So you've written a book and want to record an audiobook version of it? Or maybe you're tasked with recording someone else's book and would like to know which microphone would work best. In this article, I'll try my best to start your audiobook recording journey on the right foot with some good microphone advice.
First, “best” is a dangerous word. Especially when it comes to recording audiobooks. There are countless microphones that sound great on the human voice, and many microphones that will suit one reader's voice better than the next reader. Variability and subjectivity make the “best microphone question” a tough one to answer.
Putting the performance of the reader aside, there are other major factors at play when recording an audiobook. Chief among them are:
- The space you'll be recording in (is this being recorded in a soundproof audio booth or next to your laptop in your bedroom?)
- The recording equipment used (audio interface, A/D converter, computer, etc.)
So there are many variables that are in play when recording an audiobook.
Large publishers, like Penguin Random House, for example, have studio specification they look for before considering recording an audiobook anywhere. The specifications, as you may have guessed, include a soundproof booth, specific computer hardware and software (audio interface, A/D converter, computer, digital audio workstation, etc.), and a microphone of a certain quality.
Smaller publishers or independent writers/voice over artists likely don't have the same constraints. And so I'll mention three microphones that I'd recommend across the board for recording your very own audiobook. They are:
- Neumann U 87 AI: The Neumann U 87 AI (link to check the price on Amazon) is a modernized version of the legendary but discontinued Neumann U 87 (which was an FET recreation of the U 67). This multi-pattern large diaphragm “true” condenser microphone is a staple in many voiceover studios due to its clear, crisp reproduction of nearly any voice. The microphone itself is very versatile with 3 selectable polar patterns as well as a high-pass filter and pad option. This is my top overall recommended microphone for recording audiobooks at a professional level.
- Rode NT1-A: The Rode NT1-A (link to check the price on Amazon) is another large diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone. This mic gets my top “budget” recommendation for recording audiobooks. It's an extremely quiet condenser that reproduces voice with pristine accuracy.
- Electro-Voice RE20: The Electro-Voice RE20 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a large-diaphragm cardioid dynamic mic and a favourite in the broadcasting world. This mic exhibits no proximity effect, has superb protection from plosives and is low in sensitivity. This mic gets my top recommendation for recording audiobooks in less-than-ideal environments.
Let's dive deeper into each of these microphones in a minute, but first, let's talk about what we want in an audiobook recording.
“Best” is a dangerous word. There is really no such thing as a “best microphone” for any situation. The microphone(s) listed in my Recommended Microphones And Accessories” page are simply my recommendations. These recommendations are based on my own experience and are mindful of budget. It would be easy to suggest an ELA M 251 or U47 for most scenarios. However, these tube mics are very expensive, putting them out of a hobbyist's price range and making it difficult for professionals to make their money back on the gear.
Another important note is that the microphone or equipment you choose is not the most important part of recording audio. In fact, there are many factors that are arguably more important than the choice of microphone. These include:
- Performer (whether a musician, speaker, or otherwise)
- Microphone technique/placement
- Number of microphones used
- Natural sound of the room
- Content (whether that's the song, discussion, or otherwise)
- Signal chain (including mic cable, preamplifier, console, and/or interface/computer)
With that being said, some microphones and gear suit some instruments better than others, prompting this series of articles under “Recommended Microphones And Accessories.”
What Makes An Ideal Audiobook Recording?
- Little or no ambient/background noise
- Clarity in the voice
- Consistent levels in the voice
- No vocal plosives
- No audible distortion
So how does our microphone choice aid in achieving the above results?
- Little or no ambient/background noise: If in a soundproof room, this should be less of an issue: simply ensure the voice actor doesn't make noise while reading and choose a high-quality sensitive mic (like the U 87 or NT1-A). When in a non-soundproof environment, choose a dynamic microphone (like the RE20) that will be less sensitive to the ambient noise. If in a noisy environment, choose to try recording another time.
- Clarity in the voice: Selecting a quality microphone with a flat frequency response is ideal for audiobook recording. Since the
readinwill not be part of a musical mix, there's no need for a presence boost in the mic. Choosing a sensitive microphone (like the U 87 or NT1-A) will also aid in capturing a clear vocal performance.
