My recording booth journey
Updated: Mar 9
Note 3/9: Edited to add a small section about having used a USB mic.
Let me tell you a story about... my booths.
When I started with Voice Overs, it was a mixture of "by chance", curiosity and exploration. It was actually part of a homework from acting class to read out loud every day and, being an avid fan of audiobooks, I decided to try to combine it with recording it.
As you look into voice over or audiobook work, you quickly learn that there are a few key things that are important to dial in when pursuing this field. Coaching; practice; establishing a suitable recording environment (acoustically speaking); decent equipment; knowing your way around the software enough to be able to deliver retail quality audio; knowing where to look for answers. This list is not exhaustive, but it gives you a good idea thematically.
Since my Voice Over journey started with just a fun exercise, my equipment and recording environment evolved gradually over time - starting from a place that was great for personal practice and exploration but very much not useful grade for professional quality voice over work, quickly evolving into something that I started delivering published audiobooks with and then into something that's my recording happy place.
There are tons of places out there where you can get recommendations and consultation on gear, booth building, equipment etc., so I'm going to share my personal booth journey with you over time as well as a couple of additional resources that I have come to really appreciate.
By the way - before I started this setup odyssey, I played around with a USB microphone, an AT2020 USB. It is an absolutely legitimate device to play and practice with, especially because it also helps with decent audio quality for all those zoom calls. For some reason, I could never get it to pick up enough sound to be useful. Regardless of the settings I tweaked, it was just quiet, so I moved on to recording environment v.0.
V.0 - The mic screen set up.
Yes, I had one of those. As a matter of fact, I brought it with me from Germany & Sweden - that and the microphones I had with me, including a Shure SM58, have seen a couple of cities and countries at this point. I also knew I had to get an interface of sorts, because I sold mine back in Europe. I also still had a Studio Projects B1 large condenser mic, but that one crackled louder than I could speak, so I eventually just gave up. Just to be sure - it was not the microphone manufacturer's fault, it served me well in the past, but I didn't store it appropriately. I may have also ended up using this setup with the Rode NT1-A - It's been a while, so I'm not 100% sure if I got it then or with the next booth iteration.
Anyway. This setup worked great for just messing around, but in the grand scheme of things I might as well have just left out the mic screen.
I should also mention that this room's window was close to a busy road where cars, SUVs, and trucks all slowly made their way uphill.
Setup towards the end of this: Mic screen by t-bone / thomann, an ATLAS mic stand, a pop-filter (all brought from Europe), a new RODE NT1-A and a Mackie Onyx interface which I sadly did not love.
Key takeaway: unless you already have a micscreen sitting around at home in one of the moving boxes you still haven't opened yet... don't even worry about getting this one.
Next up: the actual recording booths.
Before this gets too long - and so that folks can look up the different setups for reference - I'm going to split each version that follows after into its own post. I'll post v1 this week, in case you're burning to know what was going on.
In short, the next three steps were a converted half-closet in a tiny room (v1), a pretty cool, really roomy DIY booth with a metal frame, acoustic blankets and acoustic foam and finally, the prefab diamond shaped double walled pineapple booth that now lives in the basement. For the most part I was able to reintegrate most of the prior booth into the next versions, which was pretty neat :)
Sometimes, all you need is a little pointer - and sometimes, taking some consulting time is what we need. So here are a couple of great resources for you to start looking on the gear side of things.
George The Tech Whittam - He is the guy to reach out to if you're serious about your booth and want help to plan and build one, or you're looking for some specific help like a preset stack or something like that.
Jordan Reynolds has two amazing things on his website. A list of recommended gear at different price points, as well as a self-paced course on editing your audio so it's in shape for your Voice Over endeavors.
Jim Edgar can help you with navigating your recording/editing software, but we also spent a whole bunch of time finetuning the acoustic treatment and positioning of my equipment. He's a seriously nice guy and great to learn with, too! Especially when it comes to audiobook specific audio, Jim is the first person I reach out to.
Frank Verderosa also helped me tweak a couple of things in my booth and gave me a couple of additional pointers to keep in mind. I worked with Frank to tweak things a little specifically with things like commercial voice over in mind.
Vocalboothtogo.com is a great resource if you need portable recording solutions for whatever reason.
Sweetwater.com has a great team that can also assist with figuring out what to order in what combination
Soundaway.com is where I bought my acoustic panels from that I started integrating later.
Cherie B. Tay's post about her $450 booth - my v2 booth was a fun variation of that, so while you wait, check it out!
If you're serious about building your own DIY booth, also check out this Facebook group. Lots of great information already on there, their archive is a treasure trove!
See you at the next post, where we'll talk about how to set up a booth on 2.5ft x 2.5ft (if that) and get it ready to record full, commercial audiobooks and such.