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A great-sounding live vocal mic that you might never have heard of [with video]
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OK, let's deal with the Monty Python reference. The man in the photos is Michael Palin of the actual Monty Python's Flying Circus. So if the studio is reminding you of Monty Python, then that might be why.
I'm guessing that this studio might be Palin's own. It definitely has the look of a personal studio rather than a commercial facility. Actors often do voice over work, so it would be entirely logical for Palin to have his own studio for this. Or maybe it's someone else's, but that doesn't matter for the purposes of this article
And the purpose of this article is...
...that I am a great believer in the end-product. What the work actually sounds like. Whether voice over, music or any other kind of audio product, all that matters is that it sounds good. It really doesn't matter what equipment was used or what the studio was like. If the audio sounds good then that is all that matters.
So what I would say about this studio is that I would be very confident that the work sounds good, but the studio itself looks a little rough and ready.
This studio seems to be a three-room setup consisting of lobby/office, control room and recording room. Here's the lobby...
What we can see here is that there is a purpose-built sound insulating door leading to the studio itself. If you look at the bottom of the door you will see that it seals all round on all four sides, which is exactly the way it should be. Don't expect a door like this to be cheap. In fact expect it to be expensive. Also consider that it will be heavy and the supporting wall needs to be gorilla enough to take the strain. In this pic we can see that not only is Michael Palin welcoming (to Kyra, more on her later), the lobby has a welcoming studio feel to it, indicating to visiting talent that they are in a special place, not just any room in someone's house or in an office building.
Moving inside the control room we see a Mackie DB8 digital mixing console, a computer screen with what seems to be DAW software but I don't know which one (perhaps an eagle-eyed reader will be able to tell me). I can't see any monitors but they might be just out of shot. The walls of the control room are acoustically treated and there is a window through to the recording area which seems to be of two panes of glass. Both panes seem to be set at an angle to the vertical, which is normally done to reduce visual reflections. There is the traditional engineer's chair, which has to be both practical and comfortable for the many hours of use it will get. Also a sofa for a producer or representative of an advertising agency. Why the guitar is wrapped in plastic...?
Moving inside the recording area then what we see is acoustic treatment on the walls, but also a fluffy blanket on the talent's table, and lots of extra absorption around, including what seem to be towels behind the grey purpose-built absorber. And there is a sheet hanging rather untidily from the ceiling, partially covering a KRK monitor.
What actual equipment does a voice over artist need? Well a Neumann U87 of course. This looks to me like an original non-Ai model but I'll be happy to stand corrected if someone spots any identifying detail that I missed. No-one ever made a mistake specifying a U87 for voice over. Of course other mics have other sound textures that may be desirable, but the U87 is without doubt the classic mic for this purpose.
Going back to what I was describing as the rough and ready look of this studio, clearly the studio has been acoustically designed. It hasn't just been thrown together or hastily adapted from an ordinary room. But clearly someone has felt that the acoustic treatment didn't achieve a sound that was sufficiently dry. A dry sound is always more useful for voice over because it can be treated any way you like. A sound that has ambience 'baked in' is far less versatile. And it is always worth considering that a booth can sound boxy and less natural than a more open recording space.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so what does this studio sound like? Well we do have some evidence...
This seems to me to be camera audio, rather than the U87, but even so it gives a good indication of the acoustics of the studio.
I'll now let you ponder the photos and video at your leisure but what I would like you to consider is that this studio has been acoustically designed, but measures were taken to improve the sound still further. These additional measures may not look too nice, but if they help the marketability of the work done in there, then everything is for the ultimate good.
Footnote: This clip was shown on the BBC's Breakfast in the UK on August 10 2017. It illustrates the work of Pact, a charity that provides support to prisoners, people with convictions, and their families. There is more on Kyra's story here...