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Setting up a home studio for audiobooks
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sarahlstephens



Joined: 07 Jan 2020
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2020 2:01 am    Post subject: Setting up a home studio for audiobooks Reply with quote

Hi there-

I'm working to set up a home studio with the goal of recording audiobooks and then whatever else might come along. I will use a Macbook Pro but have no other equipment. Ideally, I need my equipment to work with both EU and US voltage as we move every few years.

1)I have found a kit from B&H which includes a Universal Arrow interface and Neumann TLM-102 plus accessories. The Arrow appears to be able to work with EU/US/UK voltages. Feeling like this is a good choice but curious to get the group's feedback. There is also a less expensive kit with the Arrow that includes a Røde NT-1A.

2) I have heard that one might need a peripheral drive and a back-up storage drive to record audio books. I understand the need to back up on an external storage. I'm not sure why I would need a peripheral drive and what it would do. Does this even make sense? Audiobook recorders, are you finding need both to do record book?

3)I will work in a small room with a high ceiling so I am looking for a noise deadening solution. Have seen a lot about Kaotica Eyeball but was thinking something like the Portabooth might be a better solution. Any feedback on this would be appreciated.

Thanks for reading and any feedback would be appreciated!

Best,
Sarah
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todd ellis
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2020 7:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

hi sarah --- and welcome to the vo-bb!

lots of people will have suggestions on mics/pres, etc ... i'll offer

this sandisc usb-c HDD.

it's nothing to store & a TB of space and super-fast on a macbook.
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todd ellis
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2020 5:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

or maybe not ---

i looked into the kaotica eyeball a while back and (preface this with the fact that i am 2/3 idiot) - i have serious doubts that this will do anything at all worthwhile. again, i haven't used one, and may be proven wrong at any moment.
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SteveToner
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2020 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's an impossible question to answer properly with the information given. It's like saying "What car should I buy? I have a short commute."

To start, I would say you don't want to buy a microphone without knowing what you sound like through it (unless you're like me and just like to have a bunch of different microphones to play around with).

Next, but just as important: define your budget. Your entire budget for equipment and acoustic treatment. I wouldn't spend $1200 on a mic and interface and then consider a Kaotica Eyebasll as "room treatment." Note: I haven't used an Eyeball, but I am highly skeptical that it will provide effective treatment.

What are the dimensions and current surfaces of the room?

How handy are you? How much of the setup can you reasonably expect to do on your own?

Other requirements/restrictions? You want the entire system to be able to move when you do, so don't want to make permanent changes to the room? You rent and can't make any screw/nail holes in the walls?

There's a lot more, but at a minimum you need to provide this information to get anything close to a reasonable response Smile
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Bish
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2020 7:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Sarah, and welcome to VO-BB.
Sorry to say there are no absolutes in the VO world... least of all about equipment. It's all opinion once you get past a few baseline rules. For what it's worth, here are my observations:

Mic: The B&H kit may be a "good deal" but it is (IMO) far more than you need. While it's nice to have a Neumann, it may be an overspend to start with. The $700 price tag is reasonably heavy... and bear in mind that the 102 is not just a cheaper 103... many people find it more "digital and harsh" this is inherently due to its design. It may not suit your voice. The NT-1A is "fit-for-purpose" and many people use it. There are many, many, good options in the $300 or less price range.

Interface: For straight recording, the Universal Arrow, at $500 is probably overkill for a basic interface for single voice recording. Sure, it's nice to own... but you can get a good (and perfectly adequate) interface for less than $200. B&H is selling the 3rd gen Focusrite 2i2 for $120. The 1st gen had some issues, but this is a workhorse! The other advantage of getting a "simpler" interface is that it will power directly from your interface and you won't have to worry about wall-wart power supplies and international travel.

As you quoted B&H (one of my favourite stores)... if I were in your position, I'd be tempted by the Rode NT1-A plus Presonus interface. It's $329 instead of the $1199 for the 102 kit. You can use the (almost) $900 you save and spend it on your recoding environment... that will be money well-spent.

Oh... and as for Steve and Todd's comment about the Kaotica Eyeball. I was given one for free... and even that was over-priced.
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FinMac
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2020 11:24 am    Post subject: Alternative suggestion Reply with quote

Hello Sarah,

Welcome to the BB.

I agree 100 percent with Bish. Your recording environment is the most crucial element to get right for recording good sounding audio.

