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The Gates of Troy

Joined: 18 Mar 2007
Posts: 1852
Location: Topanga, CA

PostPosted: Thu Dec 11, 2008 1:25 am    Post subject: The VO-BB Gear Forum FAQ - READ THIS FIRST Reply with quote

The VO-BB Gear Forum FAQ

Updated: 5/23/16

This FAQ is being developed over time as people ask questions which I feel would benefit the entire VO community. It is rather disorganized because we add stuff in as it comes up. We welcome anyone who'd like to contribute. It's a sort of "Wiki" and can be revised by anyone at anytime.

And as always, before asking a question be sure to search the forum first to see if it was answered previously. Saves us time and you get your answer faster that way!

NEW!! George created this handy VO studio troubleshooting guide. Just answer a couple questions and it's yours for FREE.
This is years of accumulated and condensed knowledge on a 4 page PDF.


Q: I am just starting out with my first home studio. What microphone should I buy?

A: Short answer: Large diaphragm condenser, $100-$300.
Right answer: There is no way to answer this question with any definitive response. It's like asking someone "What car should I buy?" Ask this question in any forum and they will tell you that it's completely personal choice, use what makes your voice sound the best. Ask it of the sales person at the Pro Audio shop, and they'll see you whatever makes the most commission. Start with a mic that fits your budget and use it until you find out you could sound better with another, or keep it because you got lucky and it works perfectly with your voice! In the order of importance, to achieve professional recordings, room acoustics comes first, followed by mic placement/technique, and the microphone choice.

Q: Are USB microphones any good for voice over?

A: Short answer: Yes and No.
Right answer: USB microphones are improving all the time. Most of the USB mics designed around a large diaphragm cardioid condenser mic (the vast majority) will do just fine when you are first learning to record your voice. You might like to hear yourself while recording, in which case choose one with "zero latency" monitoring (a built in headphone jack). Other people find this distracting and record headphones off, so that won't matter to you. You can also choose a USB mic preamp like the CEntrance MicPort Pro, which allows you to use any microphone you like, but gives you the same simplicity. George Whittam's favorite has been and still is the Shure PG42USB.

Q: What are my choices for ISDN service in the US? How do you order ISDN service? Does it come in a bundle with telephone line and internet, or is this totally different and should be purchased separately from a different supplier? How much does it cost?

A: Your ISDN supplier will be whatever telephone company serves your location. If you get Verizon service, then it's Verizon. If ATT, then it's ... you guessed it. ISDN service is not bundled with anything, it's completely separate and must be ordered from the correct department. The order process is not trivial, you must know what to ask for. Here's a guide from Telos Systems, the makers of the Zephyr.
It costs $50-$70/month plus long distance (and in some cases more than $500/mo), and you'll use whatever LD service you choose (Sprint, Verizon, MCI), not sure how the rates differ, but the per minute charge is the same as your standard analog phone.

Q: My Mbox makes a high pitched whining noise only when recording. How do I get rid of it?

A: It's a common problem with MBox Minis with certain computers. This is a tough one that even Digidesign/Avid doesn't seem to have a definitive answer for. There are several things you can try:
0. Insert ground lift plug adapter for computer monitor, computer, and other components, adding one at a time until noise goes away
1. Try installing a USB card in your PC and use that instead.
2. Try switching USB cables, use the shortest one you can.
3. Try using a USB cable with "chokes" installed (those little cylinders).
4. Use a different computer.
5. Get an older Mbox (first generation), they seem to be immune to this.
6. MBox 2 users can use an external A/D converter and use the S/PDIF inputs instead, this is MUCH cleaner and quieter. There are a number of mic preamps with A/D built in, like the Aphex 230 for Focusrite Liquid channel, to name a couple.
7. One user found disconnecting his monitors made the noise go away while recording. Inconvenient, but whatever works in a pinch.

Q: I've go an audio out cable leading from my Mbox (or other external audio interface) to my headphones. When talking into the mic with Pro Tools there seems to be a slight delay to my ear...almost an echo effect. How can I remedy this?

A: Simply set the monitor mix knob on your Mbox to "input" instead of "playback", or anywhere in between. This way you hear only the "zero latency" monitoring of your inputs. Then when editing you must turn the knob to the right. On the Scarlett 2i2 and similar turn on the Monitor switch and press MUTE on the record track in Pro Tools.

