play with it, that you can do all sorts of things you never thought of.

Q: Some voice actors seem to position their mics so they’re talking through the pattern. Others are addressing the mic straight on, or have the mic well above their foreheads or below their chins. What about mic positioning?

Christopher: Mic position is a tricky thing. You definitely want to experiment, and see what’s best for your voice. I always tell people to not trust just their own assessment; ask other voi­ceover people or other objective people in your life as to what really sounds like you, and what sounds good. One of the reasons people don’t address a mic capsule straight on is because that can actually help to reduce the p-popping plosives without the use of a pop filter. If you address a microphone just 15° to 20° off axis, in most cases that will almost completely eliminate plosives.

Q: If someone is getting a lot of nose noise, is there something that can be done with the microphone or positioning to solve those problems?

Christopher: Nose noises and mouth noises are very interesting and tricky things that we have to deal with in the voi­ceover world. First of all, positioning of the microphone can make a very big difference. If the capsule is pointed at your nose or anywhere near your nose, you’re likely to get a more nasal sound. So you don’t want to be pointing the capsule at your nose, that’s a bad idea. And remember that it’s where the capsule is, not just where the mic body is positioned. So you look through the grill and you should be able to see the capsule, and that’s where you want to focus where you’re pointing the mic. Be sure it’s pointed toward the your mouth — the sound source — and not toward your nose. Once you’ve got that positioning, you can work with rotating the mic capsule several degrees off axis to deal with the plosives. Also make sure that your sinuses are absolutely as clear as possible. There is a great product called OLBAS; they’re actually throat lozenges. They’re very strong, and you can usually get them at a natural foods store. A lot of voice actors find that these will totally clear you right out. That can help a lot with mouth noises and nose noises.

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