Introduction: Professional Sound Booth
I recently built out a new youth room and we really wanted a good looking sound booth. The booth is normally overlooked, or hidden away as much as possible, but the optimal mixing point is the middle of the room, so why not have the sound booth look as good as the rest of the room? This is more of a design guide than a complete how to. I'll give tips and advice from my experience but I don't have any dimensions or angles listed. Thanks for checking it out, hope you like it!
Step 1: Positioning and Framing
When you're making something that could possibly be a focal point in the room you want to be very sure that its exactly where you want it and that it is true and centered. It also needs to look right though, so if you have fixed items around your booth like we did (a big air duct that goes to a kitchen one floor down) make sure that it looks right around it as well.
When you find exactly where you want it to be go ahead and start the framing process when your building a fixed structure in a place that its not able to connect to a wall it's going to be a little difficult to make sure that everything stays true, especially when you're making something that has multiple angles. We used 2x4's kicked out to the floor on a 45* angle to hold everything in place while framed and made the wall rigid.
If you notice there's also a small platform that we built as well, ideally you'd like to be slightly above the crowd without being so high as to change the listening plane. 8" seemed to be sufficient.
Sheering the wall plays a huge role in rigidity, although you could probably get away with just a layer of sheetrock, I'd strongly suggest you sheer it first. On top of rigidity it keeps some kid from kicking a hole in your booth.
Step 2: Wiring
VWiring will be huge for your sound booth. You're going to want plenty of outlets, and to have all your audio/visual/lighting cables run and hidden to look clean and professional.
The best thing you can do for your audio system is have a dedicated sub-panel just for audio, nothing else goes on that panel. It should also be grounded to earth. And all of your outlets should be ground isolated outlets, do not tie your grounds into metal boxes, or into the conduit. Yes at $12-$15 an outlet it can get expensive, but trust me it is well worth the money. Your system will have absolutely no buzz, and will sound very clean.
At first glance in the CA electrical code it looks as though you can't ground your pannel to earth, It took me a while to figure it out but there is a clause in the code stating that you can ground it to earth for special purposes (IE sound systems) but it must also be connected to the buildings main ground as well. There are a couple of reasons that grounding is so important, 1. Many times you will get a 60hz buzz or a hum thats normally the result of a ground loop, dirty power, or bad outlets. I've had outlets that where not even connected to anything sound related that had been painted and that created dirty contacts creating a buzz in my sound system three rooms down. 2. if your ground is tied into the conduit, and not isolated it can cause a ground loop where the ground has multiple paths to travel to your panel and it will actually pick up RF interference causing the dreaded 60 cycle hum.
You have multiple options when it comes to what kind of audio cables you'd like to run. I've installed systems ranging from cheap 25 person venues to $200K Danley systems that are intended for 3000+ That said I've used the best of the best cabling and the cheap stuff. While shielding is very important unless you plan to do studio work even though I really like it mogami cable is probably not required. Check out redco.com they have all sorts of bulk wire available. Be sure to balance the upfront cost with what it would cost in the future to replace a cheap cable that goes bad and you end up having to tear apart the whole booth and rewire everything later though. I ended up using a 24ch snake cable and running it below the floor of the room and up into both the stage and the sound booth. The important thing is plugs that you use. I love the neutrik plugs they're sturdy and make a very good connection plus they're very fast and easy to solder. Unfortunately they get kind of expensive too. amazon sells an awesome knock off of Neutrik that I use for smaller venues and they hold up very well. GLS 20 Pack of connectors for $30 (https://www.amazon.com/GLS-Audio-Plugs-Connectors-... amazing deal!
I ran the snake as far away from power as I could but its inevitable that at some point you're going to have to pass power just keep it as far away as you can without going through outrages means. Mine ended up passing power at a 90* in the booth but there is still about 3" separating them. Also if your power lines are in conduit or MC it should help add a bit of shielding and you probably wont run into too many problems. If your power lines are romex you'll want to try a little harder to keep them separated.
You can see my full write up on the video system I used in this booth on my other instructable here https://www.instructables.com/id/Matrox-6-Screens-f... But the same applies for video as for audio, keep the video and power cables separate. Use good quality cables for video, this is one of your biggest visuals for your event. You don't want to have distortion or video loss due to bad cabling and it will take a lot of work to re-run cables once they're installed.
Step 3: Finishing
Once your completely sure that you've run all the wiring you want to (and then if your like me a few extra that can be used in the future) go ahead and sheet rock and close off the wall the rest of the way. You can now just paint it or do what I did and make it a cool feature for the room. I used just standard 1x3 common lumber and wrapped the booth in it. Then sanded and sealed it. Pick something that looks good for your room and follows your theme. our room already had a bunch of natural wood, but it would be really cool to see a steam punk design, or I even thought of running EL wire and making a Tron type booth. Have fun with it!
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