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Is a shotgun mic a sound choice for voice over ? If so, what about the Sennheiser MKH 8060 ?

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20 hours ago, Scape27 said:

 I stumbled upon quite a few voice artists praising shotgun mics such as the Sennheiser MKH 416 as their go-to mic in the booth, and that kind of threw me off track ... 

 

 

 

in the 1990s to 2000s I have recorded 100s of film trailers using the MKH416, many of those were with Don Lafontaine.

Ernie Anderson would carry his own to the studio.

Its a wonderful mic, but you have to know how to work it.

 

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I would not grab a shotgun for voice over work, specialy not a Sennheiser as they tend sometimes to sound very sharp on „s“... with some voices this can be    

unpleasent, also the small sweetspot can cause a problem...

using a shotgun makes more sence if matching the sound of a Location Recording is the goal, like for adr. if the room is basicaly threaded i would prefer a LD condenser, me personaly i like the neumann sound, but there are others with a more neutral sound...

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15 hours ago, Vincent R. said:

For what it's worth it; The TV/Radio station worked at ~16 years ago had the Shure SM7B (dynamic) as the standard voice over mic. Go figure 😉

 

Pretty all the radio stations I‘ve been at or seen on TV had a Neumann U87. Except for those that had an RE-20. The latter mostly in the US. That’s not a counter-argument, just additional info

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Here's an interesting comparison from 2005 of 18 different studio mics. This was made by and for a radio audience, and I see VO people using different mics and wanting different results than radio people (and I don't mean ADR); I've been in plenty of radio studios and VO booths, but my experience is basically anecdotal.

 

One nice thing about this comparison is that the test was conducted by people who know what's what for their world, they talk about the limitations of the test, and they include samples from three different voices, two male and one female. So even though this test was done a while ago, it's still worth a visit IMO. Will at least orient you to some of the options.

 

The Transom Studio Mic Shootout: Blindfold Test

https://transom.org/2005/transom-studio-mic-shootout/

 

MicShootout-Header-800x440.jpg

 

 

But I'd like to hear from our local denizens who have spent a lot of time as VO artists and as engineers who've worked with a wide range of VO voices. I'm thinking of Ty and Jay. Probably others, too.

 

@Ty Ford and @Jay Rose, any thoughts?

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47 minutes ago, Jim Feeley said:

Here's an interesting comparison from 2005 of 18 different studio mics.

The Transom Studio Mic Shootout: Blindfold Test

https://transom.org/2005/transom-studio-mic-shootout/

 

 

Hey Jim,

 

Thanks very much for that ! Just listened to the shootout ... Most informative ! Also revealing as to how some mics can flatter one voice and make another unpleasant, such as the RE-27 (mic R) that sounds great on the bassy male voice but shrill / harsh on the other male voice.

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If you really consider a Super-Cardioid Microphone, I would recommend MKH8050, the more directional a microphone is, the more colorized will be the "off-information", and as you may know, all shotgun microphones work with acoustic tubes to increase the directionality, but the same time, the "Room" will be colorized very strongly. 

 

and generally, for the human voice, large-diagram membrane microphone response much better in middle-low range, where the voice is, as a small-diagram microphone. I have read somewhere, that all small-diagram microphone has a low-shelf (due to the size, they can not go that low), and the manufacturers make a low-boost with "acoustic" or "electric EQ". 

 

 

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As you can see above, there are plenty of good mics available. 

If your room sounds bad (outside noise, excessive reverberations etc), none of these mics - no matter how expensive or sexy, nor the polar pattern will make your VO recording sound  professional. Spend some money on treating the room, or buy a booth (or build your own). Just my 2cents.

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Many of the advertising VO studios I worked in had A: U87 and B: 416, and often nothing else.  The former was for most voices, including non-pros, the latter was for the Big Voice Male voice actors ("One man, one woman, in a world"...etc).  In some cases the mixers confided that they liked the 416 partly because their rooms were kind of crappy sounding.  The U87 sounded like the people you put in front of it--it has many competitors now.  The 416 has a sound that those big voice VO guys really liked, depended on in fact.

