The voice over equipment market can be a confusing landscape that requires a proper guide. Based on my own experience and invaluable insights from professional engineers, this article will help you get the best voice over microphone and other equipment for your tasks without breaking the bank.

My quick suggestions

If you’re on a tight schedule and don’t have time for longreads, check out my best picks for various scenarios:

  • Blue Yeti – a plug-and-play USB mic for beginners
  • Rode NT1A – an affordable solution with great dynamics, for burgeoning voice over talents who are serious about their professional development
  • Rode Procaster or Shure SM7B – for recording long narrations and audiobooks; both are good at noise reduction and work in spaces with poor sound absorption
  • Neumann TLM 102 or Neumann TLM103 – high-end choices for professional voice overs

 

UPDATE: This article features an updated list of the best voice over microphones for 2019. Thanks to studio engineer Rebecca Ramsey and other contributors, the list has become more versatile and accurate.

Best microphones for voice acting
Blue Yeti
1. Blue Yeti

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

Category: condenser [USB], low cost
My choice among low-cost USB mics
Check price →
 Blue Snowball iCE
2. Blue Snowball iCE

Solid USB condenser mic for home or office use. Great ease of use and value for quality.

Category: condenser [USB], low cost
Check price →
 Rode NT-USB
3. Rode NT-USB

Studio-Quality USB Cardioid Condenser model for amateurs and pros alike. Comes with a tripod stand, pop shield, and ring mount.

Category: condenser [USB], low cost
Check price →
Audio-Technica AT2020USB+
4. Audio-Technica AT2020USB+

An inexpensive USB mic for voice acting, requires no pre-amp, comes with self-monitoring.

Category: condenser [USB], low cost
Check price →
Rode NT1A
5. Rode NT1A

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

Category: condenser, low cost
My choice among low-cost condenser mics
Check price →
Harlan Hogan VO
6. Harlan Hogan VO

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

Category: condenser, low cost
Check price →
SE Electronics sE2200a
7. SE Electronics sE2200a

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

Category: condenser, low cost
Check price →
Shure SM7B
8. Shure SM7B

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

Category: dynamic, mid-range price
My choice among dynamic mics!
Check price →
 Rode Procaster
9. Rode Procaster

Dynamic vocal microphone with impressive noise reduction, multipurpose and affordable

Category: dynamic, low cost
Check price →
 Heil PR-40
10. Heil PR-40

Dynamic Studio Microphone for VO pros, wide frequency and a solid competitor to condenser mics

Category: dynamic, mid-range price
Check price →
Electro Voice RE-20
11. Electro Voice RE-20

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

Category: dynamic, mid-range price
Check price →
 Neumann TLM 102 MT
12. Neumann TLM 102 MT

Superb condenser cardioid mic for home and studio recording, comes with a standmount

Category: condenser, mid-range price
My choice among mid-range condenser mics!
Check price →
CAD E-100S
13. CAD E-100S

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

Category: condenser, mid-range price
Check price →
Rode NTK
14. Rode NTK

This tube mic delivers a broad range for a decent price.

Category: condenser, mid-range price
Check price →
 Neumann TLM103
15. Neumann TLM103

Celebrated cardioid mic for voice over amateurs and pros, comes with a large diaphragm and exceptional noise reduction

Category: condenser, high-end price
My Choice in the High-End!
Check price →
Sennheiser MKH416-P48U3
16. Sennheiser MKH416-P48U3

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

Category: condenser, high-end price
Check price →
Neumann U87
17. Neumann U87

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

Category: condenser, high-end price
Check price →

First things first, each microphone has its purpose.

Help me understand your voice over recording task:

Your vote will help me improve this review and hone it to my readers’ key objectives.

Contents:

Why do you need to read this?

If you’re looking to purchase a microphone for voice overs or other recording tasks and can’t decide which one to get, this is a one-stop reference point for you. The-costlier-the-better doesn’t really apply here; it’s not about the price. The majority of decent VO microphones are available in the $100-400 range, and they may work better for your task than a high-end $1,000 mic.

A fairly simple device, the microphone has a bunch of important attributes that you need to understand before considering specific options. You’ll need to choose between USB or XLR, condenser or dynamic, large or small diaphragm, cardioid or non-cardioid, etc.

