When I was blogging about my photography regularly, I’d do an annual gear-update post. I thought I’d try the same here – mostly because it’s fun, but it can be informative for others who stumble across my natterings, if they are starting to look into vocal audio 🙂
My gear and software haven’t changed much in the past 3 years, and my set-up runs toward ‘elegant, simple, [costs some dollars],’ so it doesn’t take long to write about!
I record onto a 2012 Mac mini, nothing fancy (I think my screen dates to about 2012, too). As I’ve written about recently, I’ve got quite an ergo set-up, with three 3-button floor pedals, left and right handed vertical mice, and a Kinesis keyboard.
I tend to acquire used audio hardware in good condition – you can get stuff that’s nearly as good as new, for half the cost. I think my first Mackie mixer was almost as old as I was! I just wish software worked that way 🙂
Whisper Room sound booth, lined with lots denim insulation
Sony MDR 7506 headphones
modified large diaphragm mics
Studio One 5 Pro
iZotope RX8, Neutron3 and Ozone9
Audacity (version 2.4.xx – new version is Problematic)
XLD mass audio file format converter (I save all files in .flac and batch-convert them to MP3s at the end of all edits/processing)
iTunes – for mass ID3 tagging and attaching album covers
There have been a lot of iterations and upgrades in the past decade, but i knew once i’d found the MixPre3 and iZotope, I was going to be Very Happy with my set-up for quite a long time to come.
The first good gear I ever got, was my first modified large diaphragm mic (the guy who did the work is no longer in the biz, which is a shame for all of us who love his microphones, but I hope he’s having tons of fun with his new projects!). I went from a Shure SM58 that had been in the bottom of a box forever (now mind you, the SM58 is a classic stage mic, known for standing up to all kinds of abuse and delivering consistent live-performance sound for decades…but it wasn’t right for my voice. like, at all.), to a microphone specially tailored to my voice, and it was a revelation. A mic that could deliver on all the richness of my lower range, and roll off my intense sibilance, all with a noise floor of 5dB… it was amazing to hear my voice reproduced the way it actually sounds. I got a second one for a stereo pair about a year later. It occurs to me that i haven’t come across any other narrators who use a stereo set-up, wonder why?
Things about my current set-up that seem worth writing about…hmm. Well, the MixPre3 series simply cannot be beat for voice recording, holy wow. Delightful pre-amps, super low noise floor, high pass filter options, an analog limiter I can just ascend to the heavens now (this was the feature that led me to the MixPre3; while software replacements for hardware are amazingly good, there’s not a real replacement for hardware in a few crucial places – and an analog limiter is one of them). I recorded straight to SDHC for a couple years, then switched to Studio One onto the Mac hard drive.
Is the WhisperRoom all that? Yes, it is…but it’s at least as much for a completely controlled soundspace as it is for noise reduction. In its standard configuration, you get a lot of noise attenuation in a WR, but it’s not dead silent. That’s okay, because what it does allow you to do, is have a controlled space to outfit with lots and lots of sound deadening, which will further improve the sound isolation anyway. I have denim insulation on all the walls, in rolls in the corners as bass-traps, and I have my mics just inside a small box that is covered inside and out in more denim insulation (all the insulation is covered in fabric). Went through a lot of staples setting all that up! With almost no possibility for sound reflection, I can be at any distance from the mics, at any angle to them, and the quality of the sound remains consistent. This gives me a lot of room to maneuver – so to speak – when it comes to things like ‘I recorded this pick-up much further away from the mic’ or ‘I recorded this new section hotter than usual’ – I can adjust the volume in the edit and not have sound characteristics be noticeably different, for example. The ability to kill noise reflections makes sound engineering soooo much easier.
The other thing I did to the WR was replace the fairly noisy heavy-duty ventilation fan, with an oversized computer cooling fan that’s for all intents and purposes silent. It was at that point I started noticing that my mics would pick up my heartbeat if I sat too close LOL
The Sonys are the standard headphones in every recording studio in the world, and there’s a reason for that; they deliver unbiased, unforgiving, faithful reproduction – don’t bother with anything else. The worst that will happen, is that you’ll listen to files you’ve edited with previous less quality headphones and be horrified at the noises you missed 😀 They’re not even pricey – and the specs are all online so you can fix just about anything. They’ve been basically the same for decades.
I’ve written enough about my software recently, so that’s about all there is for today folks! Happy Holidays!