Microphones for Professional Voice Actors: The Ultimate Guide

In the world of voice acting, your voice is your most valuable asset. But to truly capture the depth, range, and nuance of your voice, having the right microphone is paramount. As the bridge between performance and recording, the microphone acts as the lens through which your audience experiences your voice, so choosing the right microphone to record your performance is important.

Technology advances daily, and there are many different types of microphones available, each designed for specific purposes. For voice actors, both experienced and new, it’s important to know about all these choices, and how they affect a voice recording. The microphone you pick will affect how your work sounds. It can change how warm and full, or how clear your voice sounds, and can make your performance seem better or worse to an audience. Beyond this, an incorrect choice of microphone could result in a poor recording output, leaving your client dissatisfied.

This guide aims to unravel the complexities of microphone types, and arm you with the knowledge needed to make an informed decision before you purchase a mic. Whether you’re setting up a professional studio, or a simple home setup, we’ll delve into the different types of microphones, their characteristics, and the factors you need to consider to bring out the best in your voice.

Importance of Microphone Choice in Voice Acting

Each microphone has its distinct characteristics. These characteristics are baked into the mic by its physical, and electronic design. A voice over artist must understand these distinct qualities that are emphasised or supressed when using a particular microphone, or microphone type, and use these qualities to his or her advantage, to capture a performance that is stunning.

The qualities that microphones exhibit include the direction in which they pick up sound, the frequences that they pick up and enhance, and how they capture detail in the audio. Different classes of microphones, like Shotguns, lav mics, and omnidirectional mics have specialised uses that make their use in other situations problematic. Of course, there are always exceptions to rules, and you’ll see some here too.

Types of Microphones

Before we dive into specific models, it’s essential to understand the different types of microphones available and how they function. In this article, we talk about:

  1. Dynamic Microphones
  2. Condenser Microphones
  3. Ribbon Microphones
  4. USB Microphones
  5. Lavalier Microphones
  6. Shotgun Microphones

As you can see, microphones are incredibly diverse in terms of design and technology. Each type offers unique characteristics that make it more suitable for certain applications. In the realm of voice acting, capturing the richness and texture of the human voice is crucial, and the type of microphone you use plays a significant role in this.

From dynamic to condenser, ribbon to USB, each microphone type has its own set of advantages and quirks. In this section, we will explore the primary categories of microphones, shedding light on their fundamental principles and identifying the situations where they shine the most in voice acting.

Dynamic Microphones

Dynamic microphones are known for their durability and ability to handle high sound pressure levels. They work using a simple design where sound waves move a small diaphragm connected to a coil of wire, which then moves within a magnetic field, creating an electrical signal. This design makes dynamic microphones less sensitive to subtle sounds and background noise, which is often an advantage in live performances or loud environments.

For voice-over artists and voice actors, a dynamic microphone can be very useful, especially when recording in less controlled environments or when dealing with louder voice work.

However, they might not capture the full range of nuances in a voice as well as other types of microphones, like condenser mics, which are more sensitive and better suited for capturing detailed sound in a studio setting.

DurableMight not capture the intricacies of a soft-spoken performance
Generally less expensive than other types
Excellent for recording loud sources
Pros and Cons for Dynamic Microphones

Condenser Microphones

Condenser microphones are the go-to choice for many voice actors they are known for their sensitivity and ability to capture a wide range of sound frequencies with great detail. These microphones operate on a different principle than dynamic mics. They use a lightweight diaphragm that’s suspended close to a backplate, forming a capacitor. When sound hits this diaphragm, it moves, changing the capacitance, and thus creating the audio signal. This design makes condenser mics exceptionally responsive to the nuances and subtleties of the human voice.

For voice-over artists and voice actors, condenser microphones are incredibly valuable, particularly in a studio setting where capturing the clarity, warmth, and emotional nuances of the voice is crucial. They excel in controlled environments, where their sensitivity to sound detail can be fully utilised without interference from background noise.

However, this high sensitivity means they can pick up unwanted ambient noise if not used in a sound-controlled environment. Also, they are generally more delicate and require external power, known as phantom power, making them less suitable for rough, on-the-go use compared to dynamic microphones. The external power is supplied by a mixer or audio interface.

High sensitivityMore fragile than dynamic microphones
Excellent frequency responseRequires external power
Ideal for studio recording
Pros and Cons for Condenser Microphones

Ribbon Microphones

Ribbon microphones are a unique and classic type of microphone known for their natural, warm sound quality. They operate using a thin, lightweight metal ribbon suspended in a magnetic field. When sound waves hit the ribbon, it vibrates, and the movement within the magnetic field generates the electrical signal. This design allows ribbon mics to capture sound with a high level of accuracy and a smooth, vintage character, often described as warm and silky.

