Voice Over Equipment

13 Quality Voice Over Microphones for a Home Recording Studio

10 Quality Voice Over Microphones for a Home Recording Studio

Voice recording microphones and equipment is too large a market to do unguided shopping. Read this article and pick the best voice over microphone from a versatile collection for any budget, learn more about auxiliary devices, and go break a leg making great recordings!

UPDATE! A couple of weeks after this post was published, I received an email from professional audio engineer Rebecca Ramsey, who pointed out a few inconsistencies in the article and suggested I put a few more popular models on the list. Rebecca, many thanks for your input and valuable criticism!

Best microphones for voice acting
Audio-Technica AT2020USB PLUS

An inexpensive USB mike, requires no pre-amp, comes with self-monitoring.

Price: low cost
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Blue Microphones Yeti Microphone

A feature-packed USB mic for amateurs offering a clear sound.

Price: low cost
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Rode NT1A

Rode condenser mike fits pro needs, comes with a shockmount.

Price: low cost
My Choice in the Low Cost!
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SE Electronics sE2200a

SE large-diaphragm mic provides a warm sound, covers versatile voices.

Price: mid-range
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Harlan Hogan VO

Good for voiceovers, includes a hard case, shockmount, XLR cable.

Price: mid-range
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Blue Microphones Bluebird

Cardioid condenser mike, bright recording, great price-to-performance, comes with shockmount.

Price: mid-range
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Shure SM7B

Cardioid mike with a pop filter. Flat wide-range frequency response!

Price: mid-range
My Choice in the Mid-Range!
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Electro Voice RE 20

Celebrated dynamic professional mic. With a pop filter and shockmount!

Price: mid-range
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CAD Large Diaphragm Condenser

A supercardioid rectangular-shaped mike, great noise filtration, universal application.

Price: mid-range
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Rode NTK

This tube mike delivers a broad range for acceptable money.

Price: mid-range
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Sennheiser MKH416-P48U3

The gold standard! Supercardioid shotgun tube condenser for recording pros.

Price: high-end
My Choice in the High-End!
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Neumann U 87

Switchable studio microphone, three directional patterns. Extremely sensitive and efficient!

Price: high-end
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Blue Microphones Bottle Tube

Masterpiece, leader of major comparative tests, yet a pricey choice

Price: high-end
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Modern e-Learning is closely integrated with the multimedia environment. Video and audio content steps up as an indispensable ingredient for creating engaging courses – materials that will go viral and entice lively feedback and knowledge sharing. Of course, most of us can just opt for an embedded laptop mic or a plain USB headset. Some might say voice conferencing equipment doesn’t make much difference. However, can we really neglect distortion, vibrations and background noises? As always, it depends on our goals, approaches and methodologies. Some courses will be OK with no extra investment in audio hardware, and some may need more sophisticated gadgets to stand out from the crowd.

Once you’ve realized it’s time to differentiate, the issue of voice recording equipment pops up to drag you into a labyrinth of gadgets and accessories.

As a rule, creating audio recordings is a piece of cake. Cheap and enjoyable even with basic hardware. That said, the quality of your recorded voice is directly linked with the methods employed for sound capturing. In this brief guide, I will focus on standalone microphones used by voice over actors and ordinary people who value audio quality.

«Employed by voice over pros» does not necessarily mean high end products. In fact, most of them are in the low to middle range and would suit a wide audience of instructional designers, content authors, voice talents, etc. There are a few highly important factors to consider in this field, such as recording environment (home, booth, studio) and acoustics, portability requirements, post-record sound filtering, your unique voice and many others.

Not surprisingly, the ambience and room conditions have a crucial impact on recording quality. Sound-proof closet or busy office room, you’d better be on the safe side and go with a microphone that minimizes pick up and doesn’t require loads of sound cleaning afterwards. Acoustics is key, so think twice before choosing a recording studio or other dedicated spot. By the way, I’d be happy to learn where you typically create your audio lectures! Let me know, that will be much appreciated.