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I own a lot of different kinds of mics, and coming from a post production perspective (and having worked in a VO studio in a former life) I can say that using a shotgun for a VO is not my favorite thing. For ADR it makes sense, but for VO I really recommend using a mic that works best for your voice. Using a cardioid condenser will be your best bet, however a dynamic mic is not unheard of. 

 

I recently worked with a VO artist who had a little chirp in their S’s and T’s. A condenser highlights those things too much, but an SM58 would tame them pretty well. 

 

Regarding polar patterns, we know that shotguns don’t perform well in reverberant rooms, which is why we often reach for super cardioid mics such as mkh50 or mk41. The point being that the polar pattern is wider but with less “reach”. A cardioid will out perform a super cardioid in reducing reflections because it doesn’t have a back lobe. You would want to position the mic to where it is not capturing reflections, but I believe that a cardioid mic will give you the “cleanest” signal. 

 

My favorite mic would be a Schoeps mk4 for this purpose. I own a beautiful vintage u87, a beautiful vintage c414, and a number of other very high end mics commonly seen in studios, and the Schoeps mk4 does something that no other mic does. It puts a layer of silk over the voice and softens anything harsh that stands out, leaving you will a more neutral yet clean sound. 

 

Using Slate emulations would be a step in the wrong direction entirely. If you are only recording lines and handing them off to a re recording engineer, they are going to want raw untampered with tracks without any processing on them whatsoever. 

 

The other thing to consider is your signal chain. What interface are you using and what mic pre? I recommend going with something neutral with high dynamic range. Sound Devices makes MixPreD, and USBpre that can be used as an interface. This way you aren’t adding any colour to your sound. Many interfaces produce a shrilly tinnyness to their sound, while others try to use something like a vintage sounding pre amp which will add harmonic distortion, and not blend well with the production tracks that they are going to mix with. 

 

In the end I know that it will come down to what you can afford, but making clear conscious decisions before spending money will get you to your goal faster, and trying out different mics may be the best thing you can do, but I can pretty much guarantee you that an mk4 will be your best universal mic for different voices for VO and ADR. 

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On 4/9/2019 at 10:04 AM, Werner Althaus said:

Sennheiser 416 is indeed a very popular choice for voice work, both in a booth or in a larger room. It has this thunderous low end response and presence boost that gives it that larger than life character and it has enough reach to stay out of the way of scripts. Unfortunately what makes it so popular is also what makes it so despised, the fact that it super-imposes itself onto the voice it's supposed to capture. Many complain that it eliminates any personality from the actor. Then there is the less than ideal off-axis response so make sure your booth is really dead or record in a room with high ceilings and proper treatment.

I really like the classic Sennheiser dynamics for voice over in small spaces, MD 421 and 441 (my favorite) will sound better ( to my ears anyway) in many instances than spitty LDCs like the Neumann 103. If you spend a grand on an LDC there are better choices out there.

Never tried the slate but also am very skeptical.

This is my experience exactly. 

 

I sometimes get client requests for the 416, usually for commercials. It works well when you want "that sound" and aren't going to do much treatment to the VO after recording. For film or TV or anything with a bit more subtlety or character an LDC is always a better choice IMO.

 

-Mike 

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I may never have another opportunity to hype this movie without going off topic. So...

 

Here's the trailer for a pretty fun 2013 film set in the world of VO artists.

 

 

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1 hour ago, JonG said:

Using Slate emulations would be a step in the wrong direction entirely. If you are only recording lines and handing them off to a re recording engineer, they are going to want raw untampered with tracks without any processing on them whatsoever.

Curious about your experience with this mic/preamp/processing system. Not specifically VO I reckon, but general.

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1 hour ago, Vincent R. said:

Curious about your experience with this mic/preamp/processing system. Not specifically VO I reckon, but general.

 

I'll let JonG speak for himself, but my general feeling is that with music, you can get way more creative with how something sounds. Adding coloration, distortion, weird EQ and filters (like telephone sound etc.), phasing, reverb, flanging etc. makes for an interesting sound, but with dialog or V.O., you probably want clear and natural sound - most of the time.