In this article, we’ll go through the basics to make sure further recommendations make sense for beginners. Are you a VO pro? No worries — you’ll also learn a thing or two and get a few tips for an extra studio mic or an upgrade 😉

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the main characteristics of microphones.

How do microphones work?

A microphone captures sound waves and transforms them into analog electrical signals. This process is also called transducing, where one type of energy is converted into another.

Sound waves transduced into electrical signals, chart

All further steps, such as amplification or converting raw analog signals into digital signals (so we can save them as computer files), are performed by other components.

Electric signal conversion steps, amplification, analog to digital conversion

Note: Some microphones include built-in preamps and Analog-to-Digital Converters (ADC). I’ll say a few things about them later, but they’re mostly beyond the scope of this article. As promised, I’ll focus on microphones and their features.

5 steps to pick your microphone for voice over

To choose a mic wisely, let’s answer some important questions about the qualities and use cases you may require.

Step 1. Choose a connection type: USB or XLR

First, you need to decide on connectivity. You can record great voice overs with both digital USB and traditional analog XLR. USB is a more compact option, good for entry-level VO actors. XLR is more versatile and professional, yet more complex in terms of use.

USB

A USB mic is a ready-to-use recording solution implying a minimum learning curve and a moderate price.

Pros:

  • Plug’n’play setup
  • Compact all-in-one solution (includes portable audio unit)
  • Affordable (no need to buy audio unit, etc.)

Cons:

  • Limited quality by design, mid-range tops
  • Aimed at the entry-level segment
  • Unable to upgrade each part individually
  • Difficult troubleshooting: The issue may be in any part (the mic itself, cables, audio interface, etc.) and may be hard to identify
  • Works with a single computer only: one computer, one microphone.

USB mics are best for:

  • Non-commercial, lectures, podcasts, etc.
  • Lightweight travelling with a laptop
  • Recording at home, office, hotel

XLR

An XLR mic is a versatile, upgradable solution. It’ll require additional gear, such as an audio interface and XLR cable.

XLR connector

Pros:

  • The entire quality spectrum: from cheap and simple to premium
  • More upgrade options (cables, audio interfaces, etc.)
  • Record two or more mics simultaneously
  • Interoperability with other devices that support XLR (camcorders, portable recorders, etc.)

Cons:

  • Requires extras (audio interface unit, cable, stand, etc.)
  • More expensive and time-consuming due to extras
  • More cables on your desk!

XLR mics are best for:

  • Home and professional studios
  • Recording outdoors with a camera or portable recorder
  • On-stage use, presentations at expos, hosting events

Q: What does XLR mean?
XLR is a professional analog audio interface used for microphones. An XLR cable has 3-pin connectors on both ends. One connector (female) goes to the microphone, the nother (male) goes to an audio interface, mixing panel, camera or portable recorder.

Q: What’s the main difference between XLR and USB?
USB microphones have a built-in portable audio interface. Other than that, there is no principal difference. Some microphones come in both modifications, but the vast majority of mics are XLR-only, because they’re more in demand in the professional audio industry.

Q: Can I use a USB mic with an iPad?
It depends on the particular microphone’s driver. Some models can work with iPads and Android tablets, but most likely they’ll require additional adapters. It also drains the device’s battery quicker.

Q: When is USB still a viable choice?
For very specific, mainly non-commercial needs, where output quality isn’t a critical factor, USB may work just fine. If you prefer to keep things simple and don’t want to carry a pack of cables and audio devices along with your laptop, a USB mic is a soft option. Just make sure you won’t need to upgrade or scale your setup. Should you need more flexibility, consider a universal XLR mic.

Step 2. Choose a microphone type: Condenser or Dynamic

Two common microphone types are dynamic and condenser. They both do the same job of transducing sound into electrical impulses, but they have different operating principles.

Dynamic vs condenser microphone

Dynamic

Most mics are dynamic. They can be as small as in your smartphone or as big as studio mics. This type is universal and can be used in many applications.