Picking a suitable mic for personal use, you will come across the buzzwords of warmth, clarity, brightness, durability and, of course, quality. Keep in mind that catering to specific voice registers is a daunting task, so you may want to ensure a wide dynamic range as a soft option.

Basically, there are two types of microphone for creating voice overs: USB and analog. As the name suggests, a USB mic is plugged directly into your desktop computer or laptop. By contrast, analog mics need audio interfaces, i.e. specific external hardware, to connect to the computer.

Changing gears, there is more to mic classification. For instance, condenser mics are well known for detailed response and impeccable upper frequencies. Dynamic microphones provide a warm and detailed, yet arguably less translucent sound.

From a more practical angle, consider you position when recording. Will you be sitting or standing? In case you plan to be sitting at a desk (which is the most likely scenario if you are making an educational video at home), a studio arm or a desk stand would be of great help. In any case, check out the list of collateral hardware at the end of the article. Now, let’s go through some mic options available for purchase online.

Low cost microphones

Don’t worry, the market has an abundance of offers fitting all budgets. You may get away with a real gem under $250, or you could fall into a trap and end up with a pricey yet clumsy gadget. As always, be reasonable and do some research of your own before you buy.

1. Audio-Technica AT2020USB PLUS Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone

Audio-Technica AT2020USB PLUS Cardioid Condenser USB MicrophoneFirst on my list comes Audio-Technica AT2020USB PLUS. There is no need for pre-amp, so you can just plug it into a USB port and start recording right from the computer. The PLUS version of the mic comes with the highly appreciated self-monitoring feature. You can connect the headphones right into the mic, see if everything sounds fine, and make changes on the fly.

2. Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone

Blue Microphones Yeti USB MicrophoneThis one is a real gem. For just slighly over a hundred bucks, you can get yourself a high-quality USB mic that is a nice fit for a standard home setting.  The Blue Microphones Yeti offers four recording modes and a surprisingly clear sound for this price range. Well-built, feature-packed, a nice choice for amateur audio lecturers who are not ready or not willing to set up a professional studio.

3. Rode NT1A Anniversary Vocal Condenser Microphone Package

 Rode NT1A Anniversary Vocal Condenser Microphone PackageRode NT1A is loved by a plethora of voice over talents, instructional designers and audio lecturers from all walks of life. Also, it’s recommended by Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), a meeting point for authors and narrators, recording engineers and producers engaged in audiobook delivery. The mic actually falls into the beginner price range, yet with a professional slant. With the Rode NT1A Condenser, you can record high-quality audio with impressive dynamics.

The microphone comes in a bundle with a shock mount and a DVD. The disc offers nice audio recording tips and tricks that will suit newbies and pros alike.

4. SE Electronics sE2200a II C Large Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphone

SE Electronics sE2200a II C Large Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser MicrophonePowered with excellent vocal isolation, SE Electronics sE2200a is a superb choice as a large-diaphragm cardioid condenser mic. This model easily filters background noises. It also comes with a shock mount. The device is recommended for its dynamic recording of versatile tones and voices, warm sound and nice look and feel.

5. VO: 1-A Harlan Hogan Signature Series Microphone

VO: 1-A Harlan Hogan Signature Series MicrophoneThe Harlan Hogan VO is a great choice for voice over actors and novice audio producers. The package also includes a hard case, shock mount, XLR cable and quick clip mount, as well as two replacement mount bands. The device supports both USB-style or XLR connection.

6. Blue Microphones Bluebird Cardioid Condenser Microphone

Blue Microphones Bluebird Cardioid Condenser Microphone

Blue Microphones Bluebird Microphone offers bright and clean audio recording for both male and female actors and lecturers. Some users comment that the default shock mount is somewhat shaky, so you might want to shop for a standalone option. Yet the upsides outweigh the flaws of a Bluebird Mic.

Professional Microphones

The previous mics were moderately priced and quite suitable for beginners. Now let’s get into something more sophisticated and posh.

