Audiobook sales reached 1.3 billion dollars in the U.S. in 2020. Now that more and more people are investing their time and money into audiobooks, it is a great time to record yours.
Audiobooks offer an opportunity for more potential readers to engage with your work. One can play your book in the background around the house, listen to it while driving or working, or listen to it as they lie in bed at night. They also offer a much-needed break from other forms of entertainment, particularly social media and the invasive blue light of phone and laptop screens that keep us awake at night. Lights off, head down on the pillow, audiobook.
So, if you want to start recording your audiobook, you need somewhere to start. You will need equipment and a place to record, perform vocal warm-ups, and some time to edit. First things first, you need the best microphone for audiobook recording.
This article will explore some of the best microphones available for recording high-quality voiceovers and narration. Bear in mind that the microphone most suitable for you may not be the best choice for someone else. Many high-quality microphone manufacturers are selling excellent products, so finding the right mic for you is not about finding the ‘best out there‘ but understanding your requirements and limitations and making an informed choice.
Considerations for recording audiobooks
Before discussing the types of microphones most suitable for reading an audiobook, it is important to know what they do. Recording an audiobook is not rocket science, but it is not as simple as speaking into a microphone.
The experience is listening to your audiobook needs to be an enjoyable one. It is not just a matter of text being read aloud—that alone does not suffice for an enjoyable listening experience. The quality of your sound recording must be high, including the actual sound quality and the intonation and variation in your voice (or your narrator’s voice). High-quality audiobook recording requires:
- Consistent vocal volume
- Clear pronunciation, no mumbling
- No heavy plosives (‘p‘, ‘b‘, ‘t‘, ‘k‘ sounds) – these sounds can cause a loud ‘pop‘ on the recording
- No background noise unless necessary
- Ambient noise where necessary
- Engaging narrative
Different microphones are designed to meet different needs. When it comes to achieving a crisp, clear, and nuanced voice in audiobook recording, the best option is to use a condenser microphone. Let us explore what a condenser microphone is like compared to other types of microphones.
Condenser vs. Dynamic
What is a condenser microphone?
Condenser microphones are lightweight microphones that feature a thin diaphragm suspended by a metal plate. When you speak into this microphone, the sound waves from your voice hit the diaphragm, which causes it to vibrate. These vibrations travel through the metal plate and transform the sound of your voice into sound waves, which are recorded. The diaphragm on a condenser mic is incredibly sensitive, making it a perfect choice for picking up vocal nuances.
What is a dynamic microphone?
Dynamic mics are durable, heavy-purpose microphones often used to record loud sounds, such as a drum track on a song. A dynamic mic does not use a metal plate like a condenser microphone but instead uses a wire coil to amplify the signals picked up by the diaphragm.
USB vs. XLR microphones
If you are just starting on your audiobook recording journey, you probably do not have much recording equipment at your disposal. That is fine because you do not need all the latest equipment or a fancy home studio to create high-quality audiobooks. A USB mic and a digital audio workstation (DAW), a piece of recording software, are enough for you to start recording an audiobook.
There are two main power sources for microphones: USB and XLR. A USB microphone is a wise choice for recording an audiobook on a budget. Let us take a quick look at both.
What is a USB microphone?
USB microphones feature a built-in interface so that you plug the mic directly into your computer’s USB port and begin recording audio. They are typically the cheaper option compared to XLR and are a popular choice for those who wish to record high-quality audio at a low cost.
What is an XLR microphone?
An XLR microphone uses a different power source than the USB mics. The XLR features a three-pin plug designed to enter an audio interface, a piece of hardware that governs audio input and output on your computer. XLRs are commonly found in professional studios and many other high-end recording equipment.
Microphones come with different polar patterns. A polar pattern is a direction from which the microphone picks up sound. Recording artists use different directions to meet their recording needs.
Cardioid microphones pick up sounds from the direction in front of the microphone. They are best used for audiobook recording and YouTube videos with one narrator or speaker because they do not tune in to any other environmental noise. Omnidirectional microphones pick up sound in 360 degrees. These microphones are perfect for picking up ambient sound. If you want to add some ambient noise to a voice recording, then an omnidirectional is for you.
A microphone can have several potential polar patterns, but when it comes to recording vocals for an audiobook, the cardioid polar pattern is best.
So, you want to record…
So, you want to record your audiobook. Before you get started, it helps to know which microphone to use. There are many options to choose from, and it is hard to say which microphone is the absolute best. Several manufacturers produce incredibly high-quality microphones, and choosing the right one comes down to your specific personal requirements rather than a general need. Do you have a home studio? Or is there a risk of excess noise in your environment? What other recording equipment do you have?
USB microphones for audio recording
The following are some of the best USB microphones for audiobook recording available today.
1. Blue Yeti USB
Though there is no one best microphone for audiobook recording, the Blue Yeti is popular among voiceover artists. The Blue Yeti USB is used by many YouTubers and audiobook narrators and helps them effectively meet their recording requirements.
The Blue Yeti is a large, high-quality piece of recording equipment and is well worth your consideration. It comes with its stand and is made to last. It is a condenser microphone with four different pick-up patterns. The pick-up patterns are the directions from which the recording is captured. You can change the setting to capture sound coming from different parts of the room, such as directly in front of the microphone, on either side of the microphone, or the entire room.