Q: How do I use a phone patch/hybrid? Do I need a mixer?

A: Although a mixer is not always required depending on the audio interface you are using with the computer, it is HIGHLY recommended.
You can use a phone patch with ANY mixer that has an Aux Send.
It's all about creating a "mix-minus". You either need a mixer with the Alt 3/4 bus (Mackie, Behringer, Alesis), OR you must use the PAN or Balance control so the phone patch doesn't end up in your recorded voice track.

Here's how:

1. Mixer mic input channel 1- Aux Send 1 turned up to unity
2. Aux Send 1 jack- patched to input of hybrid
3. Mixer mic/line input channel 2- output of hybrid
4. Leave Aux Send 1 knob DOWN on mixer channel with hybrid
5. Turn Aux Send 1 knob up or down to adjust your volume TO your caller.
6. Turn the mixer hybrid channel fader up or down to control volume FROM your caller. EDIT: Engage Alt 3/4 bus (MUTE) or pan to the right and only record the left channel, for example.
7. If caller needs playback, just turn up the Aux Send 1 knob on the channel your recording interface is plugged into on your mixer. If your mixer does NOT have an ALT 3/4 bus like the Mackies, make sure fader for the computer is turned down while recording, or you will have a feedback loop.
Here's a nice PDF with pictures, thanks to BSW.


Q: I have covered my little studio with heaps of foam but still get some noise when I record...itís never dead quiet when I turn the gain up on the preamp... I guess a gate/enhancer would be the only way to fix that right?

A: Foam doesn't keep noise out of a room, it only helps with reverberation and resonance. A noise gate can help a lot, just use a plugin in your DAW. If your noise floor reads higher than -40dB or so, the issue may be too severe to fix with a noise gate/downward expander.


Q: I just bought a Macbook Pro and I miss Sound Forge for Windows PC's. What is out there that is comparable to Sound Forge for a Mac?

A: There are several simple audio applications for the Mac OS that give a similar feel to Sound Forge. Try Twisted Wave, Sound Studio, orAmadeus Pro.

Q: Iím thinking a cheap alternative to ISDN will be Source Connect, will still be able to achieve same quality as ISDN.

[i]A: Yes, you can get most of the benefits of ISDN without the expensive purchase of the codec hardware with Source Connect. Thereís a company that sells it and provides free setup support by phone to get you started, which can be extremely helpful if you are unfamiliar with using an iLok account and setting up port mapping in your router.
The only fees will be for using a bridging service when you need to connect to an ISDN only studio.

Q: I got Pro Tools just because I heard it was the professional program, and I know Joe Cipriano uses it, so I thought it must be good.

A: Totally overkill for VO talent, but that is the common thought among new VO people. It is much more elaborate than necessary. I like TwistedWave for Mac, or Sony Soundforge for PC, for example. When Joe got started, there were very few choices for the Pros, so he got was was available... now there are so many more.

Q: You wouldnít happen to know where I can download any free Pro Tools plugins like compression and EQ? the ones that come with pro tools arenít very good.

A: Free Pro Tools plugins are the hardest to come by since they generally use an iLok USB key. I like DAW's that supports VST or AU format plug-ins, since they are far more plentiful for free or very cheap. In practice I find I can get very good results using the plugins included with Pro Tools, Audition, or TwistedWave.

Q: Do you know of any good VST plugins for Mac?

A: Read up on vo-bb.com and look online, there are a lot of forums that discuss this stuff. One great source for plugins on Mac is http://www.macmusic.org

Q: Is Source Connect just like a glorified version of Skype, so its very easy to set up and use?

A: Basically, thatís correct. Although it is not as easy as Skype to setup if youíve never used an iLok. The latest incarnation of Source Connect called Source Connect NOW is VERY easy to setup and use, and as of Winter 2015 is still completely free while in beta. Bottom line is you must use what your clients use.

Q: Do you need to plug the iLok key in whenever you use Source Connect?

A: Yes, except for SC Now which doesn't use an iLok.

Q: Whatís the cheapest I could get Source Connect for?

A: SC Now is Free. Source Connect Standard sells for $650. Source Connect Pro is $1495.

Q: Thatís a huge difference in price! Whatís the difference is it just the quality?

A: No, itís the tweak-ability. If you have network issues while traveling, you have much better chances at working out Firewall blocks and poor bandwidth situations. Generally not a major thing while working from a fixed location where you have control of these factors.

