I need a vocal booth. I don’t need a vocal booth. My client loves my sound. My client says I failed the audio test. Should I reserve studio time or record from home? How do I know which is the best choice for my project?
Whether you’re thinking about starting a podcast from home, you have frequent voiceover auditions and bookings, or you need to record vocals for that next smash hit song, it can be hard to know when to invest in a sound booth. I mean, how do you even know that a sound booth is necessary for what you want to do?
These are all extremely valid questions, and as a professional, I can attest that investing in a sound booth has many benefits. Firstly, it cuts down on the need for edits in post-production, because the quality of your sound is more dependable. Covid forced many of us to invest in broadcast quality home studios, thanks to noisy neighbors doing yard work and neighborhood kids training for the next FIFA world cup by bouncing their soccer balls against the house– not ideal background sounds.
Silence is golden when it comes to voiceover, and a professional home studio can give you just that. In your home, you already have a space that’s the quietest, and it’s the place without loud fans, boisterous air conditioning units, or refrigerator hums.
Once you’ve identified this space, you can customize it to make your sound as crisp as possible. You might consider a boom arm if your microphone is going to pick up on noises that might occur during your work– especially at a desk. It can be difficult, but you’ll want to minimize your movements while recording, so no typing or fidgeting because the sounds will be picked up by your mic.
The next most important choice you’ll make when it comes to recording sound is your mic. The two most common types of microphones used for recording are a dynamic mic and a condenser mic. Dynamic microphones are great to use for stage performances because they pick up high-volume sounds and are easily hooked up to any system for projection. Condenser microphones are most commonly used in recording studios and for voiceover work because they soak up sound like a sponge and are extremely sensitive depending on sound quality. I prefer to use the AKG 414 for studio singing and the Sennheiser 416 for voiceover recording. I find that the AKG provides a warm tone, and the Sennheiser gives crisp clarity.
To sound your best and reduce plosives– the P “pop” sound that may happen when you say specific words or hard consonants like P, B, K, T– I recommend using pop filters. Whether you’re using a booth or not, they can be helpful. Professional audio designers and tech gurus can give great advice about equipment positioning and mounting, to ensure that you’re fully utilizing your space and producing the cleanest sound possible.
Once your setup is organized to perfection, the question of using a booth still stands. Where are we working: at home or in the studio? Will we be working outside? Do we have to move while recording, or are we able to stand still? What kind of work are we focusing on: music recording, podcast, voiceover work? Although I used to do most of my work in-person and in the studio, I’m grateful to have a full studio and custom LA Vocal Booths that allows me to record for voiceover, singing/songwriting projects, background vocals, ADR, and podcasts.
However, I recognize that other artists might not have the luxury of complete isolation or silence at home. Whether you’ve got family members and guests that frequently traffic the space or loud neighbors, it can be hard to prevent interruptions while trying to record. Depending on how close the noise is and how loud, even a booth isn’t going to save our recording from that kind of havoc.
But, a booth does a lot to help reduce unwanted noises that creep into our recordings, even when circumstances are perfect. Anything can happen, and everything outside of ourselves is beyond our control–well, almost. The hungry stomach growls after an exciting read with flailing arms – we can’t control that. But, working within a booth can offer slightly more control of our working space.
Even if we can work remotely at home, in a quiet area with very little disruptive noise, there’s no guarantee that a bellowing Harley-Davidson won’t drive by in the middle of recording. Having a booth reduces the noise from instances like these, so the editing process can be a breeze.
Going to a recording studio can be time expensive and reduces the number of sessions you can do per day– but provides an engineer to do all the post-work. Building your own studio with a booth inside is convenient and helpful for working whenever you want and as often as you need to. And the reality is that you do NOT have to spend a lot of money creating a booth in your home. There are so many unique and creative ways to build out our space for a quiet room– use what you have, and just remember that quiet is key!
For the best quality of sound in any space, you’ll want to control the things you can, and use best practices when it comes to technique and equipment. I highly recommend taking a minute for yourself before the session to enjoy the peace and quiet of the booth and get grounded. It’s a great feeling, and you’re sure to sound your best afterward.
TIP: When we have a few minutes between sessions or we’re waiting for client playback at the end of a session, take a moment to exercise. Stand up and stretch! You can lean against the booth wall, roll your neck, stretch your back, put your arms over your head, and maybe even do some vocal relaxation/warm-up/down techniques. These exercises will help keep you ready for your next stellar performance!