- Consistent levels/tone in the voice: This is mostly to do with the reader and their movement habits around microphones. However, choosing a microphone with less or no proximity effect and a more consistent pickup pattern is a good idea. These two factors will improve the consistency of the vocal levels and tone of the reader.
- No vocal plosives: Some microphones are more likely to suffer from vocal plosives (air popping in the microphone) than others. It's always best to tilt whatever microphone you're using off-axis when recording voiceover and audiobooks to help reduce the likelihood of plosives. It's also critical to use a pop-filter. Yet another piece of information to keep in mind is that omnidirectional microphones are much more resistant to plosives than unidirectional mics.
- No audible distortion: Choosing a mic with a high maximum sound pressure level is important. Most mics will easily handle the loud parts of an audiobook. Applying a safe amount of preamp gain is crucial, but has little to do with microphone choice.
So that's quite a bit of information already. Let's see if we can condense this all into a list of factors that make a great audiobook microphone.
What Factors Make For A Great Audiobook Microphone?
- Polar response: choose a microphone with a polar pattern that best suits your recording environment. Regardless of your choice, ensure the pattern is consistent, at the very least, between 0-degrees on-axis and 90-degrees (to the side).
- Flat frequency response: picking a microphone with a flat frequency response will reproduce the human voice the most accurately.
- Sensitivity: In soundproof recording environments, we want a sensitive mic to reproduce the nuances in a reader's performance. In non-soundproof environments, we want a low-sensitivity mic to help reject the ambient noise.
- Proximity effect: This again depends on what we're going for. On one hand, the proximity effect can help give the human voice that radio-ready “gravitas.” On the other hand, it can greatly alter the tone of the reader's voice if he moves relative to the microphone during his performance.
- Protection from plosives: Omnidirectional microphones and mics with less sensitivity are less prone to plosive “pops” in their signals. Always title your microphones slightly off-axis and use a pop filter!
- Low Self-Noise: When using a condenser in a soundproof room (highly recommended), choose a mic with a low self-noise rating to further reduce the ambient noise in the mic signal.
- Effective shock mounting: We don't want any background noise, including mechanical noise. Therefore choose a microphone with a high-quality shock mount system to isolate the capsule from mechanical vibrations.
- Interference rejection: Choose a microphone that will reject RF and EMI frequency that notoriously cause hum in a mic signal.
With this list of audiobook microphone factors, let's discuss our three top audiobook mic recommendations.
The Neumann U 87 AI
The Neumann U 87 AI is my top recommendation for an audiobook microphone. I've used this microphone extensively in the studio for voiceover work and it rarely gives me any issues.
The Neumann U 87 is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
• 50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones)
• Top Best Vintage Microphones (And Their Best Clones)
• Top Best Solid-State/FET Condenser Microphones
• Top Best Microphones For Recording Vocals
Neumann is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
• Top Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use
• Top Best Studio Monitor Brands You Should Know And Use
The high-end design of the U 87 yields an accurate reproduction of sound and its versatility lends itself particularly well to practically all voices.
Let's discuss the U 87 in more detail.
Polar Patterns Of The Neumann U 87 AI
The Neumann U 87 AI has 3 selectable patterns (cardioid, bidirectional, and omnidirectional). All three make great choices for voiceover work, but for long format audiobooks, I'd recommend either the cardioid or omnidirectional pattern. The graphs of these two patterns are as follows:
The reason I'd advise the cardioid or omnidirectional pattern instead of the bidirectional is that the bidirectional (figure-8) response exhibits the most proximity effect. Too much proximity effect can negatively alter the bass response of the microphone if the reader moves closer/further from the mic. If you have a professional speaker who can sit still for extended periods of time, the bidirectional pattern could work fantastically.
The Cardioid Polar Pattern Option
I like the cardioid option due to its isolating characteristics. It's more “focused” on the reader than the other parts of the room that could potentially make noise. The cardioid pattern is perhaps the most common pattern for a voice over mic for this reason.
The cardioid pattern option of the U 87 AI also has the lowest self-noise rating and high maximum sound pressure level rating, which we'll get to shortly.