For voice-over artists and voice actors, ribbon microphones offer a distinct sound that can be particularly appealing for certain types of voice work. They excel in capturing the natural tones and subtle nuances of the human voice, making them a favored choice for studio recording where a rich, authentic sound is desired.

However, ribbon microphones have some limitations. They are typically more fragile than dynamic and condenser microphones, requiring careful handling. They’re also less effective in handling high sound pressure levels, and can be more prone to damage if exposed to loud sounds. Additionally, their sensitivity to higher frequencies is not as pronounced as condenser microphones, which might be a consideration depending on the specific requirements of the voice-over work. Despite these considerations, ribbon microphones remain a valued tool for artists seeking a classic, warm sound quality in their recordings.

Warm sound characteristicsFragile
Excellent for capturing delicate nuancesNot suitable for loud sources
Pros and Cons for Ribbon Microphones

USB Microphones

USB microphones are a modern and convenient type of microphone that connect directly to a computer or other devices via a USB port. They have built-in analog-to-digital converters, meaning they can convert sound into digital format on their own, without needing an external audio interface. This makes USB mics a popular choice for podcasters, streamers, and those who need a simple, plug-and-play solution for recording. USB microphones are more about the convenience of not needing an external interface or mixer to connect to a computer. As a result, USB microphones can be either Dynamic or Condenser in type.

For voice-over artists and voice actors, especially those working from home or in makeshift studios, USB microphones offer an easy and affordable entry into high-quality recording, although low-quality USB microphones are more commonly found. A selection of the good microphones are great for voice work that requires a straightforward setup with minimal equipment, like podcasting, streaming, or basic voice-over projects.

However, USB microphones generally do not match the sound quality of professional-grade dynamic, condenser, or ribbon microphones. They may have limitations in terms of sound depth, range, and customization options. Additionally, while their ease of use is a significant advantage, it also means they offer less control over the recording process compared to traditional microphones that use an audio interface.

Despite these drawbacks, USB microphones are an excellent choice for voice artists looking for a balance between convenience, affordability, and reasonable sound quality.

Easy to useMight not offer the same level of quality as traditional condenser microphones
PortableLess control over the audio quality
Can choose from dynamic or condenser USB microphones
Pros and Cons for USB Microphones

Lavalier Microphones

Lavalier microphones, often referred to as lapel mics, are small, discreet microphones typically clipped onto clothing. They are designed for hands-free operation, making them ideal for situations where the speaker needs to move around or when the microphone should remain unobtrusive. Lavaliers can be either wired, with a cable connecting to a recording device, or wireless, offering greater mobility.

For voice-over artists and voice actors, lavalier microphones are not particularly useful. However, they are used extensively in film, television, theater, and live speaking engagements where mobility is essential, and the visual presence of a microphone is undesirable. In the case of voice-over artists, since they’re recording audio off-screen, this flexibility is not required.

Lavalier microphones have some limitations. They are generally not as capable of capturing the full range and nuances of the voice as larger, more specialized microphones like condenser or ribbon mics. Their placement on clothing can sometimes lead to issues with fabric noise, and they may pick up more body and movement sounds. Additionally, their small size can mean a compromise in sound quality compared to larger microphones.

For voice over work, where the audio quality is paramount, and the size of the microphone is not an issue, these microphones aren’t used.

PortableMight capture clothing rustle or other handling noises
Hands-free operationNot really needed for Voice Over Artists
Pros and Cons for Lavelier Microphones

Shotgun Microphones

Shotgun microphones are highly directional microphones known for their long, narrow shape and their ability to pick up sound from a distance. They are designed with a tube-like structure that focuses on capturing sound from the front, significantly reducing noise from the sides and rear. This directional characteristic is achieved through an interference tube in front of the microphone capsule, which helps isolate the sound that the microphone is pointed at, making it ideal for targeting specific sound sources in noisy environments.

Shotgun microphones can be particularly useful in situations where the microphone needs to be out of the shot, such as in film and television production, or when recording in environments where it’s crucial to minimize ambient noise. They are excellent for capturing dialogue with clarity, especially in outdoor settings or large, open spaces. Some shotgun microphones have become staples in the voice-over artists studio because it becomes easier to match the sound that has been captured on set and on location. The Sennheiser MKH416 is one such microphone.

However, the highly directional nature of shotgun microphones means they require precise positioning, and are less forgiving if the sound source moves off-axis. They may not be the best choice for studio voice-over work where a more natural sound and a wider capture range are preferred, as found with condenser or ribbon microphones.

Nonetheless, for applications that demand targeted audio pickup from a distance and in challenging acoustic environments, shotgun microphones are an invaluable tool.

