How to maximise your home vocal booth

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How to maximise your home vocal booth

(Image: Will Francis)
Words by Mixdown Staff

What you need to get your home vocal booth working effectively

We have all seen footage from recording studios, or even been in studios, where a dedicated booth is set up just for recording vocal tracks. It would be nice to have the space (and money) to build a decent sized vocal booth at home, but most of us are not in any position to do that.

Vocal booth

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So, a little bit of creativity is needed in order 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 at hand.

The separate room

The most obvious aspect of the classic studio vocal booth is that it is a different room to the mixing desk, outboard gear, and computer. Of course, there is a multi-layered window in between the two and communication is done through the microphone and headphones. But, unless you are prepared to knock a hole in the wall between two bedrooms and drop in a double glazed window for good measure, this isn’t really an ‘at home’ option.

However, achieving separation from the recording gear and your microphone is still possible without permanent modifications to the house. The use of a simple stage box and loom will allow you to set up a microphone and headphones in another room for recording, with all the cables slid under the door if such space allows for it.

DIY vocal booth

I’d suggest using a wardrobe – if one that is big enough can be an option – or using the bathroom. And yes, I know this sounds mad, 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 reverb and character that you would not get from a very dead acoustic space 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 vocals that you may not have previously considered.

Portable vocal booth

Working within the one space

If you are confined to the one room and have to keep you cable runs to a minimum, it is still very easy to operate straight out of your audio interface for monitoring and recording. The key is to ensure that your computer, the greatest source of noise in the room, is going to be situated in the microphone’s blind spot as far as the pickup pattern goes.

Generally this will mean having the computer behind the microphone and at as great a distance as the room and cables allow for. Using a remote transport controller for your computer will enable you to cue, record arm, and hit the play button from your microphone position without having to jump back and forth to the computer. A long USB cable can power and operate most devices that can handle this job, so it is an easy setup. I have used an old PreSonus Faderport for just such a purpose for over 10 years now and have found it to be one of the most invaluable tools in my studio.

Portable vocal booth

Ensuring the microphone is in the best acoustic environment for this application does not necessarily mean renovating your room or building a cubby house around the vocal position. There are a number of microphone shields designed for just this purpose. The two that first come to mind are the sE Electronics Reflexion Filter and the Aston Halo.

Both of these units serve to house the microphone and protect it from unwanted reflections from around the room, ensuring that the direct signal from your voice is what the microphone hears and very little else. With one of these reflection filters set up on the microphone stand, you can easily ensure that any noise from the computer is kept out of the recording by locating it behind the filter.

It’s always a good idea to take into consideration the wall directly behind your vocal position when you are setting up your microphone. This will reflect some of your voice back into the microphone at a slightly delayed interval to the direct signal, so it is best to have your microphone set up at a slight angle to the rear wall. Nothing too drastic is required, just a 15 or 20-degree angle to ensure reflected signals don’t go straight back onto the microphone’s capsule and result in problems from standing waves. The same goes for the floor and the ceiling.

If both are hard surfaces and you truly want to deaden your sound, then you should consider placing a rug beneath the microphone stand. This will not only remove any sound bouncing up and down in the room around the microphone, but can also act as another layer of isolation from unwanted vibrations through your microphone stand.

Of course, it would be nice to have the professional vocal booth built into a spare room in your house, but it usually isn’t possible. That does not mean you can’t get professional results at home though. With a little preparation, some careful microphone placement and the aid of a good reflection filter, your microphone is going to sound its best every time.

This article was originally published October 5, 2016.

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