Recording Voiceovers – Tony’s Tech Tips

by Tony Gamble

vintage_vu_metersToday I’ve got a great tip on recording voiceover audio using your iPad. I can remember recording with my band in a well-stocked studio in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Reel to reel tapes, six-foot mixing consoles and DAT (Digital Audio Tape) machines. It’s hard to fathom how far technology has come in just a couple of decades, to where we cram all of that wood, plastic and metal into a single tablet device.

I do a lot of voiceovers for tutorial videos for clients. I came to realize a few days ago, as I set up for another recording, that I had pieced together a collection of apps and practices that were making my voice tracks really pop. I’d like to share them with you.

First, I choose a small space in which to record and pad the walls with any sound-absorbing material I can find. In my case, our en-suite bathroom provides me with plenty of light and an electrical outlet. A nice, thick comforter and some carefully placed pillows and I’ve got a nice, eerily quiet vocal booth. Bring on the portable studio.

Portable Voice Studio

With nothing more than an iPad 2, a condenser mic, a Shure X2u XLR-to-USB adapter and a powered USB hub, I recreated that studio of twenty years ago in a 12-inch footprint. The iPad, the USB adapter and the hub all feel at home hugging the single-pole microphone stand. Even though I only have one device to attach to the iPad via the camera connection kit, the powered USB hub is still required. That’s because the XLR-USB adapter draws too much power to be supported by the iPad. The hub supplies the juice you need.

Of course, you could always purchase a dedicated USB microphone and in most cases, bypass the need for a powered hub, but as a musician I use my microphones for other purposes as well. The XLR-USB adapter lets me choose from any quality studio microphone.

With mic attached and the headphones plugged into the Shure adapter (the USB adapter is recognized by the iPad as an external soundcard), I can now turn to my preferred app: VocaLive. This vocal processor from IK Multimedia is more than just a singer’s effects box. Sure, there are plenty of echoes and cavernous reverbs to saturate the pipes of vocalists everywhere. But turn these off and instead opt for effects such as Compressor and ParaEQ (parametric equalizer), and you’ve got yourself a crisp, clean-sounding voice track. For example, select the preset named “Classic Chain 1” and turn off the effect marked “Reverb” (these appear in the form of pedal boxes at the top of the screen).

To record, I can stay within the same VocaLive app. A recording function lets me get to work right away. If I need to follow along with a video, VocaLive can be set to continue recording in the background. When I’m done, I can export the recording to iTunes file sharing, e-mail or even directly to Soundcloud.

Easy to set up and in a small space, recording quality voiceovers with the iPad couldn’t be more fun!


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