First, let’s talk about the difference between analog and digital processors. In professional equipment, the sound quality is for all practical purposes, the same. Really.
Digital’s advantage is the ability to remember parameter settings (as a list of presets) and to instantly recall those settings. If you have only one delivery style, and only one microphone, you may never need to change the settings. However, if you are reading children’s books one day, and doing Monster Truck promos the next, it’s handy to be able to select the right settings with a single click.
The mic preamplifiers are clean, quiet, and robust, with plenty of gain for most any condensor or dynamic mic. (If you’ve got a high-end preamp that you “just gotta use,” it can usually be connected to the processor with little difficulty. Call us.)
The downward expander section will gracefully reduce the volume between words, and when you aren’t speaking. This will minimize pickup of the background noise in your room. Acoustic conditions are especially challenging in smaller rooms. If you don’t have an isolation booth, the expander can help a lot.
Before I go much further, I want to say a bit about settings. Yes, a mic processor has a lot of controls. That’s because it does several different jobs. There are usually no more than 2 or 3 controls for each task. Once you understand what each function does, the setup becomes easy. (Some folks are so intimidated by the numbers of controls, they figure “if I just turn everything up a little, it will be OK.”) If you don’t understand what a particular section does, bypass it until you have more information. Randomly turning knobs won’t get you where you want to go.
Now back to the article, already in progress…
The compressor section will be used more heavily by radio folks, much less for other VO tasks. In radio, the compressor can give the “in-your-face” loudness often needed for commercial spots and imaging work. Non-radio projects may need only a little compression, if any at all. (If your voice track is sent to someone else for inclusion in the finished project, use minimal compression. The client’s engineer will add compression if needed.)
Before we talk about equalization, consider this: You chose the microphone you are using because you like the way it sounds with your voice, and your delivery style. You probably listened to several before deciding this one had the right sound. With that said, there should be little reason to do a large amount of EQ. Start by listening carefully with the EQ disabled. If there is something missing, or a disturbing peak, apply just enough EQ to fix the problem. But not so much that you alter the sound of your carefully-selected mic.
Some mic processors have multi-band parametric equalizer sections. These are very powerful tools. Their operation is beyond the scope of this article. I’ll cover them in depth later.
And finally the “de-esser.” The name is a bit misleading. We don’t really want to completely remove the “ess” sounds. We just want to keep them in line. Some people make “ess” sounds very much louder than the rest of their speech. A “de-esser” is designed to limit the “esses” so they don’t stand out above the rest of the sound. If your “esses” are not excessive, ignore this section.
Don’t think of a mic processor as an “effect”, but as a “preconditioner”. When the sound leaves the mic processor, it is clean, loud, and under control.