It's HERE! The 2022 Voice Actor Holiday Gift and Gear Guide!
I did the work so you don't have to! Keep an eye out for even deeper discounts as we approach Black Friday- but there are great deals happening right now. If you've been holding off on getting your gear or making some upgrades, the time is now!
I'm going to start by sharing some pretty big sales right out of the gate! Everyone's favorite headphones are deeply discounted NOW! The Beyerdynamic DT770 Pros (80 ohm) are currently just $139. That's about $20 cheaper than they usually sell for.
Another amazing deal, and an absolute must for backing up your computer or using for recording to save internal drive space is the Lacie 2TB (!!) USB-C drive that is current;y $99! This is enough memory to last a really long time. I have previously written about the importance of having external drives.
While any number of audio interfaces under $250 are a great value, if you haven't yet switched from a USB mic to an XLR style, and want a solid yet affordable setup- consider the Presonus AudioBox USB 96. for just $79.95. It also includes the DAW Studio One Artist and Ableton Live Lite for free. You can hit the ground running with all of the power you need for a pretty amazing price. Like most of the units in this style, the AudioBox 96 includes direct monitoring, which I recently wrote about here. There are so many deals to be had right now that I'm going to shift gears and start listing items by category. Some are already on sale, while some will be worth checking back in on on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But at least you have all the information in one place to check. So let's start with microphones.
Microphones for every Stage of your Career
If you're just starting out and you're just practicing and taking classes- that USB mic you're using might suit you fine until you're ready to take the next step. But for those upgrading from USB mics, here are a list of proven winners for under $250 that are used every day by a lot of professional voice actors. These are affordable alternatives to some of the big name mics (which I will list later).
The Rode Nt1A, now available via the Rode Store on Amazon, is a proven winner. Currently on sale for just $199, it includes a shock mount, pop filter, XLR cable and a dust cover. I haven't seen this mic at this price ever- and it is a great value.
Early in the pandemic lockdown, the Rode Nt1A sold out just about everywhere. Around that time, I had heard about another mic- the TZ Audio Stellar X2, which is another large diaphragm condenser microphone comparable to a Neumann U87AI. It has held steady at $199.99, and includes a shock mount, solid case, and a pouch. Overall it has a warmer tone than the Nt1A, but is similar in profile and price. Keep in mind that it doesn't come with an XLR cable, so you'll need to grab one. I wrote about not wasting money on expensive cables in an earlier blog post.
Yet a third mic, the Synco D2, is also usually priced at $199.99. This one, however, is a shotgun style mic- and it is currently only $169 with a coupon at checkout on Amazon. It is a solid knock off of the ubiquitous Sennheiser 416 you see in every studio. However, this one is a fifth the price. While the 416 tends to sound great on just about everyone, I do find when consulting with people that the Synco D2 varies quite a bit. While the shotgun style is a great mic for tighter spaces, on camera self tapes and many other reasons that I've previously written about, this is one you'll want to hear yourself on before committing to.
WANT A KILLER SETUP FOR UNDER $500?
TOTAL COST AS OF THE WRITING OF THIS ARTICLE: $466.97
If you're booking and/or have a bigger budget for gear and want to jump right into a more expensive mic, keep an eye on the prices of these classics:
The Sennheiser 416 has hovered around $999 for years. However, as I type this, there is a package including an XLR cable and a pair of AKG 240 studio headphones (anyone that's been to a voice over studio has worn these at some point). As I mentioned earlier, you can find a related blog post about why shotgun mics- especially the 416- are a great option for a lot of people.
Speaking of popular microphones, Neumann has been the gold standard for vocal and voice over mics for decades. However, the ever-present U87 is overkill for most voice actors, both in cost and features. Studios have even begun to shift toward more affordable Neumann options, like the TLM 103. While the U87AI costs about $3,500 new- the TLM 103 comes in at just $1,195 (this particular package also includes a shock mount and pop filter).
Interfaces for Every Budget
Everyone has their favorite interface. As I already mentioned above, you can score a Presonus USB 96 for well under $100. There are also many great options that sell between $100-$250. Every unit in this price range has the same basic feature set: one or two microphone preamps, direct or low latency monitoring, a headphone output, speaker outputs (for those that want to use speakers for editing), and a volume knob. Dead simple. Super convenient. Here are some of the most popular models.
The Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Generation is one of those units that ran out of inventory during the pandemic lockdown. They are currently back down to their original 2020 price of $109.99. They sound great, work great, and are a generally hassle free interface for both Mac and PC.
Universal Audio makes a series of what I consider to be "next level" interfaces in their Apollo line. But I was delighted to learn that this past year they launched an impressive series of budget interfaces that pack some extra punch. The UA Volt 1 is identical in features and similar in price to the Scarlett Solo, currently at $119. However, for a little more money, you can add an emulation of the iconic Universal Audio 1176 compressor built right into the interface. Their new Volt 176 is the same as the Volt 1- but with the addition of that compressor, and currently costing just $199 (down from $249!).
