Acoustics are a big consideration when setting up your voiceover studio. How sound waves move through the air and interact with your environment are what acoustics are all about.
For most VO’s there are two kinds of acoustic issues that you need to be aware of. The first is external noise that may enter the room from the outside and the other is sounds inside the room that cause reverberations that are picked up by the microphone. This is sometimes called “flutter echo” or, if you really want to impress people at parties, “specular reflections.”
For sounds that originate outside, short of buying a complete booth enclosure, there’s not much you can do when the guy with the Harley down the street decides to roll by your house. Just wait for him to pass and start your take again. And a self-contained booth like a Whisper Room is not cheap. The smallest model they make - a foam-lined coffin measuring 3.5’ by 2.5’ costs about $3,500. And after that significant investment, you’re left with something that acoustically sounds exactly like you’re standing in a small box. You can try building your own booth to cut costs, but the results depend on how much you’re willing to spend and how much you can convince one of your friends with construction knowledge to help you. Either way, its not a trivial matter.
For sounds originating INSIDE your room, the solutions is much easier.
In a previous post, I mentioned the art of “creative innelegance” - using whatever materials you have on hand to jury-rig something to help absorb some of that stray sound that bounces around: soft materials like blankets, hanging clothes etc. can work pretty well and is a good short-term fix to get through a project. But eventually you’re going to want to look into more efficient forms of sound absorption. One of the ones most commonly used in professional studios is acoustic foam.
Deelat is a global online retail company that specializes in thousands of different industrial products. If you’re the kind of person that loves browsing the aisles of a big box hardware store marveling at all the various items, you’ll definitely want to spend some time on Deelat’s site, ogling the various fittings, electronics, construction materials and other stuff.
One of the things Deelat offers is acoustic foam panels. I picked up a 12 pack of pyramid shaped acoustic foam and installed it in my studio over the holidays. The foam measures 12” x 12” and is 2 inches thick. It can be secured using spray contact adhesive, peel and stick pads or even a staple gun (though I wouldn't recommend that as it tends to tear the foam.) I went with the peel and stick approach and put the panels up on the wall directly behind my microphone and the ceiling above me. I didn’t do any detailed measurements, but I will say that that the panels make a HUGE improvement over an untreated space. Echo was virtually eliminated and the acoustic quality doesn't have that “boxiness” that you get from a small booth or one of those expensive foam balls impaled on your mic. Even at high volume - me hollering as a character in a video game - there was absolutely no reverberant sound picked up by the mic.
Naturally, knowing where to place the tiles is important. You want to put them on flat reflective surfaces. If a sound wave can bounce off of something and reflect back into your mic, you want to stick a foam panel in front of it. Walls and ceilings are natural, but also think about table surfaces, doors and the underside of any shelves you may have.
If you’ve built your VO booth using blankets and comforters and you’re ready to move up in the world to a more professional look, check out the line of acoustic foam panels at Deelat. Their customer service is top notch and their prices can't be beat.
About Rob Marley -
A Los Angeles native, Rob is an accomplished voice talent, producer and writer, now living in the hill country of Austin Texas.