Do I really need a Vocal Booth? – Part 1

At some point, almost all Voice Over Professionals ask themselves the same question: Do I need a real Vocal Isolation Booth to improve the sound quality in my studio?

For most of us, the answer really should be No.

We can handle boxy or reverberant spaces with simple sound treatment panels. Choices to handle those problems range from the budget conscious FoamFactory, to the ubiquitous Auralex, to the inventive Studio Suit, to the stylish Vicoustic.

Dan Lenard‘s video is both informative and fun to watch. Studio Suit seems like it could be a really effective sound treatment solution.

We can just treat the area around the microphone using something like the classic Harlan Hogan Portabooth (either as a DIY project or already assembled in Plus and Pro configurations), GretchKen’s Booth-in-a-Bag, the Carry-On Vocalbooth by VocalBoothToGo, the ClearSonic IsoPac T the VoiceCube, the FlexiBooth from Primacoustic, the Eyeball from Kaotica, or the FlexiScreen (Lite or Ultra) from Vicoustic.

Listen to the before and after quality simply by introducing the Kaotica Eyeball into that untreated space. It is a truly impressive change.

If you need more than that to clean up the sound in your home studio, then you are indeed looking at some kind of Vocal Isolation Booth.

Your next question to yourself should be: do I need Sound Isolation or just Sound Treatment?

The already mentioned Studio Suit (video at the top of this page), or the freestanding walls like the Auralex MaxWall line, the Vicoustic FlexiWall, or Producers’ Choice Blankets from VocalBoothToGo can be a good, inexpensive treatment option, but they offer no isolation. If you decide to order the Producers’ Choice Blankets, be aware that you need 1 1/2 to 2 times the length of the space that you plan to treat. Hanging these blankets flat will only give you minimal insulation. These blankets work best when they are allowed to pleat, giving you more density and less flat surfaces.

If your space is generally quiet, but an occasional noise outside your control (pet, phone, roommate, neighbor, fan, etc) makes you need a retake, then you’ve just saved yourself a lot of money. Lower cost booths like ClearSonic IsoPacs (models E through J), the DrumPerfect VocalBooth, or the VocalBoothToGo Booth (also available in a ceiling mounted model), may fill the bill. These booths primarily clean up the sound within the booth but are not as good at filtering out external noise as some of the more expensive options. That said, there are some impressive videos out there of some of these booths in action.

This ClearSonic video is impressive. Please note that the total reduction mentioned in the beginning is about 16 dB. If that kind of a change fixes your issue, you should probably check into an IsoPac. A good way to save money on IsoPacs is to assemble your solution using their OverStock page.

If you have gotten this far and still haven’t found your solution, then you do indeed need a true Vocal Isolation Booth.

The last option before serious construction, comes from VocalBoothToGo. They offer a soundproofed version of their Vocal Booth. Since this unit does not include its own floor, you may still get low frequency sounds transmitting through from the floor beneath your feet. You might be able to address this problem using carpeting over a pallet or other floor treatments.

The results are impressive, but with a cost of nearly $3000 US, unless you need the portability, you may want to look at one of the more permanent options mentioned below.

You can save a lot of money by buying plans from DAWBox and either building it yourself or hiring a local contractor to help you. The plans come with a complete list of SKU/Part Numbers for everything that you will need from a local hardware store, as well as an instructional DVD. I have known a few people who have used these plans as a starting point and built their own custom solutions.

If you still haven’t found your solution in this list, then you are probably familiar with WhisperRoom, GretchKen, and VocalBooth.com. But, you may not know StudioBricks, Scott’s Vocal Booths, and Custom Vocal Booths. When comparing products from these vendors, you may want to consider the following:

  • Single Wall vs Double Wall construction?
  • Durability?
  • Ventilation?
  • Environmental Friendliness of building materials?
  • Off-gassing within your booth?
  • Shipping costs?
  • Customizations?

No single solution will be right for everyone. If I missed any products/vendors, please let me know in the comments below and I will gladly add them to this article. Also, I am making every effort to keep my own personal opinions out of this article. I will be writing a later article detailing what booth I finally bought, and why.