Another popular interface is the SSL2 from Solid State Logic. My career began mixing on large format SSL consoles for album recording and mixing, and seeing their iconic knobs put to use on a simple interface makes me smile. It normally sells for $229- but there is a bundle price for just $189.99 that also includes an XLR cable, headphones, and a MIDI cable (but it should be noted that only the SSL2+ includes MIDI, so it's odd that they've added that cable here).
For those looking to kick things up a notch in terms of having the ability to add plugins, like
powerful mic amp emulations, at the input stage- consider the Universal Audio Apollo Solo. Right now, the USB version is down to $452 from $699!
Booth Life- High Tech Comfort
Most of you are trying to make the most of a tight space, and solve all of the problems that come with it. Computer noise. Storage. Screen placement. It's an endless list. Floor real estate is alway tricky. Once your get your space treated and your mic stand in place, you might find it challenging to settle all your gear in to work comfortably. Here are some items to make your work easier and more comfortable
The Techni Mobili Sit-to-Stand laptop cart has become a very popular way to maximize booth space and work more efficiently. If offers a storage bin, a drawer, and a fully adjustable riser for your script, tablet, or laptop- all on sale for $69.98
Another great space saver is an item that is actually marketed by your fellow voice actor and radio personality Sandy Ames (New Yorkers know her as Jamie Lee from WPLJ and now Light FM). It's called SkyFLoat- an adjustable overheard magnetic ceiling mounted holder for phones and tablets. I have one, and love it! It comes with a set of magnetic plates that can either be stuck to the ceiling with included stickers, or screwed in for a more permanent solution. You can use it to hold your phone for Zooming during sessions, and then bring it into your bedroom to read or watch a movie on your tablet later on. They're on sale for $69.
Speaking of screens in booths- very often actors need a secondary display, either for noise issues (keeping the computer out of the booth) or for more screen space. Either way, this Newsould 15.6" portable monitor is a great solution. It works with Macs, PCs, and even your phone. $149.99 gets you a noise-free screen for your booth or a secondary display, so you can have Zoom or a script open on one screen while you record and edit on the other. It's thin and light enough to slip into your laptop bag to travel with!
Of course for sessions where you might keep your laptop or desktop computer out of the booth and use a second screen to remote control it, you'll need a bluetooth keyboard and a mouse. There are so many options to choose from, and none of them are all that expensive. One that I own and love for blogging on-the-go is the Arteck HB030B slim, backlight, rechargeable keyboard. I love that it lets me choose the background color of the keys depending on my mood, and the battery life is exceptional. It's currently on sale for $19.99. And of course you'll need a mouse. Since I'm on a Mac, I recently purchased the latest Magic Mouse from Apple.... and I hate it. I find myself shifting back to my wired mouse constantly out of frustration.
A simple, rechargeable bluetooth mouse like this one from Harfoowo will serve you well. It costs $12.98, is highly reviewed- and even comes in an assortment of colors!
So between a laptop cart with a secondary display, bluetooth keyboard and mouse- you're looking at a very reasonably priced (and currently discounted) comfortable and noise-free booth!
Oh- and if you need a tablet to Zoom from, read scripts off of and so much more- the Kindle Fire HD10 is once again on sale for just $74.99! I previously went on and on about it in this blog post after purchasing one last year. I'm happy to report that 12 months later, I still love it and use it constantly. Because it has a micro SD slot, mine actually now has an additional 400 gig drive on top of the 32 gig internal storage. That's enough to load entire TV series and feature films, plus tons of music to take with you on the go!
While we're talking about booth comfort, I have to say I still absolutely love this music stand light. The battery is still holding its charge for a really long time, even after two years! It's the Kootek Music Stand Clip Light, and it's currently on sale for $20.74. It has multiple dim settings, and can also run plugged in if you forget to charge it.
Setting the Vibe!
Let's face it- you're in that booth for many hours a day. You might as well set a vibe that makes you happy! I'm a big fan of Govee LED lighting strips in my home studio. They look great, and are controllable from my phone or by asking Alexa to change them. 16.4 feet of lighting costs only $17.99.
Another affordable, flexible and versatile lighting company is Nanoleaf. They make everything from LED light bulbs to all sorts of wall patterns and shapes. Visit their store to check out all the cool and colorful options.
My latest purchase for my home studio is something that showed up in my facebook feed, and I had to roll the dice and buy it. I absol
utely love it. If you've connected with me on Zoom lately, you may have notice my colorful, star-filled ceiling with swirling nebulas. That all comes from this little astronaut Star Projector Galaxy Night Light- and it's currently almost half price at $26.99! It actually looks even better than this photo. I promise.
So there you have my list of recommendations. Many of these items are already on sale. I also want to emphasize that I currently own, or have owned and used most of what I've discussed here. I hope this helps you as you either start up or level up your voice acting journey. Please feel free to share this article with anyone that might need it!