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Mic for recording someone reading a book

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Mic for recording someone reading a book

Postby robinm » Sun Oct 20, 2019 6:54 pm

I need advice on a mic for a very specific purpose. It's for speech but not podcasting nor singing. The situation is the following.

* Recording myself reading a book and so I can't have the mic right in front of my face and it cannot be very close either. I am happy to use a boom if needed. I think a comfortable distance from the mic would be one to two feet. I really do NOT want to have to use it inches from my mouth. It can't obscure the book.
* Quality is important. Subtle differences in voice need to be captured accurately and I don't like the common (to me, unnatural) bass boom. However, I would like to keep the cost below $400, preferably below $300.
* I will record on a computer, probably a laptop, but edit on a desktop. A USB mic would be convenient but I don't mind using an audio interface and the ability of feeding it to monitor speakers is a plus. Headphone jack is a must.
* I hope to avoid having to build a recording space and would like to use a large room in our basement as it is the quietest place but ... This room is 23 feet by 17 feet. It has hard walls and a concrete floor with few soft coverings (apart from a large bed). There is not much in it so I can have the mic anywhere.
* Comments and suggestions on A/D bit length (16 or 18) and simple recording/editing software would also be a help
* Obviously, I am a total beginner.

Thanks,

Robin
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Re: Mic for recording someone reading a book

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Oct 20, 2019 10:00 pm

A fairly directional mic would probably be best, hypercardioid maybe?

Do some room treatment, even a couple of duvets will help but more would be better.

Why a headphone jack?

24/44.1 (or 24/48 if it's for video) would be the best resolution (24 bit is much more forgiving that 16 bit where levels may be less than optimal).

'Bass boom' is often due to proximity effect but can, mostly, be fixed in post and won't be a problem with the mic a couple of feet away.

A nice small diaphragm capacitor mike would be the obvious choice so a modestly priced audio interface would also be necessary.

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Re: Mic for recording someone reading a book

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Oct 20, 2019 10:17 pm

If you're looking for a professional sound quality, it's ALL about the room. The mic will have much less significance on he resulting sound.

And the further away you place the mic, the more significant the room acoustics become -- and doubly so in room with hard surfaces.

You can make a substantial improvement on the acoustics by hanging duvets or heavy drapes behind you and around the sides. You can use tall mic stands, clothes rails, lighting T-bars, hooks on the ceiling... whatever works for you. You might need some behind the mic too, and maybe overhead as well. Just use your ears to decide when it sounds acceptable.

I would agree the the mic should be about 12 inches away. The classic BBC recommendation was two handspans! I'd set the mic about level with the forehead looking down towards the mouth -- well outside the sight lines to the script! Omni pattern would avoid the proximity effect bass boost, but cardioid should be fine at that kind of distance.

I'll leave others to recommend a USB mic or a mic and interface combo... There are myriad options and they're all usable, but I'd favour the latter, personally. And don't feel obliged to use a capacitor mic -- plenty of great voice recordings have been made with dynamic mics (moving coils or ribbons).

But I really can't emphasise enough the importance of the room acoustics in the final recorded quality.
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Re: Mic for recording someone reading a book

Postby Wonks » Sun Oct 20, 2019 10:33 pm

Many USB mics are limited to 16-bit recording, which is OK but less than optimal for a more distant mic on a fairly quiet source whilst still leaving a decent amount of headroom. So go for one of the 24-bit USB mics, or as Hugh mentions, a 24-bit interface with a separate mic. Separates means that you can pick a mic that best suits your voice, rather than having to pick one because it has a USB interface built in.

USB mics tend to have a lower signal/noise ratio than a separates combination, and choice of mic pickup pattern is normally limited to cardioid.

A tall boom mic stand means that a mic can be hung down in front of you, (and so be set at forehead height looking down at the mouth as Hugh says), rather than sticking up from the floor in front of you and obscuring your vision of the book you're reading.
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Re: Mic for recording someone reading a book

Postby Tim Gillett » Mon Oct 21, 2019 3:56 am

You did say you didn't want a close mic position but...Have you considered a headworn mic (plus headphones for monitoring your recorded sound)? Professional TV presenters, sports commentators, etc use them regularly with success.

