Generally speaking any laptop connected to the mains, or quiet PC/iMac will be ideal. If I had to choose I would opt for a laptop without a built in fan (most do have a built in fan). A noiseless computer means you can keep it close to your microphone and thus saving your audio files requires little or no movement away.
If you plan to use a desktop computer be aware it may have a noisy fan. If so, move it far away as possible or even outside the door as this fan noise will be audible through your microphone. Do not however cover your desktop computer as it may overheat and cut out mid-session.
It is essential to have at least 30gb of free hard disc space on your computer otherwise you may encounter problems whilst recording audio.
Looking to buy a new laptop? I personally recommend the Apple MacBook AIR M1. This is one of few laptops available that doesn’t need a fan built in – it runs cool and efficiently, and is very fast at multitasking. Don’t be tempted by the more expensive MacBook Pro for recording – the fan is like a jet engine and will be heard down the microphone!
Below are two options for your microphone equipment.
Simple cost effective option for light, occasional work.
USB Microphones are easily set-up, and should ‘just work’ when plugged in. They are generally acceptable for quality but do not have easily accessible dials to control the volume of your recording should you need to be whispering or shouting. This can lead to noisy or distorted recordings.
Budget USB Mic (Approx £70) Fame USB Vocal Kit
Budget Microphone stand (Approx £20): Music Store Mic-8
You do not need a separate audio interface with this option as your USB microphone acts as an audio interface – thus your headphones plug in to the USB microphone.
Professional choice for actors. Pick one item from each section:-
i) Microphone with shock-mount
You should be considering a Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone complete with Shock-Mount and Pop Shield. How much you want to spend is up to you. A £90 microphone can sound remarkable similar to an £950 microphone – until that is you whisper or shout! Whispering requires a sensitive microphone with a good signal-to-noise ratio for clean results in post – and shouting requires a microphone with a high SPL (sound pressure level) so there is less or no distortion on your recording.
Most popular microphone with shock-mount and pop-shield (Approx £160): Rode NT1-A
Budget microphone with shock-mount and pop-shield (Approx £70): Fame C05
ii) Audio Interface
Your professional microphone will plug into the audio interface, and the audio interface will plug into your computer via USB.
The audio interface has a button called 48v (Phantom Power) which needs to be switched on – but only do this once your condenser microphone is connected.
Your headphones plug into the audio interface.
Popular audio interface (approx £100): Focusrite Scarlett Solo
Budget audio interface (Approx £40): Behringer U-Phoria UMC22
Please do check that your computer USB port matches that of the cable that comes with your audio interface.
Do not use walkman style headphones or bluetooth earbuds. You will need a pair of ‘Closed Back’ headphones, meaning little or no sound escapes from them whilst they are on your head – otherwise other actors may draw attention to echo being heard.
More expensive headphones means more comfortable over longer durations.
Top studio headphones (approx £120): Beyerdynamic DT150
Popular headphones (approx £80): Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
Budget headphones (approx £30): AKG K-72
iv) Microphone stand
A condenser microphone is heavy, and the chances are you’ll be suspending it upside down so that you can read your script just underneath it. A budget microphone stand can be prone to ‘drooping’. No one likes that!
Sturdy Microphone stand (Approx £40): König & Meyer
Budget Microphone stand (Approx £20): Music Store Mic-8
v) Microphone Cable
An 3 pin XLR to XLR cable will be required to connect your condenser microphone to your Audio Interface.
Always make sure your microphone cable ‘clicks’ reassuringly into place on your condenser microphone.
Choose a length suitable for your set-up
Suitable recording location
Different rooms have different characteristics in sound which will always be present on your recording.
A soft furnished room (bedroom, lounge) is perfect. Sound reflections are absorbed by beds, sofas, carpet and curtains. Recording in a corner of this room is good if you can hang a duvet or thick blanket on the wall behind your microphone. For the very best results cover the ceiling above the microphone too – perhaps making a temporary false ceiling using a duvet. Sorry but Egg boxes have little effect – but see below about acoustic tiles.