What I dislike about the cardioid pattern is that it does make the microphone prone to plosives. Once again, ensure you tilt the U 87 slightly off-axis when recording the audio and put a high-quality pop-filter between the reader and the mic.
For more information on microphone pop filters, check out my article What Is A Microphone Pop Filter And When Should You Use One?
The cardioid pattern exhibits some proximity effect. This can be an excellent benefit or the opposite depending on the reader. Some voices benefit greatly from a boost in bass response while some do not.
However, getting in the proximity effect's “sweet spot” distance from the microphone requires skill and steadiness on the reader's part. The closer we are to the microphone, the higher the likelihood of plosives and the greater the tonal shift if we are to move relative to the mic.
For more information on the cardioid microphone polar pattern, check out my article What Is A Cardioid Microphone? (Polar Pattern + Mic Examples).
The Omnidirectional Polar Pattern Option
If you're recording in a quality soundproof room, consider trying the omnidirectional option for your audiobook record. So long as there's no ambient noise, the omni pattern has the potential to yield amazing results, especially in small vocal booths.
The omnidirectional polar pattern benefits the voice in multiple ways:
- No proximity effect (less potential for change in mic colouration)
- Much less off-axis colouration (less potential for change in mic colouration)
- Resistant to vocal plosives
The decreased sensitivity and signal-to-noise ratio of the omnidirectional pattern (compared to cardioid) are small and practically negligible. If you have a smaller vocal booth with good soundproofing, try the omnidirectional pattern of the U 87. If there is little or no ambient noise present in the mic signal, the omnidirectional pattern is likely your best bet when recording an audiobook.
For more information on the omnidirectional microphone polar pattern, check out my article What Is An Omnidirectional Microphone? (Polar Pattern + Mic Examples).
Frequency Response Of The Neumann U 87 AI
The Neumann U 87 AI has a very flat frequency response in all of its polar patterns. Because we've discussed the cardioid and omnidirectional polar patterns of the U 87, I'll show their respective frequency response graphs here:
Note that the graphs are nearly identical. The difference being:
- Cardioid pattern has a steeper low-frequency roll-off than the omnidirectional pattern (with no HPF engaged).
- The omnidirectional pattern is more sensitive to high-end frequencies than the cardioid pattern.
A flat response like that of the U 87 will yield a natural sounding audiobook recording. This is exactly what we want when capturing the narrator's voice.
The only criticism of the U 87 AI (and condenser microphones in general) people tend to have is that high-end may sound harsh. This is due to the typical clarity of the condenser microphone when combined with digital audio recording. If the U 87 sounds harsh in the high frequencies, try EQing the signal. I personally do not find the U 87 to be overly bright or harsh.
The proximity effect of the cardioid pattern is worth revisiting here. Note that if the mic is in cardioid mode, the bass response will increase as the narrator gets closer to the U 87. Keep this in mind when recording any type of voiceover.
For more information on microphone frequency response, check out my article Complete Guide To Microphone Frequency Response (With Mic Examples).
Sensitivity Of The Neumann U 87 AI
The sensitivity ratings of the Neumann U 87 AI are given as:
- Omnidirectional: 20 mV/Pa
- Cardioid: 28 mV/Pa
- Bidirectional (figure-8): 22 mV/Pa
All ratings at 1 kHz tone into 1 kohm load impedance.
For more information on microphone sensitivity, check out my article What Is Microphone Sensitivity? An In-Depth Description.
The U 87 AI, in all polar options, will output a strong signal of the narrator's voice. This means less reliance on gain from the microphone preamplifier.
So the U 87 AI has a great sensitivity rating, but there's another way to think of its sensitivity. That is, how reactive its diaphragms are to the changes in sound pressure.
The U 87 utilizes a large dual-diaphragm capsule. Each diaphragm is a 26mm, centre-terminated, gold-plated Mylar diaphragm with its own 34mm backplate. The two are separated by a thin aluminum spacer.
For more information on microphone capsules, check out my article What Is A Microphone Capsule? (Plus Top 3 Most Popular Capsules).
These diaphragms react extremely well to subtle changes in sound pressure and, therefore, recreate the narrator's voice with near spot-on accuracy.