CONTINUED: Yes, I really need a Vocal Booth! – Part 2 and I finally bought a Vocal Booth! – Part 3

Related articles

Part 2 – Yes I really need a vocal booth!

Part 3 – I finally bought a vocal booth!

Part 4 – I bought the new StudioBricks One Plus!

Part 5 – 12 Questions to ask when buying a Vocal Booth

Part 6 – Yes! I finally have my StudioBricks Vocal Booth!

A Cup of Coffee

A ridiculous amount of caffeine was consumed while researching all of this stuff.
Add some fuel if you would like to help keep me going!
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21 thoughts on “Do I really need a Vocal Booth? – Part 1

  1. The requirements of Voice Actors, Singers and musicians are considerably different. Voice actors require perhaps the highest level of acoustical treatment and it is not quite as simple or cheap as you might think.

    One note on the video above. The space was quite forgiving in that there were no parallel walls and the ceilings were extraordinarily high and the acute corner angle reduced bass reflection and funneled most reverberations away from the microphone placed sideways. In addition the heavy concrete and glass walls and floors were not susceptible to sympathetic vibrations in the vocal range or amplitude of the singer.

    Despite all this the eyeball device, while making an impressive difference, still did not deliver an acceptable performance. The average home studio space—ranging from a closet to a small bedroom with 2 sets of parallel walls, floor and ceiling without much headroom presents a much harsher environment.

    1. Really good points Ed. I am assuming that you have also seen this Eyeball video?

      //www.youtube.com/watch?v=HclyK_RvoTk

      For Voiceover, I would suggest a Kaotica Eyeball only if someone was looking for small changes in both treatment and isolation. Sometimes, that’s all someone needs. You’d be surprised how many people I talk to who are shopping for full fledged Isolation Booths who really only need simple treatment changes to their current space.

  2. I would agree, Ryan. Also, that is the video I saw first and was referring to. The video of Deanne Matingly singing outside was actually a better representation of the Eyeball’s capabilities. I wasn’t knocking it, just pointing out what could be expected from it.

    I am a user of the Studio Suit and recommend it highly. It’s effects must really be not heard to be believed. Compared to other full-studio treatments it is more flexible, more effective and much less costly.

  3. Nice article, Steven! There is no on-size-fits-all, but the VOStudioSuit comes the closest I’ve seen! The Kaotica Eyeball, Reflexion filters, PortaBooths, and their ilk are helpful to improve an already partially dead open space, but can’t help one in a small (read less than 8×8 or so) booth. Smaller spaces have a natural resonant frequency that is smack in the middle of the voice range, requiring considerable amounts of bass trapping to deal with properly.

  4. Thanks for compiling all this info. As many people have stated before, it’s important not confuse accoustic treatment with isolation. Rockwool panels are much more effective than foam (even name brand) and can even capture the bass build up that George is talking about. With Roxul panels and blankets I was able to create a nice sounding area in a spare bedroom, but it was only effective when the rest of the house was quiet. I needed isolation as well as treatment.

    As you mentioned I turned to the plans at DawBox.com, but per George’s warning altered the plans by adding some additional layers to the walls. I addition to the one layer of MDF in the plans I added a layer of styrofoam insulation boards, and a layer of sound boards. (Some kind of recycled compressed cardboard I found at Home Depot.) then treatment inside of that.

    The weakness is still the door, but I’m working on that. :). It is by no means “soundproof” but reduces the exterior sound by about 35db. This means I can continue wokring even if my wife is watching tv or working in the kitchen. And depending on the cycle, I can even have some laundry going at the same time.

    Tip: put on headphones and move your mic around within your space. Some locations and mic directions will actually be louder or quieter than others. Remember it doesn’t matter how your voice sounds to you in your studio, it matters how it sounds to the mic.

    Thanks again for compiling all the info and videos.

    1. Good points Tim! And great ideas for modding the DawBox plans. 35 dB would more than cover my needs. It sounds like you did a great job. I’m considering hanging Rockwool Panels in strategic places around the basement (especially if I can get my wife to stretch a few of her canvases across them). That way, I get to look at her art all day and get a quieter space at the same time.

