Whether you’re an aspiring voice-over artist or a seasoned professional, setting up a home recording studio can boost your productivity and catapult your career to the next level.
A lot goes into creating a home recording studio for VO, though. The process can seem complicated, from setting up the perfect recording space to identifying the right equipment for your needs!
- Location: Find a quiet spot in your home where noise is low.
- Equipment: Get some basic equipment: a good microphone, headphones, and a computer.
- Soundproofing: Use blankets or special foam to stop echoes in your room.
- Microphone Setup: Make sure your microphone is set up right so it sounds clear.
- Software: Use a recording program on your computer to capture your voice.
- Practice: Practice speaking clearly and at a good volume for the best sound.
Well, I’m here to show you it’s not as difficult as it seems!
In this post, I’ll discuss everything you need to know about setting up a home voice-over studio, from equipment and software to soundproofing, acoustic treatment, and more.
Setting Up Your Voice-Over Home Recording Studio
Interested setting up your very own home voice recording studio? Let’s explore the key considerations to make it happen!
Identify the Right Space
You should first start by identifying the right space for your voice recording setup. Ideally, it should be an area in your house that won’t reflect your voice and bounce it all over the place.
Your recording space should be quiet, away from outside noise and ambient noises. So, make sure you choose an area that’s far from loud appliances such as air-conditioning units, heaters, televisions, speakers, and so forth.
Finding a quiet recording space is especially important if there’s a lot of foot traffic in your home, particularly if you have animals or children. In this case, sound treatment is imperative.
A walk-in closet is an excellent recording space, especially if it contains a lot of clothing and thick carpeting. It’s a convenient solution that won’t cost you a single buck.
If you don’t have a walk-in closet, or if you’re looking for a more professional solution, you can go for a pre-built sound booth like the ones offered by WhisperRoom, Tri-Booth, StudioBricks, and VocalBooth.com.
But keep in mind that pre-built sound booths aren’t entirely soundproof from outside noise. And they also often require some minor acoustic treatment to prevent them from sounding boxy.
Consider a portable sound booth if a pre-built sound booth is out of your budget. It’s basically a small box that surrounds your microphone, isolating it from external sound sources.
Whatever your home voiceover studio space solution, the goal is to have as little noise and sound reflections as possible.
Set Up the Equipment
Setting up your recording equipment can be a matter of connecting a few cables. Here are the general steps you need to follow to set up your equipment:
- Download and install your DAW of choice on your computer.
- Connect your interface to your computer via the included USB cable.
- Install the necessary audio interface drivers on your computer.
- Set up your mic stand and attach the pop filter.
- Connect your XLR microphone to the interface via an XLR cable.
- Connect your headphones to the audio interface’s headphone jack.
If you’re going to use a USB microphone rather than an XLR mic, you can connect it directly to your computer. In this case, you don’t need an audio interface.
Remember that each piece of equipment comes with a user manual indicating how it should be installed. So, be sure to refer to the manuals to ensure proper installation.
Configure the Software
Once you’re done setting up your recording equipment, it’s time to configure your DAW and pair it with your interface to recognize all the inputs and outputs.
First, make sure all of the necessary interface drivers are installed. Then, with your interface connected to your computer, go to the audio device settings in your DAW.
From there, simply choose your audio interface and the appropriate driver. The software should now recognize and be able to utilize your interface’s inputs and outputs.
If you’re using a DAW that allows for theme and layout customization, you might want to play around with the customization options to meet your personal preference.
Recording Sound Quality
Using reliable recording gear isn’t enough to achieve professional, high-quality recordings. Factors like acoustic treatment, soundproofing, and level monitoring play a notable role in the sound quality of your recordings.
Let’s discuss each factor in detail:
Soundproofing is the process of blocking out as much external noise as possible from your recording space. It often involves the use of foam and other soft materials to absorb sound.
Soundproofing isn’t a convenient option for a beginner voice actor or one on a limited budget since it’s quite pricey. For professional voiceover artists working with big-name clients, however, soundproofing is essential.
If you’re just starting out in VO or if you’re on a tight budget, you should focus on sound treatment rather than soundproofing. It’s easier and much more affordable.
While soundproofing blocks out external or unwanted sounds, sound treatment is the process of treating the surfaces in your recording space and dealing with existing noise.