For more information on microphone diaphragms, check out my article What Is A Microphone Diaphragm?
Proximity Effect In The Neumann U 87 AI
As mentioned, the Neumann U 87 AI exhibits the most proximity effect in bidirectional mode, some proximity effect in cardioid mode, and no proximity effect in omnidirectional mode.
Depending on your recording environment, the narrator's quality of voice, and the narrator's stillness (lack of movement), the proximity effect could be your best friend or worst enemy.
For more information on microphone proximity effect, check out my article In-Depth Guide To Microphone Proximity Effect.
Plosive Protection Of The Neumann U 87 AI
I've had mixed results with avoiding plosives with the U 87 AI. The amount of plosive energy a microphone will deal with depends largely on the vocal talent and the script from which they read. When recording a long format audiobook, there's practically no chance of avoiding plosives, so we must set up the U 87 accordingly.
Tilt the U 87 off-axis from the narrator. I typically have the mic tilted at least 30-degrees (along a horizontal axis). You can also decide to turn the U 87 slightly off-axis (along its lengthwise axis). This will cause the plosive gusts of air to hit the diaphragms at an angle rather than straight on, helping to reduce their impact and the chances of a mic pop.
Note that tilting a microphone off-axis will generally affect the tone of the microphone. This change in tone is explained in the polar patterns. The U 87's bidirectional pattern will exhibit the greatest amount of off-axis colouration due to mic tilt, while the omnidirectional pattern will barely change (except for the very upper frequencies, as shown by the omnidirectional polar pattern graph).
Always position a pop filter between the narrator and the U 87 to help disperse plosive energy before it hits the diaphragm. Try distancing the narrator from the microphone if popping is an issue in the early stages of recording the audio book.
Selecting the omnidirectional mode of the U 87 will also help to drastically reduce the chanced of microphone popping. Omni mics are quite resistant to plosive energy and are therefore a great choice for audiobooks.
Let's recap quickly the top tips to protect the U 87 from plosives:
- Always use a pop filter
- Tilt the microphone off-axis
- Distance the speaker from the microphone
- Select the U 87's omnidirectional polar pattern
For more information on microphone plosives, check out my article Top 10 Tips For Eliminating Microphone Pops And Plosives.
Self-Noise Of The Neumann U 87 AI
Because the Neumann U 87 AI is a condenser microphone with internal circuitry, it also produces self-noise. The sound of the electronics, however slight it may be, is picked up by the diaphragms and reproduced in the mic signal.
The self-noise values of each of the U 87 AI polar patterns are as follows:
- Omnidirectional: 15 dB-A
- Cardioid: 12 dB-A
- Bidirectional: 14 dB-A
Although these values are not the quietest on the market, they work well for recording an audiobook. When recording in soundproof rooms, a 15 dB-A self-noise may be noticeable to the listener, but chances are it will go unnoticed. Even at its loudest self-noise rating, the Neumann U 87 AI is still a professional quality voiceover mic used in pro studios around the world.
For more information on microphone self-noise, check out my article What Is Microphone Self-Noise? (Equivalent Noise Level).
Shock Mounting Of The Neumann U 87 AI
The Neumann U 87 AI comes with it's own basket shock mount (the EA 87).
The EA 87 is a high-quality basket shock mount that isolates the U 87 AI from its mic stand and the rest of the room. Isolation from the EA 87 helps to dramatically reduce the amount of mechanical noise, yielding a clean mic signal.
For more information on microphone shock mounts, check out my article What Is A Microphone Shock Mount And Why Is It Important?
Interference Rejection Of The Neumann U 87 AI
The U 87 AI is fairly protected from EMI (electromagnetic interference) and RFI (radio frequency interference).
First off, the U 87 AI, like all professional studio microphones, has a balanced XLR output. A balanced audio signal (like the U 87 output) travels through pins 2 and 3 of the XLR in opposite polarity. Upon reaching the mic preamp, the differences between pins 2 and 3 are combined, giving us a strong output from the U 87 while rejecting any potential EMI and RFI (which would cause equal signal disturbances on pins 2 and 3. This clever cancelling out of identical signals on pins 2 and 3 is called common mode rejection.
