Building a pro soundbooth at low cost by Scott Gorman

3 min read

Voice123 loves hearing from voice actors when they have blogs that they wish to share with us for the entire community of voice over talent!  Today, we wish to share a great blog provided by actor, Scott Gorman. He wrote us and shared pics of how he built his voice over booth! You will see just how low-cost such a process can be!

“Ever since getting into the voice over industry, I’ve always wanted an isolation booth. I wanted that “dead” sound, so that I could concentrate on the voice, and not the room tone or the equipment. I’m sure that there’s a lot of forum topics and endless hours of conversations that could be had about room tone and such, but for this article, It’s just strictly wanting to just build an affordable and professional iso-booth, that I was happy with.

First, I went to Home Depot and looked for some plywood thin enough and I ended up selecting a 3 ply 4′ x 8′ piece at 5mm. One panel per side wasn’t going to be sturdy enough, so I ended up getting 2 plywood sheets per wall and then used 1″ x 2″ slat to give the wall a rigid form so that there was no bending and stiff enough to stand tall. My office ceiling is 8-feet tall, so I had to also cut the plywood a bit shorter to make it fit well enough and not tough the ceiling and to give a bit more room near the top just in case I needed some. Home Depot can help with the cutting if you don’t have a table saw like me. They’ll cut it to any length for you at no charge.

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I used the 1″ x 2″ slats to border the plywood sheet, and then added ribs horizontally to give the wall enough stiffness. I used both wood glue and small wood screws to keep all the slats strong and firm. The glue probably would have been enough but the screw would help me sleep at night. I then used a 1″ thick (rigid) foam insulation to fill in the gaps. I didn’t know if this would help lower noise bleeding though the walls, but I figured that the more dense the walls the better it could trap sound or prevent it from getting though. I also felt better filling up this empty space rather than just have open cavities in the walls. Once the foam was cut and installed, I then glued and screwed another sheet of plywood to make a “sandwich”, and repeated the same process for all four walls. Once the panels were completed, I took them to a local speaker installation shop and had them wrap the outside walls with the thin speaker box carpet that they use for making custom speaker boxes. I probably could have done this myself, but it was something that I felt ok with having them do since they cut, and glue this carpet on a regular basis. It only took them a day to finish it, and it made the outside of the walls look very nice and finished.

I knew that I wanted to get acoustic foam squares for the inside of the booth. And with the plenty of research and hunting around on the Internet, I ended up getting all my foam from www.foamforyou.com. I found them to be cheaper in price, but this is where the majority of your of your cost will come in. I ordered the 12″ x 12″ x 2″ wedges, and the customer service and delivery was perfect. I used about four cans of spray adhesive to glue them to the inside walls. NOTE: I recommend that you use the spray outside because that stuff gets on everything and makes the floor sticky. I also alternated the squares to help deflect the sound in various directions, and give it a neat look.

The door was probably the hardest part. I had to cut out the threshold of one of the walls, and fit it myself. My main scare was not getting it straight, and flush, but with proper planning and measuring, it turned out better than I thought it would. I just used one of the smaller doors from Home Depot at 24″ wide and 80″ from top to bottom. The door fit perfectly. I then used some angled aluminum to create a border around the door that covered the gap, and finished it like molding.

I also added a ceiling near the end of the build to totally enclose the iso-booth. Just a piece of thicker plywood wrapped in carpet, and attached to the top of the booth with right angled brackets on the inside, hidden under the iso-foam. There was no room on the top to allow me to use a drill or screwdriver to secure it down, since I only had less than 5″ of space from the ceiling.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the sound inside and love the feeling that I have built a DIY-voice over booth at a fraction of the cost, compared to big online companies that sell a similar product. I’m not saying that it’s anywhere near what they offer as a product, but for me, it’s perfect and my clients won’t know the difference.

Total cost: Less than $400! ”

Do you have any questions for Scott about this process?  Please let us know below!

We also hope to bring more blogs from voice talent like you! If you are interested in sharing a blog, please write us!

14 Replies to “Building a pro soundbooth at low cost by Scott…”

  1. Thanks for writing this, Scott. A couple people who are just getting into voice acting came up to me recently asking me what I think of x mic, and I asked them in response, “What’s your recording environment like?” Their response was. “My living room, anyway…”

    …Yeah, that won’t cut it. One always has to treat their recording environment, both for background noise and acoustics. I strongly feel that a great recording environment is the no. 1 concern for any voice actor as far as the technical aspects of the job are concerned. Even more so than one’s microphone. That’s not to say that microphones aren’t important, of course, but if you drop $3,000 for a Neumann U87–one of the top VO mics in the business–it will sound ungodly terrible if you put it in an untreated environment because it will pick up EV-ER-Y-THING.