Wooden or tiled floors will add much unwanted echo to your voice recordings and so please avoid these spaces.
Small cupboards (or under the stairs) give a characteristic boxy sound to your voice which is problematic to remove in post. You may not hear it, but we will. You can remove the boxiness by investing in quality acoustic tiles (not the cheap ones sorry) and covering the entire space including the ceiling.
Cheap acoustic tiles (ebay) – use plenty behind, to the sides and above your microphone in carpeted rooms with soft furnishings
Quality acoustic tiles (studiospares.com) – Surround yourself (inc. ceiling) in confined spaces such as cupboards or under the stairs
Electric carving knife (Argos) – perfectly easy to cut acoustic tiles (Stanley knife/scissors just don’t work on thicker tiles)
Carpet spray glue (Amazon) – sticks acoustic tiles to walls and ceilings well without long term damage (don’t quote me on that)
Standing or sitting?
Choose a standing or sitting position, and adjust your microphone accordingly. Your mouth will need to be 4-8 inches away from the microphone, and also level with it when speaking.
We find it best to first lock the microphone in its shock-mount, and then have it upside down on the mic stand so that the mic lead is coming out of the top. This way you have ample room underneath for your script. You may need to counterweight your microphone stand so that it doesn’t droop with the wight of your microphone fitted.
The pop shield is fitted 1″ to 2″ in front with the microphone grill centred behind – this will stop plosives for the letter p.
Click on the images below for a sitting example.
Tell your computer about your microphone!
With your new microphone plugged in and then your computer switched on (in that order) go to:-
on a PC visit ‘Settings’ (cogwheel icon), then ‘System’, then the ‘Audio’ tab, or
on a MAC visit ‘System Preferences’ (cogwheel icon), then click the ‘Sound’ icon
and finally choose your USB microphone or audio interface for both the Input and Output device settings.
Doing this will stop sound eminating from your computer speakers – but Cleanfeed and your headphones will work beautifully!
Protect your microphone investment
If the audio interface is switched on, then make sure 48v is OFF when connecting or disconnecting the microphone. Only once the microphone is connected should 48v be switched on – this powers the microphone and makes it work.
I’d recommend that you only connect your microphone to the audio interface when the audio interface is switched off.
Don’t use Wi-Fi
We all use wi-fi on a daily basis, and for practically everything it’s perfect – No cable! But why not use Wi-Fi for Cleanfeed? I’ll explain…
Cleanfeed is a website that sends us, in real time, uncompressed ‘better-than-CD’ quality audio so we can record you and everybody else who is connected to Cleanfeed in separate studio audio files. Amazing!
Remarkably Cleanfeed does not rely on a fast internet connection. There’s no video with Cleanfeed, so whether you have the latest Virgin 400mb fibre connection or an older 2mb broadband connection based out in the remotest hills, it will still work beautifully – providing you are not using Wi-Fi. But why?
Importantly, Cleanfeed does rely on a consistent connection. This is because latency plays an important part when actors play a scene together. Shorter latency times (normally 50ms) means a scene plays out just like everyone is in the studio. Sadly, Wi-fi is definitely not consistent and that short distance between your computer and your internet router will always be prone to drop-outs over the Wi-Fi airwaves. When a drop-out in your Wi-Fi occurs then everyone (other than yourself) will hear your voice stutter or break-up momentarily. Your connection through Cleanfeed will then be delayed temporarily by a second or two (a latency of perhaps 1500ms) making your parts in the scene lag behind everybody else. Cleanfeed will attempt to recover lost latency and speed you up over the course of 20 seconds or so. Because of this drop-out and recovery process our recording of your audio here at the studio will be un-usable. It will be necessary to pick-up your lines again, or use your audio back-up recording.
