technical questions about equipment and software used by voice talent who record at home - moderated by Beau Weaver
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My favorite audio editing tool for Voiceover


As I have mentioned frequently, I am a long time hater of Pro Tools. If you are recording multiple channels of music, routing through plug ins and locked to picture, it sure is the right tool. But for recording and editing voiceover tracks, it is a needlessly complex and cumbersome resource hog. And those are it's good points.

I cannot count the calls I have taken from folks who are new to home recording, literally in tears, trying to figure out how to save a simple recording as an mp3 file with Pro Tools. And don't even get me started on how any OS update from Apple usually renders Pro Tools inoperable. And a year to support Leopard? Give me a break. But I digress.

I have done extensive testing of virtually all the audio editors for Mac OSX, including, Logic, Soundtrack Pro, Peak, Adobe Sound Booth, Sound Studio 3, Wave Editor, Amadeus Pro, etc. On the PC platform, I was a long time fan of Sony Sound Forge, but they do not have any plans to port the app to Mac. Peak has it's fans, but it crashes regularly, and support is spotty. I was liking Sound Studio 3 a lot, but there were some bugs, and omissions and the developer did not respond to support requests at all. All of the above programs have their strengths and weaknesses, but for the way I like to work, they were just not quite right.

Anyway, I have been working with a software developer to perfect a suite little app that I just love, and I want to pass it along to you. For my money, the best tool for recording and editing voiceover is: TwistedWave. And, the price is 49 Dollars!*

It loads in about one second. No changing cursors into different tools. It works like a word processor. It saves directly as mp3 files, and will convert between almost all important audio file types. It exports the selected portion of the waveforme as a new file, of any type you specify. Navigation is a dream. You can zoom horizontally in the waveform and zoom in all with the tiny trackball in the Apple Mighty Mouse. It will record the highest resolution audio, sample rate and bit depth your sound card supports. It works with any digital interface that uses Apple Core Audio. For the advanced user, keyboard shortcuts are customizable, and you can create and save customized effects stacks of AU plugins.

I have worked closely with the guy who created the program to make some ease of use tweaks and fine tuning. He has responded to every one of my requests the same day. I think if you spend a little time playing with it, you may fall in love too.

You can download from this link, and try for a 30 day evaluation period for free. A major 1.5 update has just been posted, with additional improvement in development.

I have been using this as my daily editor for some time now and it is a huge time saver. If you are also a musician, or music producer, then Pro Tools is obviously. If all you need to do is record voiceover sessions, quick edit and cleanup and ship off via ftp, then give Twisted Wave a try, and never look back.

Full Disclosure: I am a paid user, and receive no compensation for this recommendation, other than gratitude for a tool so ideally suited for the task at hand.

Beau Weaver

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  • Howard, you're actually quite right....most everyone (including me) would do better to spend 3K on coaching, acting, and/or basic audio production classes than expensive studio gear, which might sound surprising coming from a gearhound!

    I have one word for ya: Skype. Total game changer in our biz yet still incredibly under-utilized/-developed (Skype-SDN, anyone?), but I see more and more coaches offering tutoring with it. If you can work around the time zone differences, I'm sure you could talk a coach who doesn't use it into a convert by waving enough $$ at them...

  • Alexis -

    Good-quality condensors and cranked preamp inputs can grab a stomach growl, or even a mouse scuttling across the floor in the far corner of your studio far easier than you think....the key is picking the right mike/preamp combo(s) for your (and/or your Dad's) particular voice and VO application and budget, treating the recording space correctly, setting gear up optimally, and using correct mike placement and technique.

    My first VO mike was a very inexpensive but quite well-regarded CAD M37 (an early version of the M177) that was actually too good - it was so extremely quiet and sensitive that it picked up everything that I didn't want - room reverb/resonance, aforementioned stomach growls and background wildlife, pesky high frequency crackly mouth sounds, etc. I actually stopped using it for years, and just rediscovered it this year, when it worked much better with my WhisperRoom and a tube Avalon 737 preamp to warm it up. It's now a great alternate sound to my current main mike, CAD's M9 (basically a tube-driven M177, and a complete sleeper for VO work if used correctly - not to mention a ridiculous bargain for the results it delivers). 

    I think the U87 ubiquity is due to it being a "friendly" sound that most everyone knows, and that works well across a wide variety of voices and other audio sources. Unless your clients specifically ask for it, Dad doesn't need to drop that kind of money on one - although it has some detractors in the engineering community, I think your 103's gained a pretty good rep as a VO mike, with some regarding it as better choice than a U87. However, as with any mike, either can be the wrong tool for the job depending on the people in front/behind it.

