At Pro Tools Expert we are often asked, what is the best microphone to buy for voiceover recording? We usually reply with more questions such as...
- What is your budget?
- How much room treatment do you have?
- Do you have phantom power?
- Is this for narration or for ADR?
- Which mic pre-amp do you have?
But to try and help the community, and the help of Richmond Film Services and KMR Audio, we undertook a series of tests in four groups under carefully controlled conditions using the same mic preamp, the same voiceover artists, a standard distance from the mic and all files carefully loudness matched.
What Microphones Did We Select for The VO Mic Shoot Out?
In the first 3 groups, we selected a variety of commonly used microphones representing a good spread of budget and styles ranging from industry standard large-diaphragm condensers to cheap dynamic microphones for our voiceover mic shootout.
- Neumann Family
- Neuman U87
- Neuman TLM 103
- Neuman TLM 193
- Dynamics And Shotgun
- Shure SM58
- Shure SM7b
- Electrovoice RE20
- Sennheiser MKH 416
- Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphones
- sE Electronics 4400a
- Audio Technica 4040
- Sontronics Saturn
- AKG 414 ULS
In the 4th group, we chose some of the higher end and specialist microphones to see how they would perform against the reference Neumann U87. You can compare any of them as they are all recorded under the same conditions.
- Josephson C715
- Brauner VMA
- MicroTech Gefell UM900
- AEA KU4
- Manley Reference
- Peluso 2247LE
- Sontronics Aria
- sE Electronic Gemini II
We invited professional voice-over artists, Andrew Bicknell and Posy Brewer, to give us examples of both male and female voices to demonstrate each microphone.
- We used a common mic pre-amp, the Focusrite ISA One as it is both typical and affordable by most.
- We kept the input impedance at the ISA110 standard setting (1k4ohm), and engaged the high pass filter (75dB knee frequency with 18dB/Octave roll-off) to avoid pops.
- No foam pop shields were used, just a mesh filter.
- The distance to each microphone was kept uniform, with the special straw measuring tool, at 6.5”
- Any multi-polar pattern mics were recorded set to cardioid.
- All mics were recorded at 24bit 48KHzas close as possible to a level of -23 LUFS (using Nugen’s VisLM loudness meter) with NO compression or EQ or ANY plug-in.
- The test rig was running Pro Tools 11.2.2 HDX on a Pro Tools PC (OSX 10.8.5) and the audio interface was an Avid Omni clocked to a Rosendahl Nanosyncs.
After the recording session was over, each microphone recording was top and tailed, and then mastered to exactly -23 LUFS with Nugen Audio’s LM Correct to ensure each recording sounds equally loud using the K-weighted curve and BS1770-3 universal standard algorithm. Each microphone was allocated its own dedicated playlist in our master session.
Listen For Yourself
In the original articles we didn't identify each microphone so that the results of the blind listening tests would be valid, but here we have the examples in a playlist so you can listen to each microphone knowing what it is and how much it costs.
Download The Pro Tools Session
You can also download a Pro Tools Session with all the mics laid out on their own track. Download the VO Shoot Out Test Session.
The VO Mic Shoot Out Results
We undertook blind listening tests in 4 different groups where you could vote for which one you thought sounded the best, without knowing which mic was which. The results of those polls are below. The winner for each group is highlighted. We have also included a street price so you can compare the cost as well is the blind listening test results.
|Pro Tools Expert Voiceover Mic Shootout Blind Listening Test Results|
|Group 1||Neumann Family||Percentage Of The Vote||Typical Price|
|Mic A||Neumann U87||36.01%||$3200|
|Mic B||Neumann TLM193||22.46%||$1600|
|Mic C||Neumann TLM103||41.53%||$1100|
|Group 2||Dynamics & Shotgun|
|Mic D||Shure SM58||17.65%||$100|
|Mic E||Shure SM7b||12.11%||$400|
|Mic F||Electrovoice RE20||13.15%||$450|
|Mic G||Sennheiser MKH416||35.98%||$1000|
|Group 3||Large Diaphragm Condensers|
|Mic H||Audio Technica 4040||27.07%||$300|
|Mic I||sE Electronics SE4400||15.47%||$500|
|Mic J||Sontronics Saturn||42.65%||$1000|
|Mic K||AKG 414 ULS||13.81%||$1000|
|Group 4||Boutique and High End Mics|
|Mic L||AEA KU4||6%||$4400|
|Mic M||sE Electronics Gemini II||6%||$1500|
|Mic N||Sontronics Aria||4%||$1500|
|Mic O||Brauner VMA p1||8%||$8900|
|Mic P||Brauner VMA p2||29%||$8900|
|Mic Q||Pelusso 2247LE||6%||$1900|
|Mic R||MicroTech Gefell UM900||8.50%||$4000|
|Mic S||Joesphson C715||6.50%||$4000|
|Mic T||Manley Reference||22%||$2700|
What Do You Think?
We haven't been able to test all the microphones on the market but for the first 3 groups we chose commonly used microphones and then in the last group we selected some of the more boutique and high-end mics some of them with prices to match, more as a bit of fun. Do share in the comments your thoughts and views on theses tests.
What Do You Use?
Do tell us what VO mic you use and why you chose it. This is what some of the Pro tools Expert team are currently using...
|Team Voiceover Microphones|
|Team Member||Microphone 1||Microphone 2|
|Russ Hughes||Shure SM7b|
|Mike Thornton||Shure SM7b||Sennheiser 416|
|Dan Cooper||Shure SM7b|
|Julian Rodgers||Beyer M201||Neumann TLM 103|
|Alan Sallabank||Rode NT1a|
|Peter Barter||Neumann TLM 103|
|Marcus Huyskens||Shure SM7b|
|Eric Johnson||Shure SM7b||sE Electronics 2200a|
|James Ivey||Sontronics Aria||Sontronics Saturn|
Thanks to the Pro Tools Expert team members involved in this comprehensive test, it was a true team effort. Thanks to professional voice-over artists, Andrew Bicknell and Posy Brewer for their commitment to this and thanks to Richmond Film Services and KMR Audio for their support too.