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September 10, 2020 / Randy Coppinger

Microphone Position for Voice Recording

When recording voice, it seems helpful to start with a specific microphone position, then make adjustments depending on what the project needs, and what we’re hearing from the voice actor or vocalist. I’m not suggesting that there’s one, perfect way to always place a mic, just that strategies should be based on an intentional starting position.


I like to start with the front of the microphone 6 to 18 inches away from the actor’s mouth. If a recording space seems noisy because of room reflections or background noise, I’ll place towards 6 inches to improve the signal to noise ratio. If a performer is loud, the mic is sensitive, and/or I expect significant proximity effect, I’ll place towards 18 inches.

Once we can hear how the starting distance sounds, I’ll move the mic closer or further for the reasons stated above, and also to help the performer with sight lines to script, or music. If the space is especially tight, that may limit how far we can move the mic away from the performer. The mic stand may limit where we’re able to place the mic also. This is why I am willing to spend money on a quality mic stand: to improve mic location possibilities.


I assume a pop shield will be needed and just include it in an initial mic setup, primarily because it’s easier to remove a pop shield than add one to an existing configuration.

For a stretched cloth or metal screen style pop shield, place the pop shield between the microphone and mouth. Place the back of your hand on the front of the microphone, and behind the pop shield. Then gently blow through the shield. Then move the pop shield away from your microphone and hand, toward your mouth, until you can no longer feel air on your palm. I learned this adjustment technique from Gary Terzza of VO Master Class. Read more about preventing plosives.

Some pop shields are more efficient at stopping air from reaching the mic than others. If you have to move your pop shield too far from your mic for it to diffuse the air, consider getting a more effective one.


Let’s think about what comes out of the performer’s mouth, then position the mic accordingly. Sound emanates directly forward from the mouth, and also up, down, and to the sides. Air blasts from the mouth too, especially when a performer makes hard consonant sounds. Those air blasts are mostly in front of the mouth; not up, down, or to the sides. We want to avoid those air blasts, which do not sound good, while capturing the sound of the voice.


I like to start with the mic positioned above the mouth, with the mic element somewhere between the nose and forehead, and pointed directly at the mouth. Starting above avoids the air blasts and captures the sound of the voice. In addition, placing the mic up high leaves room below for a music stand, script, lead sheet, video monitor, tablet, or other visual tools used during a recording session.

The area to the left and right of the nose, above the mouth and below the eyes is called the Mask. In the same way that the wooden body of an acoustic guitar resonates with the vibrations of guitar strings, the mask resonates with the vocal chords for a richer, more sonorous recording of voice. You instinctively know the mask does this because people sound different when they have nasal congestion from a cold. The mask is an important component of the total sound of a voice. Placing the mic above the mouth helps ensure the mask is well represented in the voice recording.

The chest and neck also resonate with the sound of the vocal chords. Recording the resonant sounds from the chest and neck contribute to a fullness, along with the mouth and mask. Positioning the mic above, pointed down at the mouth, helps include all of these adjacent vibrations, which is why recording from above can sound so natural.

But listen, if recording from below or off to the side sounds better, do it. By all means don’t record from above simply because you designate it as a convention. The location of the mic may be influenced not only by how the voice sounds on mic, but also the physical layout of the recording space. Don’t feel beholden to this mic from above position simply because it’s my starting point. Put that mic where it will do the most good overall.


I can’t tell you how often the mic is placed above only to have a performer raise their mouth to meet it directly. While that can help open the performers throat and diaphragm, it also blasts air directly at the capsule. Work to keep the element above that blast of air.

I’ve also seen performers move too far away from the capsule. They look straight ahead during mic placement, but then look down toward a script or music on a stand when performing, in which case the mic is aimed at the top of the head instead of the mouth. Work to keep the element pointed directly at the mouth when recording.

Read more about Recording Voice Acting Remotely.

May 19, 2020 / Randy Coppinger

Headphones for Voice Acting

Wondering what kind of headphones you should use to record as a voice actor? Check out my conversation with headphone expert and voice actor Lauren Dragan. I learned so much from her! We talk about the things that help an actor act, sound leaking into your mic, reliable sonic presentation, the relationship between acting for animation and cable length, comfort, the ability to work for several hours, and so much more.

