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  • Writer's pictureTim Maylander

Equipment I use for narrating and voice acting

Updated: May 15, 2023

In previous posts, I've talked about my desire to go "all in" for my new voice acting and narrating career, and the gear I use for my new life is no exception. I've invested heavily up-front to this business because my mindset is similar to that old Mercedes-Benz slogan: "The best or nothing." I've never believed in doing something halfway, and it didn't seem like now should be the time to make exceptions to my personal mantra. So I'd like to introduce you to the equipment I use for voice acting and how it will make your project sound professional grade, every time.

Microphone: To me, this was the most important thing to get right. There are thousands of microphones on the market, ranging in price from $20 to... um, not $20. The good news is that right now, I don't need a $3.5k microphone to give my clients studio-quality recordings. That being said, I knew right off the bat I wasn't going to be using a USB microphone. I needed something with XLR quality. Without this level of gear, there would be no reason for clients to use me as opposed to recording things themselves. After doing extensive research, I narrowed my choices down to three: the Rode NT1, the sE Electronics X1S, and the Lewitt LCT 440 Pure. One of the "features" of the sE Electronics was switches on the side of the microphone to control a highpass filter and another for a -10 db pad. While these functions are great for loud guitars and percussion instruments, they're not something I would necessarily need for recording vocals (my voice can be booming, but dang...) and people reported that when the microphone is in a stand there is a chance that the switches get bumped without the recorder's knowledge (they move very easily). That led me to eliminate the risque-named sEX 1S and left me to choose between the industry-standard Rode NT1 and the Lewitt LCT 440 Pure. The Rode NT1 is an industry standard for a reason: it is a workhorse for mid-range sound while still offering silky-smooth high-range frequencies. People have been recording on this microphone (they're on their 5th generation) for over 25 years, and I imagine it'll be in use for at least another 25 more. So why didn't I go with it, and instead opted for the (more expensive) Lewitt LCT 440 Pure? Quite simply, it's better for my voice. While the Rode is a good all around choice, the Lewitt is geared toward voices that are in the low-to-mid end of the spectrum, meaning it's going to compensate more at the high end. For my natural voice, this is exactly what I need. And while the Rode has slightly better self-noise (3.5 to 7 dba on the Lewitt), the difference is undistinguishable to the ear. Finally, the Lewitt does a great gob with both sibilance and room rejection. The latter isn't as important because of my studio setup, but the former is. My one critique of this microphone was the pop filter. It clips directly to the microphone, and didn't seem to be the quality I wanted. I upgraded to a pop filter which attaches to the arm and is made from higher-quality materials, and I love it.

Arm: This one was really simple. There actually aren't as many arm companies out there as you'd think, so it was an easy choice to go with the industry standard: Heil. The PL2T does exactly what I need - it holds the mic and mic stand securely without making noise. There's even some secret cord storage built in, but the way I have my studio set up I actually don't use it. I wish I could give you more of a description here, but that's really what you want an arm for: hold mic securely and make no noise. The Heil PL2T does just that.

Interface: Because quality microphones require XLRs (maybe in the future USB will get there, but even with USB-C technology we're not quite there yet), an audio interface is needed to connect the microphone to the computer. Enter the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. This pre-amp is again an industry standard, and for good reason. Their air setting gives my voice a lighter and more open sound without sounding comical. As a bonus, it comes with Ableton Live, a digital audio workstation which is perfect for fine-tuning in post production. I did think about going with Focusrite's Vocaster line, which is designed for podcasters. It would have made sense - that product in particular seems to be designed for voices specifically in mind, whereas the 2i2 is standard for instruments. I went with the Scarlett for three reasons: First, the software package here was better - the Vocaster only comes with Hindenburg Lite as opposed to Ableton Live. Second, as I'm creating my own studio, some of the functionality of the Vocaster was unnecessary. It's a perfect setup for podcasters, but that's not what I'm doing. Finally, there's something to be said for sticking with the tried and true product when there's not a good reason to switch from it. In the end, the Scarlett 2i2 seemed to be the more professional choice and it better suited my needs, so that's what I went with.

Computer: I needed my computer to do two things: run high-end vocal editing software flawlessly, and to do that silently. I partnered with local computing store Sandia Computers to do a custom build that did just that. The 1TB SSD and 6 TB SATA on my desktop are liquid-cooled, meaning the computer runs silent. There was one time I thought I heard noise from the computer - it turned out to be something on a floor below me in my living room. That's how silent this baby runs. The Geoforce 3060 Ventus 2x graphics card also ensures that no processing sound escapes the case and is picked up by the microphone. Are there other specs I could wow you with about my computer? Yep. But what you need to know is how quiet it runs and that it can handle anything I need to do for vocal recording and sound editing. It probably doesn't matter to you that this computer not only performs flawlessly but looks damn good doing it with an open-window LED case and LED keyboard/mouse, but now you know I guess :)

Studio: I decided to end with the pièce de résistance of my setup: the one-of-a-kind professional yet portable studio my wife and I designed. I knew I would need sound absorption paneling based on where my studio is situated in my current house, but I also know that my current home is not my forever home. Mary, my wife, had the wonderful idea to put the absorption panels on bedsheets which hang from the ceiling, creating a cube studio that can be set up or taken down as needed. I went with Sonic Acoustics hexagon panels for my sound absorption needs. They were certainly not the cheapest, but they were exceptionally reviewed online (the #1 product in recording studio acoustical treatment on Amazon), and after setting up the panels I can safely say they were worth the investment. As you already read, my microphone already does a great job of room rejection - but with my studio paneling setup, there is no difference between my personal studio and a Hollywood-level professional recording studio. That's the quality that I pledge to deliver to all my clients.

Phew - I think this is my longest post to date! But to me, it's one of my most important ones. I want my clients to know that I have done my homework and I have spared no expense all in the name of delivering the highest quality product on the market. I mean it when I say every client with Maylander Vocal Productions gets the MVP experience - and not just because of the cute acronym. I strive to provide the highest quality production on the market at an affordable price. When you hire me, you get the best without having to break the bank. I can back that up with quality and timely service, and now you know I can back it up with my top-of-the-line equipment, too.

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