Can You Record in an Untreated Room? The Facts Explained

Contrary to what you may think, you can effectively record audio in an untreated room just fine, without spending much time, energy or money. You also don’t need to be a professional audio engineer working out of a real studio to get excellent acoustics for your voice or music tracks. 

You can record in an untreated room and still get high-quality audio. By choosing the right microphone equipment, using basic household items such as pillows and comforters, and engaging a few guerilla-style, amateur acoustic techniques, it’s possible to record your audio stress-free. 

Read on to learn how to record in your home, in an untreated room, to significant effect. With these tips and tricks, we also keep budgets and the limitations of the average home in mind. Find out below how you can make your next big audio recording sound as good as the pros. 

Untreated Room

A Short Guide to Guerilla Acoustics Techniques

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Orpheus Audio Academy provides a comprehensive guide on some guerilla acoustic techniques that anyone can utilize to improve their home audio recording sessions. Here’s a quick summary of their tips, based on four major categories: 

  • Room – Stay away from walls and other hard surfaces. 
  • Items – Use cushions, pillows, and blankets to do your own’ treating.’
  • Equipment – Utilize a microphone shield and screen.
  • Position – Record at the right distance and height from the mic. 

Pick the Right Room

The first major consideration for an audio recorder should be the room that they’re recording in. You’ll need to choose a larger room if you can, and one without many hard surfaces. 

You should avoid recording in the kitchen or bathrooms or any other room with many hard surfaces. Hard surfaces are more likely to bounce sound and cause echoes and errant problems for your recording’s output. 

After choosing a suitable room in your house or wherever you plan on recording, try to position your mic or primary audio equipment as far away from the walls as possible. 

Essentially, you want to be as near to the center of the room as you can be. This will allow your audio source – whether it’s your voice or an instrument, or something else – to be in open airspace and away from walls which will ricochet the sound and affect the audio output. 

To experiment and test out the different sounds that are produced based on the room alone, it could be best to perform a short experimental session in each of the rooms you narrow down your choice to. From there, it’ll just be a matter of listening to your samples to find the room that makes the best sound. 

For more information, check out some of our articles:

Use the Softest Stuff Around Your House To Treat Your Chosen Room

Second, an amateur recorder can make their recording more professional-sounding by simply using their own household items to treat their newfound recording studio practically. Take cushions, pillows, blankets, comforters, and other soft items and place them around you throughout the room. 

The key locations to place these soft pieces are along any window frames, at the bottom of doors, on cabinets, or along your hardest walls. 

The key for this makeshift treatment is to cover up all of the hard surfaces and uneven or open places in your room to make it approach a true-blue studio as close as you can manage it. The soft cushions and blankets will make your audio recording sound smoother and softer as well. 

Additionally, if you can, you should remove any large or hard-material objects from your room in advance. You’ll want your chosen recording station to be as empty as possible, save for the most necessary equipment and any of these cushions you’ll be adding into it. 

Pick Up a Microphone Shield and Screen To Use

Third, a shield around your microphone can help better capture your sound output. Technically speaking, an official microphone shield controls reverberation and reflection directly at your sound output source, just as your pillows are doing for the furthest reaches in the room. 

A microphone shield typically comes with a stand that allows you to position it behind or around your mic, such as the Aokeo Microphone Isolation Shield (available on Amazon.com). This item comes with a stand and is easy to set up.

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Aokeo Professional Studio Recording Microphone Isolation Shield, Pop Filter.High Density Absorbent Foam is Used to Filter Vocal. Suitable for Blue Yeti and Any Condenser Microphones(AO-302 With Stand)
  • ♪【The package contains】♪: Microphone Isolation Shield x 1, Metal Thread Adapter x 2 (Adapt most microphones), Adjustable Stand x 1,Warranty Card and instruction manual. (Freely adjustable bracket height) *NOTE: Microphone is NOT included.
  • ♪【Designed for recording】♪: The inside of the microphone cover is made of absorbent cotton material, which maintains the clarity of the human voice and the instrument during recording, eliminating the interference of the audio waves and the external environment.
  • ♪【Rugged & Durable】♪: Made of high-quality steel, the Microphone Isolation Shield is more rugged and scratch-resistant.

Last update on 2022-06-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Essentially, a microphone shield will take much of your room out of the picture for the purposes of the audio output. As you can see, these mic shields are, in fact, made out of similar foamy and wavy material that you often see in professional recording studios on the walls and ceiling.

Alternatively, you can also use a microphone screen that will aid in this effect, such as the Aokeo Microphone Screen (available on Amazon.com). It comes with an adjustable gooseneck holder, and you can get it at a lower price.

Aokeo Professional Microphone Pop Filter Mask Shield For Blue Yeti and Any Other Microphone, Mic Dual Layered Wind Pop Screen With A Flexible 360° Gooseneck Clip Stabilizing Arm
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Aokeo Professional Microphone Pop Filter Mask Shield For Blue Yeti and Any Other Microphone, Mic Dual Layered Wind Pop Screen With A Flexible 360° Gooseneck Clip Stabilizing Arm
  • Double Layered Screen Pop Filters: The first screen blocks air blasts as any pop filter normally would; The gap in between then disperses any remaining air pressure, so by the time it passes the second screen, the blast is easily contained to produce great quality recordings.
  • Universally Compatible: Adjustable screw rotating clamp with scratch-proof gripper can secure variety tubular mounting booms or microphone stands. Eliminates anyone's extra elements that prevents them from recording/projecting their best vocals to the public or their audience.
  • Adjustable Gooseneck: The steel metal gooseneck holder fully supports the filter's weight and keep it in place. You can adjust the angle and distance between the screen and the microphone to best fit your needs for yours lovely voice.

