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building a vocal booth


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I know this must be a very tired topic , but things change all the time so its worth asking you all. Been scouring the web and there are tons of videos on what people do , the good and the bad etc.

 

First of all my main objective is not to get top pro sound , it will be impossible , my main room cannot be acoustically treated. Rather my objective is to have a space where there is minimal external ambient noise that gets thru. That space is a closet within the same room.

 

The space is very small i.e. basically a long yet narrow closet with slide in wooden doors.

 

My plans are to use acoustic foam , cover walls and ceiling, I can't per se cover the closet door i.e. its a sliding door but rather I thought of using an acoustical blanket and hang it behind me i.e. as a curtain to the closet entrance. This acoustical blanket will be then be right behind me as I face the mic.

 

As far as the mic what I have right now is a Rode NTK do chime in and let me know what is a better next step mic for vocals.

 

I'm on the fence as to whether I should spend the money on something like the SE Reflection Filter.

 

So the request is those so inclined kindly provide any feedback on the setup of a vocal booth which will be strictly be used for "viable" vocal recordings i.e. a recording that sounds pretty good and can be used as demo but one that would most likely be re-done in a pro setup eventually.

 

thanks

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I think the consensus is vocal booths generally aren't too good for vocals! Singers generally don't perform well in small dry spaces at all. The voice should be able to breath and project in a natural space for best effect. Most pro vocals are recorded in a live room with a few movable panels to the rear and maybe a relfection filter in front. I'd save yourself a lot of hassle (and money) and use this approach if I were you. The panels and filter will also do a reasonable amount to tame bacground noise reaching the mic, but I'd concentrate on the perfromance rather than a bit of noise, its generally not a problem. I've heard pro recordings with all kinds of background noise and no one looses any sleep over it if its a great performance.
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Unfortunately the setup of the room which is large, prob 25 x 25 does not allow me to put any back panels. Equally unfortunate in the winter particularly there are fanned heaters that are noisy and finally I do my recordings in the very early mornings so my other objective was to contain the "vocals" so as to not wake up my wife nor the dogs for that matter.

 

I was hoping that a good pair of headphones and a decent UAD reverb plug would recreate the room enough in my head so as to still be inspiring.

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Sounds like you have an idea about what you want to achieve but I'm not convinced about the solution yet, but get some other opinions. In answer though:

 

The rear panels are acoustic screens on stands so can be moved around and stored away. Can you switch the fan heaters off during takes? Also a cupboard booth and foam panels won't do much to soundproof from sleeping people and animals in reality.

 

And seriously, putting reverb in the cans to compensate is not good for lots of reasons... it's something they only do in amateur studios or in 80s music videos! Most singers need to pitch with one ear off and no monitoring except backing track for good reason. Monitoring entirely through headphones will give you a distorted sense of timing, space and pitching (you're hearing your voice internally AND via direct monitoring at the same time!) which will affect performance. Let alone if you put temporary reverb on there too! It's a definite no-no! You'll be printing raw audio to disc which is affected by inaccurate and temporary factors.

 

Remember the idea of a good vocal performance is to get as *natural* a performance as possible. The acoustic space has a massive impact on singers... but its whatever works for you at the end of the day.

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Most singers need to pitch with one ear off and no monitoring except backing track for good reason. Monitoring entirely through headphones will give you a distorted sense of timing, space and pitching (you're hearing your voice internally AND via direct monitoring at the same time!)

 

+1

 

I personally have this issue when using software monitoring even at minimal roundtrip latency.

It's not so much a timing issue but more of a comb filtering/phase problem.

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I am now extremely confused.

 

So no vocal booth.

Only monitor with one headphone side, leave the other off to potentially bleed into the mic?

Do not input monitor the vocal track as its being recorded.

 

To be clear in case I missed something . I am not using software monitoring at all. I'm using a UAD Apollo Twin where I would be monitoring (direct) the vocal and a reverb plug at essentially zero latency. I thought in the use of a I should say "space" plugin was to recreate a space, is the technology not there where they effectively do that ? BTW , the reverb plugin does not get printed on to the track so the issue is why does this affect the vocal performance ? I'm sorry very newbie about this topic.

