Voice Overs at Home

Recording Professional Quality Voice Overs at Home

Voice over recordings that sound professional can be achieved in a home recording studio by recording in a noise free environment, adding acoustic treatment, optimising microphone position and using audio restoration software to improve audio dynamics.

Recording professional quality voice overs at home is a great skill to perfect. If you can record great quality vocals from home you can produce top quality content and productions affordably and in your own time. 

There are some basic recording tips that you can follow, to give yourself the best chance of producing high-quality professional home voice recordings.

1. Find A Quiet Space

Having quiet space to record is fundamental to recording professional audio. 

If noise is recorded into your recording at source, it can be incredibly difficult to remove. 

Therefore, it is always best to start with a quiet recording environment and reduce noise as much as possible.

Unfortunately, there is noise everywhere.

Some common sources of noise that can degrade the quality of home recordings that often get overlooked are:

  1. Noise from central heating or air-conditioning units.
  2. Noise from large home devices, for example fridges.
  3. Noise from PCs and electronic devices with cooling fans.

These are the most common sources of noise in the home recording studio. Taking the time to remove these noises from your environment can greatly improve the quality of your recording.

Noise in the Home

Professional recording studios are typically highly soundproofed or “sound isolated” in order to reduce noise. This level of soundproofing is not always possible in a home recording environment, however, there are some basic steps you can take to help build an environment where you can get a good quality recording.

If you are lucky enough to have a smaller room or walk-in closet that you can dedicate completely to a recording environment you will find much easier to soundproof this space and isolate it from sound.

there are some basic steps you can take to help build an environment where you can get a good quality recording.

Alternatively, if you have a room in your home that is detached from the rest of the house or an extension, with such a room there may be the possibility of less noise filtering in from the rest of the home making it easier to sound isolate. 

Therefore it is worth thinking about your home and thinking about the potential quieter spots available. Once you have your quietest area, you can think about how you can optimise and use it for your home recording

The key is to reduce as much noise that is within your control. You can only go so far with external noise, such as a busy road next to your home,  as it is generally out of your control,  but you can turn off the air conditioning if it’s creating noise on your recording.

2. Use Room Acoustic Treatment

Room treatment means using acoustic technologies and products, for example acoustic foam, to acoustically treat the recording space you are in.

Before jumping into room treatment, it is always best to have a quiet environment, or at least, have done your best to remove as much noise as possible.

Once you have removed as much noise as possible from your studio, then consider room treatment, as any room treatments you add will only improve your sound quality at this point.

How you decide to acoustically treat your room, will depend on your production type, for example, if you are a podcaster you may just need a smaller space to record in.

How you decide to acoustically treat your room, will depend on your production type

Room treatment means using acoustic technologies and products, for example acoustic foam, to acoustically treat the recording space you are in.

Before jumping into room treatment, it is always best to have a quiet environment, or at least, have done your best to remove as much noise as possible.

Once you have removed as much noise as possible from your studio, then consider room treatment, as any room treatments you add will only improve your sound quality at this point.

acoustic wall tiles

You may find that you only need to acoustically treat just a small part of a room.

Audio visual productions and broadcasts, such as twitch streaming, adds an extra requirement; not only does your studio have to sound good but it also has to look good. 

In this instance you can use room treatment to not only improve the quality of your sound recording but also to improve the visual aesthetic of your production.

How you decide to acoustically treat your room for recording will vary and will depend on the room shape, the construction of the room and your budget. 

you can use room treatment to not only improve the quality of your sound recording but also to improve the visual aesthetic of your production.

In a nutshell, there is no one solution to acoustically treat a room to improve sound recordings as room sizes and acoustics vary from room to room.

Room acoustics is a detailed topic. To dig more into the art of improving your home studio acoustics and get some specific instructions, check out this article. 

Alternatively, Sound on Sound Magazine has some fantastic and comprehensive articles on this topic also.

3. Improve Microphone Position & Technique

The choice of your microphone and the position and the technique you use when working with your microphone is fundamental to the audio recording quality.

It can be very tempting to choose a large diaphragm condenser microphone for professional home recording, however it’s important to match your microphone to your requirements and application type. 

For more specific information on microphone selection, check out this article: “How to pick the right microphone for content creators?”

Three Main Microphone Types

How you position and work with your microphone is fundamental to the audio quality.

To reduce room noise and to improve the quality of your recording you could use microphone techniques such as “close miking”.  

Close miking, means recording your audio vocal takes in close proximity to your microphone. 

A good position is 4 to 6 inches away from the microphone head as this will help to focus your vocal into the microphone but ignore a lot of the room dynamics.

When using a microphone, it’s important to understand what type of microphone pickup pattern that your microphone has.

Most microphones have a cardioid polar pattern which means they pickup most sound in a “heart shape” area in front of the microphone (hence the name cardioid).

Here is an image of the typical microphone patterns.

MIC POLAR PATTERNS

The best and most fun way to improve your microphone technique is to experiment with the sound recording by moving your position relative to the microphone. 

  • Firstly, set up your microphone and position your mouth about 4 inches away from the microphone head.
  • Do a quick test recording at this position. 
  • Next, move away from the microphone, perhaps 6 inches away from the microphone head, and do another test recording.
  • Repeat this for 12 inches away from the microphone and experiment with speaking directly into the microphone and at an angle. 
  • You could record where you are relative to the microphone position for example “I’m currently sitting 6 inches away to the left of  the microphone
  • Listen back to each position that you recorded and decide which recording you like the most. 