Q: If I got standard could I still do ISDN sessions? The sound quality between the 2 are the same?

A: Yes, and yes. Once you get a client that pays so well that ISDN is easily justifiable, you'll know it. Source Connect can't connect directly to ISDN or any other IP audio codec so a bridging service such as outofhear.com must be hired.

Q: Joe Cipirano uses Source Connect doesnít he? I wonder if many studios have SC these days? ISDN will become obsolite one of these days.

A: Yes, Joe uses SC while he is traveling. Heís even known to have used it from the back of a rental car! There are at least 2000 users, and many studios are catching on.
You can find a list of users here: http://www.sourceelements.com/view/state/

Q: Do you need Pro Tools open to run it?

A: Not anymore. You can use it with any multitrack recording software that supports VST or Audio Units (AU) plug-ins. It also functions as a stand-alone application, so it doesn't matter what DAW you use.

Q: What else do I need to know about setting up Source Connect?

A: You need to have a stable, wired Internet connection providing 300 kbps Up/Down. Test your connect at speedtest.net. Youíll need to get an iLok and create an iLok account. It runs on Mac or Windows computers up to about 8 years old in my experience. Expect an iOS version to come out in 2015.

Q: What about ďRepair and ReplaceĒ that comes with the Source Connect? Sounds like itís pretty important so there are no dropouts.

A: Itís still very new technology and not widely supported, but maybe someday we'll all use it. It is useless when you are bridging to an ISDN client, however. The idea is that if the signal drops out for a period, SC sends the missing audio over in the background and replaces the broken section of audio automagically.

Q: I've been asked to do some phone interviews and I have Skype. I checked out some of their apps and the voice recorders cost a few bucks. Has anyone recorded Skype conversations and if so, using what program? Would Audio Hijack (for Mac only) work?

A: Audio HiJack is a great application for the Mac, and probably your best choice. Ecamm Call Recorder is another utility can installs into Skype and can be set to record automatically. However, in PC land you have a few more options, and one of them completely free. In the Windows mixer panel, you can Select the record source as the Wave Output. That means your software will record ANYTHING that is playing back on your PC's internal audio, including audio coming in from your Skype caller. The problem that arises is if you want to record yourself at the same time, things get more complicated. You'd need to run another application to record YOUR voice with your audio interface.
I still find that the best and easiest way to do record both sides of the conversation is to use a simple cheap mixer to route the audio from your Skype call (1/8" jack on your computer) back into your audio interface's 2nd input (one is your mic, the other is the caller).

Q: Should I get AudioTX or Source Connect?

A: Hooooboy, this is a dusie!
I have clients who use Source Connect or AudioTX Communicator, and some even have both. Coming from someone who supports both technologies and designed outofhear.com's bridging system which handles both systems, in my experience, here is the bottom line:

1- AudioTX needs less bandwidth when using an IP connection to achieve a similar level of sound quality as Source Connect

2- AudioTX can be used with an ISDN modem and NT1 adaptor as well as in Internet connection. Source Connect is IP only.

3- AudioTX requires that at least one user has a Static IP address so that the other user will know what address to connect to and can save it as a preset. Otherwise the IP address will be different each time, a major inconvenience. Source Connect manages your contacts on their server so either of you can use any IP address without issue.

Edit: Recently, AudioTX added a directory service that works somewhat like Source Connect, making it easier to connect to studios that don't have a static IP address.

4- AudioTX requires the user who receives the connection (usually the studio) to know how to setup Port Forwarding and possibly a dyndns.org account, should they have a dynamic IP address.

5- AudioTX will likely NEVER run on a Mac without running Windows in Bootcamp. SC runs on Mac or PC.

6- AudioTX has no way to "Patch In" to another software the way Source Connect can. EG: If your audio chain relies on an EQ, compressor setting, or the like in Pro Tools, Source Connect will receive your audio signal post processing so your client hears your voice tweaked the way you like it. AudioTX is STRICTLY a stand alone product and has no way to "ReWire" into another application.

7- AudioTX requires the use of a proprietary USB dongle, which if lost or damaged voids the use of your software. When purchased you must wait for it to arrive from the UK and pay a considerable shipping fee (around $75) to cover the insurance at $1200 or so. SC uses an iLok, for which you can use their "Zero Downtime" service to keep a spare iLok USB key on hand should you lose the licensed iLok.