Generally speaking, condenser microphones are less sensitive to exterior electromagnetic fields. Neumann takes care with the U 87 (like all their microphones) to optimize their mic design to protect from EMI and RFI issues.
No mic is absolutely safe. I worked at a studio that used a U 87 AI for nearly all its voiceover work. Across the street was not one, but two radio stations!
In that case, extra measures had to be taken to ensure no RFI would happen in the U 87's signal. We settled on a Shure A15RF plugged in immediately after the microphone. This filter effectively negated the interference from across the street.
However, in the same studio, the Rode NT1-A did not pick up the nearby radio stations. Perhaps the Rode is superior to the Neumann U 87 in terms of interference rejection. Let's discuss the NT1-A next.
The Rode NT1-A
The Rode NT1-A is an incredible large-diaphragm condenser microphone. Its high-quality sound along with its very affordable price makes it a favourite among many project studio owners and musicians alike.
The Rode NT1-A is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
• 50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones)
• 12 Best Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphones Under $500
• Top 12 Best Microphones Under $1,000 for Recording Vocals
• Top 10 Best Microphones Under $500 for Recording Vocals
• Top 20 Best Microphones For Podcasting (All Budgets)
Rode is featured in My New Microphone's Top Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.
For audiobook, the NT1-A is hands down my top budget option. If you're on a budget (aren't we all) and have a decent recording space, the Rode NT1-A should get your serious consideration for your audiobook record.
Let's discuss the Rode NT1-A in more detail.
Polar Pattern Of The Rode NT1-A
The Rode NT1-A is a cardioid microphone with the following polar response diagram:
As we can see from the graph above (and hear when using the Rode NT1-A) is that there is noticeable off-axis colouration in the mic's polar response. The graph only gives us information up to 4,000 Hz, but like all microphones, the NT1-A becomes even more directional at high frequencies.
For this reason, we should be careful about how much we tilt the microphone, if we decided to at all (to reduce the chance of plosives). It also means the narrator should ideally stay in the same position through the audiobook recording.
Cardioid patterns work well when there is ambient noise in the recording area. Even “soundproof” rooms can have a certain amount of room noise. This room noise, whether ambient and chronic or acute and intermittent affects the quality of the audiobook recording.
A cardioid microphone like the Rode NT1-A, when positioned correctly, will pick up what the narrator is saying while rejecting a good amount of room noise. We could say the cardioid microphone “focuses in” on the speaker's voice and is less sensitive to the environment around it.
Frequency Response Of The Rode NT1-A
The frequency response of the Rode NT1-A is listed as 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz. Here is the frequency response graph of the NT1-A:
As we can see, the frequency response of the NT1-A is not perfectly flat. However, it is certainly flat enough and sounds very natural on speech.
The subtle cuts and boosts in the NT1-A's response yield a bright, natural sounding narration on practically any voice.
Again, subjectivity should be used when listening to any condenser microphone on vocals. I personally find the NT1-A to sound accurate without the “harshness” some listeners attribute to condenser mics.
Because the NT1-A is a cardioid microphone, the bass response will become enhanced as the narrator moves closer to the microphone.
Being aware of the proximity effect when using the NT1-A allows us to understand the tonal shift that often happens when the narrator moves closer or further to the mic, letting us address the issue immediately. Awareness of the proximity effect also allows us to take advantage of the bass boost, which sounds great on some voices and less so on others. Experiment with mic positioning for the “sweet spot.”
Sensitivity Of The Rode NT1-A
The sensitivity rating of the Rode NT1-A is given as -32 dBV or 25 mV/Pa @ 1 kHz. This is a typical rating for a condenser mic and means that the Rode NT1-A will output a strong mic signal when recording a narrator. Having a strong mic output makes us less reliant on the gain from our mic preamp and generally yields a cleaner vocal signal.
The large diaphragm of the NT1-A moved very accurately in accordance with changing sound pressure levels. This reactivity is one of the reasons the NT1-A sounds so naturally and precise on speech.
Proximity Effect In The Rode NT1-A
Because the Rode NT1-A is a cardioid microphone, it exhibits some proximity effect.
