Should You Upgrade Your Mic?

Right off the bat, I’m gonna spoil everything and give you answer: probably not. There are a few other things you might want to upgrade first before spending on your microphone: your space, your skills, and your sales.

Improve Your Space

If, like me, you’re a fan of Booth Junkie (and I gotta say, Mike DelGaudio really has a name that’s perfect for this field), then you’ve probably seen a whole lot of his mic reviews and shootouts. Like me, you’re probably a bit of a gear head as well. And I’m pretty sure you’ve lusted after a lot of the equipment that’s been featured on his YouTube Channel.

But despite his clear love for playing with testing mics, one of his videos in particular really stands out, at least in my opinion, and it’s this one:

I think you should watch the whole video, but I want to highlight a few lines:

at 2:16 – “I’m here to tell you it’s not really about the microphone.”

at 2:27 – “If I had… a thousand dollars to spend… what would I spend it on? I’d spend $900 of that creating the space in which I record, and a hundred bucks on the microphone. If I had a hundred dollars to spend, I’d spend $80 of it on the space in which I’m gonna record, and $20 on the microphone.”

at 4:26 – “Chances are, you’ve got a phone… chances are it’s gonna have a perfectly fine microphone… chances are your laptop is gonna have a perfectly fine microphone, so long as you can get it into a space that’s reasonably acoustically treated.”

He goes on to say a lot more, but I’m not gonna give you a blow by blow. The main point is that your recording space is far more important than the microphone you have. He talks about acoustic treatment – and if that concept makes you scratch your head, check out this little primer on soundproofing and sound treatment.

So if you want better audio, don’t start with your microphone – upgrade your space first.

Level Up Your Skills

“It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill.”

Wilbur Wright

A microphone, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is “a piece of equipment that you speak into to make your voice louder, or to record your voice or other sounds.” It is a piece of equipment, a tool. In the same way that an expensive camera doesn’t turn a regular joe into a professional photographer, an expensive microphone won’t magically turn you into a professional voice actor. A typewriter won’t turn you into a writer, nor will a fully decked kitchen turn you into a chef. I could go on and on about this, but I’ll just say this again: a microphone is just a tool, and upgrading it will do nothing to improve your craft… unless you have the knowledge and skill to use it well.

And if you want a great example of knowledge and skill, check out this video voiced by Tom Hanks. He recorded this, not with some fancy microphone, but with his phone:


And the key bits from Cleveland.com (emphasis mine):

For about six weeks Hanks and DiBiasio corresponded via email, and when the time came to record Hanks used his cellphone and some of that sound engineering background he learned in Cleveland to pull off a finished product.

He did four versions of it on his phone and sent them to me, and I sent back a note saying which one we loved the most,” DiBiasio said.

Hanks insisted on trying to find a studio microphone, but the quality of his original take was good enough that the Indians’ production team could make it work.


So what does this all mean? It means you should worry less about upgrading your gear, and invest more into learning the craft. Your microphone is just a tool that lets you capture sound, but your voice – that’s your real instrument. So upgrade that instead of your mic. Learn how to control, shape, wield, and otherwise use your voice. Get really good, and the microphone you use won’t really matter all that much.

Take an acting course or two. Join voice acting workshops and classes. Hire a voice coach. Heck, consult with several coaches so you can get different perspectives. Observe and listen to how others talk. Join (or form) a community of like-minded folk. Get to know yourself (and your voice) better. Practice. Practice. Practice. In other words, level up your game. Upgrade your skills. Get so good that no matter what microphone you use, it won’t matter because you just have a way to make people listen and pay attention.

Again, I can go on and on about this topic, but the idea for me really goes back to this: Never. Stop. Learning.

Enhance Your Sales

This part may not matter to everyone, simply because not all of us here really care about making money from our recording projects. Some of us simply need creative outlets. But some of us are professionals. And as a professional voice actor, I have to consider every expense and ask myself how it affects my business.

Yes, you should invest in your gear, but do you have to do it now? Ask yourself: what else can you invest in that can boost your income (and help you upgrade in the future)?

For most, this means working on marketing. It means building relationships with clients. And no, it’s nowhere near as fun as upgrading gear, but the returns will be much greater – and you can do the fun stuff later on as the projects roll in.

Put simply, don’t rush to buy a new microphone unless you really need to. Going back to the points above, chances are you already have a good enough microphone, and you just need to find or prepare a quiet, treated space. This is probably fine for most auditions. And if you land some work that requires a higher quality recording than you can produce, ask a friend if you can borrow their space. If the pay is good enough, rent an hour or two of studio time. The point is you don’t have to spend on a new mic now.

Yes, there will come a point where you need to upgrade your equipment, but don’t rush. Cross that bridge when you get there. When you you’ve saved enough, or when you have a steady stream (even a small one) of cash flowing in – upgrading will be easy.

So, should you upgrade your microphone? Or is your money better spent elsewhere?

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