7. Shure SM7B Dynamic Microphone Cardioid

Shure SM7B Vocal Dynamic MicrophoneThe SM7B dynamic microphone offers a flat wide-range frequency response that works great for both music and speech recording in any audio app. The SM7B contains perfect shielding against electromagnetic hum produced by neon lights, monitors and other gadgets. The included pop filter makes any additional protection against plosive sounds superfluous, eliminating most of the defects effectively even for close-up narrations. Great value for the money!

8. Electro-Voice-RE-20-Cardioid-Microphone

Electro-Voice-RE-20-Cardioid-MicrophoneThe RE20 dynamic cardioid mic is considered an industry standard, employed by sound engineers and music producers across the globe. Its comes with a heavy-duty internal pop filter which does a great job for close-in voice recordings, as well as an internal shock-mount for noise reduction.

9. CAD Large Diaphragm Supercardioid Condenser

CAD Large Diaphragm Supercardioid CondenserAn outstanding piece of US-made voice over studio equipment, the CAD Microphone sells in a slightly higher range. The peculiar thing about this device is its rectangular shape. Despite this questionable design solution, it provides a beautiful deep sound. All you could expect from a top-notch large diaphragm condenser mic – and more. Voice over actors comment that it can be easily used outside the booth, highlighting its powerful filtration of background noises.

10. Rode NTK Tube Condenser Microphone

Rode NTK Tube Condenser MicrophoneA large diaphragm condenser with a great warm sound – a nice choice for those who prefer it real loud. Devoted users also cite a broad dynamic range and durability of this mic. Similar to other tube microphones, you need to warm it up for a while so it performs its best. Make sure you turn it on and keep it on standby for twenty or thirty minutes before recording an audio lecture.

11. Sennheiser MKH416-P48U3 Super-Cardioid Shotgun Tube Condenser Microphone

Sennheiser MKH416-P48U3 Super-Cardioid Shotgun Tube Condenser MicrophoneThe Sennheiser Mic is used in professional studios and dubbed as «the gold standard». A great choice for road trips and outside recordings, Sennheiser is a classic directional shotgun mic, rugged, lightweight, and user friendly. Suppressing feedback, it delivers superb sound quality and ease of use. See it as part of your voice over home studio equipment? It’s never been easier.

12. Neumann U 87 Ai Switchable Studio Microphone, 3 Directional – Nickel

Neumann U 87 Ai Switchable Studio Microphone, 3 Directional – Nickel Professionals give full credit to the Neumann U87 model. This exceptionally pricey mic supports three directional patterns: all-directional, cardioid and figure-8. Neumann fans have a more affordable choice, though. A lower option, Neumann TLM103, also delivers great quality recordings. It fits the expectations of broadcasters and home studio owners. This mic is extremely sensitive, users maintain that it renders emotions and nuances with great efficiency.

13. Blue Microphones Bottle Tube Microphone System with B6

Blue Microphones Bottle Tube Microphone System with B6The unrivalled winner of nearly all equipment tests and one of the market leaders, The Bottle Tube Mic will take your voice over gift to the next level. It’s handcrafted and hand tested.

My Choice

Now that I’m done with the review of the best microphones for voice overs, it’s time to announce my top picks in each category. The awards go to three mics from the low cost, mid-range and high-end categories. My choice in the affordable pool is the Rode NT1A – cost-effective, yet with impressive dynamics. Cheap and cheerful, a great fit for lecturers and voice over talents. My mid-range favorite is the Shure SM7B. It’s a real bang for the buck given the solid sound quality and nifty pop filter. From the crème of the crop, I’m voting for the Sennheiser MKH416-P48U3 – a fabulous shotgun mic that works great in any possible surroundings. The model mic for studio recording, and worth every penny!

Other must-haves for voice over recording

Watch this video and learn which equipment Israel Hyman, a voice over expert, suggests for home studio recording.

Headphones

Sony MDR7506A must-have device for you to control audio tracks while recording voice overs. It’s essential to use headphones, since you want to prevent your mic from picking up sound from the monitors. When recording voice overs, make sure you are in a quiet room and wear the headphones. Needless to say, when you make recordings with speakers on, you end up with lower quality sound. If you need to pick one model, my recommendation here is the Sony MDR7506 Professional Headphone. Perfectly flat sound, clear mids and highs – you can’t go wrong with this one. For more details, check out my article on headphones.