Pros:

  • Smoothes voice imperfections
  • Sturdy and durable
  • Doesn’t require phantom power (+48V on your audio)
  • Works in noisy rooms and isolates your voice

Cons:

  • Less sensitive
  • Narrower dynamic range (difference from quiet to loud sounds)
  • Proximity effect (low-frequency boost when speaking closely to the mic, well-known from radio broadcasts)

Best for: Long narrations and audiobooks (doesn’t require as much mouth click cleanup), home studios without acoustic treatment, outdoor recording, streams, broadcasts, interviews, live events.

Condenser

Condenser mics are specifically designed for studio use and better suited for VO recording. Bigger diaphragm and more sensitivity help to achieve a rich-sounding natural voice.

Pros:

  • Natural frequency response
  • Wider dynamic range
  • More sensitivity

Cons:

  • More meticulous acoustic treatment of your room
  • You’ll have to take extra care of background noises (fans, air conditioning, devices, neighbors, kids and dogs:)
  • Harder to use without practice
  • Indoor use only
  • Fragile, can be damaged by moisture and dust.

Best for: Professional soundproof studios or closets; voice overs, audiobooks, podcasts, etc.

Q: What is phantom power?
It’s a switch on your audio interface that provides 48V direct current through an XLR cable to power the capacitor of a condenser microphone. It’s not needed for dynamic microphones.

Q: How can I tell a dynamic from condenser mic visually?
There is a false opinion that condenser mics are always bigger, which is not true. Still, condenser mics can’t be very small (like in a cell phone).

Q: What’s the real difference between condenser and dynamic mics?
Consult the consumer selection guide above for the practical differences. From a technical standpoint, there is a different operational principle. Dynamic mics work with an induction coil, while the other type uses a capacitor to capture and transduce sound.

The best recommendation would be to have both condenser and dynamic microphones in your studio. Traditionally, condenser is a better choice for recording voice overs, but it’s sensitive to room and voice imperfections, which makes it an optimal choice for studio use only. If your scenario involves recording audiobook narrations in a home studio with non-ideal acoustic conditions, or you’re planning to carry it around with you a lot, then a dynamic mic is better.

Step 3. Choose a diaphragm size: small or large

Like a human ear, each mic has a diaphragm that captures sound waves. Traditionally, VO actors prefer mics with larger diaphragms because they produce a richer tone.

Small diaphragm

Captures low-mid to high frequencies and capable of withstanding higher sound pressure; this makes it a good choice for some circumstances. Picks up less room noise. Also used on narrowly directional shotgun mics.

Small diaphragm microphone

Pros:

  • Portability
  • Captures louder sounds (up to 120db)
  • Speak closer to the mic without distortion

Cons:

  • Less sensitivity
  • Less low frequencies

Best for: VO in untreated rooms, presentations, live events, interviews, etc.

Large diaphragm

Captures all audible sound frequencies almost equally. Produces a warm and deep voice even without post processing.

Large diaphragm microphone

Pros:

  • Captures all audible frequencies including low
  • Wider dynamic range (difference from soft to loud sounds)
  • Better sensitivity

Cons:

  • Larger microphone size
  • More fragile
  • Distorts louder sounds and if you speak closely

Best for: Studio use, voice overs, audiobooks, podcasts, etc.

Step 4. Select a microphone pattern

How do you read a pattern diagram? A mic pattern is a sensitivity map shown on a circular diagram. It’s a top-to-bottom view of a recording space with the center at the microphone facing 12 o’clock.

Cardioid

A regular one-directional microphone. The most suitable pattern for voice-overs.

Cardioid

Properties:

  • Records direct sounds
  • Records side sounds
  • Doesn’t record back sounds

Other patterns are used for specific cases.

Subcardioid

Picks up more environmental sounds and gives more room presence, including early echoes.

Subcardioid

Properties:

  • Records direct sounds
  • Records wider side sounds
  • Records reduced back sounds

Omnidirectional

Records sounds evenly from all directions. Wherever the sound comes from, it’ll record equally.

Omnidirectional

Properties:

  • Records everything around equally

Hardly a good fit for voice overs.