Highly directionalNot ideal for studio voice recordings
Isolates the sound sourceDoesn’t allow as much movement as a condenser or ribbon microphone
Pros and Cons for Shotgun Microphones

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Microphone

1. Environment

Before choosing a microphone, evaluate your recording environment. An acoustically treated studio will yield better results with sensitive microphones like condensers, while a noisier or untreated room might necessitate the use of dynamic or shotgun microphones to minimize ambient noise.

2. Budget

As with any investment, budget is a significant consideration. Generally, high-quality microphones come at a higher price. However, there are budget options that perform exceptionally well. It is advisable to set a realistic budget that does not compromise the quality too much.

3. Type of Recording

Different voice-over projects may require different sound characteristics. For instance, if you’re recording audiobooks or podcasts, you might want a microphone that captures a natural and transparent sound. For character voices, a microphone that can capture a wide range of frequencies and emotions is essential.

4. Portability and Durability

If you plan on traveling or moving your setup frequently, consider the durability and portability of the microphone. Some microphones are delicate and are best suited for permanent studio setups.

5. Polar Patterns

Microphones can have different polar patterns, which means they capture sound differently. For instance, cardioid microphones capture sound in front of them and are great for isolating the voice from the environment. Omnidirectional microphones capture sound from all directions and can be useful in certain recording situations.

6. Connectivity

Consider how the microphone connects to your recording device. XLR microphones are standard in the industry and will require an audio interface, while USB microphones can be connected directly to your computer.

7. Brand and Reviews

Often the brand name and reviews can give you an insight into the microphone’s performance. Look for brands that are reputable among voice actors and read reviews to see the experiences of others.

Popular Microphones for Voice Acting

1. Neumann U87

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Multipattern
  • Price Range: High-end

The Neumann U87 is an industry standard for voice-over professionals. It’s known for its warm sound that excellently captures the human voice. It has multiple polar patterns, which makes it versatile for various recording situations.

2. Shure SM7B

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Price Range: Mid-range

The Shure SM7B is a favorite among podcasters and voice actors alike. Its dynamic nature allows it to minimize background noise effectively, and its built-in shock mount and pop shield enhance the recording quality.

3. Audio-Technica AT2020USB+

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Price Range: Entry-level

The Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ is an excellent choice for those looking for quality on a budget. With its USB connectivity, it’s especially good for voice actors who are on the move or those who don’t want to invest in an audio interface.

4. Rode NT1-A

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Price Range: Mid-range

The Rode NT1-A is praised for its clarity and quiet performance. It’s ideal for voice actors who require a clean and transparent sound. It also comes with a shock mount and pop filter.

5. Sennheiser MKH 416

  • Type: Shotgun
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Price Range: High-end

The Sennheiser MKH 416 is a shotgun microphone popular in film and television. It is excellent for voice acting as it isolates the voice and minimizes room noise. It’s particularly useful for those who do not have an acoustically treated space.

Certainly! Here are the details for the Neumann TLM 103, Electro-Voice RE20, Audio-Technica AT4040, and AKG C214 in the same format:

6. Neumann TLM 103

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Price Range: High-end

The Neumann TLM 103 is often considered a more affordable alternative to the U87, while still offering exceptional quality. It is known for its ability to capture a clean, crisp, and detailed sound, making it ideal for voice overs where clarity is key. The TLM 103 has a very low self-noise, which means it doesn’t add much, if any, noise to recordings.

7. Electro-Voice RE20

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Price Range: Mid-range

The Electro-Voice RE20 is a classic dynamic microphone, popular among broadcasters and voice-over artists. It’s known for its smooth sound, and ability to capture deep tones. The RE20 has a Variable-D design which minimizes the proximity effect, allowing for consistent sound capture even at different distances and angles.

8. Audio-Technica AT4040

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Price Range: Mid-range

The Audio-Technica AT4040 is a versatile condenser microphone that offers a wide dynamic range. It captures sound with high fidelity and has a low noise floor. This microphone is praised for its transparent sound and is often used for a variety of vocal applications, including voice overs.

9. AKG C214

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Price Range: Mid-range

The AKG C214 is designed as a budget-friendly alternative to the high-end AKG C414. It captures a clear and detailed sound with a warm low end. The C214 has a rugged construction and high SPL handling, making it a durable and versatile option for voice actors.


Choosing the right microphone is a critical step in establishing oneself as a professional voice actor. By understanding the nuances of different types of microphones and taking into account factors such as environment, budget, and the type of recording, voice actors can make an informed decision that best suits their needs and career goals. It’s essential to remember that the microphone is an investment, and selecting the right one can greatly impact the quality of your work.

Susheel C is a professional voice over artist who understands that the right choice of microphones is critical to capture a nuanced voice over performance. In his sound-treated studio he uses Audio Technica AT4040 and AT815b microphones to capture his voice, and convey the message to your audience with clarity and high definition. Connect with Susheel today to learn more about his process.

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