Voice Over Education Blog

USB mics: Good enough for VO studios? Part 1 of 2


NOTE: This is the first post in a 2-part article. Stay tuned for part 2!

Put five voice actors in a room and they'll soon be exchanging opinions on various mics. The main criteria have been: budget, which mic suits your recording space, and which mic suits your voice type best.

But now, thanks to a number of low-priced USB mics, budget may be less of an issue. They don't need a pre-amp or interface or even expensive cables. But are USB mics really good enough for recording a voice actor at the professional level? We tested a bunch of them, to see.

The short answer is that a USB mic is terrific for beginning a voice-acting career. Roughly speaking, a good USB mic will give 90% of the quality sound you need. They're like an 18-year-old's first car: Something sensible and inexpensive will get the owner safely from point A to point B. In time, you may want to re-invest your profit and buy a more expensive mic. But if it still satisfies you and your clients, an upgrade may not even be necessary.

Many USB mics feature the exact same condenser mic element as their XLR version, so USB models provide a similar high quality sound signature. The primary difference is that the USB mic has its own internal analog-to-digital converter, which affects the quality of the sound being passed along.

Sure, there's some glamor in saying, "I have a SoundScooter 50" (don't try to find that brand – we made it up), but, actually, even more important than the quality of the mic are where and how you use it. A budding voice actor is better advised to spend more money on their booth and more time learning how to "work the mic" – mic technique – than on the mic itself. A world-class mic in a poor-sounding booth, or a mic used incorrectly, will sound bad. In contrast, a relatively inexpensive mic, in a good booth, properly used, sounds pretty good.

When to call yourself a "voice actor," and why. Part 2 of 2.


NOTE: This is the second post in a 2-part article. Click here to read part 1!

As someone who performs voice-overs, what should you call yourself? In our last episode, we discussed various terms: announcer, voice-over, voice-over talent, voice talent, voice-over performer, voice-over artist, voice actor and others.

There is no standard definition for any of these terms, and no hard lines between them. But you should probably settle on calling yourself one or another. Your decision might be based on marketing, or simply on your frame of mind. It's up to you. In most cases, we prefer "voice-actor." Here's why ...

Did you miss last week's article? Click here to read last week's article — Are you a "voice actor," a "voice talent," a "voiceover" or what?.

To begin with, "actors" are what casting professionals generally seek.

Actors are versatile in role-playing, and skilled at expressing emotion. An actor can react to direction constructively, even artfully, adding unique qualities to the production. And except for voice acting and readings and such, an actor works without holding a script. Being able to read as if you're not voicing a script is, overall, what our profession is about – sounding natural, like you're simply talking. Even in a voice booth, talent often does better by not staring at the page.

One popular definition of acting is, "appearing real in an unreal situation." What is more unreal than being alone in a sound booth?

So, why not call yourself an actor?

When to call yourself a "voice actor," and why. Part 2 of 2.


NOTE: This is the second post in a 2-part article. Click here to read part 1!

As someone who performs voice-overs, what should you call yourself? In our last episode, we discussed various terms: announcer, voice-over, voice-over talent, voice talent, voice-over performer, voice-over artist, voice actor and others.

There is no standard definition for any of these terms, and no hard lines between them. But you should probably settle on calling yourself one or another. Your decision might be based on marketing, or simply on your frame of mind. It's up to you. In most cases, we prefer "voice-actor." Here's why ...

Did you miss last week's article? Click here to read last week's article — Are you a "voice actor," a "voice talent," a "voiceover" or what?.

To begin with, "actors" are what casting professionals generally seek.

Actors are versatile in role-playing, and skilled at expressing emotion. An actor can react to direction constructively, even artfully, adding unique qualities to the production. And except for voice acting and readings and such, an actor works without holding a script. Being able to read as if you're not voicing a script is, overall, what our profession is about – sounding natural, like you're simply talking. Even in a voice booth, talent often does better by not staring at the page.

One popular definition of acting is, "appearing real in an unreal situation." What is more unreal than being alone in a sound booth?

So, why not call yourself an actor?

Are you a "voice actor," a "voice talent," a "voiceover" or what? Part 1 of 2.


NOTE: This is the first post in a 2-part article. Click here to read part 2!

Some time ago, we discussed the issue of how to spell "voice-over," and concluded that, except maybe for Search Engine Optimization reasons, it doesn't much matter, as long as you're consistent. And that the SEO reasons are diminishing and secondary.

But what about "voice actor" and these similar descriptions of people at the mic? It's more than a question of spelling. Is there a functional and/or industry distinction between a "voice talent," "voice actor," "voice-over artist" and other variations? Does it matter what you call yourself and what you do?

Yes and no.

There's no hard dividing line between any of these terms. Each is just a slightly different shading of the others. Yet, each has certain connotations, which might be important to you and/or to potential clients. Consider it a matter of "positioning," in a marketing sense, or as your personal mindset. Or both.

Announcer. This is on the list because it's the traditional term, still found on many scripts. But, although a traditional "announcer" style involves certain qualities and skills (and is not necessarily bombastic or stylized), it's not what professional casting people generally want today. They usually want more than a perfect voice and clear speech. They want authenticity (which we'll talk more about, below.) Unless your target is broadcasting or stadium PA work and such, calling yourself simply an "announcer" limits your employment opportunities.

Are you a "voice actor," a "voice talent," a "voiceover" or what? Part 1 of 2.


NOTE: This is the first post in a 2-part article. Click here to read part 2!

Some time ago, we discussed the issue of how to spell "voice-over," and concluded that, except maybe for Search Engine Optimization reasons, it doesn't much matter, as long as you're consistent. And that the SEO reasons are diminishing and secondary.

But what about "voice actor" and these similar descriptions of people at the mic? It's more than a question of spelling. Is there a functional and/or industry distinction between a "voice talent," "voice actor," "voice-over artist" and other variations? Does it matter what you call yourself and what you do?

Yes and no.

There's no hard dividing line between any of these terms. Each is just a slightly different shading of the others. Yet, each has certain connotations, which might be important to you and/or to potential clients. Consider it a matter of "positioning," in a marketing sense, or as your personal mindset. Or both.

Announcer. This is on the list because it's the traditional term, still found on many scripts. But, although a traditional "announcer" style involves certain qualities and skills (and is not necessarily bombastic or stylized), it's not what professional casting people generally want today. They usually want more than a perfect voice and clear speech. They want authenticity (which we'll talk more about, below.) Unless your target is broadcasting or stadium PA work and such, calling yourself simply an "announcer" limits your employment opportunities.

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