Which is the Best VO Mic? - The Pro Tools Expert Voiceover Microphone Shoot Out - Part 1

12-05-2014 06:00 PM

Why Have A Voiceover Mic Shoot Out?

Firstly at Pro Tools Expert we are often asked,
What is the best microphone to buy for voiceover recording?
We usually reply with a multitude of questions such as:

  • What is your budget?
  • How much room treatment do you have?
  • Do you have phantom power?
  • Is this for narration or for ADR?
  • Which mic pre amp do you have?

Secondly, how many times have you seen sound forums clogged with so called ‘informed opinions’ on which microphone is best for a voice over or kick drum or brass? In addition not everyone is able either, to go to large dealers to try about a selection of mics with your own voice, or visit a hire shop like Richmond Film Services and rent a selection of mics in your own studio.
We decided it was time to flush out the half truths and rumours and try to present the facts. In true Pro Tools Expert style, we will be opening it up to the community to listen, debate and make your own mind up.
Who Are Richmond Film Services?

Nigel Woodford of Richmond Film Services very kindly helped us by loaning virtually all the microphones for this test.
Richmond Film Services have been running for over 30 years and are the least best kept secret in the film and broadcast world. They are the UK’s best known sound hire specialists (and sales) for TV and film sound, and boast a legendary hire arsenal of over 2000 items as well as full workshop facility including cable repair and construction. They are a total mine of information and can offer expert advise as to what hire. Click here for further information
The Microphones Selected for The VO Mic Shoot Out

We picked a variety of commonly used microphones which represent a good spread of budget and styles ranging from industry standard large diaphragm condensers to cheap dynamic microphones for our voiceover mic shootout.

  • Shure SM58
  • Shure SM7a
  • Electrovoice RE20
  • SE 4400a
  • Audio Technica 4040
  • Sennheiser MKH 416
  • Sontronics Saturn
  • AKG 414 ULS (the “house standard” at Mikerophonics)
  • Neuman TLM 103
  • Neuman TLM 193
  • Neuman U87

The Test

We invited professional voice artists Andrew Bicknell and Posey Brewer so we had examples of both male and female voices to come to our “Twickenham test lab”. James Ivey and Mike Aiton had the pleasure of recording their dulcet tones with each microphone.
The Engineering Stuff

  • We decided to use the “house standard” mic amp, the Focusrite ISA One; which should be very familiar to Pro Tools Expert regulars as it has featured in our mic amp shoot outs. We think it delivers a fantastic sound that totally belies its cost, and is both typical and affordable by most.
  • We kept the input impedance at the ISA110 standard setting (1k4ohm), and engaged the high pass filter (75dB knee frequency with 18dB/Octave roll-off) to avoid pops.
  • No foam pop shields were used, just a mesh filter.
  • The distance to each microphone was kept uniform, with the special straw measuring tool, at 6.5”
  • Any multi polar pattern mics were recorded set to cardioid.
  • All mics were recorded at 24bit 48KHz as close as possible to a level of -23 LUFS (using Nugen’s VisLM loudness meter) with NO compression or EQ or ANY plug-in at all (tempting though it was!).
  • The test rig was running Pro Tools 11.2.2 HDX on a Pro Tools PC (OSX 10.8.5) and the audio interface was an Avid Omni clocked to a Rosendahl Nanosyncs.

The VO Mic Shoot Out Comparisons

After the recording session was over, each microphone recording was top and tailed, and then mastered to exactly -23 LUFS with Nugen Audio’s LM Correct to ensure each recording sounds equally loud using the K-weighted curve and BS1770-3 universal standard algorithm. Each microphone was allocated its own dedicated playlist in our master session.
We will be shortly posting some blind listening tests for your enjoyment. Please do let us know what you think of the microphones and in the words of Mark Anthony, “…lend us your ears”.

We would like to thank Richmond Film Services for providing the bulk of the microphones and voice artists Andrew Bicknell and Posey Brewer for lending us their voices.