Welcome to the gear rec document! I’ll update this as I find new information. Make sure to open the Document Outline for easier searching. Happy podcasting!
First, some companies that I probably won’t trust again after bad experiences with quality and/or customer service:
Blue Microphones (too many broken-on-arrival products)
CAD Audio (This one is a total shame because the E100S sounds PHENOMENAL and you can find them used for great prices, but an absolutely ridiculous number have a loud hum and customer service is awful)
Cathedral Pipes (poor quality gain booster that broke within a week, worse customer service)
Guitar Center (too many broken-on-arrival products, although they are good about taking them back as returns, at least)
Tascam (too many broken products)
Also, there are some popular types of mics I generally don’t recommend, especially for voices like mine:
Dynamic mics (they lose too much at the high end, and the expensive ones need more expensive equipment to work and have a lot of self-noise)
USB mics (almost any interface at all is going to sound better, I promise. This is because of the proximity of the electrical “stuff” in the interface is way too close to the actual mic in a USB mic)
Shotgun mics (I have a $1,000 one on here, but even that wouldn’t be my first choice unless my environment were horrendous and I was only doing advertisements/radio, not audiobooks or audio drama etc.)
Okay, enough negativity. Here’s the good stuff:
Not super exciting, but you do need something to plug your shiny new mic into. 🙂 Feel free to jump via the document outline if you’re already familiar with what interfaces are.
+FAQ: Why do I need one of these expensive things? Can I just plug my XLR mic into my PC?
I mean… you can try! Good luck with that? Audio interfaces are little boxes that basically turn your XLR mic into a USB mic. Your XLR cable will go into the mic at one end and the interface at the other. The interface will connect to your computer via USB and let you adjust some mic settings and provide power to your condenser mic. As you will quickly learn, there is no port on most PCs for an XLR cable, and XLR to USB cables sound dreadful on dynamic mics and don’t provide any power to condenser mics. So, yes, you need one, sorry.
+FAQ: Do I need other stuff?
Nope, just an XLR cable for each mic you plan on plugging in, plus the cable (usually a printer cable!) to plug your interface into the computer. Oh, and possibly an AC adaptor, if your interface needs it. Some do, some don’t.
You don’t need a “tube pre” or anything else fancy. And unless you are doing live streams/shows, you’re actually better off not getting extra compressors and whatnot. I looked int If you do need the compressor or something, the mic plugs into the compressor via XLR, and the compressor plugs into your interface via the line-in option (usually). But again, you really don’t need anything like that.
$50-150 Presonus Audiobox USB, possibly used.
$70-$200 Anything USB by Focusrite Scarlett! Even used. Mischa Stanton has used this brand very successfully, and I am also a fan now. I recommend a bundle if you’re low on cash, overwhelmed, or just want a set of stuff that works for once, dang it.
$200-400 Audient ID4, ID14, ID22
$250ish ZOOM H5 (can also record portable Foley—don’t use it as a direct interface tbh)
$400ish ZOOM H6 ( The included MSH capsule makes an okayvoiceover mic, and apparently this one CAN be used as a direct interface)
You can record on a portable recorder like the Zoom H5 (like I do! And lots of other pros!) but either way you’re going to need a device for editing on. Personally, I like recording on my Zoom H5 and editing on my Macbook, but I’ve included some extra options to meet a variety of budgets and workflows.
Can you do this? Yes, technically. Would I recommend it? Not as a general rule, especially for anything professional or that involves recording multiple people. Also, editing is a pain, and you’re limited on mics. If you have no other choice, avoid Bluetooth and make up for it by sound treating your space as best you can. I’ve tried a few products, although there are a few others (especially lapel mics) I haven’t looked at much just because this was very clearly not the way I wanted to go! Anyway, here are some gear options:
$29: Apple iPhone Camera USB Adaptor (for using any USB mic/interface)
$30: V-Moda Boom Pro (BYO headphones)
$99: Rode iXY
Good news! You can now use many Chromebooks to run Linux programs without doing anything more than checking a box! This makes Chromebooks (with the right specs) an option for recording and editing audio with software like Reaper or Audacity.
Chromebooks tend to be cheap, sturdy, and easy to acquire, and they often lack noisy fans—so if you like having your whole computer in the booth with you while you record, they can be good choices! An older laptop or desktop with some long cords so it can blow it’s noisy fans outside your booth is probably going to be more cost efficient for what you get with a Chromebook, but it’s good to know your options.
Features to look for:
4 GB of memory bare minimum (8GB preferable)
Intel chips usually play nicer with Linux. Recent gen i3 or higher is ideal.
Expandable memory (or possibly an external hard drive if possible?)
Capable of running Linux apps (most newish ones can, but double check on Google before buying)
Not much to say here! Used can work fine. Linux is usually okay. Specs to look for:
Recent gen i5 or i7
512 GB SSD hard drive or higher
Grab some extra long cords and make sure you have a keyboard/monitor/mouse in your booth if you plan to record on it.
