If you’re a beginner voice actor, building a home recording studio is a great step, especially if you’re planning to do voice over work from home.
Being a freelance voice talent with easy access to record any time is essential to being successful in the voice acting industry.
Plus, thanks to the growing availability of in-home recording systems and audio editing technology, voice talent are now able to produce broadcast quality audio recordings from the comfort of their own home.
Budgeting For a Home Recording Studio
Building a voice recording studio is an investment for new voice actors.
As a beginner voice actor, you shouldn’t spend a fortune on audio recording equipment, because it will only make it harder for you to immediately cover your expenses. Budgeting for a home recording studio should be your first step, as it’ll help you avoid unnecessary costs.
That being said, if you already have a personal computer, you can expect to spend around $2,000 to $5,000 on setting up your home recording studio. You could spend more of course, but it’s not necessary. Here’s a comparison chart to give you an idea of what gear can cost at an entry level versus what recording studio upgrades can cost as you grow in your voice over career.
How to Build a Home Recording Studio
A proper voice recording studio has several components that come together to make the quality of your audio recordings sound professional.
When you achieve high-quality recordings, you allow your voice over style to shine through your work. This impresses clients and increases your chance of getting booked for other jobs.
It may sound strange to some, but it’s common for voice talent to set up their first studio in a closet, which often contains many useful sound absorption items, such as linens and clothing. This setup can actually work quite well. So, if you’re building your studio space in a closet, try leaving most of the contents but put them far away enough from your body so that you won’t brush against them while recording.
However, if you have the space for a voice over studio, go ahead and use it. The more space you have to move around, the better, because this means you can use your body to get deeply into character.
The Voice Over Equipment You’ll Need
You will need the following voice over equipment to build a home recording studio:
Home Recording Studio Equipment Add-Ons
The following items are nice add-ons that will aid your voice over recording sessions:
- Headphones—for live direction and improved listening
- Music Stand—to prop up your scripts
- USB Flash Drive or Hard Drive—to backup your audio files
By sourcing all of the necessary equipment, you can start assembling your first voice over studio.
Find the Best Voice Over Microphone
One of the most common questions beginner voice actors ask is “What microphone should I get?”
It is nearly impossible for someone else to give you a definitive answer to that question. The type of mic that works best for your voice and your budget will be different from one person to the next.
Large diaphragm mics are excellent at picking up low frequencies such as the bass drum, bass guitar, and deep voices.
A small diaphragm mic or small capsule mic will beautifully pick up higher frequencies such as an acoustic guitar, cymbals, or the treble of higher pitched voices.
Every microphone on the market has a property called directionality (or polarity), which defines how sensitive the mic is to the ambient sounds. A cardioid mic picks up the sound directly, limiting the ambient noises other mics pick up. This is the best directionality type for voice overs.
A hypercardioid mic works in the same way, but picks up even fewer ambient noises.
Microphone kits are wonderful for those just starting out as they will include your microphone, a desktop stand, shock mount, XLR cable, and a pop filter all in one package.
Tip: Learn more about choosing the best microphone for your voice over work.
Using a Pop Filter
A pop filter is an essential part of your microphone kit. It lessens the amount of distracting mouth noises the mic will pick up, by blocking the air that’s pushed out from your mouth when you speak. Pop filters will help you get a nice, clean read without many of the mouth noises we naturally make while speaking.
Learn more about the importance of pop filters.
Audio Interface and Voice Over Quality
An audio interface is a piece of hardware that enhances the sound of your voice as it travels through your microphone and into your computer.
A good one will have the microphone preamp (boosts sound) as well as phantom power (direct current voltage that powers condenser mics) built right in, making it compatible with whichever microphone you select.
Voice Over Recording and Editing Software
If your mic is the most important piece of equipment, your recording and editing software is second. Also called a DAW—a Digital Audio Workspace—it’s what will allow you to enhance your voice overs with music and sound effects, edit out pauses, mouth noises, loud breaths, and more.
There are a number of DAWs out there depending on your budget. And nowadays, the free ones or low-cost ones offer enough functionality for well into your career.
The Top 4 Voice Over Recording and Editing Software
- Audacity is a free and easy-to-use software that you can download right to your computer. It is compatible with both Windows and Mac, and other operating systems.
- GarageBand comes free with most Mac computers and is an excellent choice for experienced or aspiring musicians. It allows you to sound like a professional voice actor. The downfall is that it’s only available for Mac computers and may not offer as many sophisticated mixing capabilities as other programs when it comes to your voice over needs.
- Adobe Audition is widely held as the preferred recording and editing software for professional voice talent. It’s easy to use and offers advanced audio mixing and editing capabilities. It also has excellent effects features that give voice over tracks a rich, nuanced sound of the highest possible quality. This is a professional grade at a reasonable cost.
- Pro Tools is the recording and editing software that you’ll find in most state-of-the-art recording studios. It allows you to record, edit, mix, and master any audio recording on both Macs and PCs. It’s a serious investment for professional voice talent who understands recording technology and already has a solid book of business. Pro Tools is designed to meet any audio recording need and will satisfy any creative endeavor, whether that be voice over or music.
Tip: Learn how to avoid the most common audio editing mistakes.
Soundproofing Your Home Recording Studio
Soundproofing blocks noise from entering or leaving a room, creating an optimal space for voice acting.
The cost for soundproofing can range from being very affordable to very expensive. For instance, a heavy investment would involve hiring contractors to install thick plasterboard, steel sheeting, or a combination of the two, and more.
On the other hand, there are many cost-effective ways to soundproof your voice over studio space.
Here are 5 tips on soundproofing your voice over studio:
- Take a look at the rooms in your house. The ideal room is cozy but comfortable to stand in and you should be able to move around a bit. A room without windows and a heavy door are best. If the room has windows, this area, as well as the door, are the most important parts of the room to treat as those are where the majority of the sound quality will be lost.
- Install insulation over windows, walls, and the ceiling. Cork, rubber, or foam insulations are good options for soundproofing, and are readily available from your local home building store. Large pieces of PVC piping strung up around the edges of the room also help to absorb sound.
- You can hang heavy fabric around the room, like several layers of heavy old curtains. Hang fabric in the corners to create more of a triangular shape to the ceiling to lessen echo and boom. It’s also a good idea to hang a duvet or quilt behind your mic to soften ‘esses’ and absorb sound.
- Many voice actors with home recording studios simply push mattresses or couches up against the walls to help create density and absorb sounds bouncing around the room. When selecting this alternative, it is wise to employ the ‘clap test’ to see if you’ve effectively treated the room. Stand in the room and clap your hands. If you hear an echo, more sound absorption is needed.
- Thick floor carpeting can also effectively absorb unwanted sounds. In fact, carpeting the entire room including the floor, walls, door, and ceiling is an alternative to cork, rubber, or foam insulations. Ask your local carpet store for their miscuts for an affordable, albeit colorful, option.
Here are some more considerations for assessing your space:
Learn more about soundproofing your voice over studio.
Take a peak at how other voice actors plan out their studio upgrades.