The Equipment

Making the booth was a tough job, mostly because I couldn’t cut and saw at night in case I bothered the neighbours, and because I was working in a tight environment. Still, it got done and I’m happy with the result. The next thing I needed to do was make it more sound-boothy, and that started with the foam.

I purchased a couple of boxes of acoustic foam from eBay, got a tin of contact adhesive and a brush, and got to work, slopping on the glue and sticking on the foam. The ceiling wasn’t so bad, considering the glue held on pretty tightly after a few seconds of holding, and cutting out the foam to fit around the various hinges and nooks of the desk was just a matter of patience.

The door was tricky, I’ll admit, and I’m not 100% chuffed with the outcome. There is a gap at the bottom and to one side, and I’m sure this is letting a lot of sound leak. I’m considering making a lip on the floor for the door to butt against and pack that with some foam, but it’s good enough for now.

The only other section that’s causing bother is the brick wall, against which the booth rests. It’s lined with a concrete mixture, aged and crumbling, and the foam doesn’t want to stick to it. For this, I’ll need to make a trestle and feed it down the back. But I’m not convinced that’s leaking a lot of sound, so that’s on the backburner.

Now one thing I didn’t think of until AFTER it was done was lighting. Close the door and the room is very dark indeed. Oh dear. I don’t want to use fluoros, considering the hum they give out, and incandescent fittings are out on account of the insulation and foam. No probs, I’ve got a bank of LEDs I can mount, and that’s just what I did.

Finally, and importantly, I purchased a new microphone. I had a few cheapies lying about which I tried, but they were hissy, poppy and crackly. Kind of like rice-bubbles. No, I needed something better. Looking on the net, there’s the professional grade stuff, with preamps and compressors and big boxes that do stuff and funky connectors and… oh boy. There are also smaller solutions, powered by USB, that apparently are adequate.

I’m unable to afford the $1k price tag for a professional rig, so I’ve gone with the USB option and, I must say, I’m impressed. Not that it takes a lot to impress me, but after dealing with poop for a while, you get to appreciate quality. It’s a Rode NT-USB, found here at http://www.rode.com/microphones/nt-usb.

I added a book stand, attached power, through in some headphones and voila! Once completed, I took it for a test… no I didn’t. Joey took it for a test run.

Thanks, Joey, I was going to get around to testing it one day.

Lastly, and surprisingly, I threw out the chair that I had originally had in the booth. That’s that pink thing in the pic. It was creaking and groaning with every movement of my leg. I thought it would be comfortable, being padded, but no, the mic picks up every sound and that was making more noise than I was. I replaced it with a boring, but solid, steel stool to which I added a folded towel.

The Booth

In the previous post, I explained that I will be undertaking voice overs and presenting some of my books as audiobooks. Great, awesome, let’s get cracking.

Not so fast.

After a practice run of about five minutes using my phone as the microphone, it was evident that there were issues with simply reading out a book.

  • There was too much background noise
  • I was inconsistent with the distance to the microphone
  • The quality was ok, but not brilliant
  • Every stuff-up kind of got lost
  • I was mumbling a lot
  • I was interrupted even more

What I needed, I decided, was a proper place where I could lock a door and do the recording in peace and concentrate solely on getting the words right. For that, I needed a room. The bedroom didn’t work out, nor the loungeroom, nor the laundry or toilet. Echoes and funky acoustics. Noisy neighbours. Running water pipes in the walls. On top of that, I wasn’t keen to slap a bunch of foam on the walls and get yelled at by Wifey.

A few solutions on the net, like making a foam-encased shroud, came up and I got some materials to make that happen – the top of an arch, some foam and baffle boards. The end result was not so great. Ambient sound still polluted the recording, and my phone was just not up to scratch.

Nope, no good. A room with a phone wasn’t going to cut it.

I needed to build a booth.

I had space in the garage. It was all over the place. A little bit here, a little bit under there, lots of it toward the roof. The hard part was consolidating it all, sticking all the space together to form a cohesive area. I rearranged shelves, threw out a bunch of junk, packed half-finished craft into boxes and got to the stage where I had enough space to knock up a wooden frame.

Now, I was going to buy some lengths of wood to make the frame, get it square and right, make it a little hut inside my garage, only at that exact time I came into a lot of scrap wood from the side of the road. Armed with a bunch of screws, a saw and a pencil, I made a fairly decent frame, using an old desk as the base of the booth.

To block out the noise, I used fibreglass insulation bats, sandwiched between masonite on one side and this funky white plastic sheeting. On top, more insulation, some plyboard and masonite. It has a door with a lock and a handle. When I close the door – it’s a lot quieter. Not dead silence, but a heck of a lot quieter.