Similar to the PC. Not sure what to say about it!
2012 or newer MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Mac Pro, or iMac should be fine.
Same specs as PC.
Grab some extra long cords and make sure you have a keyboard/monitor/mouse in your booth if you plan to record on it.
Okay so I don’t have a ton to say about headphones because you don’t need too much, but if you want a single multipurpose pair of cans, I’d get something flat sounding with maybe a little low end boost, closed back to isolate noise while recording, and self-adjusting headband (like the Scarlett, AKG, and iSK headphones) to avoid weird clicks on your tracks. Here are a few on my list:
$20: Scarlett headphones from one of the bundles (check eBay)
$45: AKG K72 closed back headphones (Love AKG cans!)
$75: iSK HD-9999 (my current set, probably an AKG clone)
$80: Sony MDR7506 (better just for editing maybe?)
$100: Sennheiser HD280 PRO (apparently uncomfortable but awesome? Maybe just for editing?)
$175: Beyerdynamic DT 770 (These are on my wishlist for editing!)
This is by far the biggest section. That’s because there’s a huge price range, and everyone’s voice will sound better on a different mic. I’ve tried so many, and a lot (even a few on this list) weren’t great for my voice. However, please note that for obvious reasons, this is based on my personal preference/need for warm-leaning mics and very low self-noise.
Also note that 100% of these mics are XLR mics—I strongly believe that you’ll get drastically better results from the cheapest interface you can find + the cheapest mic on this list than you will with an USB mic. If you aren’t sure how to plug the XLR mic into your computer, jump up a bit to “Audio Interfaces.”
Passably Pro Mics Under $150
These are all awesome mics under $150. You will probably eventually decide to upgrade from these mics if you have the funds and want to take your audio quality to a professional level. (See the next section for that.) However, these are all excellent mics for their prices—just because you could upgrade from them doesn’t mean you have to. I’ve tried to find the very best mics for the money, and I feel confident that with the right skills and room treatment, you could make decent money doing pro voiceover/voice acting—I definitely did with several of them!
$25: Focusrite Scarlett CM25
This is an awesome mic but hard to find solo! It normally comes with the Scarlett bundles. Check eBay. Very forgiving of vocal techniques and room setup. For the price, I was totally blown away!
$29: iSK Pearl (Pencil LDC)
These are awesome little LDCs in a tiny pencil form, but you have to order them from Canada. Nonetheless, I LOVE THIS MIC! If you have a little more money, you could do a stereo set of these—you even get a free stereo mount if you buy two. But they're great solo, especially in untreated spaces. I can’t say enough nice things about this mic! Its price is outrageous, especially when IMO it blows away almost everything else I’ve used under $500. I’ve actually sold every other mic in this category, but not this one!
$116: 3U Audio CM-1 TEAL
I haven’t tried this mic yet, but it gets rave reviews for its price point. The Warbler I and IV also get mentioned, but I have not tried them. (Price is for direct purchase from dealer via email; they’re slightly more through eBay)
$145: Audio Technica AT2035
This mic is solid, clear, and made by a trusted company. Mischa Stanton recommended the mic to me when I got started, and it was definitely not a bad choice. I got TONS of compliments on my audio with it for the first few Oakpodcast episodes, despite being a total newb with no idea how to curb my sibilance or master my audio. I think it’s a lot better than the 2020, and although it’s not the best on my voice, it’s definitely a quality mic for the price point.
$149: Lewitt 240 Pro
Lewitt is another good company with low self-noise mics, and BoothJunkie liked this mic a lot for the price. I can’t find any reviews on a higher pitched voice, but it seems really high quality if you’re on a budget. Definitely worth trying, at least.
$150 (ish): Scarlett Solo, 2i2, etc. Bundle
These are so wonderful and sturdy, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend getting one used if that’s all you can afford. These bundles come with the interface, so if you’re looking at USB mics in this price point, PLEASE STOP. The sound on this bundle will be way better, I promise. And it even comes with a lot of other gear you need, like cords and cables and great headphones, and the CM25 is an awesome little workhorse mic!
Mics that should be decent but I haven’t tried them personally:
Neat Microphones “Worker Bee” MDC ($89)
Samson C02 Stereo Set ($100)
MXL V67G ($70)
Mercurial Pro Mics $200–500
So, you’re ready to upgrade to something that will sound undeniably professional? Something you’ll baby and keep forever and use to make lots of money in your pro voiceover career? Awesome! Here are some high quality, professional-sounding mics in the $200-$500 range. Many of these are used by pro studios!
The thing to keep in mind that mics in this range tend to be hit or miss. When they hit, they often hit better than mics 2 or 3 times their price! But when they miss, they really miss. So do your own research, test out the mics if you can, and don’t get discouraged if it takes a while to find your forever mic in this range. And if you really want the best money can buy, or if you have a voice most mics are a “miss” for, check the next category for the cheapest industry standard mics.
