After much research we proudly present the best combination of microphones and preamplifier for voiceover. But before we start, here are some important factors that you have to "inhale" for voiceover:
1.) First, test a new combination of mic and preamp before you buy it. Some voices can be perfect on, for example, a Neumann TLM103, but some have just too much sibilance. So ask you local dealer to get some mics and preamps to test before buying.
2.) Be cautious with the self-noise of the mic and mic/preamp combination. For commercials your recordings will be compressed to death and you will hear all kinds of background noises, inlcuding your vocal chain noise at the end.
3.) The better the "sound" of your speaker booth or recording room, the better the recording will be. If you use the proximity effect than your room noise will be less importand but the sound of your speaker cabin will have greater impact if you move further away from the mic.
Ok, so let`s get started with some nice combinations that are in the "low price" range!
Neumann TLM 103 and A Design P1
Price (US) $1.900 or 1.800 € (Europe)
The Neumann TLM 103 is great for narration and costsonly one-thrid as much as its big brother, the U87. The Neumann TLM 103 delivers. This Mic is like milk chocolate and one of the quietest microphones available. If you use it in combination with the 500 Series A-Design P1 you can't go wrong. The P1 gives you exceptional sound quality with the classic vibe of some of the great vintage preamps.
Gefell M930 and Grace M101
Price (US) $2.000 or 1.750 € (Europe)
The Gefell mic is an insanely good mic for voiceover and extremly quit (like the Neumann TLM 103, but with highs that are not so crisp). You will find nothing substantially "better" until you hit stuff like the Brauner VM1 or Horch RM2J, which is 5 times the price. The Grace 101 has a stellar quality for a unbeatable price. It offers a clean and authentic sound with no EQ or compression - the kind that you normally get only from the expensive stuff. This combo sounds fantastic on your voice. It doesn`t color the voice so much but it will deliver every last bit of detail in the source.
Neumann TLM 193 and Focusrite ISA 220
Price (US) $2.100 or 1.600 € (Europe)
The TLM 193 is the perfect microphone for both budget-conscious voice talents and larger facilities where a Neumann performance is required without having to pay for the additional features of their flagship models. It comes with the legendary U89i capsule and transformerless design, providing sterling sound and a low self-noise. The Focusrite ISA One is a great workhorse and it adds a "sheen" to the top end (which the TLM 193 can miss sometimes), making the vocals sound "glossy". You simply can`t go wrong with this combo.
As we come to the medium price range, here are some combos that you really should test:
Neumann TLM 67 and DAV BG1
Price (US) $3.500 or 2.500 € (Europe)
This is a very basic but also very clear combo. Just a very good standard voiceover mic (not unlike the old U67) that brings a nice, warrm sound and a clear and easy-to-use British preamp with no EQ or compression. Its a killer combo for deep voices with absolut low noise at an unbelievable price.
Neumann TLM 103 and Avalon VT 737 SP
Price (US) $3.300 or 3.300 € (Europe)
The Neumann TLM 103 has a good quality for the price. Its bright tone is great for a crisp vocal sound. But it's bright nature can mean sibilance problems for certain voices. Changing mic position/axis is generally a pretty easy fix. The Avalon VT 737 SP is a very clean and uncolored unit and it is a channel strip which would be more flexibile than just buying a pre. The EQ and compressor work well, especially since the attack time has been they increased (Babyface Mod) on all 737's. And its built with quality in mind.
AKG C414 XLS and Focusrite Red7
Price (US) $3.500 or 4.200 € (Europe)
The C 414 XLS offers nine pickup patterns which enable you to choose the perfect setting for your voice recording. We like the fig. 8, with a powerful voice, it captures absolutely everything. The AKG C414-XLS is an all rounder with a characteristically smooth high end. It has very low self-noise and you can dial in some really cool proximity effect with the patterns. Put it together with the Focusrite Red 7 and you will have a perfect voice set-up. The Red7 always sounds great, the compressor is very good and even the de-esser/exciter is usefull in many situations. It really works well with any voice and it's also a quite beautiful thing to look at.
BeesNeez Mahalia and A-Design P1
Price (US) $3.500 or 3.400 € (Europe)
The electronics in all BeesNeez microphones are of the highest quality. The tubes used in their microphones are hand-picked from European and American new old stock (NOS). The Beesneez Mahalia is often compared with the old Neumann U67. It has a dark tone and is widely used with female voiceover. Together with the A-Design P1 (or John Hardy M1) it is an excellent combo for your perfect voiceover recording. These two units give you exceptional sound quality with the classic vibe of some of the great vintage combos.
Brauner VM1 Lite and BAE 1073
Price (US) $4.600 or 4.500 € (Europe)
The Brauner VM 1 Lite has a sort of 'perfect' brightness. It's fast and detailed at the top end without any overly harsh stuff. Its has only two polar patterns: Cardioid and omni. All VM-1 lights are fully upgradeable to the full version. The BAE 1073 gives you a very warm flavor with strong low mids and slows down transients, which is a very pleasing effect, since this is the opposite of the Brauner VM-1 caracteristic - a Ying & Yang principle for your voice.
U87 and John Hardy M1
Price (US) $4.800 or 3.800 € (Europe)
For voiceovers, the gold standard is the Neumann U87 (AI). It cuts well on the air and makes almost everybody sound good. For old Neumanns you`ve got to make sure that the preamp is very quiet and has plenty of gain. The John Hardy preamps uses Jensen transformers and are very clean and transparent, but still not to the point of sounding sterile. They are not completely neutral like the Millennia STT1. But this combo is a "must have" for every voice talent. In this picture you see a U87 AI and a John Hardy Jensen Twin Servo with 4 channels.
And now we reach the "high price" area:
Horch RM2J and MIllenia STT1
Price (US) $9.000 or 7.900 € (Europe)
Horch is very versatile, having two switchable modes: linear with infinite number of polar patterns, or "extreme tube mode", with a really BIG sound for voiceover. You can use it with almost every preamp it will always be simply great. Use it together with the Millenia STT1 and you will have a super-clean, huge, transparent sound, little else out there will be able to surpass your voice sound. You can even select tube or solid state sound in the STT1 with a very clear EQ and compressor. The bottom line: your voice will sound really great.
Brauner VM1 and Schoepps VSR5
Price (US) $10.500 or 7.500 € (Europe)
The Brauner VM1 has a very low noise floor, 11-12dBa self-noise typical, low for a tube mic. Tons of air and detail without being scratchy or brittle. Its simply a world-class studio mic. Together with ultra-clean Schoepps VSR5 your voice will sound larger-than-life. If there’s a hint of harshness or a slight resonance in your voice, this preamp will let you know about it — but not by over-emphasising it. It just presents the information if you care to listen — and that’s what a really, really good preamp is supposed to do. Straight wire with gain. Anyone serious about state-of-the-art performance should give this combo a listen.