Voice Over Education Blog

December 2017

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.

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