Bi-directional

Great choice for chats and dialogues with people sitting on either side of the microphone (face to face)

Bi-directional

Properties:

  • Records direct sounds
  • Records back sounds equally
  • Doesn’t record side sounds

Shotgun

Mostly used in filmmaking to record dialogues from a distance. However, there are few shotgun mics that are loved by VO actors for their clarity and noise cancellation, especially when recorded in an untreated room with echo and external noises. The price is usually high.

Shotgun

Properties:

  • Records faraway direct sounds as well as close-up direct sounds
  • Records back sounds
  • Can’t record more than one person

Q: I have a cardioid condenser microphone but I’m not sure exactly where the front side is.
The front side is always where you see the logo. Also, it may have a small cardioid diagram on it.

Q: Are there multi-pattern mics?
Yes, there are a few microphones that have multiple recording capsules and filters, enabling you to switch between cardioid, bi-directional, and omnidirectional patterns.

Q: I have an untreated room, just a homemade VO box; what pattern is the best?
A shotgun pattern mic suits all untreated rooms.

Step 5. Understanding frequency response

A graph, usually put next to the polar pattern, shows the sensitivity across the frequency range that a human ear is capable of hearing (from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz). In other words, a frequency is a pitch, and here is a short reference:

  • 20-100 Hz Bass, voice pop sounds, electric buzz, other noises
  • 100-5000 Hz Voice range
  • 5000-20,000 Hz S-sounds, whistling, high-pitched noises.

This quality determines and diversifies microphone models, so they’re all different from each other and have a unique ‘color’.

The flat horizontal line means that this microphone picks up every frequency genuinely as it is. It is a quality of special studio microphones.

Most microphones have a stronger low response, reduced middle and boosted end. It’s perfect for getting a rich sound that’ll make your voice stand out in the mix without post-processing and equalization.

frequency response graph

This graph doesn’t tell you much until you test out the microphone specifically with your voice. However, if you already have a microphone with a specific frequency response, you can look for a microphone with different characteristics.

Common scenarios of using a voice over microphone

Now that you know the characteristics of different types of microphone, you can decide which set of features and price range meets your requirements.

  • I am a newcomer and I’m going to try VO. Select a USB microphone; they’re easier to work with, and their price is about $50 to $200. No additional equipment like extra preamp or phantom power is required. USB mics are often pre-mounted on a tabletop stand, but you can also attach them to floor stands. It’s just a single payment and a great bang for the buck.
  • I’m going to record voice overs in my home studio, but my budget is limited. Need decent quality but not ready to shell out a few grand? Get a good condenser XLR microphone, audio interface, microphone stand, and pop filter, and you’re ready to go. Expect to pay around $300-400 for the mic itself plus the extras.
  • I record VO professionally and have worked with a few microphones. If you know your way around the industry and already have equipment, you can check out the mid range. Make sure the recording gear is of equal quality. The price for a mic is around $400-700.
  • I do VO mainly for a living in a professional studio; money isn’t a problem. A hi-end studio microphone will set you back $1000+. Also keep in mind that pro mics are very specific and super sensitive, so they will pick up all vocal nuances.

Now, how should you read this article without getting lost? The models are split into multiple segments based on budget and use scenarios. First are my personal favorites in each category. I do not claim a monopoly on the truth, so go through the entire list to draw your own conclusions. Do you think I forgot some outstanding model? Give me a shout!

Happy reading 🙂

USB microphones under $200

Don’t worry, the market has an abundance of offers fitting all budgets. You may get away with a real gem for under $200, or you could fall into a trap and end up with a pricey, yet clumsy gadget. Affordable mics come in handy for home and office use, voice overs, presentations, lectures and classes that don’t require perfect sound or noise reduction. If you just need to step up your built-in laptop microphone and add a professional slant, that’s your best option. As always, be reasonable and do some research on your own before you buy.

Now, let’s get down to the review!

1. Blue Yeti – My choice among USB microphones

USB, condenser, multiple pattern selection

My personal pick in the category, the Blue Yeti USB condenser mic delivers great sound quality and multiple pattern selection (cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional, and stereo).

Blue Microphones Yeti USB MicrophoneThis one is a real gem. For just slightly over a hundred bucks, you can get yourself a high-quality USB mic that’s 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 aren’t ready or willing to set up a professional studio.

