Words by Mixdown Staff
What you need to make your home vocal booth work effectively
We’ve all seen footage of recording studios, or even been to studios, where a special booth has been set up for recording vocal tracks. It would be nice to have the space (and money) to build a decent vocal booth at home, but most of us aren’t in a position to do that.
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So it takes a little creativity to create an environment that works well for recording vocals and getting a professional result. For this we are going to create the ‘home vocal booth’, something that will get the MacGyver in all of us ready to make do with what we have on hand.
The separate room
The most obvious aspect of the classic studio vocal booth is that it is a separate room from the mixing console, outboard gear and computer. Of course, there is a multi-layered window between the two and communication is done through the microphone and headphones. But unless you’re willing to punch a hole in the wall between two bedrooms and put in a double-glazed window for good measure, this isn’t quite a ‘home’ option.
However, it is still possible to achieve separation of the recording equipment and your microphone without permanent home modifications. Using a simple stage box and loom allows you to set up a microphone and headphones in another room to record, with all the cables tucked under the door if space permits.
I suggest using a wardrobe – if a big enough one can be an option – or using the bathroom. And yes, I know this sounds crazy, but while setting up a vocal mic in the bathroom can give you all sorts of problems with reflections, it can also bring in some natural reverberation and character that you wouldn’t get from a very dead acoustic room like a wardrobe.
Making good use of the vibrant environment created by the hard surfaces in a bathroom can result in some great effects on your singing that you may not have considered before.
Working within one space
If you’re limited to one room and need to keep your cable length to a minimum, it’s still really easy to control directly from your audio interface for monitoring and recording. The key is to make sure your computer, the biggest source of noise in the room, is in the mic’s blind spot as far as the recording pattern goes.
In general, this means that the computer should be behind the microphone and as far away as space and cables allow. If you use an external transport controller for your computer, you can cue, record and press the play button from your microphone position without having to jump back and forth to the computer. A long USB cable can power and control most devices that can handle this task, so it’s an easy setup. I used an old one PreSonus Fader Port for over 10 years for such a purpose and I have found it to be one of the most valuable tools in my studio.
Making sure the microphone is in the best acoustic environment for this application doesn’t necessarily mean renovating your room or building a cottage around the vocal position. There are a number of microphone screens designed specifically for this purpose. The two that first come to mind are the sE Electronics Reflection Filter and the Aston Halo.
Both units serve to house and protect the microphone from unwanted reflections from around the room, ensuring that the direct signal of your voice is what the microphone hears and very little else. With one of these reflection filters on the microphone stand, you can easily ensure that any noise from the computer is kept out of the recording by placing it behind the filter.
It is always a good idea to consider the wall directly behind your vocal position when setting up your microphone. This will bounce some of your voice back into the microphone at a slightly delayed interval from the direct signal, so it’s best to position your microphone at a slight angle to the back wall. Nothing too drastic is required, just a 15 or 20 degree angle to ensure that reflected signals don’t go straight back to the microphone capsule and cause problems with standing waves. The same goes for the floor and ceiling.
If both are hard surfaces and you really want to muffle your sound, consider placing a rug under the mic stand. This not only removes any sound bouncing up and down the room around the mic, but can also act as an extra layer of insulation against unwanted vibrations through your mic stand.
Of course it would be nice to have the professional vocal booth built into a guest room in your home, but usually that is not possible. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get professional results at home. With a little preparation, careful mic placement, and the help of a good reflection filter, your mic will sound its best every time.
This article was originally published on October 5, 2016.
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