 

Can somebody suggest where to buy these "acoustic screens on stands" , I'm not handy at all won't be able to build something like that. I can muster gluing acoustic foam to a wall though.

 

thanks

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I am now extremely confused.

 

So no vocal booth.

Only monitor with one headphone side...

Do not input monitor the vocal track as its being recorded.

 

This is of course a personal preference.

The best thing is to be flexible. Some singers use both cans wet, some dry. Some even hate headphones and want a wedge instead.

 

leave the other off to potentially bleed into the mic?

 

You'd be amazed how much bleed there is in many well known mixes. :)

 

To be clear in case I missed something . I am not using software monitoring at all. I'm using a UAD Apollo Twin where I would be monitoring (direct) the vocal and a reverb plug at essentially zero latency. I thought in the use of a I should say "space" plugin was to recreate a space, is the technology not there where they effectively do that ? BTW , the reverb plugin does not get printed on to the track so the issue is why does this affect the vocal performance ? I'm sorry very newbie about this topic.

 

I personally find this approach great, specially for whispery and soft vocals.

Test it yourself first to make sure that you are comfortable with your monitoring.

 

Can somebody suggest where to buy these "acoustic screens on stands" , I'm not handy at all won't be able to build something like that. I can muster gluing acoustic foam to a wall though.

 

I like the guys at GiK. Here are two options for you:

 

FreeStand Acoustic Panel© (gobo)

GIK Acoustics Screen Panel Gobo

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I can always can count on you being awake when I ask questions , thanks God time zones were invented :)

 

What the heck is a wedge ?

 

Also , I'm now mostly concerned about the potential that something that I am hearing on the headphones can affect the perception of pitch and thus affect the performance ?

 

thanks for the panel links

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I can always can count on you being awake when I ask questions , thanks God time zones were invented :)

 

:mrgreen:

 

What the heck is a wedge ?

 

wedge monitor - Google Search

 

Also , I'm now mostly concerned about the potential that something that I am hearing on the headphones can affect the perception of pitch and thus affect the performance ?

 

Just to be clear - This is just my personal experience when laying down vocals.

 

Latency caused by the monitor system can cause phase/comb filtering issues when being mixed with the resonance in your head directly from your vocal cords.

I find that somewhere above 2,5 ms of latency is where the problem becomes apparent. Frequencies will cancel each other out and at some point it becomes really hard to pitch as intended, without being able to hear the expected overtones.

 

It's important to understand that this has nothing to do with timing. I can play bass or guitar pretty much in time at latencies way over 5 ms.

 

thanks for the panel links

 

You're welcome!

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oh a wedge monitor is what i guess I think of as a performance monitor , floor monitor. so the reason is that the pick up pattern of most vocal mics will not "pick" the monitored sound?

 

I'm pretty certain that Apollo claims that there latency for their plugs when monitored via the Apollo unit is well within the 2.5 ms, but I will double check.

 

thanks all for the feedback. I guess I need to experiment either way.

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oh a wedge monitor is what i guess I think of as a performance monitor , floor monitor. so the reason is that the pick up pattern of most vocal mics will not "pick" the monitored sound?

 

Wedge was just an alternative to headphones.

You can use studio monitors or whatever you want.

You can even use two speakers placed on opposite sides at the same distance from the microphone and then switch the polarity on one of the speakers to reduce the amount of "leakage".

 

thanks all for the feedback. I guess I need to experiment either way.

 

That's the best way.

Good luck. :)

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The comb filtering and phase problem isn't just a latency thing, it can be caused by the very fact of using headphones. I think Annie Lennox is one of the famous vocalists who refuses to use them and always tracks with a wedge. I really wouldn't worry about bleed, it's very common and rarely if ever a major problem. You will always hear a good or bad performance, but you'll probably never hear bleed. Hang upside down in a parking lot covered in jelly if it's what it takes.