Personally, I prefer the Rode NT1 (the new one Rode made) over the NT-1A. It is very quiet and is very close to the Neumann 103 in sound, which costs about 5 times it’s price. YMMV

B&H also has this option... Rode NT1 Microphone with Software and Vocal Recording Setup Kit for $ 319. (I have no personal interest in promoting B&H).

In any case, a USB interface would be a solid choice. You might want to get one that is USB powered. That will help with moving back and forth between the US and Europe.

I’m curious, why audiobooks?
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JohnV
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2020 9:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have a look at doing it right... and not too expensively...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdEYNdzi4kw
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AlanC
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2020 12:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Sarah,

I too will echo what has been previously said regarding the Arrow and the Eyeball. The Universal Audio interfaces are excellent (I use the Apollo Twin) but unless you're involved with music production, are completely overkill and unnecessary for voice over. They also require a power supply, adding to your voltage woes, unlike USB powered options like the Focusrite and Presonus already mentioned.

I have no personal experience of using the the Kaotica Eyeball but anything I have seen or heard screams 'gimmick'. There are countless snake-oil products available to voice actors with deep pockets but the bottom line is all you need is a good quality microphone, good quality interface and probably most important of all, a well treated, quiet recording space.

Given that you will, as an audio book narrator, be spending a considerable amount of time in that space I recommend you make that your primary focus. As it is your space and needs tailoring to your voice and your needs I highly recommend you reach out to George Whittam for advice and support. George is a member on this board and well known and respected for his expertise in this area. I'm confident he can help you with your acoustic, hardware and software requirements.

Smile
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JohnV
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2020 12:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I will offer this (with the understanding that I have worked through several serious room-treatment scenarios involving 6" to 2' deep compressed fibreglass ... Corning 704... heavy absorption builds...) ...

I bought an ASTON HALO (like the eyeball... but different) and, while it does what it claims admirably... i havent yet found a way that it is workable as a VO mic shield... since I have not been able to see how to use it and still get reading copy (paper or screen) in any position where I can read it...
You need to build out a workable both ISOLATED and DAMPED space to record in. the classic Big-Closet-Lined-With-Hanging-Clothes is a very legit answer to a beginner neutral recording space.
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Frank F
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2020 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sarah, Welcome aboard "the board".

Let me say you have received some sound advice here from the VO-BB. Simplified, it works like this:

A) Start with the basics beginning with the environment in which you will record. It does not need to be "dead" but outside noise should be nil.

B) Choose the DAW - Digital Audio Workstation (software) you wish to use and begin learning the in's and out's. Audiobooks require a lot of space so be prepared with an external hard drive with lots of space to record to and edit from.

C) Find out what you want as a recording interface. USB interfaces are preferable, but the USB microphones are of limited and varying quality. How your audio is brought into the computer is half the battle - and that includes, but is not limited to the next "basic"...

D) Choose a microphone which suits your voice and style. As stated above USB microphone have pro's and con's. Find a local store which sells microphones and try a few for best results, in store or at home if they will let you try it at home. Podcast microphones are not usually suited for VO or audiobooks, although they may work. Podcast microphones often have a lot of self-noise and are not suitable for audiobooks need for quietness.

Dynamic microphones are inexpensive and may work well, an RE20, MXL, Behringer, Shure all may have a dynamic microphone to choose from. Condenser mics (which use Phantom Power) have a plethora of offerings and price ranges. Neumann, Sennheiser, MXL, etc. all have some which may suit your voice, style, and price range.

Ribbon microphones are wonderful - for the right person. Are you the right person for the right sound of a ribbon mic? I do not know, but you may desire to think about this prospect. Personally, I do not recommend a ribbon microphone for female voices.

Tube microphones are a staple of the microphone world, however they are costly for a great mic.

Quoting from Indiana Jones movies: "Choose wisely".

E) How is your internet speed and reliability? You will need to deliver files as .mp3's (in most cases) and some may be fairly large. Speed in uploading files is a good thing.

F) Time! How much time do you have to work on the audiobooks for recording and editing? Audiobooks are a long drawn out process, for each hour you spend recording it will provide you with approximately fifteen minutes of edited audio. Then, you need to finalize the chapter and verse to make a "post" product (audio you will send to the client).

Put all of the previous information together and you will be on your way to a nice project studio for recording audio books.

Wishing you joy and happiness in your new endeavor.

