(psst: it’s a good thing)

by James Mandell, CEO/Agent at VoiceOver LA | @voiceover_la

So you’re a voiceover talent, you’ve spent beaucoup bucks on your cutting edge home studio setup, and it  STILL sounds worse than that savvy kid’s recording made on a smartphone. Why? Because it’s WHERE you record that makes all the difference!

You’ve probably surmised that setting up a microphone inside your shower stall might not be all that advisable. There’s that echo bouncing around that makes you believe you could make the America’s Got Talent finals. As silly as that sounds, smart people pick the wrong place to record all the time because they’re just not paying attention, and the amount of relative noise in a given room can easily become the factor that knocks your audition out of the running.

So first off, pick a spot that’s quiet. And then consider the surfaces of the room you’ve chosen. If you’re sitting in a kitchen, bathroom or dining room, the chances are the sound bouncing off those walls and floors will detract from the quality of your recorded product, often disastrously, creating reflection echoes and dissipating the sound of your voice. Instead, choose a room with carpeting and/or drapery, which will absorb the sound of your voice without ricocheting it back to the mic.

The ideal place to record? Inside your clothes closet, where it always seems eerily quiet because your clothes are literally absorbing all the sound waves you can throw at them. Mics love dead spaces like that because they make voices sound clean and professional.

No room to set up shop in your closet? You might consider adding a device that will help to cut down on the reflected echo of the one you’re in. Here are three types of products that will help:

  1. A sound dampener shield is meant to stop reflected sound from reaching your mic from behind. They run anywhere from $50 – 200, but here’s a cool video that steps you through making one of your own for about 10-15 bucks.

Overall effect and score: 5

home studio setup mic

  1. A table top isolation booth. Great idea that sits on your desktop and is literally a vinyl cube with sound baffling glued to its inside walls. You put your mic inside it and now you’ve got some reasonable isolation around FOUR sides. Available on ebay for about $40:

portable iso booth

Or learn how to build one of your own from Joe, whose accent makes him sound even smarter:

Overall effect and score: 7

Finally, here’s a cool and clever device that shrinks the whole process down to a hollow foam softball just a little bit larger than your actual mic and does a well-engineered job of isolating it better than just about anything shy of a full-size vocal booth. Pricey and only available from the supplier in England, but it garnered the best review from Sound on Sound magazine, the best professional review publication on the planet. Cost $300.

Overall effect and score: 9

One other advantage with the Eyeball is that YOUR eyeballs will have the easiest time seeing the COPY you’re trying to read, because of its diminutive size. But whatever your choice, paying attention to your recording environment is one of the keys to producing a great-sounding product, regardless of the cost of your other equipment.