    Something else to consider about the U87 if your dad (or you) are handy with a soldering iron - it's been around so long that the electronic circuit is well known, and with today's manufacturing, it's possible to "roll your own" with very similar specs for considerably less money, and even custom-tailor it to your needs. Google "Apex 460 mod", and you'll see a whole community built around tweaking a below-$300 Chinese tube mike (which you can get for $150-$200 used on eBay) to sound like a mike that costs thousands more, apparently fairly easily and quite inexpensively. That one copies an old AKG circuit, but there are similar Neumann-styled mods you an apply to it.

    Similarly, there are other kits available to upgrade inexpensive MXL Neumann clones to be much closer to the U87 spec, and if you don't want to bother, specialty guys who can do the job for you or sell you their own well-regarded custom boutique versions (i.e. Peluso, Michael Joly, etc) for about half the cost of a Neumann. I highly recommend checking out my pal Matthew McGlynn's for more info on this, as well as info and specs about pretty much every mike known to man....a KILLER online resource if you know how to digest all the info it contains, which is substantial and extremely comprehensive.


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  • Mr Ellison,
    I have heard your demo, and I know your very good and I known you have a lot of wisdom about this business. If there is a need for coaches in England, maybe you could fill it.
  • Business-wise, I'm sure my next investment should be in three-grandsworth of coaching (I wish, I wish) because the excellent threads here and elsewhere so often point to that as the path to suppressing the noises we don't want, and releasing the ones we do.  

    You are all so fortunate in USA to have stellar coaches - though I believe there are not many.  Here in UK, given the relative population, they're almost invisible.  Anyway, apologies, that's off-topic, though it is in some sense a 'Tech Note'

  • Oh no! Thats not what I was expecting at all. If my dad reads this he is going to be speed dialing his "guys" at Guitar Center and Sam Ash to see who will give him the best deal.  

  • The U87 and many 'great' mics of similar heritage are great for a couple of reasons. 1) They sound good. 2) They are consistent. 3) Their off axis pickup ( ie not right in front of the mic) is balanced. So a Neumann or KS32, AKG 414 are all known for neutral pickup off axis. This is really important of you are mic'ing an ensmble or piano.In a less than optimal studio maybe this isn't a good thing.

    So the opposite end of this is the Sennheiser 416. It delivers a distinctly different sound, and due to it's hypercardioid (I think that's right) design, it will sound different if you move 2". Great comments from Joe V R and Scott!

  • I have three microphones that I've used in rotation, all Neumanns:  two TLM 103s and a 1972 vintage U-87.  While the 103's use the same capsule as the 87, there is a marked difference between the two.  The '103's are "brighter" and have a much stronger output level, while the '87 is soft and smooth, almost buttery in it's presence, with not nearly as hot a signal to the preamp.

    Yes, you'll hear stomach growls and other incidental noises... that's what's so remarkable about a Neumann, and also why it's NOT always the best choice for a home studio.  Without really good sound isolation (not just acoustics... isolation) you may hear the cockroaches feeding in the dumpster behind the golden arches down the street!

    If you have a firm grip on your studio sound proofing and acoustics, there is arguably no better way to capture every little nuance, harmonic, shading and substance of absolutely everything making a sound in it's path.   Yeah... it's worth it!  My '103's don't see nearly as much use as my old reliable U-87.

  • I don't own an NT1000 (or any RODE product), but the manufacturer's noise spec is 6dBA, which is ultra-supercalifragilisticexpialidcious-ly low.

    In fact, it's 1 dB lower than the TLM103, and 6 dBs lower than the legendary U87i, and many seem to applaud the NT1000 as a pretty decent vocal mike for the price. In fact, I just read a review from a respected mega-multiplatinum engineer who compared it quite favorably to a U87 (for the techie nitpickers, please note I said "favorably", not "the same as"). 

    Assuming nothing's damaged, I'm betting on the usual suspects: preamp, mixer, cable, software plugins, or a myriad of other things in or around the processing chain.

    Also, I've never heard of an accent causing plosive/-ess issues - but mike technique, oh yeah, most definitely! Again, the usual rules are in order: check windscreens, mike angles and proximity, preamp gain, etc.

    If it makes y'all feel any better, I and countless other audiophile-y VO pros deal with all the above every single day, using mikes costing below $100 up to the stratospheric multiple-$1000s mark....good baseline gear settings are the key, followed immediately by great mike technique. Mess up either, and you've made a quick trip to splatter/static/overload city, where software can only fix so much...

  • Mr. Ellison, 

    Why is it that the U87 is like the holy grail or something.  I think the 103 is too sensitive, it picks up my stomach rumbling. Why would a voice actor need a $4000.00 mic that is so sensitive it gets in the way?

     My dad has two clients that own Begotti sports cars that cost over a million even though they will never drive as fast at those cars go.  Is a U87 just a show off toy or does it really make you sound that good? 

  • While we are talking Rodes, I still use my original NT1A for commercial material and appreciate the really low self-noise, said to be quieter than the mighty Neumann!  U-know the one.

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