A SIMPLE, COST-EFFECTIVE HOME STUDIO IS ALL YOU NEED:
You’ll find lots of different takes on an equipment list for a home studio. I’m not really an engineer, so I don’t have (or need) the most tricked out studio. My equipment is not expensive, it’s simple and sounds great.
Home auditioning is pretty straight forward. You record single track performances, do retakes, edit them down and email them in. This process requires less expensive recording technology than most would think. Less is more for a voice actor like me.
The sound quality needs to be decent, but it’s an Mp3 audition that probably won’t be heard under optimal acoustic conditions anyway (it does need to sound technically on par with the other auditions your agent is submitting). I’m not a fan of the whole “ProTools” set up that many get in order to feel they have a “professional” studio. I find it way too expensive, overly complex and a pain to learn and operate in general. My set up is simpler.
Here’s what I use and how much it cost me:
1. I record to Garage Band that comes pre-installed on my Mac mini. It is incredibly simple and intuitive and can record multi track and more if I want. It sounds great. Easy to drop in a karaoke Mp3 from iTunes for a singing audition, as well. For auditioning purposes, it is terrific. About $1000 for the computer/monitor.
2. I plug my XLR mic (XLR refers to the connector on a professional quality mic) into an inexpensive digital audio interface (Mic Port Pro- a “D/A converter” that is about the size and shape of a magic marker). This plugs directly into my Mac’s USB port. It has separate volume controls on the converter for the mic level and earphone level. Pretty awesome. This nifty device allows me to plug any professional quality mic into my computer. $150.
3. I warm up the mic’s sound with a microphone pre-amp which features “tube emulation” and a compressor to guard against sudden fluctuations in sound level. This can run you anywhere from just over $100 to well over $1000.
4. I use a relatively inexpensive SE Electronics XLR mic that my friend, voice-actor Corey Burton, recommended. He also really likes the Studio Projects C-1 mic, which I also own. Sure, you can buy an industry standard Neumann mic if you’ve got a few thousand sitting around. Me? This inexpensive Burton-approved mic sounds pretty great. There exist USB mics that may fill the bill, but I’ve not tested any. Make sure your production quality is at least as good as your agency’s and that they feel good about the quality of your read and your production. Around $400.
5. I record my auditions inside an 8′x12′ “vocal booth” studio that I purchased on the web and set up in my garage. I got mine from VocalBooth.com a good while back. Whisperroom is also popular. There are also many new options now for mini “porta studios” that allow recording in a closet or small room, some that are essentially a small foam box with an open side that encases your mic in sound-deadening foam so that your vocals sounds like you’re in a studio. Pretty cool! Hunt around online for examples of home studio options and read the reviews.
6. A decent pair of headphones, preferably over-the-ear, to avoid “noise bleed.” Pony up some moolah for comfort as your ears will get tired quickly from cheap headphones. Maybe $200-$300.
7. (advanced) I have an old Telos Zephyr ISDN codec that I use on occasion to work from my home studio- most of the A-list voice-actors I know have one of these. It’s a special broadband phone connection that allows studio quality sound recording remotely. It ain’t cutting edge, but neither is the electronic infrastructure of most of Hollywood. Most all of my type of voice work, (animation, movies, interactive games) is recorded in a professional studio with director and cast present. You probably don’t need one of these.
When your career gets more advanced, you can get an ISDN set up (or equivalent) so you can actually work from home (or even from a laptop in any hotel with an ISDN connection). The guys I know that take it this mobile are doing promos, though. As I said, an ISDN set up is pricey and will probably become advantageous later in your career.
I like purchasing my equipment from http://www.zzounds.com, sweetwater.com, B & H Audio/Video or even random places on Amazon. Read reviews, compare prices and shipping and return policies on anything you order