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Voice Over Gear, Quality
& Rates ... A Correlation?
By Dan Friedman
Audio Engineer, Producer & Voice Talent
Two of the biggest ongoing issues in the voice over world are gear and rates.
It seems that voice talent (or voice talent wannabes) are always looking for the latest, greatest, smallest and cheapest piece of gear that is good enough to record audio.
They also seem to want the ability to do this from just about anywhere.
The issue of rates is always a big concern, too.
Job offers for payments that fall considerably short of generally accepted rates frequent the Internet. These offers are often discussed as being reprehensible or even laughed at on social media.
So, is there a correlation between cheap gear and low rates?
Portability and the ability to respond quickly to client requests are key factors that drive the need for much of this gear.
The desire to provide for clients is essential to your VO business, and letís face it, the gear is often pretty cool and some of it sounds quite good.
But the environment plays a much bigger role in your overall sound. And just because you can record from your car or a hotel room, doesnít mean you should.
Other than your voice and performance, nothing has a greater effect on your sound than the environment youíre in.
Consistency and quality are critical for great sounding productions.
These can only be guaranteed when the environment is a professional one, usually a professionally equipped recording studio or home studio.
Consistency is especially critical when it comes to revisions.
Even musicians, who are the largest consumers of recording gear, know that most of this low-end gear is for laying down ideas and for doing pre-production. When they are ready to make an album, serious musicians will usually go to a professional recording studio.

One of the biggest complaints about the voice over industry, from those who are in it, is that so many people think that voice over is easy and anyone can do it.
Well, it should come as no surprise that when people brag about recording from their car, on their smart phones and through the multitude of cheap pieces of plastic that are now available at the megastore down the street, outsiders may believe that this is not all that difficult.
Newbies donít always understand performance or quality, but they usually understand the concept of making money from anywhere for very little investment.

On the flip-side, clients who - to their detriment - donít always care about quality are not going to offer higher rates if they think the job can be done anywhere and/or with nothing more than a USB microphone plugged into a laptop.
Clients who know better are usually willing to pay for the quality and service that come with a professional talent, who records in a professional environment, on professional gear.
They understand that, just like in their own businesses, to be among the best requires an investment in time and money.
Clients can justify higher talent payments more easily when they know that the audio will be professionally recorded and will be consistent from one session to the next.
Having higher-quality equipment and a proper recording space helps you to justify demanding a higher price for your work.
Good clients understand that your investment in training and gear has value, and the results will speak for themselves.
If you are a voice over talent who loves and respects this industry, you will hopefully continue to work toward providing the highest quality audio possible and consistency from one session to the next.
This doesnít mean that you should not provide for your clients in emergency situations ... you should.
It also does not mean that you must have the most expensive pieces of gear. It simply means that you will continue to seek out the best equipment for you and your situation until you reach the point that any change would not provide a significant improvement.
Do not stop at "good enough.Ē
Dan Friedman is a voice talent who began as an audio engineer in 1994, working with live sound and then in radio and recording studios. He has been a producer with ProComm Voices for over 10 years, and since 2005, a voice talent with a growing list of of clients including radio and television campaigns. His comprehensive book, Sound Advice - Voiceover From An Audio Engineer's Perspective, provides an excellent foundation for understanding voice over audio and equipment.

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Comments (4)
Judy Fossum
8/19/2011 at 7:52 AM

Thanks for taking the time to write this and all of the other great voice acting articles.

I am fairly new to the voice acting industry, but do have my studio up and running and am auditioning and working with clients.

When initially purchasing equipment I asked my husband's opinion as he is a self-employed general contractor who has a ton of tools and equipment for his job. I took his advice and purchased the best that I could (and a mic suited for my voice), at the time knowing that I will continually learn and upgrade as I go.

Thank so much,

Judy Fossum
Cheyenne, WY
Roy Wells
8/17/2011 at 10:36 AM
Excellent article, Dan! You covered a wide area of current concern (decent work rates for voice talent) very nicely.
Dan Friedman
8/17/2011 at 10:11 AM
Thank you for your comment, Joel. I promise if you follow my blog and some of the other things I've written you will not feel as though that point has gotten lost. ;-)

Joel Richards
8/17/2011 at 6:53 AM
Excellent points; however, I can see this feeding a gear buying frenzy by people new to the industry. Good gear does matter, but mostly that means a good converter/ pre-amp, mic, and monitors/headphones. The best and most expensive piece of "gear" is acoustically treating your recording space which you mention, but I think gets a little lost.
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