Condenser Microphone Comparison

Written by Ian. Posted in Blog, Generic Ramblings, Voiceover

Neumann U87 Vs  TLM 103 Vs Audio Technica At4040 microphone comparison

Often among voice artists, radio presenters and audio professionals in general the subject of microphones comes up. Which is best really is a matter of personal opinion really. However there are a few usual suspects which I always seem to use when doing voiceovers or working in radio studios (in the UK). Having had my own home studio for a number of years I have a few decent condenser mic around by which to make comparison. At one time they have all been my first choice mic, but as time goes on and the piggy bank fills I have chosen to invest in new equipment.

Coming from a radio background and having worked at a number of UK stations, these are mics I worked with in those studios. When I began to do voiceover work and build a studio around 10 years ago I decided to use microphones that I had previous experience of.

The mics..

microphone comparisonI have 3 condenser studio microphones, each at different price points. To start I have my very first microphone which I purchased around 10 years ago in my first effort at building a home studio. It is an Audio Technica AT4040 condenser mic which whilst being considerably cheaper than the other options I have really does stand up well. This microphone comes in at around £350 new which for the quality is awesome. As you’ll hear, it’s perhaps not as full sounding as the others and maybe has a touch more top end but is crisp and clear.

 

Neumann

Microphone comparisonAfter around 5 years using the AT4040, I progressed onto my first Neumann mic. I couldn’t quite stretch to a U87 at the time, but instead got the next best thing which is a TLM 103. According to what I’ve read about this mic, it’s the same as the iconic U87, but just a little more compact and has no switches or pads. Have a listen to the audio and you can compare for yourself, to me though it’s great and much fuller than the 4040. However doesn’t quite have the extra icing on the cake of the U87. Price wise we are hiding into the mid range bracket here at around £800 ish. So a lot more expensive than the AT4040, but less than half of what comes next.

U87

voiceover microphoneAnd finally of course we come to “The Daddy”. The Neumann U87. This is the newer Ai version, and is transformerless. This mic is the one you see in music videos, it’s the one that has recorded thousands of hit songs, many say simply the best mic there is. However it does come at a cost. You are not going to have much change if any, from £2000 for a brand new one of these. On the plus side, as the cost is higher you may have more room to haggle the price. Worth noting though that you can come by some vintage versions of the U87, from the 60’s and 70s, which are worth much more and very much a collectors item. I came across one on Ebay which used to be owned by Fleetwood Mac and as you can imagine, had a price to match.

Purists suggest the newer versions of the U87 are not as good as the vintage mic. That is down to personal opinion but whichever version the U87 is a classic and has something a little in terms of the fullness and crispness of the sound.

 

voiceover mixing deskThe Comparison

I have read the same script into each mic, using the same chain which is..

DBX 286 preamp with no EQ and very minimal compression etc.

Behringer 1622 mixer

Universal Audio Apollo Twin Thunderbolt

Adobe Audition on iMac

Each mic also had the same mesh pop filter attached too.

The script itself is taken from the Harvard sentences, which are supposed to be phonetically balanced to measure speech quality. They are not the words of my inner soul.

Take a listen here..


I hope you find this useful, at the end of the day it’s all down to personal preference. When buying a mic always try a few and see which suits your voice. The pre amp and the room you are using also effects how it will sound, so pay attention to those too.

Thanks for reading, and have fun!

 

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Tips for Good Voiceover Script Writing

Written by Ian. Posted in Blog, Generic Ramblings, Voiceover

Getting the best out of your voiceover

voiceover script

Choosing the right voice for your production is clearly an important decision, but so is the quality of your voiceover script. It’s the voiceover’s job to bring life to your words, but you can help the performance by ensuring the script makes life easy for the VO..!

I work with scripts every single day, some written by award winning creatives with many years of experience under their belt, and some by complete first timers thrown into a situation. The aim of this post is to offer a few tips when writing for a VO, based on my own experience of what helps me perform better. This is by no means an exhaustive list but merely a few pointers that certainly make life easier for me, and hopefully others too.

Be conversational

Fairly simple one but ideally you’re going to want your narration to sound natural. Always try to write in a conversational manner and basically write as you would expect someone to speak. This doesn’t have to make a heavy subject lighthearted, that all comes in the delivery. What is important is that what you write flows well conversationally.

Perhaps once you’ve written your script, read it out loud a number of times. If there are sections you find hard to navigate, likely the voiceover will too, so it’s always worth trying this test. You may also notice places where you need to take a breath, so don’t be afraid to add in some punctuation. Voiceovers need to breathe too, in fact I personally insist on it..

Less is more

One of the biggest problems comes when scripts are overwritten. You have a 2 minute film, and 3 minutes worth of script! Can you say the same message with less words? On Twitter you have just 160 characters to make your point, and with a bit of thought you can get your point across. Leaving some breathing space in your script allows things to flow more steadily, and sound less manic. It also allows the voiceover to slow the pace down a touch too, which will probably give you a better quality of read. For a laid back read aim for 150 words for a minute of audio, and a normal pace read would be around 180 words per minute on average.

