What is the “right voice-over gear”?

Realtime Casting founder, Andrew Peters, talks about the right voice-over gear

Knowledge gained from others over the years voiceover studio

When I first started recording at home it was a new “thing” and no one seemed to know much about what was needed or considered the “right voice-over gear”. I was just working in a small closet. This environment was fine for certain jobs and auditions, but not anything requiring a clean sound.

Like so many in the past 15 years, I went and bought a mic, sound card, and program for my laptop. It worked okay, but it was far from perfect. I knew what sounded perfect from my experience in recording studios. What recording at home did do though, after a bit of tweaking, was enable me to find clients who were happy with receiving these “not what I considered perfect” audio files. As my client base grew and the work became larger and more diverse, I started to get more global work, with southeast Asia and the Middle East being key areas for me.

These clients were more discerning and wanted a better quality sound, however. I had to re-evaluate my set up.

Taking my sound to the next level

The first thing I had to do was build a studio. I employed an audio expert to help find the right space. We then worked on what materials to use for the studio. This information is quite lengthy and complex and will be covered in another blog post. Once I had the right materials, the room was treated acoustically to make sure we could get the best sound possible.

Grace 101

Grace M101

Next, I needed to upgrade my computer. As people discussed “PC or MAC?”, I went and had one custom built for me. This was through recommendations from professional studios who were using PC. I used an Australian based company AAVIM Technology, builders of amazing machines with more power than I will ever use; a rock solid computer.

I then asked another audio friend for assistance. I explained to him the basics of what I needed and he sent me to an audio supplier to buy gear. I came away with a Microtech Gefell M930 mic, a Grace M101 preamplifier, and a Lynx sound card. This combination gave me the ability to deliver super clean and flat audio sound “as is” instead of colored, top of the line quality, all perfect for working with an audio engineer. After adding Source Connect and ISDN, I was able to market myself as an official remote voice-over talent with a professional studio.

M930 voiceover mic

M930 mic

Evolution

As time passes, and I work with more and more producers, my studio continues to evolve with the demands of my client base. This, of course, requires evolving with the right voice-over gear to use to cover all kinds of delivery from promos, imaging, commercials, to narration. These include a Rode NTG3 shotgun mic, a Microtech Gefell M930 and M92.1 tube mic, a Neve 2254r compressor, a Grace M101 preamp, Neve 1073n preamp with EQ.

However, it is not the standard kit. Most studios have a U87, Neumann, Sennheiser 416, Avalon 737 or M5. I can deliver voice tracks, either super flat or with some treatment, and because I have more mics and outboard equipment.

In future Blogs I will go through the gear I use here and why I chose it. I will be more specific about the value of each. One thing to remember, if you are not aware of the type of sound you consider perfect or have never done home recording before: Get advice from an audio engineer. They can help set everything up correctly and show you what does what.

No point wasting your money buying a Porsche, if you cannot even drive yet!

Realtime Casting Founder Builds His Home Voice Over Studio

Andrew Peters, Australian voice actor and co-founder of Realtime Casting, describes building his own home voiceover studio (slideshow below)

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Andrew Peters of Realtime Casting states, “Building your own is possible.”

Over the years, I have built a few voice over booths in places like cupboards, small sheds, bigger sheds and finally…a car garage. The main challenge is always understanding the difference between sound proofing and acoustic control. Through trial and error (and yes…there were a few expensive mistakes along the way) I came up with a pretty good design.

Getting started
Before you start remember the outside dimensions will be somewhat different from the inside dimensions. Therefore, it is best to work from the inside out when calculating the size of the voice over booth.

In my particular case I had one small issue; a pitched ceiling. This is good news because it eliminates one right angle, but the bad news is it becomes a trip wire for someone not skilled in any building trade! Once I worked out “where I was going to build it” I had to work out “how”. Building against walls, especially walls I could NOT touch, makes construction challenging.

Next few steps
I had to build two of the walls at another location and then bring them in order to secure them to the floor I had built. Once I had the two walls up, the third wall and framework for the door could be built.

The next trick was the ceiling, which I had to slide into place, then screw to the inner stud-work. You can see from the pictures of construction that it was not a simple task. Once the walls were in place everything had to be sealed to make sure the booth would eventually be airtight. Any air getting in brings with it sound.

Materials
The materials used in building a voice over booth are the key to its performance. I have experimented with all kinds of materials in the past, but my favorite has always been “yellow tongue-floor timber”. This material is dense, VERY heavy, and when you get multiple layers in place, it is sure to work. I also had a plasterer finish off the outside to make it look nice, but I also did that to add another layer.

Here is a list of the materials I used and what they were used for…

– Heavy-duty rubber to float the whole structure. I also used a second layer between the two layers of flooring.
– Yellow Tongue for walls, floor and ceiling. Inside the layers is stud-work 90mm x 45mm

voice over booth materials
– Acoustic insulation is used inside the cavity of all walls
– Tubes of sealer to fill in gaps
– Auralex is superb and worth the money.

Important note: Remember Auralex is not soundproofing. It is used in order to control sound inside the booth.

– Double-glazed patio door, and make sure it is well-sealed; no cheap stuff. Spend the money for a door with a good energy rating and acoustic qualities. These also save you the task of having to build a double-glazed window (I’ve built one!).

Things you must do to make your booth work…

– Float the structure on heavy duty rubber to isolate it from the floor
– Do not have your booth touch any part of the existing building
– Make sure you bog all gaps so the booth is airtight
– Use multiple layers of dense materials

My booth has been put through the ultimate test; a major construction site next door! I was able to have a voice over session, as 4 jackhammers were going, and my voice over booth worked perfectly.

Keys points to remember…

– Isolate
– Density
– Airtight

Are you planning on building a voice over booth? Did you build one already?

Leave a comment or question below.