Check out a video review of the Blue Yeti by Andy Slye. He covers the key features of the mic and does some audio tests. Learn why Andy thinks the Yeti is the best USB mic overall.

2. Blue Snowball iCE

USB, condenser, cardioid

Blue Snowball iCEThe Blue Snowball is a solid condenser mic that delivers clear sound in a variety of everyday life applications. Should you need to improve your Skype or FaceTime audio or boost sound quality for YouTube recordings, this is your model. It’s an easy-to-use USB mic: plug the device directly into your Mac or Windows PC and start working. No software required. This model also includes an adjustable stand for your convenience.

3. Rode NT-USB

USB, condenser, cardioid

Rode NT-USBA studio-quality USB microphone, the NT-USB is a highly versatile device for recording all sorts of vocals. This model features a zero-latency 3.5mm headphone jack for monitoring and a quality pop filter to eliminate plosives. The Rode NT-USB is great for voice overs and instrumentals. It comes equipped with a tripod, ring mount, and storage pouch. Smart choice for beginners and budget-savvy audio professionals.

4. Audio-Technica AT2020USB+

USB, condenser, cardioid

Audio-Technica AT2020USB PLUS Cardioid Condenser USB MicrophoneNext on my list comes the Audio-Technica AT2020USB+. There’s no need for a pre-amp, so you can just plug it into a USB port and start recording right from your computer. The PLUS version of the mic comes with a highly appreciated self-monitoring feature. You can plug your headphones right into the mic, and hear yourself while recording.

Low-cost XLR microphones

If you’re not paranoid about quality and you want to keep it functional and easy to use, then go with an economy model! Most low-priced mics are good enough for voice overs and podcasts. Need a quick start without breaking the bank? Read on for your options.

Without further ado, let’s see what the market offers in the affordable segment.

5. Rode NT1A – My choice among cost-effective condenser mics

XLR, condenser, cardioid

 Rode NT1A Anniversary Vocal Condenser Microphone PackageThe Rode 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.

Check out a YouTube review of this mic by Curtis Judd. In the video, Curtis talks about the NT1-A as a decent voice over mic and covers compatible extras.

6. Harlan Hogan VO

XLR, condenser, cardioid

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 a USB-style and XLR connection. You can plug it into your audio interface at home or the studio and use it as a standalone USB mic on the road. Very convenient.

7. SE Electronics sE2200a

XLR, condenser, cardioid

SE Electronics sE2200a II C Large Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser MicrophonePowered with excellent vocal isolation, the 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.

Dynamic Microphones

In a dynamic mic, sound waves make a wire or coil resonate, and induce a current that is later converted back to sound. Dynamic models fit many applications and everyday audio tasks, deliver excellent sound, and come in handy for lengthy voice overs in places with poor noise reduction.

CloudlifterNote! If you choose a dynamic mic, consider getting a Cloudlifter. What it does is leverage phantom power to amplify dynamic mics by up to 25dB without channeling the power through the mic itself. Just locate the cloudlifter at the front of your dynamic microphone and turn on the phantom power to make your basic device sound its very best.

Now, let’s start the review!

8. Shure SM7B – My choice among dynamic mics

XLR, dynamic, 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. The SM7B contains perfect shielding against the electromagnetic hum produced by neon lights, computer screens and other gadgets. The included pop filter makes any additional protection against plosive sounds superfluous, effectively eliminating most defects even for close-up narrations.

Also, it has a switchable frequency filter that’ll pep up consonants and pep up your speech in the mix. With the filter turned on, the frequency response is similar to the most recognizable on-stage microphone, the Shure SM58.

Two legendary voice over microphones in one! Great value for the money!

Watch this video review by Crosstalk to learn more about the Shure company and recommended additional equipment.

9. Rode Procaster

XLR, dynamic, tight polar pattern

Rode ProcasterThe Procaster is a perfect fit for YouTube videos, long narrations, and audiobook recordings.

This model offers a tight polar pattern and tailored frequency response. It’s a robust voice over mic with excellent noise reduction. The high-output dynamic capsule ensures its top qualities as a broadcast and voice over microphone. Comes with a built-in pop filter to minimize plosives.

