While your voice is your instrument, the microphone you choose as transducer—through which you capture the performance of that instrument and get it recorded—is the single most important tool in your arsenal and by far the most important item you’ll ever buy during your whole voiceover career. Never cut corners here; buy the very best microphone you can afford.
The important thing to understand is that not all microphones suit all voices, so experiment until you find one that makes your voice and its unique tonality sound just right for both yourself and others. Many of the better music stores have mic rooms for this purpose. Take the time to go there. Get different mics set up and have the salespeople record your voice. Work with headphones so you can hear every nuance before you listen to the playback on speakers.
No, we’re not saying you have to spend $10 000 on a mic; we’re saying you should go out there and spend as much as you can afford on getting the best mic for you.
Above all, make finding the right mic a labor of love. Research the topic online, if you like. Determine a price range you’re comfortable with. Find a mic with low self-noise and high dynamic range (more on the reasons for this later). Chat to people online and in person on the shop floor. Due diligence is key.
Essentially, there are two main microphone types: dynamic and condenser. We’re not going to get into a long technical monolog to try and explain the difference between the two, but essentially, a dynamic microphone operates almost like your home stereo’s speakers, but in reverse. Instead of an electrical input signal moving the speaker’s diaphragm to produce sound, the sound of your voice moves a small diaphragm to produce an electrical signal. Behind the protective grill is the microphone capsule, and inside the capsule is a magnet. Around the magnet is a small and movable induction coil that is attached to the diaphragm. When sound waves vibrate this diaphragm, it moves the coil—and this movement creates a voltage as a result of the magnetic field. That tiny voltage is amplified by a transformer inside the microphone housing and sent to the output.
Condenser microphones operate quite differently: the principle of variable capacitance is involved. In simple terms, variable capacitance can be explained as “storing energy in an electric field between two conductive plates.” The diaphragm of a condenser mic is one of these plates. When sound makes it vibrate, the distance between the plates change. These minute changes vary the capacitance and thus, the output voltage of the microphone.
Dynamic mics are tougher and better for stage use. Condenser mics are much more sensitive and better for studio and voiceover work because they have a wider dynamic range; their sensitivity allows them to pick up every nuance of the voice across the entire audible frequency range. Our recommendation to you is: look for a condenser. While more expensive than dynamic mics, you’ll find pretty decent ones at most budget levels.
Still, the adage ‘you get what you pay for’ is applicable in this instance, and as painful as it may be, you have to accept that your ears will always know what’s better for you than your wallet. Whichever microphone you pick, take care of it, and it’ll serve you for years to come.
For the sake of interest, the most common microphone brand used by the community is Neumann (22%), and the most popular model is the TLM 103. The classic Neumann U 87Ai is probably the world’s most famous studio microphone and another favorite, although it’s very expensive. The Røde NT1-A (13%) is another popular community choice. But it’s important to understand there is a multitude of brands and models available. You need to find one that works for you.