$200: Audio Technica AT4040
(Watch for sales, as it's often this price!) Audio Technica is a really solid brand, and this mic is used in pro studios all over the country. It has a reputation for sounding good on any voice. IMO it doesn’t sound as good on nasally voices, but otherwise I think its reputation holds from what I’ve listened to. I don’t know that I’d use it on my voice, but this is a common pro studio mic.
$269: Lewitt 440 Pure
This mic has extremely low self-noise, and it sounds lovely in reviews! I haven’t tried it yet, but this company seems to be making really good flat, low-noise mics, which is exactly what you want for voiceover.
$299: Sennheiser MK4
This is one of the most awarded mics out there, and Sennheiser is part of the Neumann company. It’s a slightly warm mic with low self-noise, and it gets rave reviews. It definitely sounds really good, and I think most people could make a nice living as a voiceover pro with this mic.
$299: Aston Origin
This mic sounds really good, although it’s a bit bright. With my voice, I’d either go for the Sennheiser MK4 at this price point or try to find a used Aston Spirit. Both the Aston Origin and Aston Spirit have some built-in EQ, so if it sounds nice on your voice, that can be a major plus if you’re not a confident audio editor.
$340: used Warm Audio WA14
I believe this is an AKG 414 B-ULS clone, and to my ears it sounds almost indistinguishable. Given that the AKG 414 is up there with the Neumann TLM 103 as being one of the $1100 “industry standard” mics, this should give you a really nice pro sound. Warm Audio also seems to be a well-respected clone company with good QC. I probably wouldn’t pay full price for this clone, but they’re easy enough to find used.
$350: TESTED and NOT-DEFECTIVE CAD E100S
Oh, CAD. They made this beautiful mic that beats even Neumanns in blind voiceover comparison tests judged by experts, advertise it as having the lowest self-noise of any mic (3.7db), and then use such terrible QC that half the mics have a noticeably loud defective hum. Why??? This mic sounds absolutely lovely, especially if you can get it on MassDrop or eBay new for the $350 range. But be prepared to pay for shipping to send it to CAD—if you can get through their awful customer service to get a return authorization. I bought one and had such a bad experience, I swore off it forever, despite loving the sound (what you could hear over the hum, anyway). And even if yours works now, more and more of them are breaking after just a year or two. Yikes…
$450: Aston Spirit
This sounds even better than the Origin, and when it’s unprocessed, I think it sounds better even than some Neumanns! So if you’re really afraid of mastering your audio, this might be a good choice. You can find it used for much cheaper, and it seems to go on sale. Also, all Aston mics have such a cool, something-punk look. I know looks aren’t everything, but… come on! That’s a unique mic!
Industry Standard Mics $500+
These are the most expensive mics on the list, and tbh, I don’t think the vast majority of people will notice or need the very slight difference in quality between the two most expensive mics on this list and a mic ? their price. And if you spent that money on sound treatments instead of a mic, the cheaper mic will usually sound infinitely better! So that’s definitely something to consider. Here are the main reasons to get one of these mics:
You have a tricky voice that sounds bad on most mics
Your paying clients/target audience care a lot about mic brands
You plan on recording multiple actors on one mic
You have $500-1100 to spare and just want the best home studio mic in that range
You just really want to get one, for some reason??? (No judgements here, lol)
Okay, with that disclaimer over with, here are the mics:
$525: Neumann TLM 102 (on sale)
I got my beloved TLM 102 from ProAudioStar.com for this price (open box, authorized retailer), and they offered to upgrade me to a sealed one for less than $30 more. I probably didn’t need to, but if you know my luck with audio tech, you can probably understand why I quickly agreed! The Neumann TLM 102 is similar to the TLM 103 (see below) but sounds much more honest and is much more forgiving of sibilance. I’m quite pleased with it, but it is definitely a lot less flattering and forgiving of general bad technique or room tone. I don’t necessarily mind that, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for beginners. Still, this is a really good price for any Neumann, it sounds phenomenal, and I like that the Neumann name means more clients and good customer service.
$999: Sennheiser MKH 416 Shotgun Mic
This is common in studios for VO, but IMO it sounds a lot better on deeper voices than mine. Still, it’s one of the most forgiving mics for environment on this list, so if that’s an extreme concern for you, it might be worth looking at.
$1100: AKG 414
Some people really like this mic for VO. I haven’t had a chance to try one yet because it’s more than I sold my old car for. I’ll update when I get to try it.
$1100: Neumann TLM 103
This is probably considered the industry standard home VO mic, and it sounds fine. IMO it doesn’t sound as good on higher pitched voices as deeper ones, and it does some weird stuff at higher frequencies that doesn’t sound good on my voice, but hey. Industry standard.
Aaaaand I’m going to stop here. I know there are more expensive mics out there, but I haven’t tried them and $1100 feels like a a high enough limit to stop at.
Furniture and Acoustics (TBA)
(To be added.)
Carpet padding and curtains/moving blankets for walls
Long cables + monitor (or use iPad for screen)
Gooseneck + Clamp