As mentioned, it's best to be aware of the proximity effect in order to benefit from its advantages or avoid its disadvantages.
Plosive Protection Of The Rode NT1-A
The NT1-A comes with the tailor made SM6 Shock mount with integrated pop shield. Though the pop shield is not overly flexible in its positioning, it's a solid defence against plosives. The pop shield is removable in case you have a better pop filter available.
The off-axis tilt strategy helps with limiting the occurrence of mic popping due to plosives. Be cautious when tilting the NT1-A, however, due to its noticeable off-axis colouration. A 15-30-degree tilt seems to help prevent plosive energy from overloading the diaphragm while maintaining the approximate on-axis frequency response of the NT1-A.
If plosives are a big nuisance in your recording, try distancing the narrator from the microphone slightly.
Self-Noise Of The Rode NT1-A
The Rode NT1-A is marketed as “the world's quietest studio condenser microphone.” With a self-noise of only 5 dB-A, the Rode won't add any extra noise to your audiobook (unless you happen to be recording inside an anechoic chamber).
Shock Mounting Of The Rode NT1-A
The SM6 is a quality basket-style shock mount designed for the NT1-A. This suspension shock mount provides ample isolation from mechanical vibrations the would otherwise cause unwanted rumble and noise in the mic signal.
Interference Rejection Of The Rode NT1-A
Although no microphone is absolutely immune, the Rode NT1-A is well protected from EMI and RF interference.
The mic's output is balanced and is sent though a 3-pin XLR. Common mode rejection, therefore, rids of any EMI or RF between the mic and the preamp.
As mentioned, condenser microphones (like the NT1-A) are fairly free from electromagnetic interference.
The Electro-Voice RE20
The Electro-Voice RE20 is a large diaphragm dynamic and a favourite in the professional broadcasting world. Though audiobooks tend to benefit more from the clarity and sensitivity of condenser mics, recording an audiobook with the RE20 would likely yield an excellent result. Depending on your recording environment and the amount of “polish” you want on your final product, the RE20 could easily be a better choice than the aforementioned U 87 and NT1-A.
The Electro-Voice RE20 is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
• 50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones)
• Top Best Dynamic Microphones On The Market
• Top Best Microphones For Podcasting (All Budgets)
Electro-Voice is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
• Top Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use
• Top Best PA Loudspeaker Brands You Should Know And Use
• Top Best Subwoofer Brands (Car, PA, Home & Studio)
Let's dig a bit deeper into why the Electro-Voice RE20 gets a top recommendation as an audiobook microphone.
Polar Pattern Of The Electro-Voice RE20
Here is the polar pattern diagram of the Electro-Voice RE20:
As we can see from the graph, the RE20 does a great job at rejecting sound from 120-degrees to 240-degrees off-axis across its entire frequency response. The RE20 has roughly 16-18 dB rejection at 180-degrees.
In recording environments with noticeable ambient noise, the RE20's cardioid pattern helps reject some of that constant noise while focusing in on the narrator's voice. The cardioid pattern combined with the low sensitivity of the RE20 make it an excellent choice for recording in non-ideal locations.
Note that I wouldn't recommend ever trying to record an audiobook in a noisy environment. By “less-than-ideal” I mean a quiet or soundproof room that just so happens to have a higher level of ambient noise.
There is very little off-axis colouration with the RE20. We've discussed the advantage of plosive reduction when speaking slightly off-axis into directional microphones. The RE20 allows us to do so without changing the tone of the mic pickup.
Perhaps the most interesting point about the polar pattern of the RE20 is that although the microphone is a directional cardioid, it exhibits no proximity effect! This is due to Electro-Voice's Variable-D technology.
A cardioid pattern with no proximity effect makes the RE20 a very good choice for voiceover (as shown by its popularity in the broadcasting world).
Frequency Response Of The Electro-Voice RE20
The RE20 is rated as having a frequency response between 45 Hz and 18,000 Hz. Here is the frequency response graph:
Note that the frequency response graph of the RE20 also shows us what it picks up at 180-degrees (the opposite direction of where the microphone is pointing).
The frequency response of the RE20 is very flat for a dynamic mic. This microphone will pick up the entire range and all the harmonic content of a narrator's voice without colouring it negatively.