Your recording space should ideally have a noise floor of -60dB or lower to be suitable for VO. If it is any higher than -60dB, you’ll need to treat the acoustics of your recording space.
There are many ways to treat the acoustics of a recording area. You can use specialized items like acoustic tiles, sound panels, and bass traps, or you can use home items like blankets and carpets.
If you’re setting your home recording studio in a small and fairly quiet recording space, you’re likely to get away with just a few thick blankets and a heavy carpet if you have a tile or hardwood floor.
Proper gain staging is of the utmost importance before recording audio. If you’re recording at a high gain level, you run the risk of clipping (distortion) if you have a wide dynamic range.
Gain staging is the process of setting an appropriate level of gain for your voice and how loud or quiet you intend to be so that you avoid noise and distortion.
Note that different microphones require different levels of gain. Dynamic mics typically require much more gain than condenser microphones.
There are two ways to monitor your gain level. The first is to look at your audio interface’s meter. Your gain is too high if it’s flashing red while you’re speaking into the microphone.
Another way is to look at the meter in your digital audio workstation. If you exceed the 0.0 point on your DAW’s meter, you need to lower your gain significantly.
Ideally, you want your audio recordings to peak at around -12 dBs, with an average level of about -18 dBs. If you notice the meter peaking at higher than -6 dB, your signal is too hot, and gain needs to be reduced.
What Is a Voice-Over Studio?
A voice-over studio is an acoustically-treated recording area in which a voice-over artist or voice actor can record their voice to communicate information, tell stories, create characters, and more.
Voice-over studios rely on several pieces of recording and monitoring equipment. This includes audio interfaces, microphones, headphones, computing power, and audio production software.
Voice talent previously had to book studio time to record. But now, the vast majority of VO artists, voice actors, and singers conduct their work in a home voice recording studio.
Though a professional studio tends to be more meticulously built than a typical home recording studio, you can still create professional-quality recordings within the comfort of your home.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Home Voice Over Studio?
According to Recording Connection, an hour of studio time can cost anywhere from $50 to $500. The cost is dependent on the quality of the recording equipment and the services of the audio engineer.
This brings us to the first and most notable advantage of setting up a voice recording studio in your house; it can save you a lot of money, especially if you’re a professional who does a lot of VO work.
A home recording studio also spares you the time and effort you would otherwise spend traveling to and from a professional studio.
Flexibility is another noteworthy benefit. Having a voice recording studio at home enables you to set your own schedule and record whenever you want, whether it’s early in the morning or in the dead of night.
And as someone who uses their voice for a living, you know how temperamental the human voice can be. One day it sounds clear and rich; the next, it can sound dull and restricted. Having the option to record whenever you want helps you overcome this, as you try again whenever possible.
Lastly, setting up a home voice recording studio enables you to record quick demos for your clients, record as many takes as you want, and experiment with different recording equipment based on your budget.
Equipment Needed for a Home Voice-Over Studio
Despite what you might think, you don’t need a lot of equipment to set up a home recording studio for VO. As a matter of fact, you only need seven pieces of equipment, namely:
- Audio interface
- Computer or laptop
- Audio software
- Pop filter or foam windscreen
- Microphone stand
But there are many factors to consider when choosing any of the above-listed recording items. So, let’s discuss each item in detail to help you make an informed buying decision.
The first piece of equipment you need to get your hands on is a high-quality microphone that complements your voice and suits the type of voice-over work you want.
Now, you’re probably wondering, what’s the best microphone for VO, and which has the best sound quality?
Choosing recording and monitoring equipment is a subjective process. What I deem a perfect microphone for my voice might not bring out the best qualities in your voice.
Choosing the right microphone for your voice and budget boils down to experimentation. If you can try several microphones before purchasing, you absolutely should.
If you can’t, don’t sweat it. I’m going to share some recommendations for different use cases and preferences. But first, let’s talk about the different types of microphones.
Condenser vs. Dynamic MIC
Microphones come in two main types: condenser and dynamic. Each type has its own pros and cons, so I can’t say that one type is better.
Generally speaking, condenser mics are more sensitive than dynamic mics. They’re perfect for capturing highly detailed recordings and wide frequency ranges.
Condenser microphones are more fragile than dynamic microphones. They can’t handle getting knocked around the way dynamics do. They also require phantom power to operate.