Headphones mentioned in this conversation by name: Sony MDR-7506, AKG K371, Shure SRH840, PSB M4U 2, and Audio Technica ATH-M50x.

01:42 Sony MDR-7506 headphones worn by Lauren, and why she likes them.

03:51 AKG K371 headphones are designed to present as sonically neutral at a relatively affordable price.

04:18 The Harman curve describes a frequency response for headphones that most listeners perceive as neutral. Headphone sound that measures flat in frequency response is not perceived by listeners as neutral sounding.

06:56 Shure SRH840 headphones worn by me, and how I came to choose them.

08:36 What does a voice actor need from headphones? Good isolation, reliable sonic presentation, and a long enough cable.

11:14 Detachable cables make is easier to replace them when they break.

12:46 Detachable cables for higher-end headphones often allow the wearer to choose between a coiled cable, and a flat cable. And because there is a connection point, friction from unplugging and plugging detachable cables can also be a failure point.

16:28 Does it matter how headphones look for voice acting? It might, especially if you’re recoding from home on a video call with your client.

16:51 Pro tip from Lauren… get better isolation from ordinary earbuds using Comply tips.

21:50 Open back and semi-open back headphones are probably not a good choice for voice acting.

23:08 The technique of removing one side of the headphones to hear yourself acoustically, or hear other sounds outside of your headphones.

32:34 Some of our biggest laughs happened in this part of the discussion. Clean headphones to help them last longer. Lauren shares what she learned from a microbiologist about the causes of ear pad deterioration. She also tells us how to clean your headphones, and how to clean common use headphones, such as those found in a recording studio.

36:07 Headphone fit is incredibly important. Firstly, Lauren points out, poor fit can diminish bass response. This could prevent an actor from hearing everything they are recording and misjudge. Secondly, sound leaking out can get on mic, which could be a problem for recording.

38:44 When headphones are too strident or bright, they can make your ears and brain feel tired quickly. This is a major cause of fatigue, making it difficult to work for long periods of time, such as a four hour recording session.

43:54 Like speakers, some headphones cause fatigue more rapidly than others, even if the sound seems balanced and pleasant. Unlike speakers, headphones can trap heat against the listener’s head, contributing to fatigue.

46:42 Consider the clamping force of headphones — how much they squeeze your head to stay in place a province a decent seal. Every aspect of comfort is important for working in headphones for a significant period of time. Keep the packaging and return a new pair of headphones if they do not work for you in terms of fit, fatigue, heat, clamping force, and overall comfort.

48:42 What about noise cancelling headphones, such as the PSB M4U 2? Headphones with noise cancellation are not ideal for voice actors. The tone changes when noise cancellation is activated. A less live reproduction can confuse what the actor is actually hearing. Noise cancellation might also obscure a problem, such as background noise, that is getting on mic, but the actor is less able to notice. Ironically, the best way to use a pair of noise cancelling headphones is with the noise cancellation turned off.

50:26 Wireless headphones, often using Bluetooth, can get delayed by the computer transmitting the audio. The delay is often long enough to confuse the listener. Until our computers are quick enough to minimize that delay, wireless headphones are not a good choice to record voice acting.

51:34 What are some misguided ideas people may have about headphones? Some people assume expensive headphones are always better, which is not necessarily true. High vs low impedance with headphones are not as big an issue as it used to be. There are some suspicious products on the market, but don’t let people sell you snake oil. Big, huge headphones are not always the best, and might keep an actor from moving around the way they need to for a take. “But in the booth you want something simple,” so headphones with a lot of features can actually make the actor’s job unnecessarily complicated.

55:40 When Audiophiles talk about “burn-in” time, Lauren suggests that is much more about getting used to the sound profile of the headphones than any physical change that happens. So spend significant time listening to new headphones to get used to how they sound. This will improve your level of comfort with them. “When you know you’re equipment well, you can record better.”

57:09 “Everyone’s got preferences.” Find some headphones that are right for you. Lauren explains how the Shure SRH840 and Audio Technica ATH M50x headphones sound to her, but notes other people prefer them. The key is to make the connection between what you hear in the headphones and how that sounds in the recording of your voice.

