Whether you’re signing, recording an instrument, narrating, or creating a podcast, having a vocal booth or recording room is imperative to your success in the long run. You’ll need more control of the recording process at a certain point in your career. Still, without the correct setup, your vocal booth can leave your recordings sounding dead.
A vocal booth can be too dead if it isn’t constructed with the appropriate acoustics in mind. Factors like the size of the booth and the materials used in its construction will determine the quality of sound produced.
In this article, we’ll explore how a vocal booth can make your recordings sound dead and a few tips on avoiding this.
When a Vocal Booth Can Be Too Dead
Vocal booths are ideal for taking down quality sound clips and reproducing them in a record. These rooms are used to block out external noises and accurately capture the rich texture of the recording.
However, if you aren’t careful with the kind of booth you use for recordings, you run the risk of your sounds ending up too dead when they are recorded.
Here are a few factors that can make a vocal booth too dead:
Size of the Booth
Smaller vocal booths are more likely to make recordings sound stuffy or ‘boxed in,’ irrespective of their setup. Rooms with smaller dimensions tend to create higher resonant frequencies and need to be acoustically treated or insulated.
However, treating a small booth without overdoing the insulation can be challenging, leading to a space where recordings sound too dead.
Larger vocal booths will help prevent too much resonance and make it easier to insulate the room so that it doesn’t steal the live quality of your recordings.
While it’s possible to construct a smaller vocal booth, building one that doesn’t inadvertently affect your sound quality can be complicated.
Type of Recording
The size of your vocal booth plays a significant role in sound quality, in tangence with the kind of sound you’re planning to record there. When you record songs in a larger vocal booth, you can get that vibrant reverberance that makes music sound great.
However, if you’re looking for a tight, dry sound, you’ll need a smaller vocal booth. Voiceovers, audiobooks, and podcasts require a drier, less vibrant tone, and recording them in a smaller vocal booth would be ideal.
Narrative-style recordings require a more crisp, direct sound so audiences can more easily absorb the messages being communicated.
However, keep in mind that, without the proper setup, a smaller vocal booth can drain the life out of a podcast or narrative, making the tone dead and uninteresting.
If you’re looking to prevent an instrument from sounding too dead, you’ll need a larger vocal booth and one that’s insulated in a way to treat a wide range of frequencies. Once again, to avoid deadened sounds, the requirements will differ based on the instruments you’re using.
For example, most people assume that an amp would work perfectly well in a small vocal booth. However, a smaller booth will cause acoustic impedance on the amps, preventing the sounds from flowing freely.
On the other hand, specific guitars, like pop and rock, can work well with a smaller vocal booth. A vocal booth starts to sound dead only when the size or padding impedes the instrument’s natural sound.
If a vocal booth isn’t covered with the appropriate material and is instead covered with fabric that absorbs too much sound, it could end up sounding dead.
Larger rooms can benefit from bass traps placed in the corners to absorb louder or boomier resonances. Thinner panels will cut out flutter echoes, but they won’t disperse deeper sounds efficiently.
The proximity of panels to the wall will also significantly affect the resonant frequency. You want to keep this in mind when recording in any vocal booth. The setup of these panels will also determine whether a booth is too dead.
While acoustic treatment is essential to improve sound quality, too much treatment will deaden the reproduced sounds and cause the recording to get dull or muffled.
The acoustic setup of a vocal booth plays a significant role in the quality of sound. However, the design alone doesn’t determine whether a booth is dead or not.
Over-insulating the vocal booth can cause the artist to feel isolated or disconnected during a recording. This disconnect alone can lead to the deadening of the sound, which gets further exacerbated due to the booth’s construction.
For more information, check out how to soundproof a room within a room.
How To Ensure a Vocal Booth Isn’t Too Dead
If you’re constructing your own vocal booth, you’ll have to consider a few factors to ensure it’s not too dead during recordings. The factors include:
- Your budget.
- The type of instruments being recorded.
- The size of the booth.
- The insulation material used.
If you’re planning to rent out a vocal booth to record sounds, here’s how you can ensure your recordings aren’t too dead:
Get a Decent-Sized Booth
As mentioned earlier, smaller vocal booths can deaden sounds just by virtue of their size. While small booths have their charm, it’s best to get a decent-sized room, so your recordings don’t get too muted or muddy.
Vocal booths can be as tiny as 4×4 feet (121.92 x 121.92 cm) and can go up to sizes of 12×12 feet (365.76 x 365.76 cm). You will need to choose a booth based on the kind of sound you’re looking to record.
Avoid Too Much Insulation
If you live in an urban area, you’re sure to find plenty of vocal booths and control rooms in your vicinity to record in. Resist the temptation to book a session with the first place you see and do a little research on the different vocal booths in your area.
Ask other artists and musicians where they record their clips and find a space that offers ample insulation to prevent sound from escaping but not so much that it dries out the live quality of your sound.
This search may take a while, but it’s worth the investment in time and money to find a vocal booth that can reproduce your recordings the way you would like them to be.
Match Your Instruments to the Booth
Most of the work involved in preventing a vocal booth from being too dead comes from matching your recordings to the booth’s specifications. If you search for a vocal booth based on the kind of recording you’re trying to reproduce, you’re likely to find a space that won’t deaden the sound.
For example, as mentioned already, a guitar with an amp works better in larger vocal booths where the size prevents sound from getting muffled.
On the other hand, narration booths for podcasts and voiceovers require a space free from too much insulation but are set up for more natural frequency response.
You can get creative with these matches and play with the sounds to find the depth and quality you’re looking for. Matching the booth to your instrument will ensure that your recording doesn’t sound too dead when it comes out.
Check out whether bass traps need to be placed from floor to ceiling.
A vocal booth can be too dead when it’s over insulated, small, or when the acoustics haven’t been planned out well or set up by a professional audio engineer.
But to get the most out of a vocal booth, you will need to ensure that you use one that accentuates the quality of your sound without muffling or restricting its frequency.