Dynamic mics, on the other hand, are often built like an absolute tank. I’ve seen people drive over the Shure SM58 and even use the poor thing as a hammer, and it still worked just fine!
Most dynamic microphones also don’t require phantom power, and they’re better at handling high levels of sound pressure than condenser microphones.
Most professional voice-over artists and voice actors use condenser microphones because they’re more detailed and offer better sound fidelity. However, you can still produce superb sound quality with a dynamic.
Here are my condenser microphone recommendations:
Here are my dynamic microphone recommendations:
The Shure SM7B Vocal Dynamic Microphone is a versatile and trusted mic option for various purposes, including podcasting, broadcasting, and vocal recordings, thanks to its classic cardioid pattern with uniform capture and advanced electromagnetic shielding capabilities.
- Entry Level: sE Electronics V7 Handheld
- Mid Range: Shure SM7B Vocal Dynamic Microphone
- Premium Pick: Sennheiser MD 441-U
Need more microphone suggestions? Check out my article on the best microphone for VO.
USB Mic vs. XLR Mic
USB microphones feature a built-in analog-to-digital converter, so they connect directly to your computer. On the other hand, XLR microphones require an external audio interface to connect to a computer.
Does that mean that USB microphones have better sound quality than their XLR counterparts for voice recording? The answer is no. Each category has its pros and cons. I personally make use of both, depending on the scenario.
If you’re starting out and you’re looking for simplicity, convenience, and ease of use, USB microphones are your best bet. They’re an excellent plug-and-play solution, and they sound great.
If you want the flexibility of customizing your setup over time, XLR microphones are the way to go. You can pair them with whatever interface you like, and you have more options to choose from compared to USB mics.
While a microphone stand is one of the cheapest and most straightforward pieces of equipment you’re going to buy for your home setup, there are still some considerations to keep in mind.
First, you need to consider your ideal recording position. If you’re someone who records extensive material, the ideal position for you would be sitting down, as it helps maximize comfort.
The downside of sitting down while doing VO work is that sitting too long has health implications. And your records may lack personality due to restricted body language.
A standing position is ideal if you do a lot of character work or want your body language to be heard as much as possible in your recordings.
The downside of standing up while doing voice-over work is that it can be tiring. Not to mention some health risks associated with prolonged standing, like lower back and leg pain.
The type of mic stand you choose will vary based on your ideal recording position. If you prefer recording while sitting down, desktop mic stands, and boom arms are the way to go.
If you prefer standing while doing VO, you can choose a proper mic stand, tripod stand, or shock mount mic stand (if you’re using a condenser microphone).
There are also other benefits to using a mic stand than achieving the perfect microphone position, including freedom of movement, reduced handling noise, and fall protection for your mic.
Pop Filter or Foam Windscreen
A pop filter, also referred to as a pop screen or pop shield, is a noise protection filter for microphones. Its main purpose is to reduce the popping sounds caused by the mechanical impact of plosives.
Pop filters are available in different types. Some are made from woven nylon, whereas others are made from metal mesh. Check out this excellent video by Booth Junkie on how to choose a pop filter.
Some voiceover artists don’t like to use pop filters because they may hinder the artist from seeing the copy they’re reading from. Instead, they use a microphone foam windscreen.
A foam windscreen is just as effective as a pop screen when reducing popping sounds. However, it can affect the brightness of your voice recordings, as it slightly reduces high-frequency articulation.
A decent pair of studio headphones is essential for your VO home studio setup. You use them to monitor your recordings in real-time. This is especially great when doing ADR recordings for a film or video!
Studio headphones can also be used for critical listening. So, you don’t need to invest in studio monitors.
Studio headphones are different from conventional headphones in that they offer a virtually flat sound profile. In other words, they reproduce your voice accurately without hyping certain frequency ranges.
Conventional headphones, on the other hand, tend to have signature sound profiles. Some overemphasize the lower frequencies, while others hype up the higher end for extra crispiness and clarity.
I recommend using closed-back headphones because they offer great isolation. Good isolation is vital for VO work because it prevents headphone bleed, which can feed into the microphone.