59:03 Contact Lauren Dragan for voice acting, and for her headphone expertise, on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Read her reviews via, The New York Times. She is represented by VOX and Go Voices.

Read more about Recording Voice Acting Remotely.

May 18, 2020 / Randy Coppinger

Optimizing Zoom for Remote Voice Acting

Zoom has quickly become the de factor standard for video meetings. And the audio defaults are great for most uses. But voice actors can make better use of Zoom’s features for their clients by changing a few audio settings.

Kudos to Jordan Reynolds, who got me hip to Zoom audio settings for our conversation about Microphones for Voice Actors at Home.

The first step for optimizing any video call system is to find out how much bandwidth it needs, then run a SpeedTest to find out if you have enough. Zoom requires 2Mbps up and down for video and audio. If everyone shuts off their video, you only need 60-80kbps for audio. If you’ve got too little to support Zoom, consider shutting down bandwidth hogs on your network during your call.

Many users get better results from a wired Ethernet connection than WiFi. If you don’t already have an Ethernet cable running to your Zoom device, you’ll also likely see speed increases for file transfers, streaming, etc. if you connect it by wire.

If you cut down other bandwidth hogs and connect via an Ethernet cable but still have problems getting enough bandwidth for Zoom, you may need to talk to your internet service provider, and/or upgrade your modem or router.

Inside the Zoom application open Preferences. Select Audio in the left panel. On the Mac it looks like this:

Basic Audio settings in Zoom

Be sure your audio interface is selected in the Speaker and Microphone pulldowns. Your built-in options aren’t going to sound very good.

This might also be a good time to enable Press and hold SPACE key to temporarily unmute yourself, which I find very handy for voice directing and script supervising. Actors can leave themselves unmuted, while everyone else stays muted during the recording. This option creates a Press to Talk function for everyone else who is muted. Pretty great for remote recording sessions, right?

Now click Advanced in the lower right hand corner to bring up these choices:

Advanced Audio settings in Zoom

When you rollover the text to Show in-meeting option to “Enable Original Sound” from microphone, you’ll see the floating explanation shown above. Those enhancements are great most of the time, but to allow your voice acting clients to hear as much of what’s actually happening while you record, enable the checkmark.

While you are there go ahead and disable the suppression of persistent and intermittent background noise in those pulldowns. You shouldn’t need these, but they are a nice backstop in case you forget the next step on a call.

With the original sound option now enabled, close out of the Settings dialog box. In your next Zoom meeting you’ll see this in the upper left corner (Mac):

The pulldown to the right gives you some other cool options, but for starters you want to click directly on Turn on Original Sound. When you do, it will toggle to Turn off Original Sound, which is what you want to see. Now listeners can hear you without any additional sound processing from Zoom.

Read more about Recording Voice Acting Remotely.

April 29, 2020 / Randy Coppinger

Microphones for Voice Actors at Home

A conversation with voice actor and home studio ninja Jordan Reynolds. UPDATED May 18

Some guideposts to our conversation:

01:03 Some different situations in which voice actors might be thinking about microphones for recording at home.

03:11 What qualities does a voice actor need from a microphone for recording at home? A well built so it lasts a long time. Low noise floor. Not overly sensitive to plosives. Elsewhere we talk about wanting a mic that captures qualities that are desirable in the actor’s voice, which will vary from person to person. In our discussion of Lewitt microphones and the profile of many shotgun microphones we want to avoid ones that sound harsh, strident, or sibilant on a specific actor’s voice.

05:36 Some of Jordan’s favorite microphones from his personal collection: Neumann TLM 103, Sennheiser 416, Roswell Pro Audio Bravo, and CAD e100 S.

06:43 Discussion about some specific microphone makes and models: Neumann, Townsend Labs, and Lewitt.

10:57 Is a microphone intended for auditions good enough for recording paying jobs? If your current microphone has too much self noise, that might be a reason to get a better mic. You may also want to consider if listing your mic for clients helps your hurts their impression of your professionalism.

14:00 How do USB microphones compare to microphones with an XLR connector? A USB contains 3 things: the mic element with associated electronics, a preamp, and an analog to digital converter. An XLR mic is only the the mic element and associated electronics. A $300 USB mic will need to have a cheaper mic element and electronics to afford also containing the preamp and A/D converter than a $300 mic with an XLR connector.

