Ahh…headphones. A radio jock’s close control room companion.
AKG? Sennheiser? Sony? Audio-Technica? JBL? Koss?
Over the years, I’ve used dozens of different headsets. And just like microphones, they all have a distinct sound to them.
Some headphones feel more comfortable when you wear them. Others allow you to crank the volume without fear of the dreaded feedback squeal. One thing they all have in common: they allow you to hear your voice amplified with ballsy compression and processing.
And that can be a problem.
When I was “on the air” I got in the habit of hearing myself with headphones on all the time. When I geared up in production to voice spots, I felt naked without having my cans jacked. I got so used to hearing myself processed – and loud! The result? Affectation. I began “creeping into my voice.”
I listen to some of my voice work twenty five years ago and cringe.
“Someone tackle Ronnie Radio! Tell him not to sound like he’s wearing a turtleneck and sunglasses!”
Trying to sound cool with the volume booming in your headphones is a recipe for disaster.
Not to mention tinnitus.
When I started doing regular voice work at different recording studios, I found when I donned the headphones and gave them a level through the mic, I kept thinking ‘Wow, I can barely hear me.’
Me: “Can you give me a little more in the headphones?”
Producer: “Sure…….how’s that?”
Me: “More please….”
Producer: “What about now? Good?”
Me: “A little more.”
Producer: “Okaaay. How about that?”
Me: “Perfect. Thank you.”
Producer: “Your ears aren’t bleeding, are they?”
For a while, I got away with it. I was always being hired as the “announcer guy” on commercials. Those years of honking over intros on such classics as “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” and “Sharp Dressed Man” with the headset cranked had caused me to begin listening to myself in a whole different way – and limiting my potential. It may have sounded cool in the 80’s & 90’s on the air hitting posts over intros – not so much doing voice overs.
So I quit. Cold turkey. No more “bosso in the cans.” If I had to wear them to hear the talkback from a producer, I made sure they were really low, with one of the sides tucked behind my ear, enabling me to still hear myself ‘au naturel.’
I started getting more gigs that called for an authentic and sincere delivery. The hard-sell ‘announcer’ sound faded. It’s still there, but I really have to push it to come out. Best of all, I’m doing it by request, not by nature.
In the Covid19 work-from-home climate we’re enduring at the moment, the request for the genuine, believable and conversational is in demand more than ever.
Dug Joy is a voice over talent represented by The Characters Talent Agency in Vancouver, Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org