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How To Create a Vocal Booth From a Closet

Hi, Quenton here!  Today, I'm going to show you how, and why we created a vocal booth from a clothes closet. When we started creating videos for our courses about online business and for YouTube, I was planning to record them sitting at my desk. 

I've already got a decent enough microphone. It's a Blue Snowball USB microphone. It's not expensive, but it's good enough quality to start with, so I made some test recordings. That's when I got a bit of a shock. This is how they sounded: This is a test recording made at my desk using a Blue Snowball microphone The switch is in position one which activates the cardioid capsule, and it's the best position for recording a single voice. As you can hear there's a bit of an echo on that recording, and it just doesn't sound as good as it could. The problem is my home office is in a big echoey room with a high ceiling. 

I tried loads of things to improve it, from putting foam around the mic to draping blankets all around my desk - all sorts of things. We got some improvement, but never really got rid of the echo completely. Out of everything I tried the best quality audio I could get was - believe it or not - in bed, under the duvet with my laptop and microphone! Obviously that was an ergonomic nightmare and completely impractical for creating a course - not least because I ran out of air after a few minutes! But it sounded great!  So at least now. 

I had a gold standard to shoot for when it came to sound quality. I'd heard of people recording audio in their wife's clothes closet and getting decent results because of all the fabric dampening the echoes So I gave it a try, and it wasn't bad, but again it wasn't really a workable solution because I could hardly fit in there with all the clothes! At this point I realised none of the shortcuts were going to cut it - so I decided to create a dedicated vocal booth. I tried a few places around the house, but the clothes closet seemed like the best one. So with Clare's help I cleared out all the clothes and set about creating our new vocal booth. The closet is quite small and it's a bit of a strange shape as well: It's a semi-circle, about five and a half feet left to right But only about four feet front to back and it's about nine feet high. 

So it's big enough to get a small table and chair into for audio recording but it's too crowded for shooting video because there's no room for cameras, tripods, lights, and that sort of thing. We're planning to build a proper video studio, but this will do for now. As you can see from the photo, the closet has a window in it. Well quite lucky that the house isn't too near any neighbours. 

And it's not near a road, so it's normally quiet enough for recording most of the time. Occasionally you can hear a loud motorbike on a road about quarter of a mile away or a dog barking or something like that. That probably wouldn't get picked up by the mic, but we decided to insulate the window anyway because it's easy enough to do. We started by taping up the window with masking tape. Duct tape would be better but it would take the paint off when it was removed and I want this vocal booth to be a temporary thing. We put up some plastic-based loft insulation in front of the window, about a couple of inches thick. That's not the nasty, itchy Rockwool fiberglass insulation This is made from recycled plastic bottles, and it's absolutely fine to handle without a mask or gloves or anything like that We held that in place with parcel tape. Then we cut a piece of cardboard to size and taped over the insulation with packing tape. It's not pretty, as you can see and I wouldn't claim it's completely soundproof the window, but it certainly cut down on external sounds and the closet is a very quiet space indeed now. 

There's a few days gap in the project at this point and when we went back the cardboard was looking a bit saggy so we ended up using duct tape anyway and that'll be plenty strong enough to hold it in place. Of course we knew that once we'd taken all the clothes out of the closet, it wouldn't sound good anymore, and we were right. The plan was to line the closet with acoustic tiles -  just like the ones you see in recording studios. Only problem is, the ones you see in recording studios can be super expensive you can easily spend £4, that's about $5.30 for each tile! Luckily the soon-to-be vocal booth is a really small space, so I was never going to need thousands of tiles. But I wanted to keep the cost of the project down if I could, so I shopped around a bit online, and I found a company called Pro Acoustic here in the UK selling acoustic tiles for about £1.18 That's just over $1.50 That seemed pretty reasonable, so I ordered five boxes of 24 tiles and that's 120 tiles in total. As you can see from the photo they're flat on one side, which you stick to the wall, and they're cut in a zigzag shape on the front. I think that shape is supposed to help diffuse the sound waves but it looks cool anyway. 

As I said, the vocal booth is just a temporary solution until we build full video studio. So we decided to attach the tiles to the walls with Velcro, so they can be easily removed and reused in the future. We bought a couple of three meter rolls of Velcro - one hooks and one loops. And we joined that together and cut it into about 1 centimeter squares. We decided to create a checkerboard pattern with the foam wedges on the tiles running vertically on one tile, and horizontally on the next one. Again, there's probably a good acoustic reason recording studios do this - I guess it helps break up the sound waves or something But I'd be surprised if you could hear much difference between a recording I made with all the tiles going one way and one with the tiles in a checkerboard pattern. 

So I must confess I didn't actually test the different patterns - we went for the checkerboard pattern because It looks cool, and it probably won't do the sound quality any harm. Because this closet is a semicircle obviously the walls are curved, and that means the tiles with the grooves vertically bend quite easily. So we fixed those with a single square of velcro at the top. The ones with the grooves running horizontally don't really want to bend so we used two squares to try and keep them attached to the wall. There's a shelf running around the closet at about 7 feet high you can see at the top of this picture. 

I thought it might cause an early reflection of sound so I attached some tiles to the underside of the shelf. We had enough tiles to cover the walls and the window below the shelf completely and to put 10 tiles on the back of the door - so that makes it about half covered After that there was only about 14 tiles left, so we attached 6 to the ceiling and that makes that about 1/3 covered. We didn't have enough tiles left to do the area above the shelf so I just put some old clothes on the shelf and that'll absorb some of the sound. We never planned to try and cover every square inch with acoustic tiles so there was no need to cut the tiles down to size to fit any little gaps here or there.  We only had to cut two tiles in fact and those were the ones that we needed to go either side of the shelf supports as you can see in this photo. The tiles are actually really easy to cut with a pair of sharp scissors, so that wasn't a problem. 