 

There's plenty of opinions about the Slate system here: https://www.gearslutz.com/board/product-alerts-older-than-2-months/1041981-slate-digital-launches-virtual-microphone-system-193.html?highlight=slate+mic+emulations#post13642796

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Hi JonG,

 

Thanks for such a detailed and interesting take on all this. 

 

17 hours ago, JonG said:

I can pretty much guarantee you that an mk4 will be your best universal mic for different voices for VO and ADR. 

 

For a split second I thought you were telling me that my current mic (a "MK4" too but Sennheiser) was a perfectly good choice for what I'm doing 😊 !! I have already been told here that going for a Neumann TLM 103 (which was my initial intention before catching on to the idea of a shotgun mic) wouldn't make much of a difference, but this would have REALLY taken me back to square one !! Mind you, it's a comforting thought wallet-wise !

 

But I feel like I'm getting into a totally different game here. If I understand correctly the Schoeps MK4 is "just" the capsule that needs to be associated with a CMC mic amp ? That will basically blow my budget through the roof ... As for preamps, I 've been hoping all along that my Audient iD22 audio interface would have enough gain to drive more or less any mic I can throw at it, including dynamics such as an EV - RE-27 or Shure SM7.

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Since Jim Feeley asked:

  1)  My all-time favorite is an RCA 77 in good condition. I did a side-by-side with a U67 once, and the difference was amazing. U67 sounded like a good mic. 77 sounded like the actor was talking from the CR's UREIs.  (I then had a chance to do a 7.1 IMAX track where the v/o is interrupted by a wisecracking stagehand  - multiple mannikins with cued spotlights - walking around between the screen and the top of the dome. Used a U87 for the vo; 77 for the stagehand. He actually sounded live, compared to the announcer sound we're all used to from a good large-diaphragm condenser.)

      Of course the 77 requires a good room and high-gain preamp. Worth the effort.

 

  2)  For most of the 70s and 80s I standardized on AKG CK1 in my multiple radio spot rooms. The rooms had very good acoustics, radio doesn't need the deep lows of a large diaphragm, ad agencies hate long setup times, and the mics could be about 5" from the actors' mouths without blocking their sightlines, so two or three could look at each other while performing. (IMHO, radio production used to be a lot more sophisticated than most of what's on the air now.) (And we were winning a lot of Clios, Andys, and other awards.)

 

  3)  When I needed some large diaphragm condensers, I had my dealer give me a bunch to try out. I spent an evening with another engineer/voice, taking turns in the booth and then listening. We had sort-of settled on an AudioTechnica as being the best sounding, and then Dan came out of the booth to talk with me in the CR... and I realized it didn't sound like him live. What we were hearing was the mic's 'flattering' (aka distortion), which would lock us into a sound and could become fatiguing after a few long sessions. We went with the AKG 414 instead.

 

  4)  I've never used a long gun in a booth (except when necessary as a second mic when matching some ADR). 

 

  5)  But I have used short guns a lot in some situations like ad-hoc booths. If you put it in the right place for VO, inverse square will lower most of the room effects. Just don't try to use it at boom distances unless you're outdoors or in a very good space.

       I also love using a short gun with kids. I sit them in a chair, so they're 'spiked' to the right position, and then mic them with a short gun from about 9" away. I put a Stieff stuffed animal on the mic, being careful not to block the directional holes, and tell the kid to 'talk to the tiger'. Not only does it give them focus; it also guides them to the right projection level, and stops them from "performing" for the mic.

fig01.jpg

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4 hours ago, Jay Rose said:

Since Jim Feeley asked:

  1)  My all-time favorite is an RCA 77 in good condition. I did a side-by-side with a U67 once, and the difference was amazing. U67 sounded like a good mic. 77 sounded like the actor was talking from the CR's UREIs.  (I then had a chance to do a 7.1 IMAX track where the v/o is interrupted by a wisecracking stagehand  - multiple mannikins with cued spotlights - walking around between the screen and the top of the dome. Used a U87 for the vo; 77 for the stagehand. He actually sounded live, compared to the announcer sound we're all used to from a good large-diaphragm condenser.)

