Good quality voice recordings – What microphones and software without breaking the bank?

I was a fond fan of this question as soon as I saw it.

The fact that the question was around creating ‘good’ quality voice recordings appealed to me. If there’s one thing I’ve discovered along the way, a ‘bad’ quality voice recording is a sure-fire way to tune out your listener (and/or viewer). The fact is ‘good’ quality audio is necessary, especially when it comes to voice.

That is unless you’re trying to create a deliberately poor-quality recording (more on that later).

So what sort of microphones and software do you need that won’t break the bank? What do you need to get that good quality recording from a home or office?


Chord CCU-1 USB Microphone (apx £60)

A favourite of mine is the tried and tested Chord CCU-1 USB Microphone that I’ve used over a number of years now. The benefit of using USB microphones are that they plug directly into your PC with no mixing desk or specialist equipment required. The sound of this microphone has a great tone for voice. I find it is sensitive enough to capture quality voice audio, without picking up vast amount of background noise. I’d recommend a look at that one.


Audacity Audio Software (apx FREE)

When it comes to software, I know there are a huge variety of software out there for music production. Some I use, many I don’t understand!

However, what I will say is from a voice recording perspective, I’d stick with a tried and tested favourite which is Audacity. This free bit of software is plenty for capturing, post-producing, mixing and editing voice tracks.

This, together with the Chord CCU-1 USB Microphone is all you need to get started in voice recording.

There’s occasions when you might need additional options around audio recording for example remotely or where multiple microphones (inputs) are involved. In these events, I’ve had good use of the following.

A Pop Shield (apx £5)

I’ve heard them called a variety of things, but the industry term is a pop-shield. These little devices are a good bit of kit to have around when it comes to recording voice.

They are the circle shield shape that sits in front of the microphone. What it stops is air flying out of a mouth, hitting the microphone and creating that annoying thumping sound that hurts your ears. That’s not pleasant for any listener. Think back to the worst club singer you’ve ever experienced and you’ll get there recalling that one!

So I’d say a pop shield, for not very much money, is worth investing in and attatching to any desk based microhphone that’s used for voiceover.


Zoom H4n Pro Handy Recording (apx £180)

For a couple of years, a Zoom H4N has been in my digital kit bag as the weapon of choice when it comes to capturing sound. It’s a bulky device (which has been mistaken before for a breathalyser) sporting two angled microphones on top capable of capturing surround sound stereo audio. This in itself makes the device a decent way of capturing room audio. With both XLR and jack socket inputs, you can plug in a variety of microphones and feeds. I’ve captured audio from shotgun microphones in interviews and studios as well as lapel microphones. The device has also played a huge role in capturing quality audio feeds at events such as conferences. If you need to move down the mobile route or multi input is your thing, I’d say this gadget is well worth a look at.


Marantz Professional MPM1000 XLR (apx £50)

More recently I’ve been using this microphone instead of the USB setup I mentioned before. I’ve found a need in work that I do to occasionally use XLR microphones simply because it gives me more varitey around multiple inputs. This has been useful in recording both face to face and remote interview sessions. Like the Chord CCU-1 this microphone is also of great quality. I’m in the early stages of using it but so far it does pick up more background noise than the Chord CCU-1. The difference is marginal though and I’d recommend this microphone if XLR was something you specifically needed.


A purposefully bad voice recording

Now I did say I’d get back to the point of what if you are trying to deliberately create a poor-quality audio recording. In this video, the idea was to re-create a really crap sounding radio voice track.

A combination of the Chord CCU-1 and some effects in Audacity (some minor but under-developed voice acting skills) and this is where we got to!

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