Make it easy on the eye

Choosing a clear font and some basic page formatting can help immeasurably..! I’ve had hand written scripts scanned and emailed to me, and some using font type and size you need a microscope to see. Formatting your script in either a PDF or Word document with a nice clear font (Ariel always works well) a nice size (probably no less that 12pt) and double spaced will make things a lot easier to read. Voices will be able to increase the font size if they need, but certainly having things laid out nice and clearly helps the sight reading process. It also provides extra space to make notes relative to the script too.

Avoid all doubt

If there’s one thing that trips me up when reading a script, it’s being unsure of a pronunciation. If there are any unusual words, names or acronyms, always include who you would prefer this to be said phonetically. For example Keighley in Yorkshire would be Keith-Lee, and NATO would be Nay-Toe. Perhaps that’s a slightly obvious example but you get the idea. In fact where names are concerned, feel free to just write it as you would say it in the first place. Remember, with a voiceover it’s all about how it sounds not how its spelt.

The same goes for numbers, be clear. For example with 1500, do you want me to say fifteen hundred or one thousand five hundred?

Sometimes I work with other countries and words can be complex, sending an audio clip of you saying the word is also a great help.

What’s the direction?

The clearer you are about direction and how you imagine it should sound, the better.

Be sure to include the kind of feel you are hoping for with this read. Will it be upbeat or conversational? Relaxed and formal? Wacky and straight? Giving an indication of the mood you are hoping to create really helps to ensure you get the read you’re hoping for. The same goes for the accent, do you want something quite neutral, or more regional? If you already know the music you are intending to use then it’s always handy to hear that too. Plus if you have heard a style on a showreel then point it out, it all helps to give you what you want.

Double check the voiceover script

Before you send the final script for voicing read through it one final time. Is everything there? Often one small missing word can spoil the whole production. It’s very hard to just insert the missing word  involves a re-take of the section which could be an expense to fix. Expect for a voiceover to read the script exactly as provided so take care to avoid simple mistakes.

Hopefully these pointers help you on the way, of course if you have any other questions, or would like help with scriptwriting for your project them don’t hesitate to get in touch!

And to hear some audio samples of the final product sounds, you can find my showreels here

Max Verstappen & Exact

Written by Ian. Posted in Uncategorized

Virtual F1

Max Verstappen has enjoyed a tremendous Formula 1 season behind the wheel of his Red Bull car. But what has given the Dutchman the advantage? Well part of his success surely is thanks to the mixed reality software his partner Exact have created. Meaning we has the feel of racing the car, whilst getting to know each circuit without using a drop of fuel. This is important as real world practice and testing times are quite limited in the sport.

I’m proud to have been asked to provide the voiceover on a series of films looking behind the scenes at this technology. And you can see some of the results below.

 

We Buy Any Car Voiceover….?

Written by Ian. Posted in Blog, Generic Ramblings

We Buy Any Car Voiceover Pic

The questions the people are asking..

It’s a Thursday evening, the rain is hammering on the windows as well befits July in the UK. Before I head off to bed to dream of whatever comes to mind this time (The other day I dreamt I accidentally torched a local tourist attraction) I have just had a quick look at the stats for this website.

It’s really interesting reading actually and fascinating the amount of information that our friends at Google collect. I can tell you things like are you reading this on a desktop computer, or a phone? Are you using an Apple device, or a Windows machine? Let me tell you on that score it is bad news for Bill Gates, as only 4% of visitors to my website use one of those, it’s all Apple and Samsung here it seems!

I also know which town you’re in, the colour of your front door, the names of your pets, and just what is in the top drawer of your bedside table. Ok, maybe not quite that much, but you get the idea of just how much some of the mega corporations we buy from must know about us, cos well they know what you buy and where you live for starters..

So, to the title question

Within all of this information Google have sent me is a list of search terms that people have entered into Google, and have subsequently clicked onto my site based on that. Sure you get all the voiceover terms you’d expect, but there was a bit of a curveball in there. One of the most common terms sending people to me over the past month has been “who is the voiceover for the We Buy Any Car advert”, referring to the WeBuyAnyCar.com series like this one…

Lots of people have been searching Google for the answer, and as people frantically search voiceover websites to work it out a fair few have headed here. If you’re one of them, welcome along, I have good news for you..!

In case you’re wondering, the voiceover for the We Buy Any Car commercial is not me (unfortunately), however to help you sleep easier tonight and to save you further searching, you will find the answer to the million dollar Google question is (Drumroll SFX)

 

JAMES CORDEN!

We Buy Any Car, James Corden

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re welcome!

Yorkshire Voiceover for Channel 5 Documentary

Written by Ian. Posted in Blog, Voiceover

Yorkshire Voiceover Channel 5

Yorkshire Voiceover

Recently I have provided a voiceover for a new Channel 5 mini series called Yorkshire: A Year In The Wild. It’s a beautiful look at the 4 different seasons in Britain’s biggest and of course I would say greatest county. You can hear me providing the Yorkshire voiceover for the competition promo which runs ahead of some of the commercial breaks. And hey if you enter then you too could find yourself VIP style in the ‘shire!

Watch again…

The show itself is over a period of 4 x 1 hour episodes, and if you would like to catch up you can watch again here.. http://www.channel5.com/show/yorkshire-a-year-in-the-wild/

Location

  • Yorkshire, UK
Registered UK Company Number 8673351

Contact

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Mon-Fri: 8am-6pm
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