17:10 How might an expensive microphone be worth the price?

20:00 Should a voice actor own more than one microphone?

20:35 What types of microphones are suitable for a voice actor recording at home: Large diaphragm condenser, small diaphragm condenser (including shotgun microphones), moving-coil, and ribbon? We conclude that a large diaphragm condenser would be appropriate for a first mic, followed by a small diaphragm condenser mic. We specifically talk about what shotgun microphones do well and what challenges they offer. We like moving-coil and ribbon microphones (my voice was recorded on a ribbon mic for this interview), but might be better choices for an additional, rather than primary voice recording mic.

Here’s a great video review, comparison, and discussion from May 10th about microphones for voice acting.

Read more about Recording Voice Acting Remotely.

April 24, 2020 / Randy Coppinger

Remote Voice Direction

What’s the best way for voice actors to work with voice directors, producers, and others when recording remotely? Here are some options to consider.


Self Direct. No one actually connects with you live while you’re recording. The actor directs oneself, sends the recordings, and gets feedback afterward for any pickups. This frees the actor to work at a time of their choosing, and wait for a passing plane. There is no call, so the actor can focus on acting and recording.

Separate. The system used to record, and the system used for the call are not integrated. The production team attends virtually by phone, Skype, Zoom, etc. but the recording system simply records without being connected to the call directly. The most simple version of this is: the actor holds a phone next to their face while performing into their microphone and recording on their computer. Why keep them separate? It can be relatively simple to setup, and if something goes wrong technically the actor only has to concentrate on the one that’s problematic: the recorder, or the call.

Some producers prefer to receive the audio in a full bandwidth format, such as WAV, recorded by the voice actor. In this case the focus is audio fidelity.

Others prefer to record the audio directly thru the call system. Skipping the upload and recording directly is quicker, which is important for tight turnarounds. Only a few call systems sound good enough to use directly, including Bodalgo Call, Audio Movers, and various flavors of Source-Connect. This approach turns the call system into the recording path.

Integrated. The system used to record is connected to the call. When the actor speaks into their recording microphone, the production folks hear the audio from the same microphone. Setting this up isn’t as simple as the options above, but it does offer some important advantages. (1) If there is distortion or a plosive on mic, the production folks hear it and can ask for a retake based on that tech problem. (2) If the production folks want to hear a take after it is recorded, the actor can play directly out of their recording software into the call. (3) It can simplify communication during the call; no holding a phone off to the side with your hand the whole time, no second mic to address, etc.

March 21, 2020 / Randy Coppinger

Free Acoustical Improvements for Recording at Home

While our homes have not necessarily been designed to be good sounding recording spaces, there are things we can do to improve the way things sound.

What do purpose built recording spaces do so well that we may want to emulate acoustically at home? I hear these in three categories:

  1. Sound Isolation – Keeping outside sounds outside
  2. Internal Sound Reflections – Room echo, room reverb, and room resonances
  3. Background Noise – Inside noises that get picked up by microphones

I’m going to be super honest here: there isn’t much we can do for free about #1, Sound Isolation. Sorry. Now if the neighbors have a noisy dog and it doesn’t sound as loud on the other side of the house, recording in the quieter side is free. If you can ask the neighbors to keep the dog quiet and inside for a few hours while you record, you aren’t spending any money either. Unless you bribe the neighbors. Or the dog.

Voice actors have long used the Fortress of Blankets and Pillows for recording auditions at home. Because it works! Journalists recording from home know this too. Most things that are soft and fluffy to the touch are also good frictional sound absorbers, which help minimize Internal Sound Reflections (#2). But if you’re recording for hours at a time, or if you’re recording with a webcam pointed at you the whole time, you might want more than Fort Blankets.

Choose a room. The first free option to consider is which room at your home sounds better? Typically, smaller rooms with a lot of reflective surfaces, such as bathrooms, do not sound great acoustically (except for shower singing). Record you self in several different rooms, listen to your recordings, and decide which rooms sound better. There may be trade offs here, such as not wanting to setup your gear where you sleep, or being closer inside your home to the neighbor’s noisy dog, or picking up the sound of the refrigerator, etc.

