Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Best Microphone for Recording Vocals on Audio Books: Advice on Large Diaphragm Condenser Mic and Others

A vital piece of sound equipment the audio narrator is likely to need is the best quality microphone. This means not any microphone, but a particular kind. Different microphones will bring out varying qualities of the narrator’s voice. With this in mind, how does the audio book voice actor select the best mic for voice recording?

Basic Types of Microphones for Voice Acting

Condenser Mics for Voice Recording
Just because a microphone is of studio quality, does not mean it is the best for recording an audio book. A basic understanding of the types of mics out there will help with making the best choice.

Microphones come in all shapes and sizes, beginning with the liquid microphones, carbon, fibre optic moving onto ribbon microphones, condenser mics and crystal microphones. Nowadays, the choice can be broken down to basic types. These are either battery powered (external powered) or phantom power (internally powered). Some mics will connect to an audio interface via USB that transforms analog sounds to digital on the computer, others power via an XLR cable.

Large Diaphragm Dynamic Microphone

The large diaphragm mic is known as a ‘dynamic microphone’, since it requires no phantom power. When sound causes the diaphragm to fluctuate, an internal magnet or coil produces a small electrical current. The dynamic mic has an ‘end address capsule’ favored by field reporters or podcasters to cut out background noise. This mic is sensitive to local noise, but not background sounds. It is therefore ideal for rooms with sound echoes or where ambient noise such as birds or passing traffic could ruin the recording. Because the dynamic mic is not the most sensitive, a boost might be needed for the signal.

Beware, these types of mics are very ‘directional’ in that if the speaker shifts position, so will the sound. It is therefore important to speak centrally and directly into the mic without moving. The dynamic mic, being insensitive to background sounds, tends to bring out a booming quality to the voice, not ideal if the narrator has a deep voice already.

Studio Shotgun Microphone

The shotgun mic is a type of dynamic mic that has a large cigar-shaped head, often used on TV and film sets. This type of mic uses phantom power and is a little more sensitive than the dynamic mic. Background noise and echoes therefore must be kept to a minimum.

Cardioid Microphone

Shaped like the heart, hence the name, the cardioid mic is insensitive to ambient noise, like the dynamic mic just referred to, but eradicates sounds behind the mic, ideal for performing to a noisy audience.

Electret Microphone for Podcasts

The electrets mic is a type of condenser microphone, often small or built into cell phones, hands-free sets or Tablets. They are cheap to make and simple to use. Acceptable for podcasting or communicating with friends, but not for audio books.

The Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone

The condenser mic is the favored choice by professional voice narrators for audiobooks and studio recording. This phantom-powered mic has a large head, picking up the smallest sound including echos in the room. Being sensitive, all nuances in the voice, including unwanted smacks and swallows will be detected. Sound is clear and highly defined. When using the large diaphragm condenser mic a dead room for recording is essential.

Best Microphones for Narrating AudioBooks

Don’t use a cheap microphone that might be OK for podcasting or skyping, but a proper studio condenser mic. The dynamic mic might be fitting for a room with echoes or background noise, but is very directional and being slightly insensitive, will bring out the baritone in the voice. The best mic for voice recording is the large diaphragm condenser mic.

Best Studio Condenser Microphones for Voice Recording

The Australian Rode NT1-A is highly regarded in studio recording, being an exceptionally sensitive mic, with clear signals. The Rode mic can also be found in a condenser microphone bundle, including phantom power, XLR cable, pop shield, shock mount and recording software, enabling the voice actor to get on with recording an audio book.

Ideal Condenser Mics for Home Recording Audio Books

Also great quality condenser mics can be found in the range made by Scarlett, MXL, Avant Electronics, Audio Technica, Shure, M-Audio and Behringer (Behringer is not quite professional quality, but excellent value for money).

Essential Microphone Accessories

To accompany the microphone, the voice artist will also need phantom power and XLR cable (if not supplied), pop screen, shock mount and microphone stand.

More Articles about Narrating Audio Books

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