Author Tools for Do-It-Yourself Audiobook Creation 1: Equipment

Let’s set the stage by saying: This post assumes you want to record your own audiobook.

What you will read here is a companion to a short Spotlight episode (Episode 015) we did with Brad Vance about this very topic. Here are the links in case you hadn’t heard that episode:

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Full disclosure, all of these links use my Amazon Affiliate information – so if you buy from this page, you’re helping me keep this site and the podcast going. (It doesn’t cost you extra, Amazon pays me a teeny, tiny bit from the retail percentage.)

So, settle in and get ready to learn something!

Equipment

MICROPHONES

A good microphone is crucial. Aside from the computer, this will probably be your most expensive purchase. But you really don’t need to break the bank. Some of the low-to-mid range microphones are still really exceptional.

Terms you will see and what they mean:

  • Cardoid (directional): Just means the sound pickup pattern his heart-shaped. Picture the microphone nestled in the top of the “V” and the pointy end at your mouth. The microphone will pick up sounds within that field.
  • Omni-directional: Picks up evenly in all directions.
  • Shotgun (directional): The most “single-directional” – basically ONLY right in front of the mic.
  • Parabolic (directional): Basically a shotgun with poorer bass response.
  • Dynamic: You’ll see some really scientific explanations of this. You just need to know it means the “eardrum” in the microphone is attached to a magnet, making it a very stable microphone and it picks up pretty evenly across the audio spectrum.
  • Condenser: The “eardrum” or “eardrums” are connected right to the transmitters. They’re less stable, but are often more sensitive. You might see these in a professional studio.
  • Digital Output: To your computer (what you’ll want starting out).
  • XLR Output: To standard audio equipment (what you might see in a studio).

With those terms in mind, here are some samples (with feedback):

Microphone Notes On Amazon
Blue “Snowball” USB Microphone Price: $59.99 USD
(as of this post)
A solid starter microphone, it has a switch right on the back that lets you toggle between single speaker,  multiple speakers (interview), and music.
Brad Vance and SA “Baz” Collins both love this mic.
Audio-Technica AT2005USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone Price: $79.00 USD
(as of this post)
Considered a starter mic, the AT2005 is a stronger single-direction mic. It eliminates nearly all sound from the back and side, but picks up everything from the front.
This is my personal favorite mic, and the one I use for all recording.
Heil Sound PR 40 Dynamic Cardioid Studio Microphone Price: $399.99 USD
(as of this post)
Okay, this is the high-end. I admit it – my dream is to have one of these to work on. This is THE professional mic. If you’re going to do a great deal of professional narration, set your sites on something in this range.

POP FILTER

A pop filter serves two purposes – and thankfully they’re cheap. First – it prevents wind noise. If you expel air suddenly, it creates a “puff” that can sound like a wind dragon blowing into the mic. Second – it keeps natural moisture (from your breath or spittle) from getting into your mic.

Pop Filter Notes On Amazon
Dragonpad pop filter® Studio Microphone Mic Wind Screen Price: $6.89 USD
(as of this post)
Cheap and gets the job done.
This is the one I use.
VocalBeat Pop Filter Price: $18.95 USD
(as of this post)
This one has a double filter, one metal – one mesh. It makes a sturdier filter that sellers tell you can be washed.
Though I don’t recall if this is the brand, Brad Vance uses a double mesh filter similar to this.
Auphonix Microphone Pop Filter 6-Inch Double Mesh Screen Price: $19.83 USD
(as of this post)
Another double-mesh option that comes highly rated.

GATE/COMPRESSOR/PEAK LIMITER

I know I asked Brad if he used one of these. I shouldn’t have – it’s beyond the scope of what we talked about. If you’re going to sell your narration services, you’ll eventually need to look at these. Essentially, This lovely piece of equipment reduces the volume of loud sounds or amplifies quiet sounds. I’m only going to include a link to one so you can look if you want, but if you’re just starting out, this is something for later in your audio career.

Pop Filter Notes On Amazon
Behringer MDX1600 2-Channel Expander/Gate/Compressor/Peak Limiter Price: $169.99 USD
(as of this post)
Just including this because I mentioned it. It’ll keep your sound levels within designated ranges.

HEADPHONES

As Brad pointed out, good headphones are critical if you’re doing your own editing. There are three elements you want to make sure your headphones cover:

  1. Comfortable: You may be wearing them for hours at a time.
  2. Great Sound: If you’re doing your own editing, you need to hear minute anomalies so you can remove them.
  3. No Sound Leaking: This is the one that’s not intuitive. But you don’t want your mic picking up echoes from your own headphones. Usually, if they’re comfortable the seal will be enough to prevent this.
Headphones Notes On Amazon
Behringer HPS3000 Studio Headphones Price: $19.99 USD
(as of this post)
A good, solid, starter headset.
Logitech ClearChat Comfort/USB Headset H390 Price: $36.99 USD
(as of this post)
I like this set because I can use the headset mic for non-recorded calls. I wouldn’t want to edit music with this set, but it works perfectly for podcast recording and admin calls.
Bose SoundTrue Headphones Price: $99.95 USD
(as of this post)
My dream headset. Some day…

SOUND PROOFING

This could also fall under Environment (below), but I’m putting these here because they can be purchased.
If you cannot get your microphone far enough away from a loud computer or if sound bounces off your walls, you can sometimes solve the problem with a sound screen. If you’re crafty, you can build your own. If you’re not crafty, or you have the income and don’t want to bother with building soundproofing, you can buy them fully framed and on stands. But before you buy one of these, read about Environment and consider running your own audio tests before investing in one of these you may not need.

Sound Absorption Notes On Amazon
DIY PC CPU Mesh Sound Absorbing Dustproof Sponge Filter Price: $3.35 USD
(as of this post)
Before you think, “Cheap is for me!” check the size. But if you just need to block a small space like a computer fan, then this will probably do for you.
Mybecca 12 Pack Acoustic Wedge Studio Soundproofing Foam Wall Tiles Price: $17.45 USD
(as of this post)
These are great. Attach these tiles to a portable thing that you can put up and take down, and you can completely tame a wall echo. If you’re super-crafty, you could even build a desk screen to block off your computer.
LyxPro VRI-30 – Portable & Foldable Sound Absorbing Vocal Recording Panel Price: $64.99 USD
(as of this post)
Here’s the option for the non-crafty folks, or those who just want an out-of-the-box solution.

Whew! Okay… I’m done giving you equipment links. It’s also late…

Next post will include Environtment, Editing, and Studio Etiquette!