New and important information on VO topics we’ve covered.

Edge Studio

Last summer we updated some of our past articles. Now that the new year is rolling, let’s do that again. Here is updated and additional information on home voice-over studio equipment, recording software, hearing and vocal health, and more, including an insight on pencils.

Yes, pencils.

USB mics: Good enough for VO studios? (2 parts beginning Dec 1, 2017)

We compared various USB mics with traditional condensers. But there’s more to know about buying and using a mic than that. Here are a couple points we left out, because they weren’t directly relevant to the immediate subject. But they are directly relevant to you.

  • Whatever the type of mic, you’ll still need a stand, preferably (depending on your situation and genre) a stand-up type with boom. You can get one for as little as $20 or so, or a professional setup could actually cost more than your mic. What’s the difference? Functionally, maybe none that you’d notice. A cheap one could tip over, or the positioning clutch might not hold up against the weight of your microphone and constant readjustment, or a relatively light-duty part might break, especially if you throw it in the back of a truck every night. But you’re not a show band. In your home VO studio, how often to you readjust your mic stand, anyway? If stability is a concern, sandbags or some 2.5 lb. weights in tied-up crew socks can help secure the feet, and, once secured against being top-heavy, you could hang or attach a counterweight on the boom. (Secure carefully!)
  • Just because a microphone is inexpensive, don’t get the idea that it’s disposable and doesn’t need to be handled with care. In fact, sometimes longevity is the major difference between a relatively pricey industry-standard mic and a cheap one that sounds very much like it. The more expensive mic is likely to sound good longer, and might be more resistant to wear and tear. But no typical professional studio mic will withstand mistreatment or outright abuse! So, whatever it cost, treat your mic as a fragile instrument. The flip side of this, as we noted in our article, is that starting out with a good, relatively inexpensive mic is often better than spending too much … better than skimping on other necessities or more fruitful investments, or saving up endlessly and not starting out at all. We tested just some of the many popular affordable options.

Vocal health calls for “Goldilocks” humidity this winter. (2 parts, beginning Oct 26, 2017)

After reading Part Two of this article, a reader commented that too much indoor humidity can be bad, too, because it promotes the growth of mold. That’s true, and important to note. We noted it in Part One of the article, but it would be good to mention it again here, in case you didn’t catch the full discussion. Catch the details in Part 1.

Interesting to note, when we wrote the article last summer, our inexpensive indoor hygrometer read about 55% relative humidity. In late December, in a closed room where humidity was not being maintained directly, it read 30% — probably too low for optimal health effect. Depending on your humidifying method, you might not be able to boost it more than a few percentage points, so plan on using the humidifier near where it’s most desired, or talk to a central-air expert. In any case, as long as you don’t go overboard, a small improvement may be better than none.

Who voices illegal robocalls? Should you remove certain telemarketers from your list? (3 parts beginning April 17, 2015, and follow-up June 21, 2017)

Illegal automated “robocalls” continue to be a “scourge” (the word used by new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai), with 2.4 BILLION robocalls to Americans every MONTH. We still have not found anyone who knows who voices recorded calls that are placed illegally, nor determined whether those voice artists are aware at the time that their performance will be used in violation of FTC rules. But we have found that some of the measures we mentioned do a passable job of minimizing junk calls and annoying rings for consumers. Consumers Union, which is the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, is doing its bit, through their “End Robocalls” campaign, which encourages phone companies to block illegal calls, and calls for FCC rules that allow them to do so. (According to Consumers Union, the FCC approved more such rules last November.)

One of our staffers uses, which – when it detects a known robocall — rings your phone only once. Some slip through, but most are caught. There are also other services and apps of that sort for call block and/or reporting.

So, happily, we don’t have quite so much experience at fielding illegal calls as some of us once did.

Monthly Audition Contest

In our comments regarding the First Place winner, we suggested using software such as iZotope RX Elements for removing mouth clicks (de-clicking). It’s still a good thought, but if you’re seriously into cleaning up your audio, our engineering department reminds us that the next level of this three-version product is where the real miracles begin. Their comparison chart
has a lot more functions. These iZotope products can be downloaded for trial, but the trial inserts periodic silence. We’re not “recommending” any particular software, but do want you to be aware that this is one of various options.

The easiest and cheapest option is to position yourself at the mic and be properly hydrated to minimize mouth clicks in the first place.

Do you have a voice-over studio “go bag”? (October 23, 2015)

We mentioned that you should bring a pencil and eraser, and that if it’s a mechanical pencil, have extra leads. What we should add is that mechanical pencil leads typically come in a choice of diameters: 5 mm and 7 mm. Choose the 7 mm, because it’s less likely to break while you’re writing.

It’s a small tip. But a big one in helping your thoughts to flow.

Earbuds and earplugs — A heads-up on hearing health (September 29, 2015)

This one may be for some of our older friends in the live-music business.
Our 2015 series on hearing health (and the follow-up, “Earplugs to protect your hearing: Which type for you)?” touched on the issue of damaged hearing. True hearing aids have required a prescription and can be pricey. Since we visited the subject, there has been some movement toward making them available over-the-counter, at least for people with only moderate hearing loss. Learn more in this article at NPR, Is It Time For Hearing Aids To Be Sold Over The Counter?

What is your computer backup system? And will it work? (June 29, 2017)

Learning never ends. But one thing we hope you never learn first-hand is the importance of having a practical computer backup plan that you actually follow.

In addition to the thoughts we conveyed in this article, here’s another backup tip:

Your peripheral devices may need backup, too. Or at least, take care that they don’t get damaged.

For example, consider the software “dongle” that some software requires in order to assure your installation is authorized. Pro Tools is one such product, as they require (in most cases) that you have an iLok attached. The iLok is a product from a separate company, so if you need support, sorting out the support policy can be an issue in itself. (We’re pleased to note that iLok installation and support has gotten a lot smoother over the years.)

Pro Tools (or is it iLok) has an optional insurance plan. For a significant amount per year, they will expedite a replacement device if yours breaks. Otherwise it might take up to a week to get your replacement, and meanwhile your software is dead in the water. There’s also a replacement charge.

It’s good to prevent damage in the first place, but the iLok is a rigid device that you stick directly into a USB port. One accidental knock, or forgetting to remove it when you shift your computer, can do in both the dongle and the port. So here’s the tip: Get yourself a 6-inch USB extension cable, which costs about 6 bucks. Now your exposure to physical damage is no more than any other USB device.

Unless you accidentally step on it.

Have you spotted something we should update? Let us know. Leave a comment or write [email protected].

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