This will help you establish what is the optimum speaking position to get the best sound recording from your microphone. 

4. Improve Your Recording Chain

When recording audio it’s important to consider all the key components in your recording chain.

A recording chain is all the component parts of your recording setup. 

Here is an image of a typical recording chain:

We have the sound coming from your voice, which enters the microphone and then travels along the cables to your PC, either through an audio interface or directly if you are using a USB microphone.

To achieve a quality recording, it’s important to have every aspect of this recording chain as good as possible.

From my personal experience, I have found that it’s important to use components that are all of equal quality to give a good balance recording – it is a false economy to use a $2,000 microphone and then use a $3 cable to connect to your PC. 

it is a false economy to use a $2,000 microphone and then use a $3 cable to connect to your PC

At the end of the day, the priority when vocal recording should be cleanness and clarity.

If you get a clean and clear vocal recording, you can then use software and other post-processing techniques to improve or give warmth to the audio recording.

If you record a vocal with noise or  “sound colorations”, such as a muddy sound or high frequency hiss, these are present in the original recording and you will find it very difficult (or at least tricky) to post-process the audio and get a good nice clean audio recording.

microphones

However if you start with a clean and crisp audio recording you can always enhance it with post processing software to make it sound even better.

When recording speech, it’s important to analyse as you go and monitor your audio to assert that it is nice to listen too.

When recording vocals for singing, personally I always choose a microphone that has a nice top end boost as it allows high singing frequencies to cut through musical mixes, however when recording speech or dialogue high-end frequencies are not necessarily a good thing.

Have you ever listened to an audiobook or podcast that had a really high treble hiss sound? This can fatigue your ears and become quite annoying overtime, therefore analysing your audio recording and ensuring that it has a nice balanced dialogue sound that is not too “hissy” is important in creating a vocal recording that will communicate your message without fatiguing the ears of your listener or annoying them.

5. Use Audio Restoration & Improver Software

It’s always best to capture a clean and clear recording however this is not always possible, even in professional environments.

There are post processing techniques that you can use to make your vocal sound more professional and enhanced

Such audio restore restoration software can perform tasks such as:

  • Remove basic room noise
  • Improve muddy sounding recordings
  • Remove high end “hiss”
  • Add a warmth or a professional documentary tone

Such software options for audio restoration software vary from free to very expensive.

If you are considering audio restoration software and you’re not a long-term expert at the craft of vocal production, it may be best to pick a good quality software that can correct or restore vocal recordings with one click of a mouse.

A trusted vocal dialogue improving software that I personally recommend is Nectar by iZotope.

This is a wonderful piece of software that can improve your vocal recordings in numerous ways from removing home recording noise, improving muddy sounding vocal recordings, reducing sibilance or even adding a beautiful warmth and dynamic to your recording with just one click of the mouse. 

Check out their website and software here for some free demos. 

6. Listen To Professional Recordings

If you are recording audio for your home production podcast or audiobook, you obviously love to listen to audiobooks and podcasts.

Have you ever considered comparing your audio recordings to the podcasts and audiobooks that you love?

All sound engineering students who work in the mixing and mastering of audio will be taught how to use reference audio recordings against which they compare their own recording.

Have you ever considered comparing your audio recordings to the podcasts and audiobooks that you love?

When I was a student in sound engineering and music production I had set music tracks against which I compared my own music productions.

I would “critically listen” to music and by critically listening I mean I would focus on the bass, drums and the vocals of specific tracks.

Then I would listen to the bass, drums and the vocals in my own music productions and compare them to the professional recordings.

royalty free music for free

This is how professional audio mixing and mastering engineers learn and work because it is essential to have reference audio to compare your work too. 

If you are producing professional recordings at home you should do something similar and listen to how they sound next to your favorite professional recordings. 

Ask yourself – how does your home recording compared to the professional recording?

It is important not to get discouraged. The objective of this task is to see if there is any audio aspect that you can improve, not point out how good the professional recording is!

Of course we don’t want it to be identical because that maybe an unachievable task, but ask yourself:

1 – Is my recording clear?

2 – How do the volume levels compare

3 – Is there a dramatic difference in volume levels?

By critically listening and trying to identify basic differences between your vocal recording and a professional recording you can identify areas in your recording setup that need to be improved.

Your volume levels may be great but you may have a muddy sound to your vocal recording –  in this case you could use an audio restoration software to remove bass and muddy sounding ambience from your recording.

Or perhaps your vocal recording has a high sibilance – in this case you may need to assess the quality and type of your microphone or perhaps you could just use an audio restoration software to reduce the high-frequency hiss in your recording.

In a nutshell, comparing your recordings to professional recordings is a great way to analyse and assert if you are doing a good job in your home recording or if you can improve it.

Conclusion

Recording professional quality voice is an artistry and a great skill if you can do it well as you can produce great sounding content that will propel your career.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to achieve good quality home vocal recordings; some research and analysis of your recording space, careful microphone selection and technique and an awareness of the type of noise present in your recording room will significantly help you improve the quality of your home recording.

From my experience of recording audio over the years, the areas to focus on if you are serious about clarity in your vocal recording are:

1 – Acoustic Room Treatments

2 – Noise Reduction

3 – Good microphone selection and technique. 

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to achieve good quality home vocal recordings; some research and analysis of your recording space, careful microphone selection and technique and an awareness of the type of noise present in your recording room will significantly help you improve the quality of your home recording.

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