Voice Actor. Author. Alien. Human

Home Studio Recording Hardware

Okay, so you want to give this whole voice-acting thing a try, but first, you need a way to get this voice into that machine. In this video, I’m going to show you all the hardware you need to do just that.

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I’m Joe Zieja, former Air Force Captain, and now a voice actor and author in the Los Angeles area. I have been featured in thousands of corporate videos, narration, commercials, promos, video games, anime, cartoons, everything. And I’ve done a fair amount of it from my home studio. In today’s video, we’re going to talk about the signal chain, what that means, and three essential pieces of gear you need to start getting into voice acting.

So what’s a signal chain? A signal chain is the path your voice takes from you to the computer. Someone asks you what your signal chain is, they’re just saying, “what kind of equipment do you have? What’s in between your lips and my ears?” There’s a bunch of things that can be included in that signal chain. A microphone, a preamp, an interface, a computer. Some people also include the audio software they use, and the way that they transfer files to the client.

We’re going to talk about the three essential pieces of gear in your signal chain that you need to get started. First, a microphone. Now, there are thousands of different kinds and brands and all that kind of stuff of microphones out there. You want to start with something basic. I’m going to recommend the MXL 990/991 condenser microphone. Don’t go with a dynamic microphone. It’s a bunch of techno stuff, I’ll explain why, maybe, in another more detailed video. But use a condenser microphone. I started with the MXL 990/991. You can get it for less than $100. It’s easy to use, it takes a lot of beating, and it’s a very reliable, decent-sounding microphone that’s great to start with.

I do not recommend going the USB route. A lot of people are asking me, like, what kind of USB mic should I use for this? I just don’t like the way that USB mics sound. Neither do clients, for the most part. And they can tell the difference. A USB mic doesn’t sound as good, it’s more difficult to upgrade, and also it doesn’t sound as good. If you absolutely must get a USB microphone, check out something that Blue makes, like the Blue Yeti or the Blue Snowball. Test a couple out and see which ones sound the best. Again, I don’t recommend going the USB mic route.

Second, you need an interface, something to take the signal from the microphone to your computer. Think of it like a soundcard, which is basically what it is. It’s an external soundcard that takes the signal from the microphone, digitizes it, and then gives it to your computer in a way that it can understand. For beginners, I recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface. This is a extremely easy-to-use, plug-and-play interface that I’ve never had any issues with. Focusrite makes really solid products that are free of any of those weird technical things that, when you try to set up a new piece of hardware, takes you hours to do. That’s been my major problem with most interfaces, is that they’re difficult to set up. Focusrite is plug-and-play, and every piece of gear that I mention today, you’re going to see a link for in the description below.

Do you already have some pieces of a signal chain? Post them in the comments below.


The third thing you need seems kind of obvious, but a good computer and some cables to connect it all together. I use Canare, C-A-N-A-R-E, cables, their XLR cables are the ones you need to connect your microphone to your interface. The computer doesn’t need to be that whiz-bang. You’re just processing audio, you’re not really going to start producing video. If you want to produce video, you’re going to need something a little bit more powerful. But in our case, we’re just looking at something, probably, that was made in the last five years or so. A good CPU with about 8 gigabytes of RAM is your minimum baseline for a PC, or Mac. You’re also going to need some kind of recording software, but we’re going to go into that in another video.

Okay, so maybe I lied that you only need three pieces of gear. You’re also going to need something that helps you listen back. Now, before you spend hundreds of dollars on a complicated high-fidelity studio monitor system, I just recommend getting a pair of headphones. The Sennheiser HD280 is the brand and the model that I recommend. I still have one in my studio today. They’re not very expensive, they’re all over the place, and the fidelity is good enough that you get a good sense of the quality of your audio, without being too technically specific with the frequencies.

That’s it. That’s your signal chain. It’s not too scary, right? With a couple of pieces of equipment and a modest investment, you are well on your way, and have everything you need, to start laying down some tracks. But the most important thing is, get out there, and start doing it. Start getting some experience, and figure out what works for you, and your gear.

That’s a wrap. If you liked this video, if it helped you, let me know in the comments below, and let me know by liking and subscribing to the channel. If you hit the bell, you then get notified every time I post something new. And I am posting something new every week. I also encourage you to follow me on social media, the links of which are all in the description below, where you’ll get more tips, tricks, behind-the-scenes, funny stuff, all the good stuff that’s out there, from a voice actor in Los Angeles.

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll see you in the booth.



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