Introduction: DIY Home Recording Booth ($66.00)
About four years ago, I wrote an Astronomy text book and audiobook that dealt with the
110 MessierObjects that are viewable with a telescope. The viewer is able to listen to the interesting facts and history of these celestial objects without having to take his eye away from the telescope.
I created this audiobook in my home office with a Blue Yetti mic. The only other equipment was a cardboard box that sat behind the mic. This was filled with towels to help suppress background noise. That was it; cheap but it worked.
Present day – I just finished my third novel and being non-fiction, I wanted to create the audio version myself. But some changes were going to have to be made. One, I sold the Yetti but wanted a better quality mic anyway, and two, I now have a pet parrot that lives with me and he is in the room right next to my office. Do you know what parrots do. . . THEY MAKE NOISE!
Every time he hears me talk he feels it necessary to answer me. I don’t think the listeners of the audiobook would appreciate him in the background – especially when he says “Damn it.”
So now, I find it necessary to record this audio somewhere else in my house. However, I live in a townhouse and space is at a premium. The only place I could do this is in a small utility room in my basement. It has carpeting and a drop ceiling which is a plus. But it is small and has a large window where traffic and people sometimes go by. Oh well, I have no choice.
I began researching all the different types of voice booths. Pre-fab, home built, blankets, acoustical panels, the list was long. Most people seem to build a home studio using PVC framing with blankets draped over the framing. That’s sounded like a good idea since I didn’t want to spend too much on this project. You can obviously build the studio to whatever size you need and my usable space was about 4' x 6'. Here is a photo of the room.
Step 1: Utility Room With Cabinets
But before I build a booth, I wanted to try recording without any sound dampening items and get some audio numbers to compare with after the build. So when the new equipment arrived, I did just that. Below is the room with the equipment.
- Rhode NT1-A Condenser Mic
- Auray Reflection Shield
- Auray Mic Stand
- K&M Boom Arm
- Audio Tech Headphones
- Focusrite Scarlett Solo Interface
Step 2: Utility Room Before Build
I felt the window was going to be my biggest problem but I was wrong. While recording test vocals I discovered a hum in my playback. Not very loud but I was able to detect it. Turned out to be my refrigerator that was directly upstairs overhead. Will have to shut that down while recording.
So I decided to build the PVC frame. I drew up plans for it and the cost was going to be about $85 with the connectors almost costing as much as the pipes. I went to the store to purchase everything and as I began picking out the items I realized that something was bothering me about building this. I couldn’t put my finger on it but it was nagging. I also forgot my PVC cutter since I cannot get 10’ pieces into my sub compact car. So home I went empty handed. Again, I looked at photos of the build as I was still being nagged by something.
While looking at my room again, I was getting concerned about building a frame for a couple of reasons. One was it was going to block my utility cabinets that I go into sometimes. Originally I thought that I could just push the blankets away but after drawing up the plans, framing was definitely going to block the cabinet doors. And since I was so limited in space, the framing itself was going to cramp me in even more. There had to be a better way. It would be ideal if I could hang the blankets and then push them out of the way when I needed to get into the cabinets.
Why not use something like curtain rods? Four rods attached to the ceiling (in a rectangular manner) and they could be opened/closed at will. Better yet, why not a sliding track? A quick search and I found that you can get a ceiling track (with hooks) that was bendable.
Step 3: Sliding Bendable Ceiling Tracks
You just mount a snap holder in the ceiling track (or drywall) and the tracks snap into the holders. You can bend them to any odd shape you needed. Then just hang the blankets and slide them out of the way when not using! Perfect! And speaking of blankets, I decided on heavy duty moving blankets I saw on the Home Depot site. They were 7lbs. each (72” x 80”) and cost $20 each.
I only needed three of them, but they didn’t have grommets to hang them from but more on that later.
I ordered the ceiling tracks from Amazon but the single track length was a little shorter than I needed so I bought two shorter tracks that gave me the required length; cost was $28. That’s a lot cheaper than the PVC framing and this had more advantages.
When they arrived, I immediately went to work installing them. I was just about to drill my first hole in the ceiling when I AGAIN was getting nagged by something. Here we go again! What was bothering me was that, to hang these tracks on the drop ceiling struts, you cannot drill a hole in the center of the ceiling track. There is metal material on the other side for connecting other struts. The holes would have to be drilled on the edges of the ceiling tracks. And with the weight of the blankets, I was concerned it would bend the tracks a bit. It would probably have been okay, but I didn’t want to chance doing all this drilling, it not working, and now I have all these holes in the ceiling tracks. So once again, it’s off to the think tank.
Step 4: Heavy Duty Moving Blankets
The answer came quickly this time. Why not just use drop ceiling hooks and hang the blankets? They have special hooks that just snap onto the grids and have a hook hanging from them. This would work fine since you could even slide the hooks on the struts if I needed to get into the cabinets. And there were only going to be a few hooks in front of a cabinet so could easily just unhook the blanket, get into the cabinet and then re-hook. Another advantage to this method was no PVC framing to take down and store when finished. AND cheaper again. I only needed 12 hooks; cost = $6.00!
Step 5: "S" Ceiling Hooks
As you can see in the photos, the hooks just snap onto the grids. But, as mentioned, these blankets did not have grommets but that was an easy fix. You can get a grommet kit WITH grommets for about $15 but I already had them so no cost for these. The grommets are easy to attach. Just punch a hole where you want one, place the base grommet underneath the hole and the top washer grommet on top. Hit the washer with the punch and that’s it. You can probably do each grommet in about 30”. I added more than were necessary just in case I needed to move the blankets around for a different configuration. This booth was going to be 4' x 5' so I placed the grommets every 15”.
Step 6: Installing Grommets
Afterwards, I hung the blankets and made adjustments where needed. Where the three blankets met, I overlapped them a bit and also at the entrance way. The only problem I had was when I wanted to go in and out from the booth, I have to unhook the ends (only) of two blankets to make an opening. But when taking the blankets off the hooks, they would keep falling out of the holders since the hook section that the blankets hang from are almost parallel with the floor (see photo). I can never understand why these manufacturers do not make the hooks to their proper shape? They need to be a strong S shape, not 2 U’s. The fix is simple though; just pinch the hooks with pliers to tighten up the shape. You can even place them in their respective holder and pinch THAT end completely closed. It would never come out then.
Step 7: The Hooks
Unhooking the blankets to leave the room is really not a problem but you could even consider a short piece of sliding track or a straight curtain rod to install making it very simple to leave/enter the booth. I may even do that in the near future.
Step 8: Hanging the Blankets
Step 9: Hooks & Blankets
So the completed room is pictured below. The total cost was $66.00. The blankets are very heavy duty and do a great job of suppressing any noise. Even the window isn’t presenting a problem. The 4' x 5' size may seem small but for VOICE recording, it is sufficient.
For recordings, I decided on keeping my laptop OUTSIDE the booth due to fan noise. Even though the fan is not loud, by removing the laptop, I gained 7-10 db on the quiet scale.
On a side note, even if you do not have a drop ceiling to attach these hooks, you can still use the bendable sliding track I was going to use OR just install hooks directly into your ceiling.