10. Heil PR-40

XLR, dynamic, cardioid

Heil PR-40The Heil PR 40 is a dynamic studio recording mic designed for multiple pro applications, including live recording and commercial broadcasting. This model boasts a really wide frequency range and beats most condenser microphones in this regard. It addresses huge amounts of SPL and also caters to natural voice articulation.

11. Electro Voice RE-20

XLR, dynamic, cardioid

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.

Mid-range condenser microphones

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

Condenser mics have always been a perfect fit for studio recordings, and for good reason. Thanks to its lightweight diaphragm, a condenser microphone follows sound waves more precisely than its dynamic sibling. Of all types, condensers reveal the widest frequency range, clear transients and greater sensitivity. That said, reasonably priced condensers may be well-suited for advanced home users, amateur musicians, and voice over talents that need to upgrade their existing devices. Pick a condenser for semi-pro or pro applications and studio use — you can’t go wrong.

Without further ado, let’s move on to the mid-range roundup.

12. Neumann TLM 102 MT – My choice among mid-range mics

XLR, condenser, cardioid

Neumann TLM 102 MTThe TLM 102 is a smart condenser choice, compact, good looking, and a great value for the money. It features a new large-diaphragm cardioid capsule that allows for a maximum sound pressure level of 144 dB. This allows for very high-output recordings. For acoustic instruments, the Neumann TLM102 offers a fast transient response, but the best applications for this mic are vocals and voice overs. It comes with a built-in pop screen to remove plosives and a stand mount for increased stability. The reasonable price and flexibility make this device a great fit for home recording and project studios.

Watch a Podcastage review and audio test of the Neumann TLM 102. The reviewer checks the mic’s various aspects and applications, and reveals why the TLM 102 may be your perfect choice for VO work.

13. CAD E-100S

XLR, condenser, cardioid

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.

14. Rode NTK

XLR, condenser, cardioid

Rode NTK Tube Condenser MicrophoneA large diaphragm condenser with a great warm sound, the Rode NTK is a nice choice for those who prefer it real loud. Devoted users also cite the 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.

Professional Microphones

In this high-end category, I cover the outstanding mics used by artists, musicians, broadcasters, and other voice professionals. Quality voice recording encompasses a slew of characteristics, and pro mics match them all in one way or another: crystal-clear sound, responsiveness, broad spectrum, dynamics, and more. If you are serious about your sound, welcome to the world of professional gear.

Now, let’s get go through a few top models.

15. Neumann TLM103 – My choice among professional microphones

XLR, condenser, cardioid

Neumann TLM103A golden choice in the music industry, the TLM 103 is a large diaphragm microphone for pro and semi-pro use. This is the best voice over microphone I’ve ever used! The TLM 103 utilizes the classic transformerless circuit employed in many Neumann models, and combines top-notch noise reduction with high sound pressure levels. It’s a universal large-diaphragm cardioid with straightforward handling and very low self-noise. The TLM also works efficiently against plosives and pop noises. These characteristics make the mic suitable for a wide range of applications, from home recording to professional broadcasting and studio recording.

Here’s a interesting comparison of the Neumann TLM103 and the CAD e100 from Mike DelGaudio. See how these two popular models stack up against one another and make up your mind.

16. Sennheiser MKH416-P48U3

XLR, condenser, shotgun

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

17. Neumann U87

XLR, condenser, multi-directional

Neumann U 87 Ai Switchable Studio Microphone, 3 Directional – Nickel Professionals are full of praise for 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, the 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.

That’s it for the voice over microphones for now. Let’s see what additional gear you may need to help your mic of choice shine like a star.

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 monitor audio tracks while recording voice overs. It’s essential to use headphones for monitoring, because you want to prevent your mic from picking up sound from the speakers. Otherwise, it’ll cause a bad-sounding feedback effect. When recording voice overs, make sure you are in a quiet room and wear headphones. If you need to pick one model, my recommendation here is the Sony MDR7506. 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 that suits your facilities and preferred position. If you’ll be sitting when recording voice overs, 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 best 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 T’s. Depending on the model, the screen can be metallic or made of a nylon 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 works great.

