Vocal Booth - Worth It or Not for Music Recording?

When building up my recording studio in LA, I thought it would be a good idea to install a vocal booth. Try reading about vocal booths on www.gearslutz.com to see a load of contrasting opinions. Some argue that a vocal booth will produce a very dry sound, and can also produce a ‘boxy’ sound. A dry sound is not an issue for me, as this is what reverb is for when mixing. A boxy sound may stem from the materials that the booth is made from. With a cardoid mic 12 inches away from the singer, I haven’t noticed a problem.

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Instead of a booth, you could also do what Mike Skinner from ‘The Streets’ did, and make a DIY vocal booth in a closet with a mattress and blankets - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_Pirate_Material. I’m not sure if clients would find it professional recording in a closet with an old blanket though, so a custom booth seemed like a good idea. I also found this pic whilst researching DIY booths. This dude looks like he wants to murder and eat anyone who comes into the booth.

 Creepy murderer dude

Creepy murderer dude

I also wanted to be able to isolate the vocal as much as possible. I didn’t want to be in the situation where I record a great vocal, then notice a dog barking or a lawnmower in the background. A vocal booth doesn’t cut out background noise completely, but it’s not far off.

 
 Suz testing out the voice-over setup

Suz testing out the voice-over setup

 

The main companies who build vocal booths are www.vocalbooth.com and www.whisperroom.com, but I found that the pricing gets exponentially more expensive as the size increases. I found this guy, who had good reviews, and uses similar construction and materials - http://www.scottsvobooths.com. After chatting, we agreed on a 5 x 4.5 (width) x 7.3 (height). I’m 6.1, so this was perfect.

 A Neumann U87 used for recording in the booth

A Neumann U87 used for recording in the booth

No acoustic treatment is provided for the booth. Scott recommended some foamy bass traps that a lot of people use for the corners, that I could get nearby. These are 48 inches long - from Foammart. I then got a pack of Auralex squares from Amazon. I did some research on acoustic treatment for booths, and Whisper Booths suggest 30% coverage, else you can get a very dead sound. I also used some old CDs to get some reflection in the booth which can add a bit of brightness. I got the idea from a Sound on Sound article, and it also looks cool.

 
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How does the booth sound? Great! I usually have the singer about 12 inches away from the mic. I’ve recorded voice-over actors and singers, and everything has been recorded super cleanly. Another great use for the booth is to mic up a guitar amp. I can crank the amp quite loudly without too much noise escaping. Not completely quiet, but the neighbors won’t complain. Clients have also mentioned that they feel safe and comfortable in the booth, which is a good thing. Also, if you ever record in the booth, you can be added to the ‘Rocinante Studios Wall of Fame’. Yay!

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