 

The reason reverb in the cans will affect the performance is because you will compensate for all sorts of things such as vibrato, sustain, resonance etc specific to that reverb whilst actually doing the take. Then when it's not there you'll be left with a wobbly perfromance that is only relevent to that reverb. Sure you can cover it with another one, but that's not the same as singing it in the right space in the first place. I'd rather record it right in a less than ideal room than record it dry with reverb in the cans any day.

 

Again as mentioned, try what works for you. Do a take with both cans on and reverb, then one without, then one with only one phone on, then one upside down in the parking lot covered in jelly and decide which one felt good and which one sounded good. Difficult to measure in reality because every performance is different but the real test should be how it feels.

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Does the jelly matter? I'm particularly fond of royal fig jelly :)

 

Probably for different post but I have a focusrite hardware comp wonder how to use it to manage bleed of room and monitored backing tracks, also don't have wedge but have studio monitors can't really move them around too much though

 

Finally thanks

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Here's pretty good read on Bono's vocals:

 

  • "It's the people that are important, and the machines and the quality of them is very secondary. It's like recording Bono's vocals with an SM58 and loud wedges. The important thing is the way he sings, not whether there's spill or not. It's possible to deal with the latter."

Robbie Adams: Recording U2's Achtung Baby & Zooropa

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and yet another question

 

for the purposes of this application i.e. monitoring of backing tracks while doing vocal recording how necessary would it be to have a pair of monitors ? If not necessary what is the real pertinent advantages to having a pair and again in the context of the application discussed.

 

much thanks

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right, well I have been discouraged off the make a booth out of a pantry closet approach, but since I already have a room divider , basically a metal ornate thing with lots of gaps but tall , I thought of dropping some acoustic drapes over it especially after finding an SOS article preaching the approach of the "duvet" behind the singer.

 

I saw the GIK stuff prior thanks to Eric but it was 300 bucks for a skinny 2 ft panel which would be currently out of my budget. Also saw vid where they used acoustic tube bass traps in front of the mic but those were expensive as well.

 

I"m going to try the acoustic drapes, still have the outstanding ssue of how to monitor the vocals.

 

I may get also a Shure SM58 as my other "cheap" mic in order to test it against my NTK.

 

thanks for the feedback

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still have the outstanding ssue of how to monitor the vocals.

 

I still think you should use headphones.

The wedge option was mostly thrown in there to keep an open mind about stuff.

 

I may get also a Shure SM58 as my other "cheap" mic in order to test it against my NTK.

 

It's a pretty cheap microphone so why not.

In fact a better option would be to borrow one from a friend and test it.

 

But I'd really be surprised if you will find it "better" than your NTK.

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Well no, I didn't think it would be better but I'm intrigued to know that some vocal recordings that I have enjoyed were recorded with it, so yeah its cheap enough why not? my same sentiment :)

 

I will at least for now work off the headphones, I guess the main thing I have gotten out of this thread with regards to monitoring and some other instructional materials out in the web is to not add gobs of reverb or basically not much at all to the vocal track headphone mix.

 

Also I have a Focusrite mic/pre / comp that I need to play with. Not to go off on another tangent perhaps I can also add my Reddi box to the chain. The NTK is already tubed so may be its redundant? The Gik stuff looks nice and I guess 299.00 is not a bad price all things considered, I'm considering it but its probably a few months out in the horizon.

 

thanks again

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I guess the main thing I have gotten out of this thread with regards to monitoring and some other instructional materials out in the web is to not add gobs of reverb or basically not much at all to the vocal track headphone mix.

 

I wouldn't say that it is bad with reverb in the cans.

"Whatever works" is the best advice. That was my whole point the whole time. If you feel better with some reverb and delay in your monitoring chain, use as much as you need. If you feel better singing into a hand held microphone infant of your studio monitors blasting at full range, do it that way. Everything goes. :)

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