Here are my closed-back studio headphones recommendations:
beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 80
The beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 80 Ohm Over-Ear Studio Headphones, featuring an enclosed design and a practical single-sided cable, are an ideal option for professional recording and monitoring thanks to their high-resolution sound and comfortable circumaural and replaceable velour ear pads.
- Entry Level: Sony MDR-7506 or Sennheiser HD 280 PRO
- Mid Range: Audio-Technica ATH-M40X
- Premium Pick: Beyerdynamic DT-770 PRO
One thing to note about studio headphones is that some of them feature detachable cables, which I really like. If the cable is dead, you can replace it instead of replacing or sending your headphones to be fixed.
Comfort is essential when choosing headphones, so consider the following tips:
- Avoid on-ear headphones, especially if you have large ears. Such models press on your ears, which can be extremely uncomfortable if you wear them for a long time.
- Avoid headphones with poor-quality padding. They will be uncomfortable if the padding is too rigid or the ear cups aren’t padded enough.
- Avoid headphones with short cables. Luckily, most studio headphones come with long, coiled cables that stretch. So, this shouldn’t be a problem.
An audio interface, also referred to as a sound card, is a must-have if you intend to utilize an XLR microphone. This applies to both dynamic and condenser microphones.
An audio interface converts the analog audio signal of XLR microphones into a digital signal that your computer can grasp. It’s like an intermediary between two devices that speak different languages.
Bear in mind that an interface is different from a preamp. An interface is an analog-to-digital signal converter, whereas a preamp is a signal booster.
You need both an interface and preamp to power up and use an XLR microphone. Conveniently, most audio interfaces on the market feature a built-in preamp. So you don’t need to buy two separate devices.
If you’re going to use a condenser microphone, make sure the audio interface you get has a 48V functionality (phantom power) to ensure proper microphone performance.
You may also want to consider the number of inputs and outputs an interface offers. If you’re only going to record yourself, an interface with only one XLR input will do.
Here are my audio interface recommendations:
Focusrite Scarlett Solo
The Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface offers high-fidelity studio-quality recording.
It includes the finest pre-amps with a switchable Air mode for extra clarity in vocals. It comes with various software tools, partner plugins, and playable sounds to make the recording experience a complete package for the voice-over artist or musician.
- Entry Level: Focusrite Scarlett Solo
- Mid Range: Audient iD4 MKII
- Premium Pick: Universal Audio Apollo Twin X QUAD
Though premium interfaces offer better audio quality than their cheaper counterparts, as a voice-over artist, you can do just fine with just about any interface on the market. You don’t need to spend a lot on an interface.
Most modern interfaces connect to a computer via a USB cable, though some use Thunderbolt, FireWire, or ethernet connectors.
Expect to find microphone (XLR), line/instrument, and MIDI connection channels in even the most basic sound card. There should also be a 1/8-inch or 1/4-inch headphone jack.
Modern interfaces also have left and right TRS jack sockets that are electronically balanced for studio monitors. Though as a voice-over artist, you can do without studio monitors. A decent pair of studio headphones will do just fine.
No recording equipment is of any value without any computing power behind it.
If you don’t have a computer, don’t worry. You won’t have to spend much to get one. Unlike video editing and modern-day gaming, audio recording and editing software don’t require a top-of-the-line computer or laptop.
The recommended computer or laptop specifications will vary based on the digital audio workstation (DAW) and plugins you use. That said, a computer with decent memory and processing power will do just fine.
Here are my laptop recommendations for voice-over work:
Acer Aspire 5 A515
The Acer Aspire 5 A515 Slim Laptop offers a stunning and immersive viewing experience with its 15.6″ FHD IPS display, Acer Color Intelligence, and Acer BlueLightShield technologies, alongside fast and hyper-efficient performance with the AMD Ryzen 5000 Series Mobile Processor, making it perfect for productivity and entertainment on-the-go.
- Entry Level: Acer Aspire 5 A515 (Windows)
- Mid Range: Apple MacBook Air (macOS)
- Premium Pick: MacBook Pro 14-Inch (macOS)
Make sure to choose a computer that offers ample storage, as uncompressed audio formats like WAV and AIFF take up a lot of space compared to your average MP3 file.
If you already own a computer and it doesn’t offer much storage, a convenient solution would be to invest in an external hard drive rather than getting a whole new computer.
In addition to a reliable computer, you need a reliable internet connection that’s fast and steady. After all, you might have to send your recordings to your clients, and no one wants to wait hours for an audio recording to upload.