Last update on 2022-06-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Position Yourself Appropriately Before Your Mic

Finally, you should consider your own position before the mic. As the source of your audio output, either as speaker, singer, or player, you’ll need to place yourself where the mic – in your new guerilla-treated room – can best capture your sound. 

We are specifically talking height and distance from the mic for your positioning. Depending on the mic you’re using, it’ll be a different recommendation for your standing or sitting position. 

For distance, the recommended span will differ depending on whether you are using a condenser versus a dynamic mic. 

For the former, the condenser microphone, you won’t want to get closer than 5 inches (12.7 cm). For a good rule of thumb, make the “hang-ten” (also known as the shaka sign) sign with your thumb and pinky and use that to gauge the correct distance for your mouth before your condenser. 

Note that for a condenser, the closer you are to the mic, the more warm and intimate your voice will sound, at the cost of being ‘boomy’ as a result. The further you are from the condenser mic, the more open and airy your voice will sound, with the cost being more room sound will be let into your production. 

For the latter, if you have a dynamic mic, you can get as close as you want! They’re designed to be used up close and personal and take more hits. Be warned that dynamic mics have low range and are less likely to effectively pick up your voice the further away you are. Essentially, to have your dynamic mic produce the best sound possible, you need to be as close to the mic as possible. 

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Now for your height positioning at the mic, there are a couple of distinct effects to consider. On the question of speaking up or down into the mic, your own voice’s tone and sound effects will differ. 

Speaking or singing up at the mic – with it positioned above your head – can help the person project their voice more with their stomach or chest. But as a result, the sound may come across as more aggressive and loud. 

Speaking or singing down into the mic – with it positioned below your mouth – makes for softer and warmer sound quality. However, the vocalist won’t be projecting their voice in this circumstance and may not be producing their fullest voice tone.

Given the speaker’s head position, placing the mic at your mouth level can produce harsher sounds. 

Your own preferences will come into play for any of these mic and mouth positions. You must ask yourself how you want your audio or speaker to sound in the end. 

As a result of all these considerations, Orpheus ultimately recommends that the speaker leaves the mic at the nose or eye level, slightly above the source voice but not too high. 

Having you or your vocalist(s) experiment with what is both comfortable and sounds the best is probably the best thing to do when it comes to the height positioning of your microphone. Nose or eye-level mic height is the rule of thumb to start with, then adjust from there based on your preferences. 

For more information, check out some of our articles:

Mic Stand and Duvet Technique

An additional technique for working out of an untreated room is provided by the aptly named The Audio Blog, and it could be named as the “Mic Stand and Duvet Technique.” 

This audio expert author describes a simple way that anyone can achieve a great vocal take right in the comfort of your own home with only a few simple items. They present a helpful visual diagram to show their tip, which they describe as simply taken from others in the industry as a common – and thus proven – method. 

This technique only involves a mic with a stand, preferably using a cardioid microphone with a screen and another t-shaped stand placed behind you. On that t-stand is where you’ll drape a duvet or comforter. It’s a heavy, puffy blanket. 

In effect, with your microphone in front of you and the big puffy blanket behind you, you’ll position yourself in a micro-room within whatever room you’re recording in, and thus more of a treated room. 

They recommend setting up this scenario in your recording room, then put on some headphones with your live feed and walk around while speaking or singing in between the two stands to find the best location to capture your recording. 

Maximize Your Room by Angling the Back of Your Mic and Tuning Your Speakers

Online source for all things audio, The Audio Revolution, wants you to stop worrying about your home studio’s acoustics. They provide some simple tips and tricks that can allow your room to approach higher quality without much work or cost at all. Their advice is centered on mic placement, speaking technique, and audio mixing. 

To truly maximize your room for sonic improvements, you need only do a trio of things. Here are the steps: 

  1. Use a close mic technique.
  2. Direct the back of the microphone to where you don’t want it to listen.
  3. More effectively tune your speakers with reference tracks. 

For the first one, the task is pretty simple. The closer you speak to the mic and let your recording source from a nearer proximity, the less that your mic will pick up any sounds from your room. Just this technique alone can help provide a treated sound to your recording. 

Second, consider the backside of your mic as the opposite of you. That is, aim the back of your mic in the room and position yourself accordingly on its opposite side, precisely to where you don’t want that mic to be listening. Essentially, pick the hardest surface or least ‘treated’ section of your home recording studio and make sure you are facing that as you record, with the back of the mic facing it as well. The mic will thus pick up the least sound from that location. 

Thirdly, there’s an audio mixing trick that they provide for readers to utilize. To perform this function is a bit more technical, with a separate link to another, more in-depth guide for readers to peruse. In effect, by tuning your speakers with a professional mix as a reference (which you can find online for free), you can achieve a more optimal EQ and mix quality for all your future audio tracks. 

For Audio Revolution, by utilizing the tricks they describe – and like the others outlined in this article – a home recorder and prospective guerilla audio engineer at home shouldn’t reject and instead embrace their limitations to produce the best sound they can. 

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, there are loads of simple and cost-effective ways to record high-quality audio in practically any room in your home. You don’t need to be recording out of a true-blue treated studio room to get the audio tracks as you desire. 

The goal for the vocalist, podcaster, or home studio speaker of any kind is to engage with these guerilla audio engineer tips and tactics to have your audio approach a professional style.

Sources

Vinnie

I'm Vinnie, and I'm here to support you to create your own studio at home, whether it’s for photography, recording audio, podcasts, or videos!

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