I’ve visited a lot of voiceover’s studios and I’ve helped troubleshoot hundreds more remotely. I’ve seen all sorts of solutions to fitting a broadcast quality studio into limited living space, and a whole bunch of stuff that really shouldn’t work, yet somehow it does. I’ve developed a sort of ‘thick skin’ over the years when faced with some real Heath Robinson set ups as experience has taught me not to judge a book by its cover, or even to not judge a ramshackle looking studio by my limited knowledge of the laws of physics.
But there are still a few things that make my heart sink every time I encounter them. Here are 3.
Blue Yeti Microphones
I do have to hand it to Blue’s marketing team. They have done a great job of promoting these mics as a professional quality microphone.
They’re really not.
I kind of get it. Beginners want an easy option to get set up and record, and these look kind of retro and stylish. Plus the aforementioned marketing and BINGO! People think they have bought a professional recording solution when in fact what they have is below par – even for a usb mic.
The biggest problem with these mics is that they make a lot of hiss. It’s almost impossible to get your noise floor low enough with these mics to use them for professional voiceover applications. Plus the sound quality from them is muddy and lacks high and detail. They’re just not good enough to be in a voiceover’s studio. And yet I encounter them far too often in that environment. I wouldn’t even recommend them for podcasting with, they’re just awful mics.
I don’t recommend any usb mic, but there are better ones than this on the market – much better ones! So when a VO comes to me with a usb mic I will try to steer them in the direction of getting an XLR mic and audio interface. I can often sugar coat it by saying that their usb mic will be a good mic for a travel kit if they need to take a mic on the road with them. But with the Blue Yeti I can’t even say that because they’re so big and heavy they take up too much room in a suitcase and eat too far into the weight allowance for your flight (it weighs 0.5kg, and the stand weighs a further kilo).
Acoustic treatment is a really important part of setting up your studio. You need to get rid of as many reflections and reverb as possible from your recording space, and various options are explored and taken by VOs setting up their booths. Good acoustic foam is expensive, so your VO-on-a-budget researches cheaper options and many fix on moving blankets (or movers blankets if you prefer). They really do look the part, but the problem is they don’t do enough.
Acoustic energy is killed by mass and changing the media it’s traveling through. The lower the frequency of acoustic energy the more energy it has and therefore more mass/changes/thickness is needed to control it. Moving blankets are thin and light. They will kill a bit of top end frequency reflection, but no more than that.
Yes, I am using blankets in my studio to control the acoustic, but although my blankets do look like moving blankets I’m using proper acoustic blankets. They’re much heavier than moving blankets and specifically designed for the job of killing acoustic energy. They still don’t work down to the lower end of the frequency spectrum, but they do work as well as a decent acoustic tile does.
‘So,’ says the VO-on-a-budget, ‘I’ll just layer up my moving blankets and create mass and layers. Will that work?’ Yes it will, but you’ll need about half a dozen layers to get to a similar level of effectiveness as acoustic blankets, and you’ll have spent more.
The term ‘Home studio’
This one must be the Mother of all Bugbears seeing as the first two probably spring from this one.
Using the term ‘home studio’ for a VO studio really annoys me. Yes I know your studio is more than likely in your home. But many VOs researching how to set up a studio in their home see the term ‘home studio’ used and use such articles for advice.
And here’s the problem – ‘home studio’ is a term used widely in the audio industry to mean a hobby-level studio; somewhere where you go and tinker, strum a bit, plonk a bit, sing a bit and make music for your own entertainment or to inflict on your family and friends. It’s also called a project studio.
In a ‘home studio’ a Blue Yeti and moving blankets may be perfectly acceptable, but the thing is when you create your voiceover studio you’re needing to create a ‘professional studio’ not a ‘project studio’, so the home studio advice simply doesn’t wash. And I know that I’m as guilty as others for saying ‘home studio’ but it’s a habit that’s hard to break – especially when I mean ‘the studio that’s in your home’.
I can’t stress enough that what we need as VOs is very niche within the recording industry. Even professional sound engineers often give bad advice to VOs if they’re not familiar with the needs we have, so advice for a hobby-studio certainly isn’t going to yield the results we need. By all means do your research into how to create your studio at home, but please do your best to ask industry specific questions to industry specific people. It may save you having to get me round to troubleshoot your setup and figure out why your recordings aren’t a professional quality.
So there you are. For my part I would much rather help you get your studio set up properly from the outset than help you troubleshoot it after you’ve encountered problems. Problems will diminish your enthusiasm for your studio, and that’s not good for your work. So do yourself a favour, and do my sinking heart a favour, by avoiding all of the above.
Rob can help with a wide range of voiceover studio services, from set-up and upgrading your kit, to troubleshooting any issues you have, software training and his famous studio tickling tours. To find our more CLICK HERE >>>