A big advantage is that compared to a standard mic position say 12" or more away, the close mic reduces room noise/ outside noise greatly, saving on having to treat/soundproof a whole room, or treat it nearly as much. Also, because the headworn mic is so compact and close to the head, no shadow from a large mic, pop filter and stand falls on the page you are reading.

Of course the mics need to be positioned correctly, and bass boom due to proximity effect should be corrected. The mic is often off to one side a little from the mouth to avoid direct wind blasts and even so, a good pop filter might still be needed.

There are many good quality, lightweight models around. Like any good tool results are only as good as the skill of the person using it.
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Re: Mic for recording someone reading a book

Postby Ariosto » Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:54 am

All excellent advice so far!

I record narration for audiobooks and use a Beyer M201 hyper-cardiod dynamic mic which can be had for well under £200. You will need an interface or recorder with enough gain as the mic is low output, but it works very well. I've also used condenser (capacitor) mics, (not so keen on) and ribbon mics, which are very good but a bit more expensive, and again the passive versions need good clean gain.

A mic distance of 12 inches or less will aid the voice and reduce room sound as well as provide better mic gain, but the use of blankets and duvets on stands is a must as your basement will be echoey. For narration the voice must be pretty dry with no obvious echo/room sound.

What purpose are you recording readings for? Some organisations will only accept extremely high quality readings with a room sound level of -60dB minimum. That means your silences must fall below -60dB. Off noises such as aeroplanes, dogs barking and people shouting, as well as road noise are not allowed.

Then the quality of your readings are in some cases expected to be extremely professional.
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Re: Mic for recording someone reading a book

Postby John Willett » Mon Oct 21, 2019 1:12 pm

I never like USB microphones, I much prefer a normal mic. with a USB interface. :thumbup:

For speech at a reasonable cost I do like the Sennheiser MD 421 - I actually used this in my bedroom to voice the English version of a tour for Ferrari in Italy. I was sent the script and voiced the English translation using the 421 and a duvet to sort the acoustics. Worked very well. :thumbup:

You should be able to get this in your budget. :thumbup:
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Re: Mic for recording someone reading a book

Postby The Elf » Mon Oct 21, 2019 3:09 pm

John Willett wrote:I never like USB microphones, I much prefer a normal mic. with a USB interface.
+1

John Willett wrote:For speech at a reasonable cost I do like the Sennheiser MD 421
+1!
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Re: Mic for recording someone reading a book

Postby Arpangel » Mon Oct 21, 2019 3:51 pm

John Willett wrote:I never like USB microphones, I much prefer a normal mic. with a USB interface. :thumbup:

For speech at a reasonable cost I do like the Sennheiser MD 421 - I actually used this in my bedroom to voice the English version of a tour for Ferrari in Italy. I was sent the script and voiced the English translation using the 421 and a duvet to sort the acoustics. Worked very well. :thumbup:

You should be able to get this in your budget. :thumbup:

The 421 is one of my favourite mic's, not only for speech, but for female vocals, works a dream, and sounds very very smooth.
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Re: Mic for recording someone reading a book

Postby robinm » Tue Oct 22, 2019 1:43 am

My very sincere thanks to all those who gave me advice and suggestions. This is so helpful. Number one - I do some work on the room. I can manage that. I was asked why I am doing it. I'll try to make the answer brief!

I write short stories and did one for grandchild number 1, wife says "Why don't you turn it into a 'real' book?" Two and a half years later I have a complete studio for photo-editing, book design, printing and binding. Son and daughter-in-law now say "We'd like to have a recording of you reading it."!!

Will this take me two-and-a-half years? I hope not.

But advice from you all will certainly help. (I could not find such help with all the endless tasks I have had to deal with so far!)

Thanks again,

Robin

P.S. Grandchild number two is now with us and I can't do this for one and not the other!
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