Microphone stands

To avoid shakiness and sound disruptions, use a mic stand corresponding with your preferred position and facilities. If you’ll be sitting when recording a voice-over, it makes sense to pick a desk stand or a studio arm. A desk stand is a smaller, desktop alternative to a standard microphone stand. A studio arm can be attached to a table with a removable clamp or fixed holder.

If you prefer standing, your soft option is a microphone floor stand, a longer model with boom arms. The latter will provide more flexibility in choosing the right angle and position for the mic.

Here are my recommendations in each category:

  • Arm stands: NEEWER. A durable and convenient model that you can easily fold and carry around if needed. It’s also very easy to set up. Smart pick!Microphone stands
  • Floor stands: Samson MK-10. A sturdy tripod boom stand that comes with a mic clip. Very lightweight, easy to transport. Make sure to check it out!
  • Desk stands: On Stage DS7200B. Solid solution for voice over talents and podcasters, comes with an adjustable height. Sturdy and ergonomic.

Pop filters

Pop filterBasically, pop filters serve to improve your speech flow. When using sensitive microphones, it’s essential to avoid the plosives and sibilant sounds that may be picked up by the mic. That’s exactly the job for a pop filter – a compact screen that connects to a microphone stand with a clamp. You can position the filter right in front of the microphone capsule and it will help diffuse the air generated by the notorious P’s and S’s. Depending on the model, the screen can be metallic or made of a foam-like fabric. I recommend using the Dragonpad USA Pop filter. Cheap and cheerful, it comes with a 360-degree flexible gooseneck. It’s easy to use and set up, and fully functional.

Shock mount

Shock mountA shock mount is a suspension device that doesn’t let the mic pick up rumbling sounds. It mounts on the end of a microphone stand and holds the mic. Voice over talents may use a shock mount to suspend a mic with special bands, thus keeping off most of the unwanted noises. The type of shock mount totally depends on the type of your microphone. Sometimes shock mounts are included in a bundle. If you need a standalone device, I recommend you check out Neewer. This shock mount isolates most condenser mics and offers smooth angle adjustment. Durable metallic structure, great option for broadcasting and voice overs.

Audio interface

Audio interfaceAudio interfaces are external equipment that connects to computers via USB or other available ports. Need to plug an XLR microphone into a computer? An audio interface is your solution. Many interfaces include various jacks such as XLR mic inputs, headphones and other controls. You’ll be fine with any USB audio interface, but bear in mind that a direct connection will help you achieve decent sound – not broadcast quality. For crystal-clear sound, it’s advisable to plug the mic into an outboard setup to begin with. My recommendation for a USB interface is the Focusrite Scarlett Solo (2nd Gen). A great mic preamp that comes with embedded phantom power! Best-in-class conversion rates, universal compatibility.

Cable

CBI MLC20 Low Z XLR Microphone CableAn obvious means of connectivity for your audio recording environment. A standard cable should provide compatibility with any XLR microphones, recorders, mixers or any other XLR-enabled devices. I suggest using 20 foot mic cables – long, thick, with high durability. A good choice in this field will be the CBI MLC20 Low Z XLR Microphone Cable. It’s cheap, sturdy and built to last. This is exactly the thing that you set and forget. Unless you do multiple plugs and unplugs, which is also OK with this cable.

Isolation filter

LyxPro VRI-10 isolation filterThis is, essentially, a curved baffle covering the microphone with acoustic absorption materials. A smart way to decrease room ambience. An isolation filter surrounds the back part and sides of a mic and steers away unneeded reflections. Most filters of this sort are not exactly lightweight so you will probably need a robust microphone stand as well. What’s my pick in this category? The recommendation is LyxPro VRI-10. This is a portable and adjustable foam shield for stand mount or desktop use. Comes with steady feet. 1-year warranty for your peace of mind. All in all, it’s a real deal!

