Universal Audio Volt Series- Game-changer on a Budget!
If you've attended any of my Home Studio Primer webinars over the last two years, you're very familiar with audio interfaces that don't break that bank but offer excellent audio quality. There are a number of boxes in the $100-$300 range that all effectively do the same thing. The Focusrite Scarlett Solo, Presonus USB 96, SSL2, and on and on. They all offer a single mic input (or two), a headphone output and possibly speaker outputs, plus some form of direct monitoring/ zero latency monitoring. They're all great! But there has been one missing element in all of them that Universal Audio seems to have brought to the table.
Most basic audio interfaces in the lower price range offer a direct, clean path to your DAW. But as an engineer dealing with actors recording from home, I can tell you that there is one consistent problem when it comes to moments where a voice actor needs to project or shout- and that's clipping. In the analog world, when a mic level gets too loud, it will distort. In the digital world, it will cause a sharp 'snap'' as the waveform peaks. This may also be accompanied by some pretty awful distortion. If the work you're doing is generally basic voiceover recording, you're mostly going to 'set it and forget it'. Get a healthy input gain that gives you a little bit of headroom to spare just in case you need to push a little harder. Simple. But if you're doing animation work or video games, you're likely going to need to nail some pretty loud moments. In larger stages like Digital Arts Studio E, backing off the mic a foot or two is a great way to project. The room was built with that in mind, so when directors ask for it- we're prepared. But even the best home setups don't have that flexibility... and backing up even a few inches reveals the inherent 'boxiness' of even the most expensive home booths. My work-around for most people is to have them set a normal speaking level on their interface, and put a pencil mark there. Next, speak softly and turn the gain up to where it's a nice level- and put a mark there too. Lastly, turn the gain way down and shout. Put a mark where your knob is a good level that doesn't clip. Now in session, if they want you to suddenly shout a line, you have a quick target to dial in for that.
This all seems easy enough, right? You'd think so! But very few people do it. At the studio, we use compression to pick up the slack. Not a ton of it- but enough to catch those moments before they blow us away, givi