2. Samson Q2U USB/XLR
The Samson Q2U is a popular choice among voiceover artists. Unlike the Blue Yeti and many other popular home recording microphones, the Samson Q2U is a dynamic mic. That means it is more adept than a condenser microphone at handling loud sounds and preventing them from negatively impacting the quality of your recording. This microphone is a wise choice for those who wish to record in a noisy environment, such as outdoors or indoors, when there is traffic or other interferences.
The Samson Q2U also comes with a headphone jack which allows you to monitor your audio and make any changes you see fit. Unlike many other microphones, this microphone features a USB and XLR output. You can use the USB output to plug directly into your computer or laptop and begin recording. You can use the XLR output to involve an external audio interface and reduce the need to make all the appropriate changes in a digital audio workstation (DAW, recording software) alone.
3. Fifine USB Microphone
The Fifine USB mic is a popular low-budget microphone for those who wish to record audio at home. The microphone comes with its stand for ease of use. It also features an on-mic gain knob. The gain knob allows you to control the volume of your voice on the microphone itself without having to mess around with your DAW. You can also attach the Fifine USB to an iPhone or iPad with the appropriate accessories.
4. Rode NT USB
Rode is a household name among recording artists. This high-quality, versatile USB mic can capture fine audio, making it suitable for voiceover artists who want to create high-quality audiobook recordings with no background noise and a crisp, clear final product. Beginners and seasoned professionals alike enjoy the Rode NT USB. This mic comes with a tripod, a 3.5m headphone jack for live monitoring, and a high-quality pop filter to prevent those annoying plosives from interfering with the listener’s experience.
The Rode NT also works well with Apple products such as the iPhone or iPad as long as you have the right accessories. You can take the microphone out and about and record narration in different ambient settings. If a scene in your book takes place in a park, you can choose to record it in a natural environment. You can also record those sounds separately and lay them over your voice in your DAW.
The Rode NT is a powerhouse for recording the human voice. It features a complete spectrum frequency response, which means it can capture the highs and lows of the voice with ease, ultimately allowing to produce a narrative or voiceover that is a crisp and enjoyable listen.
5. Audio Technica AT2020 USB
Audio Technica is a high-quality audio equipment manufacturer with a great reputation. They offer a range of microphones, including USB condenser microphones and XLR dynamics. The Audio Technica AT2020 USB condenser microphone is an excellent choice for amateur and professional voiceover artists.
The headphone jack feature allows you to monitor your voice and sound levels during the recording process. This live monitoring saves a lot of re-recording time because you can see when your levels are too loud or when a plosive has caused the sound waves to spike too high. A built-in amplifier on the microphone allows you to pair it directly with your DAW without changing much in post-production.
The microphone is easy to use, durable, and easy to mount, making it a popular choice among all types of artists. Podcasters, YouTubers, Twitch streamers, and voiceover artists alike can benefit greatly from an investment in the Audio Technica AT2020 USB condenser mic.
Audiobook Recording FAQs
Is it ok to use a cheap recording microphone?
Bear in mind that just because a microphone is expensive does not mean it is the best choice for you. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you need to splash out on the priciest option just to make sure you record high-quality audio. Some cheaper options can do an excellent job at meeting your recording needs.
Best microphone under 300 dollars
The Rode NT USB, the Blue Yeti, and the Fifine USB are all relatively low-budget microphones that can help you achieve your needs.
- Rode NT USB: On Amazon, you can purchase the RODE NT USB at around $169.00
- Blue Yeti USB: The Blue Yeti USB is available at a very reasonable $82.00 on Amazon.
- Fifine USB: You can buy the Fifine USB mic on Amazon for around $30-40. This is an incredibly cheap microphone, but it does not let you down.
Best condenser microphone for home studio
The Audio Technica AT2020 USB/XLR is a smart choice for voiceover artists with their own home studio. You can record audio directly to your DAW by plugging the USB into your computer or setting it up with an audio interface using the XLR output.
Best microphone for noisy environment
As mentioned earlier, background noise can be a real pain when you want to record specific types of audio. Any unwanted background noise or interference will render your recording useless when recording audiobooks. You need a mic that can suppress all background noise and focus solely on the sounds coming from you, the speaker.
The Blue Yeti is a condenser microphone, and it is suitable for those who wish to eliminate background noise. All condenser mics serve this purpose. They operate with a cardioid pick-up—they only pick up sound from the front of the mic, as opposed to omnidirectional mics, which pick up sound coming from all directions.
All of the microphones mentioned above are suitable options for recording audiobooks. If you are just starting out, you do not need to invest in the latest equipment or splash out on an expensive microphone because you believe cost equals quality. You can create high-quality voice recordings with even the cheapest microphones on the list above and still be a good narrator or storyteller.
That being said, buying a microphone is an investment. Even if this is your first step into the world of voiceover work, you may use that microphone again and again. Recording an audiobook and editing it yourself can be a valuable and enjoyable experience, and once you record one, you are likely to try your hand at recording another.
Moreover, with a good microphone at your desk, you may just find the inspiration to create other types of voiceover content, from YouTube videos to a podcast to advertisements. Even if you only want to record your audiobook, you can also record interviews with those who enjoy and are willing to discuss your book.
Overall, any of the microphones above will help you meet your audio recording needs. Ask friends or an online community of voiceover artists for their opinions and advice on which microphone to use. Different artists use different microphones for different purposes, so do not be afraid to reach out and ask for professional advice and recommendations.