Due to the lack of proximity effect, I wouldn't suggest using the RE20's high-pass filter option, as it would likely thin the narrator's voice too much.
For more info on high-pass filters, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
• What Is A Microphone High-Pass Filter And Why Use One?
• Audio EQ: What Is A High-Pass Filter & How Do HPFs Work?
The low-end roll off of the RE20's frequency response helps reduce unwanted low-end rumble as well as potential mechanical noise and vocal plosives.
The high-end roll-off ensure the RE20 mic signal will be anything but “harsh.”
Sensitivity Of The Electro-Voice RE20
The Electro-Voice RE20 has a low sensitivity rating of 1.5 mV/Pa. This means the microphone will output a relatively weak signal compared the two condenser mics on the recommended list.
A high-quality preamp with sufficient clean gain is highly recommended when using dynamic mics like the RE20 for voiceover work. Similarly, you could invest in a Cloudlifter Mic Activator to put in-line between your RE20 and preamp.
The low sensitivity of the RE20 helps reduce the amount of ambient noise in the mic signal. For example, if you were recording into your laptop, you could point the RE20 away from the computer and the low sensitivity cardioid mic would do a fairly decent job at rejecting the laptop fan noise.
The large Acoustalloy diaphragm and low-mass voice coil of the RE20 capsule react very effectively to changing sound pressure (compared to other moving-coil dynamic capsules). This yield a more accurate capture of a reader's voice than a typical dynamic mic. The RE20 is even marketed as having a “studio condenser response.”
Proximity Effect In The Electro-Voice RE20
The RE20 has Electro-Voice's Variable-D technology which virtually eliminates the proximity effect. This is great for recording long form audiobooks.
Plosive Protection Of The Electro-Voice RE20
The strategy of speaking into the microphone slightly off-axis may not even be necessary with the RE20.
Each opening on the RE20 is covered by a high-quality blast and wind filter designed to effectively dissipate plosive vocal energy. The narrator can get very close to the microphone without worrying about overloading the diaphragm with vocal plosives. The filters also protect the diaphragm against excessive sibilance, which is yet another huge benefit when choosing an audiobook mic.
Self-Noise Of The Electro-Voice RE20
The Electro-Voice RE20 is a dynamic microphone and has no self-noise.
Shock Mounting Of The Electro-Voice RE20
The dynamic microphone element of the RE20 is internally shock mounted, which helps greatly to inhibit the transfer of mechanical noise from external sources to the mic diaphragm. The result is a cleaner audio signal.
On top of the internal shock mount, Electro-Voice has an external suspension shock mount for the RE20 called the 309A. Utilizing this external shock mount will nearly ensure that no mechanical noise gets transferred to the RE20 capsule and, therefore, to the audiobook recording.
Interference Rejection Of The Electro-Voice RE20
Dynamic microphones are often at great risk of EMI and RF interference. The RE20 combats this reality with its massive steel housing and highly effective hum-bucking coil. These parts of the RE20 work to resist magnetically induces noise and hum.
The interference rejection of the RE20 makes it a quiet microphone that works incredibly well in non-ideal audiobook recording situations.
So these are my three top recommendations for audiobook microphones. Of course, there are many microphones that could fit the description of “best audiobook microphone,” but in my experience, these are my top 3.
Remember that the microphone is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to creating a high-quality audiobook. It takes a superb soundproof recording environment, high-quality A/D converters, and a professional-grade computer and software to produce a professional audiobook (unless you choose to go analog for some reason).
All that being said, here are my top three audiobook microphones:
- Neumann U 87 AI: Best studio microphone for recording audiobooks.
- Rode NT1-A: An incredible “budget” option for recording and audiobook in a studio-grade space.
- Electro-Voice RE20: Recommended dynamic mic for less-that-ideal recording situations.
- AKG C 414 XLII (another high-quality multi-pattern large diaphragm condenser microphone)
- Neumann TLM103 (another great Neumann to record voiceover and audiobooks)
- Rode Procaster (a budget broadcast-ready dynamic microphone option)
For all the My New Microphone mic/gear recommendations, please check out my page Recommended Microphones And Accessories.