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It’s a question all over social media and forums, and honestly was one of my first questions after “what is voice over?” As I listened to the endless variety of answers from “I record into my phone and nobody has complained” to “you must have a Neumann U87”, there were a few voices with a slightly different and yet consistent answer.
It’s not the mic, young padawan, it’s the room. As I gained more experience listening to my recordings and those of others, I noticed how I could pick out reverberations, echos, boxiness, or muffled voices, yet there was no way I was going to hear the brand of microphone. I’m not an acoustical engineer. But I have had one tell me that some of my early work sounded pretty darn good with low to moderately priced equipment because I had a treated space. And for your amusement, watch YouTube videos of a $3,500 Neumann used inside a tiled shower!
What about the USB vs XLR debate? I won’t touch that with a 25 foot cable, but I will share my own decision process which was pretty simple. I don’t think I ever heard a comment saying XLR microphones had a bad reputation. Obviously specific mics did, but not when looking at the category as a whole. I didn’t have to believe that USB mics are bad, but I decided I didn’t want it to come up – so it has been XLR for me since day one.
The other advice I saw and agree with is if possible, find a way to try before you buy and ideally in your own space. Some retailers may let you rent a mic or buy it with a risk-free return policy. Your voice in your space with that mic will sound unique. Don’t buy based on the biggest price, the fanciest case, or the badge on the side. But do invest in where you record. Once that’s figured out you can start down a path of collecting microphones. Be warned… it’s slippery!