      Of course the 77 requires a good room and high-gain preamp. Worth the effort.

 

  2)  For most of the 70s and 80s I standardized on AKG CK1 in my multiple radio spot rooms. The rooms had very good acoustics, radio doesn't need the deep lows of a large diaphragm, ad agencies hate long setup times, and the mics could be about 5" from the actors' mouths without blocking their sightlines, so two or three could look at each other while performing. (IMHO, radio production used to be a lot more sophisticated than most of what's on the air now.) (And we were winning a lot of Clios, Andys, and other awards.)

 

  3)  When I needed some large diaphragm condensers, I had my dealer give me a bunch to try out. I spent an evening with another engineer/voice, taking turns in the booth and then listening. We had sort-of settled on an AudioTechnica as being the best sounding, and then Dan came out of the booth to talk with me in the CR... and I realized it didn't sound like him live. What we were hearing was the mic's 'flattering' (aka distortion), which would lock us into a sound and could become fatiguing after a few long sessions. We went with the AKG 414 instead.

 

  4)  I've never used a long gun in a booth (except when necessary as a second mic when matching some ADR). 

 

  5)  But I have used short guns a lot in some situations like ad-hoc booths. If you put it in the right place for VO, inverse square will lower most of the room effects. Just don't try to use it at boom distances unless you're outdoors or in a very good space.

       I also love using a short gun with kids. I sit them in a chair, so they're 'spiked' to the right position, and then mic them with a short gun from about 9" away. I put a Stieff stuffed animal on the mic, being careful not to block the directional holes, and tell the kid to 'talk to the tiger'. Not only does it give them focus; it also guides them to the right projection level, and stops them from "performing" for the mic.

fig01.jpg

What a great post, I love the "talk to the tiger" bit.

A little off topic but are you talking RCA 77A or the much smaller 77 DX? Which polar pattern do you prefer? I recently had 2 RCA 77DX serviced by Clarence Kane for exactly the reasons you state, we normally use U87Ai for Voice Over work but I always felt that I needed a more natural sounding alternative and we had a few of them lying around with the leads clipped off. I really like the 77DX but am still in the experimental stages regarding a proper mic pre. You mention a "high gain pre amp", do you have any recommendations that don't involve vintage OP-6s or replicas? I am reasonably happy with the Aphex 1788A (input transformer set to "un-loaded" per RCAs old manuals) but given what a huge difference transformer vs electrically balanced inputs and impedance in general makes when using this mic I was wondering if you have any recommendations.

Thanks

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18 hours ago, Scape27 said:

 

But I feel like I'm getting into a totally different game here. If I understand correctly the Schoeps MK4 is "just" the capsule that needs to be associated with a CMC mic amp ? That will basically blow my budget through the roof ... As for preamps, I 've been hoping all along that my Audient iD22 audio interface would have enough gain to drive more or less any mic I can throw at it, including dynamics such as an EV - RE-27 or Shure SM7.

 

You are correct, the Schoeps MK4 capsule also needs a CMC pre amp body, but you certainly could find these in the used market considerably less expensive. Be aware that certain older bodies like the CMC4 are T powered. 

 

Regarding mic pre amps, I highly recommend the Sound Devices MM1. We used those in a voice over studio in Los Angeles because they were the same as location sound mixers used, have high gain, and a very transparent limiter (when engaged). I use two of them for my boom ops, and I’ll never sell or replace them!

18 hours ago, Jay Rose said:

I've never used a long gun in a booth (except when necessary as a second mic when matching some ADR). 

 

Our VO studio used 415s and I found that they sounded shrilly and had audible room reflexions despite acoustical treatment. Even when the production mic was the same. They also used Focusrite pre amps which accentuated all the bad parts of those mics. I started using small diaphragm cardioid condensers because I could get reasonably close sounding VOs or ADR, EQ them, and add reverb to match the original acoustics. I also added Sound Devices MM1s to the signal chain.  Our boss was big on not having the obvious hallmarks of old time ADR so we perfected the process pretty well. I learned about Schoeps mics later and wish I had them for those days. They are just perfect and so little to do to make them fit in or stand out with any kind of track. I now own several Schoeps mics and covet them like my own children!

