SETTING UP YOUR HOME STUDIO
There are a number of ways you can set up a VO studio in your home. It depends heavily on how much you want to spend. My advice is start off simple and affordable, and upgrade as your career and income grow.
Let me say that again louder for the folks in the back: YOU DO NOT NEED TO SPEND THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ON A HOME STUDIO SETUP. If you've got a pile of cash and a burning desire to exchange that cash in for electronics, go for it (and let me come over to record!) The most important element to your home setup is a quiet space. Please don't get swayed by what anyone else has-- and avoid Facebook groups full of dudes who insist if you don't have a $10K mic you'll never work. My mic cost nowhere near that, and I work all the time. Be smart with your money.
B&H Photo has a great article that lists items in detail here, so instead of repeating that info, I'll list below the different equipment that I've used at what stage. I'll link to everything on Amazon, but I encourage you to shop around for the best prices. I usually look online, then go in and get it at the Guitar Center on Sunset because I am impatient, I don't always trust fragile stuff in transit, and I believe they still have a price match guarantee.
You'd also do well to talk to the folks at Sweetwater. They know their stuff and have top notch customer service.
My first mic ever. It was fine, and I used it for years. I remember dropping it a lot because I used it hand-held because I never thought to get a stand. When I dropped it one too many times, I started getting a click when I recorded and I moved on to--
This is the mic I recommend to anyone who wants to jump in and start recording on the cheap cheap cheap. It was around $100-150 when I bought my first one, it is now $49 on Amazon. In my opinion, this is your best value for a USB mic.
I upgraded to this mic when I had been working for a while and was recording more on my own. It was also when I had the cash to invest in a more complex setup. This mic requires a pre-amp and cable, which I'll get into below.
I bought this mic when I started coaching and wanted a second mic. I liked my other Sterling, and this was on super sale at Guitar Center, marked down to around $150 from like $500. To be honest, I couldn't tell you the difference between the ST51 and ST55 save for the former is all black and the latter is black and silver, but I am positive those details have nothing to do with sound output.
A preamp is that little box into which you plug your (non-USB) mic with an XLR cable, then the preamp plugs into your computer. The preamp takes the audio from the mic and sends it to the computer as a digital signal.
I bought this because it was the one I had heard that people bought. It was expensive and it shit the bed in less than a year. Not recommended, unless you hear from someone who really knows what they're talking about that it's worth it.
A few years ago, I moped into the Guitar Center, near tears and broken Mbox Mini in hand, and didn't really want to drop another $400 on a piece of equipment. A very nice gentleman who worked there recommended the Scarlett, which he said was better than the Mbox and a fraction of the price. I gave it a shot and have been using it ever since with no problems. They also make the Focusrite Scarlett Solo, which I would recommend, as if you're mostly just recording VO, you won't have much need for more than one mic, and it'll cost you about $50 less.
About a year ago, that Scarlett glitched out and I had about 50 auditions due the next day. I hopped on to Amazon to get a replacement, but found myself having a hard time buying another of the thing that just shit the bed. I clicked around, read some reviews, and decided to go with the Behringer U-PHORIA single input interface. It was about $60 and was perfectly serviceable for the better part of a year. I have learned that you very much cannot drop these things. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Back I went to Amazon to try yet another pre-amp. It's blue. I'll report back.
Update: I returned this one and got the Scarlet Solo.
The best software is the software you know.
I repeat: the best software is the software you know.
To record your own auditions, you do not need to know every shortcut Pro-Tools, unless you want to go deep into audio engineering. If you know someone who can teach you one type of software, use that one. But they mostly all do the same stuff, at least when it comes to what we need software to do as voice actors.
I started out using GarageBand, which you should already have on your computer if you're a Mac user. Used it for years, until I switched to Twisted Wave -- mostly because it was what they used at the SAG VO Lab, it looked cool, and I didn't mind dropping $79 on the license.
A free copy of like mini-Logic or Pro-Tools came with the Mbox, but I didn't feel it wasn't worth the time to learn a whole new software.
If you don't have any of these, you can download Audacity for free.
If you love to geek out on stuff like this, check out other software and see what you like best. Consider Audition, Reaper, Studio One, Logic, or Pro-Tools. I'm sure there are others. Let me know what you find and like!
The learning curves on each of these programs vary, but in general they work mostly the same way. There are approximately 500,000 tutorials on YouTube given by brainiac 11-year olds that you can watch that should answer any and every question you can come up with.
This is the little round screen in between the mic and your mouth, and it is an absolute must-have, no matter what mic you use. It filters out plosives (Ps and Bs) that will POP if spoken directly into the mic.
You can make one out of a coat hanger and a nylon sock or pantyhose, but they now cost like five bucks, so why ruin a good pair of pantyhose? No brand is better than another-- it's literally a piece of nylon held in by some plastic. Just buy the cheapest one.
When you're using an analog mic and a pre-amp, you'll have to purchase a male-to-female cable-- the female end goes into the mic, and the male end into the pre-amp.
I've tried cheap cables and I've tried pricier cables. Honestly, the cheap ones shit the bed fairly swiftly, so I'd say a "splurge" on your cables is worth it. I'm currently using Mogami cables. Price will vary depending on the length of cable you need.
You'll want a pair of Studio Monitor headphones-- these will give you the clearest take on what your recording sounds like. Your computer speakers will do in a pinch, but avoid any fancy external speakers or noise-canceling headphones that will make the tones richer than they are.
I use the Sony MDR7506 which aren't the cheapest, but I find incredibly comfortable for when I'm gonna be in them for a while. I also have a pair of Behringer HPS3000, which you've probably used while working with me. Solid quality, especially for the price.
*you do not need headphones to record. (note: bold italics underline) You're not in a soundproofed studio where the only way to communicate with your engineer/director is through cans. You're also not Mariah Carey (or whoever fills this joke best when you read it) where you need music in your ears or really need to hear yourself to maintain pitch. Sometimes hearing yourself back gets in the way of recording. I rarely wear my headphones while recording anymore, but rather just when I edit.
A free-standing boom mic stand vs. a suspension boom scissor arm stand. Basically, standing on the floor vs. attaching to a desk or shelf... or wall, if you're really going for it. The cheapest scissor arm is really tricky if your mic is heavy; you want to make sure you have a solid place on which to clamp it because if that thing goes down, it goes down hard.
You can go nuts buying acoustic foam panels or squares on The Foam Factory website, or you can just go into your closet where the clothes you already own will do that same work for zero dollars. Another trick I like are these shag carpet squares from Ikea -- they cover more ground than the foam, and you can pretend you're in Johnny Bravo's groovy home recording studio.