Empty rooms sound terrible. Remember how awful the rooms of your home sounded when they were bare? But after moving in furniture, hanging pictures, and otherwise filling them with stuff, things sounded better? Do more of that. Bring soft, absorptive things into your recording space — the bigger the better. Hang more pictures, bring in some house plants, setup some bookshelves, and generally break up the sound as it bounces around inside your recording space. You can close drapes and blinds while you record to reduce sound reflections from glass windows. If there’s a closet full of clothes, leave the closet door open. Cloth tapestries hung on the walls sound fantastic! While it isn’t free, I built a very effective and portable recording booth at a very low cost using furniture pads (heavy blankets) that I already owned and some PVC from the hardware store.

Avoid placing microphones in the corners

Place your mic where is sounds better. Once you select a good sounding room and fill it with stuff, try recording yourself in different parts of the room. You will probably find that recording inches away from walls, the floor, or the ceiling doesn’t sound very good. The corners where these boundaries meet are typically worse sounding places to locate a microphone. Mirrors, desktops, and any large, sound reflective surface will tend to sound worse than placing your mic at a distance from these. But somewhat confusingly, sometimes the dead center of the room will present a room resonance to your mic. Resonance is when your voice stops but the sound of the room reflections continue to vibrate at a specific frequency in your voice. Moving the mic just a few inches can effectively dodge these resonances. So record yourself in different locations and decide where to place your mic based on which locations sound better.

Addressing #3 Background Noise is a bit like #1: most of the free options are not convenient. If your air conditioner makes noise that’s getting into your recordings, turn it off when you record. Any other noise makers that can be shut off, go ahead and turn them off too. Or put them in another room. You probably don’t want to turn off or move your refrigerator, in which case record in a different room. They key here is to listen to the sounds in your home that you usually ignore. Be aware which sounds are getting in your recordings and take steps to record without them.

If you have a sound booth in your home as your recording space, congratulations! You have potentially addressed all 3 acoustical issues at once — though certainly not for free. Nevertheless a booth can still have acoustical problems, especially resonance because of how small they are inside. As above, bring some soft, fluffy stuff inside. And be sure to try different positions for your microphone. Listen to how the sound of your recordings changes when you do, and keep improving the way things sound without spending any more money.

When you’ve exhausted these free resources, and if you’re still unhappy with the acoustics of your space that are getting in your recordings, consider purchasing acoustical treatment, and working with folks who can help evaluate your setup so you can spend your money well.

Happy home recording! Read more about Recording Voice Acting Remotely.

March 18, 2020 / Randy Coppinger

Recording Voice Acting Remotely

With everyone isolating themselves from Covid-19 to protect others from spreading the virus, many of us need to record voice acting remotely.


Voice actors with equipment at home, what can you do to make your audio sound as professional as possible?

Take control of the sound you present to your clients by Optimizing Zoom for Remote Voice Acting.

Build your own DIY Recording Booth.

Free Acoustical Improvements for Recording at Home.

How to Minimize Plosives (P-Pops) on mic.

Should I buy a new microphone? A conversation with actor Jordan Reynolds about Microphones for Voice Acting at Home.

What qualities does a voice actor need in headphones? A conversation with actor and headphone expert Lauren Dragon: Headphones for Voice Acting.

Dee Bradley Baker’s tips and resources for Your Home Studio.

What technology do we need to conduct a live recording session with a voice director? How can we best use it to deliver professional quality dialog?

Where should you place your microphone? Tips on Microphone Mosition for Voice Recording.

How to connect actors with voice directors, producers and others for Remote Voice Direction.

Directed Voiceover Sessions With What Online Platform? By actor Rebecca Haugh

Better listening in your home studio with DIY Speaker Isolation.

December 9, 2019 / Randy Coppinger

Using Figure-8 Microphones

The first time I used a figure-8 (or bi-directional) microphone I wasn’t choosing the pattern so much as a microphone that happened to also exhibit the pattern: a ribbon microphone. I loved the sound of the mic, but I wasn’t accustomed to the back side picking up sound with the same sensitivity as the front.

I suspect I’m not the only one who initially considered this a consequence rather than a feature. And because I was focused on the tonal quality instead of the pickup pattern, it seemed like a trade-off between a sound I wanted and a pattern that was unfamiliar to me.

