Capture Voice Over with an Audio Interface
After selecting your XLR microphone it is important to invest in a decent audio interface.
So what is an audio interface?
An audio interface is a dedicated piece of equipment that takes the microphone’s input and other audio gear and connects it to your computer. This allows for the conversion of analog signals and converts it into digital audio. It also allows the performer or the control booth to monitor the signal going in with headphones or monitors.
The input levels of the microphone can be adjusted by turning the gain knob, found on the interface. Controlling the input allows you to prevent your audio from being too quiet or clipping — way too loud. Essentially, it is best to have the audio levels at about -24 to -12 db, this gives you some room to get a little louder and a bit quieter. However, if you get WAY too loud, like screaming “GRENADE!”, it is best to bring the gain down. Vice versa, when you are whispering into the mic for an intimate scene, you may need to bring the gain up.
Interfaces also provide phantom power for your mic. Condenser microphones have no power of their own, so they need some sort of external source to power them. Don’t get confused when looking up other power sources, many of the articles are directed to musicians and their setup is WAY different than a voice actor’s. A preamp or mixer is not necessary, especially when just getting into voice over. Even still, many talented professional voice actors just use an audio interface.
Great so I can go out and buy an audio interface?
Slow down there tiger! Yes, in general audio interfaces basically do the same thing. However, not all interfaces are made equal. My first interface was a VERY budget friendly Behringer UM2 and bought it new for about $30 (USD). However, as I recorded I noticed that there was a slight hum in my input, nothing too bad, but I had to crank up my noise suppressor, which inevitably tainted my audio.
I was later gifted an Audient iD4 and the signal was hands down cleaner! This allowed me to send quality RAW audio to directors of projects I was involved in. The Audient iD4 isn’t necessarily on the low end, so it isn’t something I would recommend to anyone looking into getting started in voice over.
I would recommend the Scarlett Solo, you can get this for around $100 (USD). This interface is perfect entry level quality and could even last you several years before “needing” to upgrade.
Don’t forget about the XLR cable! Nothing much to say about this besides it connects your XLR microphone to your audio interface. I don’t have a specific recommendation, just don’t purchase the cheapest one you find. Invest just a little into a decent cable. You don’t want a poor cable contaminating your audio input!