I reckon if I wanted to make sure every surface was completely covered I'd need to buy another 50 or so tiles, but I thought it would probably be ok like this. So the key question is how does it sound? Well even before I made test recordings. I could already tell putting up the acoustic tiles made a huge difference. Just standing in the closet with the door closed you can sense it's an incredibly quiet space and when you speak, it sounds very dead - much less echoey than a normal room never mind the echoey rooms we started out with. If you clap your hands, there's a tiny trace of an echo probably from the surfaces I didn't put tiles on but it dies away almost instantly. We shown the vocal booth to a few friends. They've all commented on how odd it sounds when they speak. Some of them find the experience a bit uncomfortable but whether that's the acoustic treatment or being invited to stand in a bedroom closet I'm not sure! When I made some test recordings with my Macbook Pro and Blue Snowball microphone I was really delighted with the quality, which was right up there with the "under the duvet" gold standard. But you can decide for yourself how good the sound quality is because I'm recording this video in the finished vocal booth. If you compare it to the quality of a recording made at my desk like this clip I think you can hear the difference pretty clearly. This sounds a bit distant, and it has a serious echo, which would get annoying to listen to pretty quickly. 

And now we're back in the vocal booth. Remember it's the same microphone the same computer and the same software. I haven't used any effects at all - the only thing that's changed is the room where I'm making the recording! I needed to get power into the vocal booth so I could use an external display and not have to worry about the laptop battery running out. Luckily that was dead easy: There's a socket right outside the door, so I'm just running a cable underneath the door There was already a ceiling light, so I just put a paper shade onto that. Next, I needed to find a desk and chair small enough to fit. Luckily we already had this small table from Ikea, which was perfect - the top's only about two feet square. We've had this table for a few years they don't seem to stock the same one any more so I've linked in the description to the closest one I could find, and that's a little bit bigger. 

We also had an old kitchen stool, which is about the right height and most importantly it doesn't creak. One characteristic of the Blue Snowball mic is that it's not very sensitive so you have to get it very close to your mouth to get a decent recording level. Now that's good because it means the mic doesn't pick up low level background noise but it's also a problem because the little tripod stand it comes with isn't really tall enough to get the mic into the right position And positioning it is quite critical because I need to be able to see the computer screen and use a keyboard and mouse when I'm recording. So I decided to get a microphone arm. I found one on Amazon for only £9.99 that's about $13. I'll put a link to it in the description. The Blue Snowball fits onto this arm with a plastic adapter that's supplied with the arm, and I can move it around to get it in the perfect position. Unfortunately the swivel joint between the clamp and the arm is a bit loose and the microphone's a bit too heavy for the arm which makes positioning it a bit tricky. 

It's okay for now, but I'll probably upgrade to a more expensive model in the future. If you want to create good quality voice recordings you need a pop filter to stop popping sounds caused by the air from your mouth hitting the microphone when you speak. Again, I found one on Amazon which does the job just fine for £8.99 - that's about $12.  There's a link in the description. It just clamps to the microphone arm and you use the flexible neck to position it about an inch in front of the mic At the time I'm recording this we've had the vocal booth finished for a few months, so it's a good time to look back and summarise the project. The day after we'd put up more than a hundred acoustic tiles, we were a bit worried we'd open the door and find them all lying on the floor! Fortunately that didn't happen and they've stayed in place pretty well. The ones on the walls tend to be kept in place by the surrounding tiles so they pretty much keep each other in place. The only ones that have fallen off are the ones on the door because it moves, the ones on the underside of the shelf because of gravity and anything I knock accidentally as I squeeze around the table. 

If a tile falls off we tend to put it back with double-sided carpet tape and that usually sorts it out. You could try a spray adhesive. That's supposed to work quite well too. On the whole it's a bit delicate mainly because of the small space but it's okay if we're careful. If you are creating a studio that you're expecting other people to visit you'd want to attach the tiles a bit more securely to be honest. And if I was doing it again, I'd probably just go with the double-sided carpet tape or spray adhesive for the whole lot. So that's how we created a vocal booth from a clothes closet. The total cost was: Acoustic Tiles: £141.60 Adhesive Velcro Roll:  £9.49 Microphone Boom Arm:  £9.99 Pop Filter: £8.99 for a total of £170.07 That's around $225 36 We already had the microphone, table, kitchen stool, insulation, duct tape and carpet tape. I didn't keep a strict log of the time it took, but I'm guessing it was less than 12 hours with two of us working on it. So to summarize this project, I'm really pleased with it. I think the audio quality I'm getting with very inexpensive kit shows It's well worth creating a dedicated space for recording audio if you possibly can. It's not perfect of course.

It's definitely smaller than the ideal once the furniture and the kit is in there And it's definitely too small for doing talking head type videos where you'd also need a camera on a tripod and some lights. But for recording audio, it's a huge step forward in quality from making the recordings at my desk. If you're thinking about setting up your own vocal booth or mini studio for creating courses or doing podcasts I can definitely recommend it and I hope you found this video interesting. If you have any questions please let me know in the comments section below the video, and don't forget to Like it and Subscribe to my channel for more videos about building a successful online business. Thank you for watching! 

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