Audio Production Software
You need to decide on a digital audio workstation (DAW) in your home voice recording studio. This is the computer software on which you’ll do your VO recording and editing.
There are plenty of DAWs out there, and trying to choose between them can be overwhelming. To simplify the selection process, you need to consider the following factors:
- Your Needs: Besides audio recording and editing, are you looking to do any post-production work? Are you looking to sync audio with video? Do you need to process your recordings? Do you need to manipulate music tracks or other audio recordings as well?
- User-Friendliness: If you’re new to the world of sound design and voice-over, starting with a user-friendly DAW is important so that you don’t get overwhelmed by myriads of functions.
- Computer Compatibility: You should also consider whether or not the DAW you’re interested in buying is compatible with your computer in terms of operating system and hardware requirements.
- Plugin Support: Different DAWs support different plugin formats. So, ensure the DAW you select is compatible with the plugins you typically use.
With that out of the way, here are my DAW recommendations for VO:
- Adobe Audition: One of the most comprehensive audio recording software out there. It enables you to record, edit, and integrate professional audio with powerful noise reduction.
- GarageBand: While not the most advanced DAW option, GarageBand is easy to use, making it an excellent choice for beginner voice-over artists and voice actors. But it’s only available for macOS, though.
- Reaper: This DAW is one of my personal favorites. It’s remarkably robust and is compatible with a wide range of plugins, yet it’s just a paltry 15MB download for Windows and 25MB for macOS! It’s also super easy to use.
- Logic Pro: Another macOS-specific software, Logic Pro is the premium counterpart to GarageBand. It’s intended primarily for professionals and serious enthusiasts.
- Pro Tools: When it comes to sound recording, editing, and mastering applications, Avid Pro Tools is the industry standard. It’s very popular among VO artists, musicians, and sound engineers.
- Audacity: While it doesn’t sport the most aesthetically appealing interface, Audacity is a free multi-track audio editor that’s perfect for voice-over recording and audio editing. It’s compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux.
- Studio One: This is a powerful DAW that works perfectly for musicians, composers, and voice-over producers alike. Its drag-and-drop interface and compatibility with the entire PreSonus library make it incredibly easy to learn and use.
Any DAW will get the job done as long as it’s compatible with your computer, so don’t overthink it. Just choose the one you find most suitable for your needs and run with it.
Be sure to check out this guide on how to start learning a DAW.
Common Questions About Home Voice Recording Studios
What are the essential pieces of equipment needed for a home voice-over studio?
To create a great home recording studio for voice-over work, you’ll need a microphone, audio interface, pop filter or windscreen, microphone stand, computer, audio recording, editing software, and pair of studio headphones.
What is the best way to optimize acoustics for a home voice-over studio?
Maximize your acoustics by working on reducing reflections rather than absorbing sound. You can reduce reflections by installing acoustic panels, filling the space with furnishings, covering the floor with a carpet or rug, and covering the walls and windows with curtains and draperies.
Are there any special considerations for setting up a home studio for recording audio in different languages?
No. The fundamentals of setting up a home voice recording studio are the same regardless of the language you intend to speak while recording.
How do I ensure that my home VO studio recordings sound professional?
To record professional, high-quality audio that will impress your clients, you need to:
– Invest in decent-quality gear that has good reviews.
– Don’t forget to gain stage and adjust your levels.
– Silence everything you don’t want your microphone to capture.
– Minimize reflections and echo as much as possible.
– Be mindful of microphone distance and proximity effects.
– Block any wind from reaching your microphone.
– Always use a pop filter or foam windscreen to tame plosives.
– Warm up your body and voice before recording.
– Drink plenty of water while recording.
Final Thoughts: Voice Over Home Studio
The process can be a bit overwhelming at first, especially if you’re new to the world of audio recording. I assure you, however, that it’s easier than it seems.
Make sure to identify a suitable voice recording studio space in your home. It needs to be quiet and well-treated, acoustically speaking.
Once you’ve identified the perfect space for your home recording studio, you need to purchase the required pieces of equipment.
And from there, it’s all about setting up the equipment, configuring the recording software of your choice, and doing the voice-over recording.
Interested in doing better voice overs? Check out these other helpful articles!