8- Source Connect costs $650 for the standard version, which is adequate for most home studio users, plus $50 for an iLok if you don't have one. Purchase the license, follow instructions provided to sync license to iLok, and you are good to go.

9- Source Connect support is Europe AND US based, while AudioTX is only in the UK and generally harder to reach.


Q: I have random audio glitches when recording to my Mac with Pro Tools. What can I do?

A: Record to an internal SSD drive, or to an external Firewire or Thunderbolt hard drive. Disable all virus scanners and backup utilities running in the background that sap away resources from Pro Tools or tie up the hard drive. Try different USB ports with the audio interface, as well.

If problems persist, you might need to take more drastic measures.
I would backup the data, and do an Erase and Install of your current OSX, then do a Combo update. Google the update you desire such as "Combo update 10.9.5" and you'll see it on Apple's site. Archive and Restore OS X, do the update, then install Pro Tools again, I think you'll find it way more stable. This fills in some gaps left when doing "incremental updates" that Apple sends every few months. It's well known to fix Pro Tools problems.

Q: How do I deal with noise in my recordings?

The best way to isolate noise in your signal chain is to do this:

Set everything up. Turn on the mic, etc.
Record several seconds of silence.
Remove the item currently at the end of the chain (starting with the mic, obviously). Record several seconds of silence. Do this until you are just recording with your software and nothing connected.

Each item you remove will eliminate some noise- you'll be able to hear whether that static you refer to is there with the mic disconnected or not. If it is, the noise is from your preamp, interface or computer. Remove each piece one thing at a time and try recording again to see where the noise is actually from.

Two other things to check:

1. Replace all your cables, one at a time. Swap them out, see if the noise persists. Unshielded cables are one of the biggest sources of self-noise in your audio chain.
2. Remove any EM sources from the area. This includes your cell phone, iPad and other devices that generate lots of radio frequency (RF) energy. Take them out or put them in "Airplane mode" to disable their radios.
Corey "Vox Man" Snow

Q: What is the difference between Source Connect and Source Connect NOW?

Source Connect NOW is a simple Chrome-based, (opus codec?) IP communications thingy. You can get multiple users on line at once (we use it to record up to five people for the Voiceover Cafe podcast). It's great for non-critical connections (direction, conversations, podcasting, etc.) It can be used for production, but with the usual caveats of IP/internet-based end-to-end connections... on a good day it will be fine, on a bad day, it won't.

If it sounds good, it is good.
George Whittam
VOBS.TV Co-host
TheProAudioSuite.com Co-host
TriBooth.com Co-founder

Last edited by georgethetech on Mon May 23, 2016 12:05 pm; edited 19 times in total
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Lucky 700

Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 754
Location: Buckinghamshire, UK

PostPosted: Thu Dec 11, 2008 3:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very useful George, many thanks.

Sponsor of Voice APpreciation Indulgence Day 2010

Proud member of Self Appointed Voice-Over Experts Discussion Group - overenthusiastic pontification a speciality.
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Joined: 06 Jun 2005
Posts: 7347
Location: Portland, OR

PostPosted: Thu Dec 11, 2008 7:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Boy, Twisted Wave has my curiosity but I'm amazed how much information their site doesn't have (I cruised through everything including their operation manual), such as:

What effects to they offer on board? EQ, Compression, Reverb, etc.? (I only saw time shifting and fading mentioned)
Can you use plug-ins? If so what format? VST?
If VST, does it work with Source Connect?
How many channels can you use?

Anyone using it and want to give a brief review?

Many thanks,

VO-BB Member #31 Enlisted June, 2005

I'm not a Zoo, but over the years I've played one on radio/TV. .
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The Gates of Troy

Joined: 18 Mar 2007
Posts: 1852
Location: Topanga, CA

PostPosted: Thu Dec 11, 2008 10:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Twisted Wave supports AU plugins, which your Mac comes with a suite of out of the box. Otherwise it is very lean on effects. It does not support VST, however. I like Amadeus Pro as an alternative which DOES support VST, and is even cheaper, but the interface just isn't as cool. Check that link in the FAQ for Macmusic.org, there are a LOT of AU effects out there, and a good deal are free.
If it sounds good, it is good.
George Whittam
VOBS.TV Co-host
TheProAudioSuite.com Co-host
TriBooth.com Co-founder
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