Super Simple D.I.Y. Desktop Vocal Recording Booth on the Cheap

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With Purch ramping up video production for 2016, we found ourselves recording voice-over work. We purchased the fantastic Yeti Blue microphone and are very pleased with the quality of the recordings. However, when recording, our offices do not necessarily lend themselves to capturing solid audio. Brick and glass walls, very high ceilings, and any ambient office chatter finds it’s way into the tracks.

In order to contain the human voice and block external noise, we built this cheap fix. Based on the full-size vocal booth approach of recording studios, our version sits perfectly on a desktop.

Listen to the audio file attached to this post to hear the difference. The difference is easily noticeable.

  • @ :12 mic in the "vocal booth"
  • @ :36 mic outside the "vocal booth"

Building the Desktop Vocal Booth

Materials:

  • Plastic Storage Box. 12 gal., measuring 19.5” L by 15” W by 137/8” H. With handles. (Target $4.99-$5.99)
  • Foam Mattress Topper, Twin Size, 1.5” Thick (Target $14.99)
  • Velcro Picture Hanging Strips, 12 pack (OfficeMax $8.99)
  • Styrofoam, .5” thick (Randomly found this)

Beginning with the Styrofoam, I wanted to add a little extra soundproofing at the “back” of the box, which would be the bottom. I also added a layer on one of the long sides, intending the box would sit horizontally. However, during sound testing it was discovered better recordings are achieved when the box sits vertically. So now one side of the box has extra soundproofing!

I cut the Styrofoam pieces to fit the box, which by the way, makes a total mess. Then, measuring out a piece of the foam mattress topper, I wanted it to wrap around three of the sides in one total piece. After affixing this piece with the stickable Velcro strips, I cut the top and bottom foam mattress pieces and affixed those using the same method. I made sure to add an extra half inch for the foam mattress material when cutting, to ensure filling out any gaps.

The nice thing about using a plastic storage box, especially with handles, for a desktop vocal booth is that you can store and carry your microphone and anything else you may need for recording.

Enjoy!

--Christopher Winkler

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    18 Discussions

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    Seph Cameron

    Tip 3 months ago

    Take the solid surface off the back and you'll get a much better result (keeping the foam). The box isolates the mic from the outside world, the foam damps internal reflections. The thickness of the foam corresponds to 1/4 of the longest wavelength it will effectively damp.

    Having a hard surface behind the mic gives you a reflection. This will cause all sorts of comb filleting throughout the audio spectrum as the mic is effectively receiving two signals, one delayed by the distance to the surface and back (this will include a big "hole" at the wavelength corresponding to 4x the mic-to-back distance). You'll get a much more accurate recording, if with slightly more room noise, without a solid back.

    Even if your foam comes all the way to the mic capsule, you're never going to be able to remove the comb filtering entirely. You'd need a much larger box, but at that point you might as well build a recording studio!

    If you want to keep the back on for structural reasons, try drilling a ton of holes in it, very close together. That's what mic reflection filters usually do.

    6 replies
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    sgbotsfordSeph Cameron

    Reply 3 months ago

    Would it also help to put the back foam at an angle so that reflection from it misses the microphone?

    What about using a deeper container, such as a deep wastebasket, or a section of sonotube?

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    Seph Cameronsgbotsford

    Reply 3 months ago

    The foam isn't the bit causing the reflections, it's the hard rear surface of the box it's in. A deeper container would just change the characteristics of the comb filtering, though it would allow more foam to be put in. Best thing is to just remove the back or perforate it.

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    JohnC430Seph Cameron

    Reply 3 months ago

    what you say is true for RF but this is audio. did you calculate the frequencies that will be reflected and would be causing the "combing"? 1/4 wavelength for 1" foam is so high that it is in the realm of VHF or even UHF Radio frequencies. its great to quote theory but how does this apply to audio frequencies?

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    Seph CameronJohnC430

    Reply 3 months ago

    It's most definitely true for audio also. Given that I don't know the distance from the mic to the back, I can't say exactly what the comb filtering will look like and where the major peaks/troughs will be, but I've been working with this stuff for some time now and can eyeball it pretty well. 1in foam won't do you much good in the range of human speech. You need much thicker foam, or to just take the back off so you don't have any direct reflections.

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    BardPJohnC430

    Reply 3 months ago

    Umm..Did you do the calculation?
    The speed of sound in air is much lower than the speed of light you use when calculating for RF. 343 m/s is the standard value. If 1/4 wavelength is 1 in, a full wavelength is 4 in, which comes out to about 3.4 kHz. Right in the audio spectrum.
    In any case, if they get a good enough result without doing any additional changes to the box, there is no need to add more work.

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    Seph CameronBardP

    Reply 3 months ago

    It's in the audio spectrum, but not in the speech spectrum. Well, it is, but right at the top so it'll only help with S, F, V, T sounds. The usable band is generally considered to be 300Hz-3kHz for human speech, with a little wiggle room either side.

    The result of this is you're only going to filter out reflections at the very top end of speech, leaving most of it to be interfered with by reflections.

    I've worked in audio for quite a few years now, I do know what I'm talking about.

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    sgbotsford

    Tip 3 months ago on Step 5

    Might be better to just start with a styrofoam cooler.

    Instead of velcro strips, you can use double sided carpet tape. This is a more permanent solution.

    Experiment with the location in the box. I would expect that further back would make it more directional. That said, you may want to mount the remainder of the topper behind you to reduce wall echoes that come in from the front.

    Depending on what you are doing, having an apron on the front of the box may further reduce noise from your keyboard or from the computer if you are giving a computer demonstration.

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    KimE59

    3 months ago

    Using Audacity to remove noise works just as well, in my opinion X)
    It gets rid of so much sound, it's like the sound is turned off when you stop speaking.

    1 reply
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    Seph CameronKimE59

    Reply 3 months ago

    It's good, but you need to enable multi-band filtering half the time to get it all which makes your recording sound like an MP3.

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    Eh Lie Us!

    Tip 3 months ago

    oh, man. I've been kicking this idea around for a while. I've done a little voice over work (very little) and thought that it would be good to have a studio to record samples but who can afford to make a studio in a house or apartment. Then I thought of what you have but instead suspended from the ceiling. the bottom of the box would have a cut-out large enough for my head (and air!) but the rest would be sound proof. The mic would also be inside. Perhaps an LED light with the copy to read in there as well.

    Thanks for sharing your idea.

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    marthajheil

    3 months ago

    How close do you have to sit for that to be effective?

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    teethlikelions

    3 months ago

    What purpose do the wood blocks serve? Is it just for positioning the box, for style, or do they play into the quality of the audio?

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    dancortazio

    3 months ago

    So nice. Thanks for sharing

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    RémiD22

    3 months ago

    Clever !
    And if you add a kind of thin cloth on the entrance of the box, you can even add an anti-pop filter !
    (Some people use tights for example)

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    attosa

    3 months ago

    Excellent! Love it.

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    tomatoskins

    3 years ago

    Such a simple idea! And the results speak for themselves!