  5. This is a great blog! I am considering the Kaotica Eyeball. I’m in an 8 x 12 room with a 4 x 4 space set up using Producers’ Choice blankets. I have blackout curtains covering the windows. It’s not too bad if I wait until late at night but I’m having an issue with outside noise most of the time. Do you think the isolation it offers will help keep out traffic, planes and raindrops? Oh, and radiator hiss. Blocking the window is tricky because it’s on a fire escape so I probably need get a booth but I’m trying other options first!

    1. Hello Lori,

      The Eyeball isn’t really offering isolation. It makes your mic more directional helping it to increase the difference between on and off axis sounds. If all of the sounds you describe happen on the opposite side of the mic from you, then it might work. Personally, I consider the Eyeball more of a sound treatment solution than one that offers any isolation. But, your milage may vary.

  6. Thank you for the response! I think I’m going to try it… If it doesn’t solve everything it will help some things until I get a vocal booth.

  7. So I had a few questions. Which vocal booth gives best?

    VoiceCube, Eyeball, Vocal Booth on the Go, or Harlan’s PortaBooth? I talked with the VoiceCube people and they said this is by far the best portable vocal booth on the market.

    1. David, ask for specs from each vendor. None of the options that you mention even pretend to be sound proof. They are all about conditioning the space. So, I am assuming that you do not need sound proofing. If this is the case, you should ask each vendor for a sample using the same mic both naked and inside the product. Listen to the samples in a good headset and judge for yourself.

      1. Will sound proofing make a difference? That’s a good idea to get a sample of each. I think the eyeball does this on their website where you can hear the difference with or without. The VoiceCube provides the same as well. I wish someone would create a comparison chart of each of these solutions side by side with benefits and features, pros and cons….that would be so helpful to make a decision.

        They claim if you isolate the mic, you get professional studio quality sound. Is that really true? VoiceCube claims theirs is the best and even works in a room with hard wood floors. What about the others? Will anyone really be able to tell the difference between a home recording using one of these and a studio? On each of the websites they have examples and VC has professional clients.

        1. Without hearing your studio I can’t really give you an answer. In my situation, I had both furnace noise to deal with, as well as other incidental sounds. So, I needed real sound-proofing. Can I take my mic into a pillow fort and get a good recording? Sure, as long as the furnace is turned off and no trucks drive by, etc…

          1. Probably the biggest noise is the air coming through the vent in the ceiling at times. It’s pretty quiet outside except the occasional plane maybe once per day.

            There is quite a wide range is pricing. The VC starts around 300…this eyeball is about 200.

          2. David, I think you are missing the point. Realistically, you need to have a stable noise floor of -60 dB or most places will not find your quality acceptable. “Pretty quiet” to the human ear is one thing, but something completely different to a good microphone. If your noise floor is too high, then that $2-300 will be a complete waste.

  8. Is it -60db? I recorded in a professional video studio (we had audio too of course) and the noise level before speaking is around -50db..so even in that professional studio, that would not be acceptable? If that’s the case, I need to speak with them. How do you test to see what your noise floor is? Just hooking mic up and see where it is at? I’m just wondering how to do this without buying all of these devices and trying each one out. If there was a way to pretest the room and determine from there that would be helpful. I mean it’s a basic bedroom with carpet floors and normal drywall.

    1. As an example, ACX (among others) reject audiobooks that had a noise floor above -60 dB. So, that studio you are referring to would be unacceptable for audiobook production. You can try hooking up a mic and seeing what you get. That’s a good place to start. Beyond that, since each space presents its own challenges, you’d probably want to hire an engineer (like myself) to analyse your situation. If you are interested, head over to the Contact Page and send me an email.

  9. Just popping in here because I saw the dreaded words “sound proofing.” Like “water proofing,” there is really no such thing. Go deep enough and everything leaks.

    The preferred term is sound “isolation.” Like the isolation booths of the old quiz shows, they still had to play music through headphones to guarantee the contestant couldn’t hear sound from outside the booth. There are limited returns when isolating your booth from outside sounds. Even at -50dB only an imperceptible amount of gating would be required.

    It should also be recognized that when looking at a VU meter reading of the noise floor it is registering noise below and above that which the human cannot hear. Remove these sounds first so you can get a good idea of the true ambient sounds humans can hear.

    You may be pleasantly surprised at what little tweaking you must do, if at all.

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