Use a wired Ethernet internet connection
To cure those ‘Wi-Fi drop-out’ blues, use a wired internet connection. You’ll just need to buy a cheap Ethernet cable (much like a telephone cable only bigger plugs) and possibly an ethernet adapter for your computer. And don’t worry because an Ethernet cable can be up to 100 metres long. I run mine through the windows to downstairs!
Running this Ethernet cable between a: Your computer and b: the internet router provided by your internet provider – means you have a wired internet connection. Drop-outs will be a thing of the past. This wired connection may well improve everything else you do on the internet too – trust me!
Firstly, choose the correct length (or longer to be safe) Ethernet lead (Amazon Prime). Choose a brightly coloured lead so that others can see it running through your property.
if your computer does not have an ethernet port, then match up which ports you do have (USB 2, USB C or Thunderbolt) with an ethernet adapter below.
For any PC laptop with a spare regular USB 2 port (Amazon Prime)
For an Apple laptop with a spare USB 2 Port (Amazon Prime – check eBay for 2nd hand option)
For any laptop with a spare USB-C Port including newer MacBook Air/Pro & Apple M1 (Amazon Prime)
For an Apple laptop with a spare Thunderbolt port For older Apple MacBooks (Amazon Prime)
You may find Apple Ethernet adapters on eBay more competitively priced.
Once plugged in from the back of your internet router to your computer, test your Ethernet cable is working by turning off the Wi-Fi connection on your computer. You may need to restart your computer for the ethernet connection to be recognised. Leave your Wi-Fi turned off for the duration of the Cleanfeed session.
No account needed
We, the studio, host the Cleanfeed session, and each guest simply opens their individual Cleanfeed link to start their connection to our studios.
You DO NOT need to set-up your own Cleanfeed account.
The Google Chrome browser
The Cleanfeed link is only compatible with the Google Chrome browser.
It’s useful to keep your unique Cleanfeed link handy just in-case your connection to our studios goes eerily quiet. If this happens (and it does from time to time), just shut Google Chrome, re-open and use the link again.
Cleanfeed audio settings
Cleanfeed should be set to use your microphone and audio interface.
After opening your Cleanfeed link , click on the cog wheel (settings) icon – you can select your microphone and audio interface with the selection box that most likely will say ‘Use Browser Settings’.
Cleanfeed audio level
The audio level is displayed in Cleanfeed as you talk in to your microphone. It’s a very good indication as to whether your microphone gain is too quiet, a good level (touching the yellow now and then), or too loud (hitting the red). Making the audio level red will cause distortion and will mean reducing your microphone gain control level.
The above level pictures where snapped during heightened speech levels from Cleanfeed. Dr Too Loud is clipping the red and thus the recording will be distorted.
BIg Finish require back-up audio files from you. You may already be familiar with recording yourself, but if not I recommend OcenAudio.com – it’s free, reliable and simple to use.
Audio Settings for Big Finish are as follows: 44.1khz, 16bit, Mono. Or on OcenAudio, it’s shown like this.
Here’s a video by me on how I use OcenAudio to best affect.
NB: The video shows me ‘right clicking’ with my mouse to show a menu on the desktop and create a folder. For Apple users the ‘right click’ feature is not set as default, but you can do the same ‘right click’ action by holding down the bottom left key ‘ctrl’ and clicking the mouse as normal. Ta da!
Send your back-up audio files
At the end of the days session, use the free version of wetransfer.com to send your audio files to the engineer of the day. This will most likely be the same email address that you received your Cleanfeed link for the session.
It may be possible to first Zip (compress) all your audio files together as this will greatly reduced the overal file size which will make uploading quicker. On a mac, simply right click over the folder that contains all of your audio files and click compress. After a few minutes, a file called xxxx.zip will appear. Rename this with the production and your character name. Thank you!
V2.1 Updated 19th October 2021
This page is maintained by
Audio Sorcery Recording Studios
I will try and resolve any queries or questions you may have regarding your recording set-up or connection to Cleanfeed.
Please get in touch with myself and please mention when you’ll be in on a session with the date and title of the script.
Studio: 01892 752117 Mobile: 07876 313838