Another job of a pop filter, when used with a condenser microphone, is to protect the capsule from tiny particles of saliva that inevitably fly out when you speak. Longer contact with moisture will corrupt the sensitive capsule.

As for dynamic microphones, most of them already come in a protective capsule that has a foam pop-filter that goes in between the protective metallic grid and microphone capsule. Plus, a dynamic capsule is more tolerant to moisture. However, an extra layer of pop filter on a gooseneck may be helpful.

Shock mount

Shock mountA shock mount is a suspension device that prevents a mic from picking up rumbling sounds from the desk or floor. It’s mounted 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 absorbing most unwanted noises. The type of shock mount totally depends on the particular microphone. Sometimes shock mounts are bundled with the mic. 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.

Microphone preamps

Microphone preampAs a rule, your mic’s output is way too low to connect it directly to a recorder or audio interface. In order to amplify the sound, i.e. make it louder, I recommend you use a preamplifier. Preamps come in all sorts and shapes: internal and external, single channel and dual channel, solid state and tube. The important thing is to get the most out of your gear and deliver better gain, less distortion, and hopefully the desired sound character. With a preamp like the Focusrite ISA One, this is a simple task. This model is a classic one-channel pre with an independent D.I., switchable impedance, balanced input and output, VU meter, and more. Belonging in the mid-range category, the ISA One does its job just right, and produces a clear well-weighed sound with impressive headroom. Long story short, you can’t go wrong with the Focusrite! Want to learn more about preamps? Check out my dedicated article!

Audio interface

Audio interfaceAudio interfaces are external equipment that connects to computers via USB or other ports (USB-C, FireWire). Need to plug an XLR microphone into a computer? An audio interface is the solution.

Many interfaces include various inputs such as XLR and instrument input jacks (usually combined) as well as outputs, such as headphones and speakers. All interfaces that have an XLR input have a phantom power switch and a built-in preamp (which is decent for most tasks). Also, most interfaces let you monitor the sound you record directly.

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.

XLR Cable

Mogami GOLD STUDIO-25 XLR Microphone CableAn obvious means of connectivity for your audio recording environment. A standard cable should be compatible with all XLR microphones, recorders, mixers and any other XLR-enabled devices. I suggest using 25-foot mic cables – long, thick, and durable. Naturally, you should choose a good length for your setup, but too long is always better than too short. A good choice in this field is the Mogami GOLD STUDIO-25 XLR Microphone Cable. It’s cheap, sturdy and built to last. This is the type of thing that you set and forget.

Isolation filter

LyxPro VRI-10 isolation filterThis is, essentially, a curved baffle covering the microphone with acoustic absorption materials; it’s a smart way to decrease room ambience. An isolation filter surrounds the back part and sides of a mic and absorbs unwanted echo, but at the same time leaves the subtle ambient echo, which is not bad at all. Most filters of this sort are not exactly lightweight, so you’ll probably need a robust microphone stand as well. What’s my pick in this category? I recommend LyxPro VRI-10. This is a portable and adjustable foam shield for stand mount or desktop use. Comes with steady feet and a one-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 Soundproofing Acoustic Studio Foam, 4 Pack. These panels are composed of two-inch wedge foam and provide moderate noise deadening where required. Good value for the money. Highly recommended!

Don’t overuse acoustic panels, otherwise your voice will sound very dry and unnatural.

Now, I’d appreciate your help. Here’s a quick survey to learn more about your recording environments.

Where will you make your recording?

Portable recorder

Zoom H6Portable audio recorders help you make recordings of any kind on the go. First and foremost, it’s a power source for a mic and a storage device for recorded files that undergo processing at a later stage. You could use a portable in case recording next to a computer seems infeasible, like in a home studio or a bedroom if worse comes to worst. Unlike classic voice recorders, these provide better sound quality that may even suffice for semi-pro and pro use. Need to record audio on the road? This may also be a good option, and you save on an audio interface. If need be, you can utilize the portable as a mic as well. For a sample model, check out the Zoom H6, which provides six tracks of concurrent recording and four microphone/line inputs.