Acoustic panels

FoamEngineering Acoustic PanelsFoam panels are also specifically designed to cut down on room ambience. They are usually placed in focal points across the studio. Acoustic panels may vary in size and structure: some of them may include bass traps and adhesives. They are good for studios, vocal booths, control rooms, and other recording environments. Actually, they’ll work great anywhere to help prevent echoes inside the room. Product care may include occasional vacuum cleaning for better results. The item I have in mind here is FoamEngineering Acoustic Panels, 48 Pack. These panels are composed of 1 inch wedge foam and provide moderate noise deadening where required. Good value for the money. Highly recommended!

Monitors

Yamaha HS7 100-WattUnlike headphones, monitors reproduce more natural sound for critical listening, a balanced mix that will turn out fine on most devices. Studio monitors are an immense upgrade as opposed to common computer speakers or HiFi. Plain speakers tend to alter the sound to make it more appealing, whereas monitors give you a better idea of your recording quality. Monitors are capable of a flat frequency response so you can hear frequencies exactly as they’ve been recorded, and make tweaks accordingly. My recommendation: Yamaha HS7 100-Watt. This is a two-way powered studio monitor with 43Hz–30kHz frequency response, room control and high trim response, XLR and TRS phone jack inputs, and more great features. This mid-priced Yamaha model is a real bang for the buck!

For more choices, refer to my article on studio monitors.

In conclusion

This random listing of voice over equipment packages provides you with some basic shopping guidelines, regardless of budget and professional experience. If you ever get a chance, try to rent a mic and test it in your actual recording environment for a couple days to see if it’s what you need. Your optimal mic is exactly the one that makes your unique voice sound great – don’t forget about that and don’t get carried away with bells and whistles.

Jot down a list of essential features to meet your specific tasks. Wipe out the unneeded extras, and there you go. Being an e-Learning professional who considers costly standalone equipment to deliver the utmost in your course-flow, you can’t just be satisfied with the first mic you encounter. Like any creative pro, you need an ability to tweak and tune, and possibly produce a couple test lectures. Be picky but don’t overplay it. After all, your voice is only as good, reassuring and engaging as your content.

8 Comments

    • Marcos, I know the Neumann models are good for tenors. The Neumann 105 delivers good quality and fits higher male voices. If you are after a mic for studio use only, take a look at the Neumann 102, which provides a very natural sound. Hope that helps!

  • Nice to see Tom Olsen in the video! Indeed, Blue Microphones Spark for $200 really rocks. I don’t know why anyone would waste so much money chasing $1-2 grand options and questionable benefits. Well, unless you can really hear the difference…

    • Stan, yes, people can hear the difference. Low-cost condenser mics might be fine for beginners, but they don’t deliver half the quality required for voice acting and high-end studio recording. Good sound comes at a price.

  • Hi Scott, my apologies, this is a late reply, to an old post, but it’s a very useful post… So helpful to have you share your experience in this area. May I ask, is there a mic that you recommend for a mid-range female voice?

    • Hi Jill, I’ve seen some nice options recommended for female voices. One of those is the Shure SM7B Vocal Dynamic Microphone (clean reproduction, good fit for the mid-range, comes fully equipped with extras). You may also try the Audio-Technica (AT4033/CL Cardioid Condenser Microphone) – great value for the money, smooth sound, widely tested in recording studios.

  • Thorough and complete list. I agree with almost everything here. The one mic I would add is the TLM 103 from Neumann. Very close to the U87 at 1/3 the price.

    The AT2020 is my favorite USB mic for traveling on the road at the moment. You can hand hold the mic without generating any microphonic artifacts. It even works with an iPhone and Twisted Wave with an adapter cable. I’ve seen this mic on sale for a little over $100 dollars. Amazing value, but purchase a slip-over pop filter for best results.

    • Michael, thanks for the suggestion! I covered U87 in this article, however, If I were after Neumann, I’d probably go with the TLM 103 as well. It’s a great fit for pro and semi-pro use, and a great value for the money. In the noise reduction department, it’s way ahead of the competition.

      As for the AT2020, it’s my No. 1 in the low-cost range, and it does cover most recording scenarios with equal efficiency.

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