Many sessions later, I not only learned how to better use a figure-8 ribbon, I started finding advantages to the pattern, even when I wasn’t using a ribbon microphone. One of the keys to favoring figure-8 was the realization that equal front and rear sensitivity includes rejection everywhere else. Remember: figure-8 rejects sounds 90 degrees off-axis. That means to the left and the right of the microphone, and it also means above and below. So while the shape of the pickup looks like the number 8, the shape of the rejection looks like a donut!

Here are some reasons to intentionally choose the figure-8 pattern:

1. Face-To-Face Interview

Do you want to hear two people talking to each other while rejecting all other sound above, below, and to the sides of them? Put a microphone with a figure-8 pattern between them! One mic, two people, fantastic isolation. This works best when both mouths are on-axis with each side of the microphone, and their speaking volumes are similar (as opposed to one who speaks loudly, another who speaks quietly). Typically these people are not right up on the microphone (or each other), but a bit further away, for a relaxed conversation with a comfortable distance between them.

2. Reject Off-Axis Sound

When recording symphonic music, harp can go missing in the main array. But a cardioid spot mic on harp often gets as much brass as the main array. A figure-8 microphone, set about as high as the player’s head, pointing straight down at the soundboard works great. Why? Because the side of the mic rejects the most in figure-8. Point the side of the mic toward the brass section! The back of the mic is sensitive, but it points straight up, which is typically the flyway space for curtains, flats, lights, etc. on a live performance stage. You get a lot of harp from the font of the mic, and some distant room from the rear of the mic. With clever positioning this trick works with non-harp sound sources too.

3. Tight Pickup

The on-axis sensitivity, both front and back, is tighter with figure-8 than any other directional pattern. Point a figure-8 at sources while listening to the output of the mic using headphones. It’s like pointing a laser. You’ve got to be clever to point the rear of the microphone at something else you want to record, or minimize what the rear lobe “hears” by pointing it at something acoustically absorbent, or very far away. The figure-8 pattern can help you isolate something specific because the on-axis response is so narrow.

73 AEA44cx_withStudioTrapBehind

AEA 44cx with baffle behind

4. Intentionally Capture a Mixture of Direct and Reflected Sound

If the space in which you are recording sounds good, capturing some of it can enhance the recording. Reverb or simpler reflections are sometimes included in a recording using the omni-directional pattern, but it will also work with a figure-8 pattern. If you want more of the room acoustics, move the mic away from the source. If you want less room, move the mic closer to the source and/or point the rear of the pattern toward a less reflective part of the room.

5. Room / Ambience Microphone

Anytime you have direct sound in a room mic, you create a possibility for artificial sounding Comb-Filtering. Remember the donut shaped sound rejection pattern of the figure-8? That comes in super handy for isolating reflected sound from the direct sound. So aim the sound-rejecting 90 degree off-axis part of the figure-8 pattern toward the primary sound source and you can isolate it from the reflected sounds captured by the on-axis front and rear lobes. Tip: Consider if you want the lobes to point at reflecting surfaces that are equidistant to the front and back, or not. If they are similarly reflective (both flat plaster, for example) the delay of the two reflections and the volume of the two reflections will be heard similarly. As you move away from reflective surfaces the sound takes longer to reach the mic, and the reflection gets quieter in the mic. The opposite is true for a lobe of the pattern moving closer to a reflective surface. And this is true for any room microphone pattern, but often more important to consider because sound enters with the same intensity into opposite sides of the same figure-8 element.

6. Stereo Recording with Mid-Side, or Blumlein

These two incredibly flexible stereo recording techniques are built around the figure-8 microphone pattern. Most stereo mic setups force you to decide how wide the stereo image should be before you start recording. Mid-Side and Blumlein can be adjusted in post. So if you misjudged in the field, these techniques give you some opportunity to tweak later for a better result.

So far I’ve avoided mentioning that the rear lobe has opposite polarity to the front lobe of the figure-8. Both lobes have the same sensitivity, but the rear lobe has a negative polarity. It seems appropriate to mention here because the opposing polarity of the two sides allows figure-8 mic users to represent both sides of a spacious audio presentation as stereo from a single “Side” channel when anchored against the “Middle” mic channel. It’s a neat trick developed from some of the earliest days of stereo recording theory.

