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Make a desktop sound booth for $25

October 28, 2013

snowball micIt’s easy to make voice recordings indoors on a laptop or cell phone, but you won’t get very warm sound outside of a studio. Whether you record in a kitchen, office or classroom, sound will bounce off the walls and listeners will know it was an enclosed space. When you record in a studio, acoustic foam and other techniques all but eliminate the echoes.

A colleague and I have tried to persuade people to include a sound recording booth in campus renovation projects. They either didn’t have the funds or were not convinced about the value of voice recording. The result is that neither faculty nor students at Notre Dame have ready access to this kind of facility.

While researching a project I discovered that do-it-yourself enthusiasts offer several methods for building a personal sound studio. Some of them basically involve gluing foam into a box. It didn’t sound like rocket science so, following what looked like the easiest instructions, I bought three items:

  • Mainstays 1.25″ Convoluted Foam Topper ($8 at Walmart)
  • Elmer’s Craft Bond Spray Adhesive ($6 at Walmart)*
  • Sterilite 20 Gallon Latch Tote ($8 at Target)

DIY sound boothI measured the inside of the storage box, cut pieces of the mattress pad to fit and glued them into the box. I also made a pop filter from an embroidery hoop ($2.50 at Walmart), some hosiery (courtesy of my wife) and a coat hanger. Combining the box and the filter allowed me to get as close as four inches from the microphone.

So far I am very pleased. Maybe it’s not the same sound as a studio but the recordings are clean, with very little background noise. When I finish a session I can snap on the top, grab the handle and stow the box. Understand: this is not good for an interview, it’s a one-person voice recording space.

It’s important to use a decent microphone. I have a Snowball ($46-63 on Amazon) but Blue’s next model up – the Yeti ($100) – is supposed to be significantly better. I tested both the Blue Snowball and my iPhone in my little homemade booth, then recorded a few other ways. I think you’ll be able to hear the difference:

More information

* If I make another box, I will be more careful applying the adhesive. I might even use strong double-sided tape to eliminate drying time and noxious fumes.

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