Just How Small Can a Vocal Booth Be? Here Are the Facts


Whether you’re a home-based voiceover or vocal artist, a sound booth is a must-have if you want your recordings to sound smooth and professional — but a sound booth doesn’t have to break the bank. A bigger sound booth doesn’t mean better sound quality. As long as it’s appropriately set up, a small space can provide quality sound as well.

A vocal booth may be as small as 4 x 3 feet (1.22 x 0.91 m)—but construction is more important. Reverberation and noise absorption are important factors to consider. A small, adequately soundproofed recording space offers better sound quality than an extra-large, non-soundproof recording room.

There are hundreds of vocal booths on the market, from cubicles to full recording studios—but “bigger” is not always better. Read on to learn more about vocal booth sizes, how they work, and the factors that affect sound quality.

Things To Know Before Setting Up a Vocal Booth

Understand How a Vocal Booth Works

Vocal booths work by using sound treatment to keep the reverb in the room minimal, bringing the voice out crisp and clear. 

It’s essentially an acoustically treated room that isolates the sound of your voice to produce better sound results — but soundproofing isn’t the same thing as proper treatment.

Soundproofing is meant to create a space that prohibits outside noise from affecting the audio signal (i.e., building around an enclosed recording studio). If done improperly, soundproofing can actually reduce the sound quality, even if your recording space is large.

In other words, a small vocal booth with proper soundproofing can produce high-quality, professional sound, even more so than a large booth with minimal or improper soundproofing.

Understand Booth Size

The size of a vocal booth is not nearly as important as the construction and treatment. Small vocal booths work — sound quality may be nominally different from a large booth. Still, just by using any sort of sound treatment, you’ll notice a significant improvement from using none at all.

However, the caveat with small booths is that you’re limited on where you can place the microphone. Despite this, you’ll be surprised at what you can do with a small booth.

An ideal vocal booth is 6 x 6 feet (1.82 x 1.82 m) — but that’s mainly because it allows for movement and better microphone placement. However, this size is unnecessary, especially if you’re focused more on recording voices than instruments. 

In general, the sound booth needs to be the right size for your space and studio setup. We’ll discuss this more in the next section.

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Consider Your Space and Setup

Before choosing a vocal booth or creating your own, you need to consider the amount of space you’re working with, as well as what setup you’re using.

Measure your room before you commit to any purchase. Don’t assume that just because your space is large, that any booth will work. Size won’t matter if you can’t fit the booth into your room because you failed to take the time to do it right the first time.

Next, consider your studio setup. If you have a very basic setup (i.e., an omnidirectional microphone and laptop, etc.), you can easily fit it into a small space. If you have a larger setup, however (i.e., tube microphone, shock mount, pop filter, mixer, etc.), then you’ll need a bigger booth. This is especially true if you plan on recording instruments, as they take up a lot of space.

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Know What Affects Sound Quality

Volume, equalization, space, space reverberation time (SRT), room size, and acoustic properties affect sound quality.

Sound absorption surfaces are essential for proper treatment since they control reflections and reverberation throughout the room. Unless you want everything to sound “live,” with background noise and echoes, then you’ll need surfaces that absorb sound, not reflect it. 

By knowing which materials improve sound quality, you’ll better understand how big your vocal booth should be to accommodate these treatments. We’ll discuss this more in detail in the next section.

Check out my guide to building a soundproof room within a room.

DIY Vocal Booth

A vocal booth can be as simple as a cardboard box filled with sound-absorbing material. If that’s all you have available or what fits into your budget best, then that’s fine! Don’t lose hope just because a vocal booth doesn’t need an elaborate setup to work. There are other more straightforward ways of going about this as well.

What Can I Make a Vocal Booth Out Of?

Professional sound booths can go upwards of $5,000, but the truth is that you can make a DIY sound booth from just about anything. You can use a pillow fort of hotel cushions. Watch this YouTube video to know more:

You can also use foam pads hung in a shower stall. Here’s a YouTube video to show you how:

As long as you use some material that absorbs sound well, you can improvise a vocal booth anywhere. In fact, depending on the space, you might not even need a vocal booth.

What Kind of Materials Can Be Used?

Most people believe that all sound booths are made from cement, but this isn’t so. The absolute truth is that there are several different kinds of materials used in vocal booths.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has set some general guidelines on professional production studio sound treatment. According to their Engineering Handbook, “sound absorptive treatment may consist of rigid acoustic insulation between 1 and 6 inches (2.54 and 15.24 cm) thick, covered with sound transparent facing such a fabric, either in pre-manufactured panels or a field-fabricated system.

Broadcast production studios should have sound absorptive acoustical treatment on the full extent of the wall, to grid height, and on ceiling surfaces. The treatment can consist of 2-4 inch (5.08-10.16 cm) rigid acoustic insulation with protective sound transparent facing such as metal mesh or fabric on nailing strips.

If you’re not worried about setting up anything too professional, there are multiple surfaces you can put in the booth to help your volume and quality. You can use materials that emulate these professional materials, such as foam panels, pillows, and sheets of thick fabric. Even if your booth is a simple box, you can put such material inside, which will make for a better recording.

Here are some general rules about proper treatment: 

  • More surface area = better absorption. The more surface you have to work with, the more effective your sound treatment will be. You can use several smaller items or fewer more oversized items. Remember that larger objects will last longer and require less upkeep. 
  • Place absorbers parallel to the sound source and perpendicular to the path of the reflected sound waves for better results. This will prevent standing waves and progressive echoes, keeping your recordings clean and preventing muddy results. 
  • Don’t forget about proper airflow in your vocal booth or recording studio. Stagnant air can cause dust buildup, lower oxygen, and can make the space really hot. In addition, it can enter your equipment, causing it to malfunction.

For more information, check out the 4 best rugs for recording studios.

Conclusion

When recording your voice, even a small vocal booth can make a huge difference. It doesn’t take up much room, and you’ll likely be surprised at the sound quality that comes out.

If you’re interested in investing in a vocal or isolation booth, your options are numerous. You can go with ready-made booths, or you can go with something cheap and DIY. Not all tiny rooms achieve the same quality results as isolation booths or professional sound studios.

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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