I’m admittedly a bit strange. You see a room with two glass walls. I see an incredible acoustical challenge that must be mastered.
But what resulted is a new DIY recording booth design that you can use to master your own noisey space.
When I arrived as a new production director at a radio network there was no studio set aside for the PD. To make matters worse, all of the existing recording studios had major acoustic issues. So I set to work designing a recording booth for my office: the most acoustic challenged space I’d seen in some time.
This office had everything against it: two of the walls were floor to ceiling glass, the third wall was a thinly insulated exterior wall with a single pane window (definition: noise amplifying glass), and a forth thinly insulated interior wall with another office on the other side. Outside the longest glass wall was a heavily trafficked hallway and a large room full of cubicles.
The only space to really place a recording booth/studio was a square space right over an air vent. Challenge accepted.
THE DESIGN OF THE CUBE
I’ve often thought that ‘Sound proofing’ is the most commonly misunderstood term when it comes to sound design.
We all think that there must be a magical step, or two, to remove all competitive noise from a recording space. Can you do it? Sure. If you have an extra 100 grand + on hand.
But the truth is that you don’t necessarily want to. And the sound you’re really going for doesn’t need to cost nearly as much to get.
The Myth of Sound Proofing
Sound proofing is usually though of as a way to lock out outside sound. And that’s important, especially in noisy spaces like shared apartment walls, when your recording space is next to the kids room, etc. But after designing acoustic spaces for some time I’ve found that the best answer to the noise problem is found by starting with the sound you want to KEEP, not get rid of.
I’m a fan of fancy mic’s, hardware and software as much as the next audiophile, but I’ve found that simply changing the way you approach designing your recording space can do just as much for your final sound as some pretty pricey plugins.
For instance, If you’re a voice talent, you need a finished sound that is clean and rich with just a dash of sparkle. You won’t get that in a closet full of clothes. Your space needs to have a good among (maybe 75-80%) sound abortion to soak in the muddy midrange frequencies and a small amount of sound reflection/diffusion to amplify where your voice sparkles. That’s what the design of this booth does. (btw – you never want a flat surface for a ceiling – so that closet…still a no go for a competitive sound)
If you’re a singer, you need to enhance the distinct texture of your voice. If you only sing in your recording space it should be designed with a bigger sound canvas. You want sound reflection (like the panelds I used) on the ceiling of your booth and maybe even a band around the perimeter just at or above eye level if you want more sparkle or if your voice isn’t naturally as bright as you’d like. A bigger space allows for a more ‘live sound’ but even a small space with added sound reflection can give you the same result.
Roxul Rock Wool Soundproofing Insulation: You can buy this in several forms. Most common for studios is the compressed 2″ thick form.
I chose to use the 3″ thick uncompressed form most commonly used as a sound and fire barrier between apartments. Why? For one, the thinner form wouldn’t fill the void in the framing. Two, it’s more expensive overall. And third, we want MORE air space in this instance. Compressed rock wool will reject sound. Open wool adds the ability to trap sound that does get through in the air spaces. And did I mention it’s cheaper? Just sayin.
Mio V2 Paper Tiles ceiling application: I discovered these before they were popular as a design product. While not designed specifically as an acoustic product I ordered them for the acoustic value of the shape. Any 3+ inch deep varied flat materials that repeats in a varied pattern has the effect of diffusing and reflecting sound waves of a higher frequency.
In average chick speak: they bounce the nice sparkle around your booth so your mic can capture just enough of it without overwhelming your recording.
I was early enough to get 24 of these puppies for $25! You’ll pay over $50 for just 12 now, but you don’t need many and it’s still worth every penny.
COST OF THIS RECORDING BOOTH:
I designed this booth and had it built by the networks very handy handymen. Materials alone totalled just around $400. (I’ll have step by step directions avialable soon I hope).
Would I change anything? I would prefer a build in quiet fan over lifting the roof for ventilation. Opening the floor to ventilation is out of the question because it’s just a direct line to the noise in the entire building. I would do the research to find a whisper quiet fan option.
What spaces is this booth best suited for? This design is well suited for noisey spaces. Nothing in a normal personal price range will completely lock out sound directly outside of the booth but if you’ve got a noisy neighbor this booth would work great. You might hear the sound in your headphones but a decent ($100+) condensor mic would not draw the sound into your recording with the treatment in this booth.
Is it permanent or temporary? My previous DIY Recording Booth was designed specifically for ease of movement, although I have to admit I still use mine in a permanent situation becuase I like the sound especially for vocals (it’s a little brighter sounding than this booth). I love the flexability of that booth. I can open it up for two or more people (I made six panels instead of the original design’s 4 panels).
And while The Cube was designed to stay put, I did design it to come apart in panels so it can be moved. It takes two people to do it, but it can be done easily enought that I would use this booth in a rental if I didn’t have to move it more than once a year.
So what do you think? Have I given you any ideas of how to change your recording space to better fit your needs? Do you think I’m plumb crazy and have proof why? Let me know your thoughts below!
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