I'm in the process of setting up an ad hoc home studio for narrating and recording audiobooks, and I know I'm not the only one. So I thought I'd share some of my choices with you and explain why I made them.
Right now, I have only one audiobook out. I did the narration, and a local music studio did the professional sound engineering. At $100/finished hour (for a 14.5 hour book), I was reluctant to do more, but I've decided that was a paltry excuse and I should just find a better, more financially acceptable route. You can read about that decision here.
My voice is up to the task, so all I need is gear and a room to use. Alas, I don't have the luxury of even a dedicated closet, nor can I panel a room with sound baffles. So, like most of us, I have to use the best space I can and make it as suitable as possible for quality recordings.
And that can be tricky. Once you've found the room that is the most isolated from all the noisy activities of a household (furnace, television, affection-starved pets, oblivious spouses and children) you have to consider how you can make it work for recording.
Now I'm no audio engineer, but happily I don't need to be. I source my musical gear from a place called Sweetwater Sound in Indiana, and they've never failed me when I've asked for their help. They have great customer support.
I asked them for a “good, better, best” setup for quality spoken word recording in a somewhat random acoustic space, and asked them to keep the “best” under $1000 (the price of getting professional sound engineering for a single book). With their permission, let me share with you some of what they suggested.
I'll divide the responses into Recording Gear (things on the microphone stand and boom), Electronics (capturing and moving the signal to my laptop), and Room Treatments. I'm using Windows 10 (but I don't think that's relevant) and Audacity for the sound engineering software application (free — not discussed here).
All the microphones are of the cardioid polar pattern (focused on sound from the front only.
Recording straight to computer using a USB microphone (circa $400)
Rode USB Condenser Microphone (includes cables, pop filters, and more)
sE Electronics Reflexion Filter X (surrounds the microphone to isolate it from the room)
A better microphone with an audio interface (circa $700)
Rode Condenser Microphone NT1 Kit (includes shock mount, pop screen)
Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB2 Audio interface (comes with software)
sE Electronics Reflexion Filter Pro (surrounds the microphone to isolate it from the room)
A radio station quality microphone with portable room baffles (circa $1100)
Cloud Microphones CL-1 Cloudlifter 1-channel Mic Activator (microphone preamplifier, discounted if combined with above mic)
Focusrite Scarlet Solo USB2 Audio interface (comes with software)
2 x Auralex 2'x4′ SF Panels (portable baffles for controlling room echoes)
My own purchase
I already had a mic stand and boom, as well as a small (8″) extension that clamps on the stand. I added a headphone holder that clamps on the stand and went for the “best” package, minus the stand, boom, and the Auralex panels
The baffle panels were an expensive component, and I don't yet know if my messy room will require them, so I opted out of buying them until I know for sure. So my spend was circa $750, of which $500 was for the mic and preamp.
I was concerned with how to line up my script vertically with the microphone so that I could maintain a constant distance from the mic without twisting my neck to read.
I already had a gripper for my iPad that attaches to a standard mic thread, so I will be configuring my arrangement like this.