Record Your Voice And Sound Like A Pro

When you record your voice, are you happy with the result?  Well, let me ask it a different way because a lot of people simply hate the way their voice sounds to them when they hear it played back on a recording, regardless of the audio quality.  That’s a different thing. 

I’m referring to whether the sound is nice and clear without a lot of noise in the background.

A lot of people don’t really know if their voice sounds “good” or not.  If they can be understood and heard by others, they feel it is good enough.  And it may be good enough for what you’re doing!  I mean, if all you want to do is chat with family and friends over Skype or some other internet meeting, it may not be all that important that your voice sound “professional.”

But if you are recording your voice for any kind of business reason, such as for podcasts, videos, or voice-overs, then it might be time to listen critically to a recording of your voice and assess it for how professional it sounds. 

Is there a lot of hiss or other types of noise in the background?  Maybe the audio is “thin” sounding?  Heck, even then you might not hear anything wrong!  I have a friend who is a successful internet marketer, video-blogger, and podcaster. 

She had no idea that her audio sounded bad enough that it made her sound like an amateur.  It wasn’t until someone recorded her with a decent microphone that her eyes were opened (maybe the metaphor here should say “ears were opened,” but I digress). 

She didn’t realize how bad her voice sounded until she heard how it COULD sound with the right equipment – in her case, just a slightly better microphone.

The Microphone

Notice I said “slightly better microphone” above.  When people think of home studio microphones the often think expensive, assuming they will have to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars. 

My friend was using a USB headset mic costing about $35.  Someone recorded her voice with a microphone costing only about $100 called the Blue Yeti,  which is also a USB mic, meaning all you have to do is put it on your desk and plug it into your computer. 

No mixers or interfaces are involved.  Anyway, when she heard playback of her voice recorded on the Yeti, she was stunned!  “Oh my god,” she said.  “I had no idea.”  For only about $75 more than the headset mic she was using, her voice went from sounding “OK” to “Oh my god.”

The Yeti is a good microphone, but the good news is that my friend could have gotten the “oh my god” reaction with an even less expensive USB mic such as the Samson C01U, which you can pick up at your local Best Buy store for around $75 (only a $40 difference from “OK” to “oh my god” this time).

The main reason the Yeti and the Samson C01U mics sound so much better than the headset type mic is the size of the microphone element or diaphragm inside. 

The bigger mics are called “large diaphragm condenser” mics.  There are other differences as well, such as the fact that headset USB mics are usually dynamic type mics which are typically less sensitive than condenser mics.  But you probably don’t care much about that.

What is important is that if you need to record your voice and have it sound professional, a really smart way to make that happen quickly and easily (not to mention cheaply) is simply to use a large diaphragm condenser (LDC) type USB mic. 

There are many levels of “OMG” above even that of course, which involve different kinds of microphones at higher cost.  But for most people, the upgrade to an LDC USB mic for less than $100.  It is a small price to pay for professional quality voice audio.

I’d love to hear some before-and-after audio if you decide to make this change.  Send in a comment below and maybe we can post some examples.

Cheers – and happy recording!

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0 comments on “Record Your Voice And Sound Like A Pro”

  1. This business of LDC microphones versus dynamic microphones is maddeningly interesting. I’ve recorded my own voice on numerous occasions using all sort of different microphones and often been surprised at how variable the results can be. Anyway, here’s the thing, I like to listen to female vocalists and Celtic Woman is one of my favourite groups. If you listen to the Destiny concert with a pair of headphones, in my opinion, the audio quality is superb. But, and this is the point, the girls are using headset radio mics. About as far away from an LDC as it’s possible to go. So then, would someone at homebrewaudio like to listen to that recording and tell me what, if anything, is wrong with the vocal recording. And if in fact the conclusion is that fundamentally the audio is spot-on, could someone please tell me the model of the mics they use – because I’d like to buy one!

    1. I agree – it’s inherently interesting. And just to add more mystery to the situation, SOMETIMES the unexpected microphones like cheap (as in $99) Shure SM57s sound incredible on specific people because their voices just happen to match up with those mics for some reason. There is so much variation in the way a given person’s voice will sound with a given mic. That said, in the case of the concert you mention, there are obviously multiple women and their voices all sounding great on the same live (so almost certainly dynamic) headset mics. I have not seen or heard that recording. But I’ll take a look and see what I can figure out. I’ll report back if I can tell what mics they are using. Thanks again for the comment!

    2. Found something interesting on this! Before stating it as absolute fact, I point out that it is coming from a forum. But they make a good point. Here is the link: The assertion is that though they do sing live in concert, and concert goers get the live experience, the DVDs use studio recordings of the songs sync’d up to the live performances. That would certainly account for why they sound (on the DVDs only) like studio mics. Because it seems they very well may be! I’d be interested to know if this can be confirmed. The forum link above lays out some compelling bits of possible evidence.

  2. Well I have to admit that’s pretty compelling, bit of a bummer really. What a shame. But you know it’s difficult to believe from the following personal experience point of view. I made a recording of Wild Mountain Thyme once. I recording the song at home and then went up a mountain and shot a video of myself singing. Syncing the two together afterwards was incredibly difficult. CW, taking this Destiny concert as a case in point, sang song after song for 80 minutes. What’s the probability of the musicians in the band being able to play live with sufficient timing precision for the DVD techies to marry everything together afterwards? Hats off to them if that’s what happens, simply, simply incredible.

    Interestingly, at 09:00 into the concert, Mairead introduces Eabha, the lastest member of the group. Sounds perfect. Although I suppose that too could have been dubbed afterwards. I can see myself steadily growing paranoid now in looking for lip-syncing.

    No, that’s not true, I’m going to carry on enjoying the excellence that is Celtic Woman…

    1. Well IF this is true, they would not have to lip-sync at all. They would just play live at shows. But I’ve actually done something like this in the past to make sure we stay at the correct tempo. There would be either a recording of an underlying drum or rhythm track playing at the start of the live performance, or perhaps merely a click track for the musicians to hear in headphones. I’ve even kept time using a visual metronome before (though that is not easy:-P). At that point, everything can still be live for concert goers while still allowing the post-production overlay or replacement of audio. But I really don’t know for any kind of certain that they did this. It’s just that it certainly CAN be done and often is. But yes, that’s no reason not to enjoy the awesomeness that is Celtic Women:).

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