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In my radio station experiences (many moons ago) I remember the Shure sm7b, Electro Voice RE20, Neumann BCM104/705, and the AKG C414. Probably others that I'm forgetting right now. All sounded great. 

All this doesn't answer your shotgun question though. 

I have used a Schoeps CMC6/mk41to record v/o in the field on occasion.

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On ‎4‎/‎15‎/‎2019 at 11:33 AM, Eric said:

 ...Neumann BCM104/705....

I'm curious about your experience with the Neumann (which one?) I can't speak to the 104 ( a condenser) but I do have the BCM 705, the first (and hopefully last) dynamic mic Neumann has made. In my view it ranks among the worst microphones ever made. When it arrived at my place of employment it was supposed to "fix room problems". The mic had a tight pickup pattern but sounded extremely unnatural, harsh, sibilant and with a wonky midrange. As soon as I could I pulled it out of service and fixed the room's problems instead. I proceeded to store the mic in its original container in a dry, room temperature environment. A few years later I pulled it out just for fun and it now sounded completely broken, very hollow. The diaphragm doesn't seem to age very well. I suspect that this happens due to material breakdown of the plastics or glues involved. Not Neumann's finest moment and not anywhere comparable to the other mics listed in this thread.

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FWIW the AKG ck1 is also just a capsule. It needs a 451 or 460 powering module. While it's a small mic that can even run on 9v, it's a properly high-voltage externally polarized cap (clever little inverter/transformer/booster in the preamp). That line also includes omni, short gun, and long gun versions for the same 451. 

 

Their "BlueLine" is very similar but uses an electret capsule. Cheaper and a bit more self-noise, which might not matter for most v/o recording.

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22 hours ago, Werner Althaus said:

BCM 705

Used it once on a guitar amp. Was great for that, bit overkill though. 😀
Yeah I share your opinion for "voice use". 

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On 4/16/2019 at 1:45 PM, Werner Althaus said:

I'm curious about your experience with the Neumann (which one?) I can't speak to the 104 ( a condenser) but I do have the BCM 705, the first (and hopefully last) dynamic mic Neumann has made. In my view it ranks among the worst microphones ever made. When it arrived at my place of employment it was supposed to "fix room problems". The mic had a tight pickup pattern but sounded extremely unnatural, harsh, sibilant and with a wonky midrange. As soon as I could I pulled it out of service and fixed the room's problems instead. I proceeded to store the mic in its original container in a dry, room temperature environment. A few years later I pulled it out just for fun and it now sounded completely broken, very hollow. The diaphragm doesn't seem to age very well. I suspect that this happens due to material breakdown of the plastics or glues involved. Not Neumann's finest moment and not anywhere comparable to the other mics listed in this thread.

It was probably the BCM 104. I don't really know though. Used in control rooms of soundproofed radio stations.

I worked at radio station as a operator many years ago (at least 20 - when I got out of school) and they had those mics installed in the control rooms of one radio stations I worked at. They sounded great with the on air talent. 

I didn't make any purchasing decisions, they were just there. 
I did have to record sports scores when working overnight for their sports score call-in line (the internet killed that) and I thought the AKG C414 reproduced my voice well. It's more of a David Spade vs. James Earl Jones voice, but the mic captured what it was.

Sorry to her yours "disintegrated" (?). That's disheartening.

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I also considered Sennheiser MKH 416 for buying. But this mic is quite expensive as well as Sennheiser 8060. Maybe used models will be a decision. Or just look for cheaper versions here...

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you may find a used sennheiser mkh 416 for around 400€ - 500€ with a little bit of research,

this mic is very reliable.

if you want to buy new i would buy a sennheiser 8060, its a more modern design, lighter, shorter and has a better sound of axis and indoors, here in germany its 1000€, i think that is a very reasonable price for a high quality robust and professional tool...

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