Frank F
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JohnV
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Joined: 25 Feb 2016
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's hard to argue with a Neumann 102... howsomever
were I starting out and faced with an untreated room...
Taking that $700 USD mic and shoving $400-500 of it into serious room treatment (real full-wall thick panels of nicely covered Corning 704) and going with something like a $150 Audio Technica 2035 mic (VERY good sounding side-address condenser mic) to get started would make for a better overall workplace and product...
you can upgrade the mic as you may (or may not for a while!) see fit with your income.
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sounddguy
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2020 5:10 pm    Post subject: Re: Setting up a home studio for audiobooks Reply with quote

sarahlstephens wrote:
Hi there-

I'm working to set up a home studio with the goal of recording audiobooks and then whatever else might come along.


If you have not done any work in the audiobook field, I would direct you to http://audiobook101.info/ and the first test listed there. After that read everything on Karen Commins FAQ https://www.narratorsroadmap.com/?fbclid=IwAR0PLq9YmI2vPbSOUaJ38vA_2ixNpynSMxepZDdKF5LtqoTBGV6h28BFWC0 After this, if you are still interested, then start looking for equipment.
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sarahlstephens



Joined: 07 Jan 2020
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 26, 2020 3:31 am    Post subject: Thank you - Setting up a home studio for audioboooks Reply with quote

Hi and a big thank you for all of your thoughtful replies.

Scott asked why audiobooks. Here's the long answer...I'm living in Copenhagen now and have had a really rough time finding voiceover work here. I'm a trained actor who last worked in Seoul, South Korea, where I did a lot of work mainly with English language educational voiceover including voicing stories for children. I have a friend who is a writer who recommended ACX to me. My thought in setting up a studio for audiobooks is that I can continue to work wherever I am living. We move every few years. Then, perhaps I am not sitting around waiting for work. Also, it seems like a lot of people in the Copenhagen market are recording from home for regular voiceover projects. So I might be able to be more marketable in general. I worked as a radio reporter right after college and have also helped with sound on some film projects so it feels like having my own studio would be a return to my roots.

There are not really stores here that one can walk into see equipment. I went to one place to discover they really handle only sound studios and bigger budgets not individuals. It was more like an office than a showroom. They generally go to their customers. They were recommending the Universal Arrow and Neumann or Røde microphones for me. That led me to the BH website. I can also order from Thomann.de here.

My big takeaway from all of your feedback is to spend money on environment over equipment. A USB interface like the Focusrite is probably a better choice starting out. It seems like I will just have to pick a microphone without really testing it with my voice but that is what it is. It sounds like one of the Røde models would be a good choice to start.

So again, thanks for all of your thoughts and recommendations. If anyone has any further thoughts, I'd certainly appreciate them.

Best,
Sarah
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Kim Fuller
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 26, 2020 9:03 am    Post subject: Re: Thank you - Setting up a home studio for audioboooks Reply with quote

sarahlstephens wrote:

It seems like I will just have to pick a microphone without really testing it with my voice but that is what it is.


Hey Sarah, I don't have a lot to add to what others have said except that, as far as microphones and interfaces are concerned - keep an eye on the return policies. You could buy, return and repeat until you get your optimal result.

Good luck!.
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JohnV
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 26, 2020 9:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kim has a serious point. Gear trade-back... I don't know how things are in Denmark, but if GUITAR CENTER (in overseas orders) holds with their US policy of returns (which is either 45 or 14 days and includes issues with perfect condition and all materials, and shipping fees) then you may well be able to go through several mics. Otherwise a good retailer there should, after some discussion and get-acquainted, be willing to let you try a few in your space.

the entry-level mics recommended here, both the RODE and Audio Technica, are really at-worst solidly accurate and neutral and so no-lose choices.

as to room treatment, if you;re moving in a few years, actual thick, hang-on-wall/ceiling absorption panels (not just stuck-on-foam) can effectively get a small room in hand and be portable later with minimal wall-surface effect (a few heavy-picture/shelf wall anchors).

This next link offered as a possible desktop temporary answer (these panels could easily be repurposed on the wall or ceiling later as more is added) and MUCH more useful than the ASTON HALO shield (I bought one... ) or the Eyeball sort.

http://realtraps.com/p_carrel.htm


and this essay on doing vocal work in home-like spaces might give an idea or two:
https://realtraps.com/art_booth.htm
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