    The one area that I might comment on is the foam you chose. From what I’ve seen, rigid fiberglass acoustic panels like Owens Corning 703 work much better than foam. They’re definitely more expensive, though, and foam can still work wonders. From the pics provided, I’m sure the sound you get out of your recording environment is awesome!

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Scott.
      The question I have is about the floor of the booth. I’m Planning to use rubber flooring tiles as a base before putting down a floor on 2×6’s on end. That way the entire booth will float on the tilesand it can also be filled with foam and should eliminate any vibrations. Does this sound like overkill??

      1. George,
        Good question. The current setup that I have, there’s nothing on the floor but carpet from the room already. I don’t think I would ever need to do anything to my floor that would add any benefit to my setup, but yours might be different. Also, my mic is at standing height (5′ 5″ to my mouth) and that seems far enough away for the floor not to interfere. I don’t think my mic (or any directional mic) that high would be prone to noise from the carpeted floor. I could be wrong, but I’m very happy with nothing on the floor. Thanks for the feedback.

    2. Dave,
      Yes, I looked into the different types of foam like you mentioned and also seen and heard the different qualities with shapes and densities. However, my goal was to produce a booth for way less money than the professional booths with still obtaining a type of isolated sound good enough for VO work. I’m very pleased with what I came up with. When you walk into the booth, there’s a very noticeable environment change. Almost like walking into a closet of clothes but 10 times as much. There’s a “deading” of the sound around me that feels right and sounds better to me with the recorded VO in the booth than out side the booth. Again, I’m not a sound engineer or have the money to build an LA sound stage, but I did have a goal and some ideas. I hope that helped. Thanks for the feedback.

  2. Thanks for the piece.
    I built my own vocal booth and had to use old dilapidated foam tiles; so when I saw your link I checked it out and the prices came in well-under what I had found out there, so thanks!

    .dave.anton.

  3. Great work Scott !!
    I have one more little tip for improving the sound quality of this kind of construction.
    As it is a box, some of you could sooner or later find out, that the lower frequencies on your recordings will increase a lot -> it will sound boxy, like recorded in a an almost empty robe, ect.
    The reason for this is, that the foam inside is only absorbing the frequencies down to around 500Hz – and will have no effect to the bass frequencies of your voice.
    The deeper frequencies will be reflected from the ply and as long you use an angle of 45 degree from wall to wall you will have standing waves.
    If you want to isolate yourself against incoming noise from outside, it’s of course the best way – but mostly the problem is to get rid of the room reflexions of a bigger room.

    The are two (or three) more things what you can do:

    First:
    Use on at least two of the walls ply with holes inside (the stuff which some people are using in the garage to hang their tools on).
    It lets the lower frequency energy get outside, where it will be reflected by the room (sofa , tables, shelf, home trainer ….) and will loose its energy before it will be filtered again from the ply when it comes inside the booth again (but this time with much less energy).

    Second:
    Build the booth with two walls out of angle (min. 17 degree) – this will prevent standing waves / resonances in the booth.

    Third:
    If your booth is bigger, or you want to use a very small room as a booth, you can install at one wall a plate-resonator:
    Put min. 7cm of absorption material onto a wall and hang a very heavy rubber mat directly in front of it , so that the mat and the absorption material (foam,ect) have contact.
    In front of the mat you hang a thick curtain to prevent high frequency reflections on the rubber mat.
    My suggestion for the rubber mat is this kind of mats/carpets which you will find in the entrance of a lot of stores or offices to keep dirt and water outside -> it is a rubber mat with already a carpet on – so you don’t have to hang a thick curtain in front of it anymore.

    For building this vocal booth with plate resonator inside, the Sound on Sound magazine has some very nice HowTo-Videos at YouTube :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdEYNdzi4kw

    Hope I could help a little 🙂

    Best, Hendrik

  4. Scott,

    Good Job…however (and unless I missed something) what about cooling? You mentioned about a ceiling and I was wondering about air circulation? Especially in a place like South Florida and the Islands where we have warm weather year around a closed booth with no ventilation is maybe ok for a 30 second voice over but when we have to do long form programming etc…..any tips on how you get air circulation in there?

    Thanks!

  5. Hey Scott,
    What would your advice be to build a sound booth with double walled insulation? I have Car traffic right outside my apartment and I know a Doubled wall sound booth would be perfect, but I sure could use some DIY tips and if I want to avoid and low tones from the floor shouldn’t I put the booth on sturdy casters? – Dave Van Sise of “DVS Voice Overs” my personal email is DVS0012@yahoo.com

  6. Very nice article and photos, Scott. Did you also use angle brackets to fasten the walls together?

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