Voice-over / Podcast Recording
Microphones Part 2
a while I used the Electrovoice RE20. I bought it because
so many radio studios in the US had them, and a few VO artists I'd spoken
to here in the UK had them too. I had one shipped over from New York
and was quite surprised at how heavy it was (it is a dynamic rather
than a condenser so its weight was justified). It is also highly directional,
virtually blocking all sound that is off-axis. I've seen travel reporters
on US radio stations speak into the side of an RE20 which reduces a
lot of the high frequencies to make them sound like they are wearing
a headset in a helicopter! Sadly, I really couldn't get a nice sound
out of the RE20. I used a Mackie mixer which didn't seem to 'match'
it - perhaps being too clinical in its accurate depiction of the dynamic
mic's sound. Don't get me wrong - a lot of peoples' voices (and equipment)
work really well with RE20s, but mine didn't.
It was pretty hard to make it pop even when lip miking. Proximity effect
is almost zero because the many side ports vent away the air pressure.
In the end I sold it to an ex-Capital newsreader and ITV VO for his
home podcasting studio who prefered the RE20 over other mics as his
voice 'cut through' more, which just goes to show how people prefer
microphones for their own voice over others. Paul McCartney always seems
to use the same mics since the 1970s when he records albums. And it's
not like he can't afford the most expensive mic in the world - he just
prefers that one. Strangely, the RE20 is most often used in two very
different applications - voice and saxaphone! I have read that the RE20
sounds a lot like the Sennheiser MD421 which is another dynamic. Before
the RE20 came along, most US radio stations had MD421s, and I know that
Rick Dees prefered an MD421 in his studio at KIIS FM. The stations switched
to RE20s because they looked 'sexier' and bigger. But according to broadcasters
who've used both, you can get more 'balls' with an MD421 because of
the bass-proximity effect, as it has no side-vents for the air to escape
I've seen these with popper-stoppers mounted on the front, and suspension
mounts. These are not required for your purpose.
readers can get
an RE20 for $399.00 from Musician's Friend
AKG C414 B ULS opened my eyes as to what a great mic
can pick up. If you have poor acoustics or don't acoustically treat
the room you'll be recording your voice in, you shouldn't get a great
sensitive mic like this - you will hear your room very easily - not
only heating pipes / outside / neighbours, but the acoustics of the
room as your voice bounces off walls will be picked up by the mic. Although
the C414 isn't specifically a voice-over mic, I had worked with them
in the BBC's radio studios in the basement at Broadcasting House and
found them to be very versatile with the switchable polar patterns (cardioid,
hyper-cardioid, figure of eight and omni), bass roll off and attentuation
and flat frequency response. I've only ever seen them in one or two
other radio studios. I think Ireland's 2FM and Key 103 in Manchester.
It came with a suspension mount, windshield and case (this AKG C414
B-ULS version has been superceeded by the 'digital' version, but many
people prefer this previous model). You do need the supplied suspension
mount as it will pick-up low frequency rumbles if put in a normal stand
clip. Proximity effect is noticable - you need to be a fair distance
away from the mic to achieve a more 'natural' sound. I mostly had it
in hypercardioid mode but switching to other patterns is easy to do
and rather interesting to hear the difference. Frequency response is
as flat as they come, hence it being widely considered a 'reference'
mic. I eventually sold mine to a TV station in London for their continuity
An aside... Popper stoppers are
only required for voice-actors and broadcasters (but mostly singers)
who are not practiced in controlling their plosive sounds (notably
'b's and 'p's) whose 'explosions' of air pressure overload the microphone's
diaphragm, ruining a recording. They are also used to keep talent
the correct distance away from the mic so they don't get too close
to it. Windshields tend to 'muddy' the sound by filtering out a lot
of the high frequency sounds condensers can pick up. If you do get
a popper stopper, get one with two layers of material. One layer does
not work at all.
Audio Technica ATM31a
ATM31a - what a mic! I purchased one of these years
before I was doing voice work, when I was starting out in radio, and
eventually began using it as a general purpose mic (with a windshield
for outdoors) which gave a perfect sonic quality for vox pops - so much
richer and fuller than reporter's omnidirectional mics. It's a studio
condenser mic that can be phantom powered or use power from an internal
AA battery if no phantom is available. It's not quite as full sounding
as the C414, but its diaphragm is about 1/4 the size and it cost around
6 times less, so this is to be expected. Audio Technica in the UK were
very helpful when supplying this mic to me, soldering an XLR cable for
me, which was really above and beyond the call of duty! I really can't
praise this microphone enough - I think it's a cracker. Sadly, I heard
it was discontinued by Audio Technia in 2006 but I've seen it still
for sale in 2009.
Audio Technica AT2020
recently I bought another Audio Technica mic - the AT2020.
Only £70, it's made in China and has a 16mm diaphragm. It pops
less than the C414 because the grille is more heavy duty and thick woven.
With AT's thick foam windshield you could virtually lip-mic with it.
It comes with a metal stand mount (not suspension) and a storage pouch.
It would be a viable and more cosmetically pleasing side-address
to RE20s in American radio stations (and a LOT cheaper). As an aside,
I find the mic technique and sonic quality of American radio presenters
quite poor in comparison to UK ones, mainly because the majority of
UK stations use large diaphragm condensers and American stations use
RE20s or other dynamics that are limited to buggery. But lots still
use tape carts! Anyway, this mic stands up very well to other mics -
I would say it even gives the C414 a very good run for its money, even
though it is the same price as a good dynamic. This is currently my
favourite microphone which I now use for most voice-overs. I don't need
much acoustic treatment to use it either. I would recommend it as an
ideal condenser first purchase.
readers can get
an AT2020 for $99.00 on Musician's Friend
OR an AT2020
with USB connector - designed for podcasts - for $149.00
(now discontinued) Russian-made Oktava MK319 is an
alternative to the increasing number of cheaper Far Eastern-made condenser
microphones - yet is very competitively priced and excels in build quality.
It has a very wide cardioid pick-up (it's almost omni, really). It comes
with Russian instructions, and the online shop from which I purchased
it put the price up by £20 the day after I'd ordered, then stopped
selling them altogether - maybe I got the last one in the country!?
It seems very well made and sturdy, with reed switches for a long switch
life but no shockmount (like the AT2020, presumably to keep cost down).
I've heard that the quality of the transformer is far superior to the
far eastern made mics in this price range. It looks nice too, with a
slightly 1970s recording studio look to it. Americans aren't too keen
on these, but there seems to have been an issue with a 'duff batch'
that a chain of guitar stores bought up at a knock-down price which
has given them a bad name - customers weren't aware that they were seconds
when they bought them and assumed all MK319s are like that. Apparently
these mics the same internals as the MK219 but in a different body which
is acoustically less 'boxy'. Now discontinued.
Friend have some bargains
on microphones, mixers and other recording equipment. By following the
link you are supporting this site.
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