While often touted as Mono Compatible, my mentor Dave Appelt suggested that it might be more accurate to call Mid-Side: Mono Destructive. Because when you collapse a Mid-Side recording to mono by panning L and R to the middle, the Side signal cancels itself. In other words, all sounds that were in the Side part of the recording are no longer there. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just a more honest way to evaluate the manner in which Mid-Side collapses to mono.

Recording with the Mid-Side Microphone Configuration

By contrast, all sources in both elements of a Blumlein recording continue to be audible when you collapse it to mono by panning L and R to the middle. These two signals are truly Mono Compatible because nothing perfectly cancels as you pan in; it simply gets more and more narrow without the audible Comb-Filter effects that are sometimes a problem with spaced-pair and near-coincident stereo microphone techniques.

Much more could be said about Mid-Side stereo, including a decent tutorial, and Blumlein stereo too. I plan to write more about them in future posts.

See also
Unidirectional Ribbon Microhones
Beyond Figure-8 Ribbon Microphones
The $60,000 Ribbon Mic Shootout from RecordingHacks
What Is Blumlein Technique from Audio Engineering Associates, including audible examples

July 27, 2017 / Randy Coppinger

A Tribute to June Foray

I can’t hold a candle to the stories and reporting that will follow the passing of this legend. But I feel compelled to join the chorus of people who were profoundly impacted by her. She was an amazing actor and pioneer. The opportunity to work with her allowed me to sit at the feet of a master.

Rest in peace.

It was her good friend, director Chuck Jones who said, “June Foray is not the female Mel Blanc. Mel Blanc is the male June Foray.”

Behind the Voice Actors

“When I was fortunate enough to attend the Oscar nominees’ luncheon in 2007, I asked director Martin Scorsese who he was excited to have met that day, among the hundred-or-so contenders and Academy guests. He smiled and said, ‘June Foray.’”
June Foray, Voice of ‘Bullwinkle Show’s’ Natasha and Rocky, Dies at 99

“a very scrappy, ballsy lady. Somebody who could definitely walk into a room full of wisecrackin’, three-martini-lunch, dudes in 1950-whatever or 1960-whatever, and hold her own.”

June Foray, the famed “first lady of voice actors”

June Foray: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

July 10, 2017 / Randy Coppinger

The Flapamba Principle

Years ago I had the opportunity to work on a session with legendary percussionist Emil Richards. He came to the studio to record for a film score. He had all kinds of crazy instruments that he brought and played for the various music cues. The most memorable for me looked like an ice cream cart with a marimba on top, called a Flapamba.

Once we started recording the Flapamba, a discussion began in the control room about a squeaking sound that could be heard every time he played a certain note. There was a loose nail in one of the bars, and depending on the angle of his strike, it would squeak against that loose nail. Sometimes the squeak was loud and obvious, other times it was less noticeable. We concluded that once a listener heard it obviously, they would be distracted, listening for it the rest of the time. In between takes Emil was kindly notified that the Flapamba was making this occasional noise and asked what he might be willing to do about it. He answered that he was not going to fix the problem, that in his opinion, it should have that audible squeak.

This response caused some cognitive dissonance. We figured he didn’t notice the noise, and asked him to fix it reluctantly because we didn’t want to cast doubt on his ability to hear what he was doing. But for him to say that he not only heard it, but also wasn’t going to do anything to get rid of it, that was very confusing. So someone was bold enough to ask him why he wanted that squeak to remain. He replied, “That’s how you know it’s not a keyboard.”

I began to think through this idea, that keeping the flaw helped reveal the authenticity of the instrument. We didn’t hire a keyboard player, we hired a percussionist, and then asked him to play the score on acoustic instruments. For Emil, that squeaky note was sonic proof that listeners were getting a real, acoustic Flapamba.

There have been times since that session when I have identified some aspect of a project as undesirable. On my better days, I remember Emil’s words and ask myself if the current “squeak” might be tied to the authenticity of the performance, story, etc. Sometimes I can find my way past perfection to accept something I initially wanted to remove as a necessary part of what helped make the whole. A few times, I have come around to the idea that the very thing I wanted to eliminate is actually the best part. That’s what I call The Flapamba Principle: an intentional embrace of flaws to make things better.