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What microphones are best for voice acting?

5 Dec 2022 · Peo Drangert

Acting for video games has more to do with the film industry than voice-over for commercials or explainers. Therefore there are some special things to think of when choosing your microphone as a voice actor. And as usual, no matter how good your microphone is, bad acoustics can ruin the recording. I will give you my thoughts from a sound engineer’s perspective on what to think of and what mics are best suited for recording dialogue for video games.

First, all mics are not perfect for everyone. Some are a better match than others for your voice. Therefore try them out before you buy. It’s also a good idea to spend some money on the mic as it will deliver for decades if you treat it well. An industry-standard mic will also probably give your more jobs.

There are a few industry standards and they have become standards for a reason. Here are the 2 most common mics described and also some alternatives to them.

  1. Sennheiser 416. This is a hyper-cardioid mic that is highly directional and therefore less sensitive to disturbing background sounds and room reflections. It has a very tight bass and really cuts thru which makes it perfect for dialogue. It’s been the industry standard in the film industry for decades and is still a very good choice also for recording in home studios. It will handle almost any type of recording. A good position in most situations is having it set up high in front of you pointing downwards to your mouth/chest. Try out the ideal distance. It can vary depending on your voice and the room.

Slightly cheaper but professional alternatives are Røde NTG-3. Røde NTG -5. There are also alternatives from Shoeps and Neuman but as they are very expensive it might not be your first choice.

  1. Neuman U-87. This is a multi-pattern mic but the cardioid pattern is the one you will use for dialogue in a home studio. It has a good sound for most voices and a solid low end. It can by today’s standards sound a little dark but it delivers quality sound. The more wide pattern will make it more sensitive to disturbing sounds and bad acoustics. Therefore your room has to be really good to work with this type of mic. 
If it’s not a 416 will probably be a better choice. 
Having it set up high in front of you pointing downwards to your mouth/chest is a good start but straight in front of your mouth can also work well, especially if it’s narration.

Cheaper and more modern alternatives are Neuman TLM-103, Micro-tech Gefell M-930, and even Røde NT1 or NT1-A can work well despite the very low price.

There are hundreds of other good microphones that probably will work just as well if they are a good match with your voice but as the industry has its standards we recommend that you try out Sennheiser 416 (or equivalent) and U-87/TLM 103 (or equivalent) first. Having one or both types of mics in your studio will be a good start to bring you jobs as many sound engineers can be picky.

What about acoustics?

Last but not least you should really spend some time and money on your vocal booth. There are professional solutions like custom build floating rooms and pre-built booths such as Studio Bricks etc but in most cases, a silent room with good acoustic treatment will work. Acoustics is very complicated and more than an article to cover but the most important things to think of would be:

  1. Avoid a square room. Equal dimensions will create lots of problems with standing waves/room resonances that are hard to handle.

  2. Use heavy treatment. There can never be too much acoustic treatment in a room for voice recordings. All walls have to be treated including the ceiling and the floor. A few centimeters of foam panels will not do it. You need a mix of 3-8cm and 10-15 cm thick panels. A mattress in a corner, a small sofa, or a big armchair (cloth no leather) will help to reduce the low end. Thick velvet curtains 10-15 cm from the wall with some panels behind is also a good idea. The more dampening materials the better as the sound has to be ”dry” and free of room reflections and disturbing resonances to be usable in a video game production.

  3. Find a good spot in the room. Usually, the middle of the room is a less good idea. Try a little closer to one of the walls.

As said before, acoustics is very complicated and a science in itself but use your ears and you will be able to create a space almost as good as any professional studio. If you are interested to learn more there is plenty of information on the Internet.