Studio monitors

Yamaha HS7 100-WattUnlike headphones, monitors reproduce a more natural sound for critical listening, because the sound source isn’t that close to your ears. Studio monitors are an immense upgrade as opposed to common computer speakers or HiFi. Regular speakers and stereo systems 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 a 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.

Software

AudacityWell, this is not exactly equipment, but you will surely need software to manage your recordings. There is an enormous selection of audio editors, so take your pick. Before you look into the pricey options, check out the open-source Audacity software. It’s a comprehensive multi-track audio editor and recorder that works on all major OSs: Windows, Mac OS X, and GNU/Linux.

Adobe AuditionAmong the major professional offerings, take a look at Adobe Audition CC, a workstation for audio pros that helps you design sound effects and edit audio. It’s a Swiss army knife that includes a multitrack, waveform, and spectral display for recording, mixing, and editing audio.

Need more information?

Check out Mike DelGaudio’s YouTube channel, which covers voice overs, home studio recording, and equipment.

In conclusion

This 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 renting 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 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. As an e-Learning professional who’s looking at costly equipment to deliver the utmost in your courses, you can’t just be satisfied with the first mic you encounter. Like any creative pro, you need the ability to tweak and tune, and possibly produce a couple of test lectures. Be picky but don’t overplay it. After all, your voice is only as good as your content.

Reader’s choice

Now, I’d like to learn more about your likes and dislikes. Which of these voice over microphones would you buy?

Which of these microphones would you buy?

Thanks for your time! Found the article useful? Please share with your friends and colleagues.

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About the author

Scott Winstead

Hi, I’m Scott Winstead, an e-Learning technology geek with 20 years of experience. Follow this blog for opinions on blended learning and flipped classroom techniques, reviews of authoring software and LMSs, grading and quizzing tools, technology how-tos and more!

19 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.

  • Hello, Scott!

    Thank you for a very helpful and insightful article.

    Would you recommend a specific microphone or set of gear for a baritone voice?

    Cheers!

    • Hi Duncan,

      to give you a better reply I’d need to know your budget. Offhand, I can recommend the Electro Voice RE-20. It’s a universal mid-priced model that delivers pro quality and has good reviews from baritones as well. Let me know more about your price range, applications and setup so I can suggest more devices.

  • Hi, I’m trying to find the right mic for recording predominantly female voices for an audio documentary. I want the sound to feel immersive and intimate, as the final product will be part of an exhibit- like a cinema experience but just audio. I also need to be able to use the mic for in studio face to face interviews. What would you recommend?

    • Ano, my suggestion here is a good condenser mic like the Blue Yeti. It offers a bidirectional pattern among other features which are good for your purposes. All in all, it’s a great bang for the buck. Alternatively, look into the Rode NTK, a large diaphragm condenser with a broad dynamic range.

  • Hi! I have an Apex 435 – is it worthy? I have a deeper voice, with some rasp (controllable of course) and can do character voices. I also own a Senn. e835 for my stage shows – I’m a blues and jazz performer.

    As for pre amp I have an ART (Applied Research and Technology) Professional Tube Mic Preamp. It has an input level dial (+26/+6+60/+40), output to +10, and three buttons – +20dB Gain, P-Pwr +48V, and Phase Reverse. It’s all Greek to me, but it was sent to my partner with the mic by his brother who is in the TV biz, with hopes of us setting up a home recording system.
    Tracy

    • Hi Tracy,

      The Apex is cheap and cheerful, a surprisingly good value. It may perform like a pricey pro condenser but you need a good preamp. ART is a smart choice, gives you a lot of headroom. So I believe you’re all set unless you want to step up the price range.

    • Kris, it has decent vibration rejection by design. If you do decide to use a shock mount with it, you’ll probably have to remove the swivel mount.

  • Scott, you’ve listed a bunch of mics and they’re all different. How do I know that a specific mic is my optimal choice?

    • Nancy, you’re right: there’s no one-size-fits-all here. You need to factor in your setup, your ambience, and your voice. Your first buy may not be the best fit, so might require a bit of trial and error. My advice is not to skimp on it. For pro applications, use pro equipment. Choose wisely and try a few models. Don’t be shy to return any gear that doesn’t work out; most retailers have lenient return policies.

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