How to decide on a vocal booth - very expensive but varying in cost
January 9, 2019 7:24 AM   Subscribe

My wife does voice over work and is impacted by high frequency sounds coming from outside our dwelling. We are looking at three booths in particular, but they vary in price so wildly, and we're unsure of how to make a decision. Can you help us?

We lived in an apartment for a few months that had double paned windows and our income jumped another $1,000 a month, as she was able to take better jobs and work longer hours during the day. But now we're in an apartment with large, thin windows.

Our main problems right now are things like bird song, children yelling (we live next to a playground) and the sound of work vehicles backing up (we live near a large construction area). High frequency sounds, which I hear is a better problem to have. She is able to deal with low frequency sounds and things like fans/vents fairly well with whatever filter's she's using.

We are considering buying a vocal booth, because even the most expensive option would -- hopefully -- pay itself often within the year. We're staying in this apartment for at least the next three years. We are looking at three in particular:

+ Booth #1 is by Whisper Room and costs ~8,000.
+ Booth #2 is by VocalBooth and costs ~10,000.
+ Booth #3 is by Scott's VO Booths and costs ~ 5,000.

#3 costs so much less, because it's made to order by a single person who is local to us. I'm not exactly sure what differences, if any, there are in the construction of these booths. We haven't seen #1 or #2 in person, but my wife did see #3 in person and was able to make a recording in it -- it's hard to say how much ambient noise it cut out, because these things are difficult to measure, but she also only had 5 minutes with it.

We're unsure of how to proceed, because this would be a large investment for us, with very little opportunity for resale should one of them not work out. I have been inclined to say let's just go with #1 or #2, because at least then we know we bought the "best" (not necessarily because they're more expensive, but rather because they have a longer institutional history making these things) and if it doesn't work out, then we would have a slightly easier time selling it (still extremely difficult) and we would have the peace of mind that we tried our best and nothing worked. Whereas if we bought #3, we might not know for sure if it's because there was something different about that booth.

We are looking forward to hearing some of your thoughts. Hopefully we will get some help in making this decision, because we've been putting it off for three months now. Hopefully I've provided enough detail, but please let me know if there's anything I can clarify or elaborate on.
posted by lilies.lilies to Work & Money (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This is directly related to my day job, just as background. For the local one it should be relatively easy to test it using an app on one cell phone and playing high frequency tones on one outside. For Android get the audiotools paid app, and if you want a calibrated mic buy the Dayton audio imm6 on Amazon for $30. The built in mic should be fine for this however.

As for the booths. Whisper booth is a great product. I'll be in a radio station later today that uses one right in their noisy lobby for VOs and jingles. I would say one very important consideration is ease of transport (since I assume you don't own the apartment).

In all cases a cut sheet should be provided to show you the isolation characteristics and if you have or can obtain I am happy to help you objectively compare. Memail if you'd like.
posted by chasles at 7:53 AM on January 9, 2019 [5 favorites]

I don't know anything about vocal booths but I do know something about building and it seems to me that you could build one for way less, and you could build something that could be easily taken apart if you move or decide to sell it.

Here are instructions for one on youtube. And another bunch of instructions. Here are some instructions for a soundproofing blankets booth.

On the other hand, it is a legitimate business expense in terms of taxes.
posted by mareli at 7:54 AM on January 9, 2019 [5 favorites]

I would expect that a booth like this would have testing data available, showing the Db loss at various frequencies. My first step would be to reach out to each manufacturer and ask them for any testing data they have available, so you can compare between the 3.

(edit:, yeah, the cutsheet that chasles mentions should have at least some sound data, but there is also probably additional detail available on request, assuming that they had a real testing lab do the analysis)
posted by misterbrandt at 7:55 AM on January 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Since you mentioned double-paned windows, these window inserts might be another option to consider.
posted by pinochiette at 10:56 AM on January 9, 2019

mareli's moving blanket booth is the cheap way - you don't even need acoustic blankets, you can just buy a pack of heavy moving blankets from uhaul.

You might consider starting there either way, since this will also let you know if you've got other issues to deal with beyond the high frequencies; It sounds like you already know that it's way easier to block high frequencies than low ones. For the latter, a booth often won't help much, so it's good that her filter is working.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:12 AM on January 9, 2019

It doesn't sound like cost is a huge concern, but I should add that I'd first consider whether upgrading the actual recording chain would make a bigger difference - your bog-standard large-diaphragm condenser tends to be hyped in the high frequencies and extremely sensitive, particularly if she's using e.g. a USB condenser.

For $500 she can pick up a Shure SM7B or other large-diaphragm dynamic mic and a FEThead or the equivalent, which may very well obviate the need for doing much else. If she's currently using a USB mic you'll also need an interface and a couple cables, all of which can be had for under $200. IME a 7B with a decent preamp and a couple moving blankets will cut out a lot more problem frequencies in a suboptimal room than a condenser in a similar setup.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:21 AM on January 9, 2019

Response by poster: Sorry, I forgot to mention this, but we have tried different mic setups, including SM7B and Sennheiser MKH416.
posted by lilies.lilies at 12:19 PM on January 9, 2019

FWIW a former neighbor of mine who did professional VO bought a WhisperRoom and was very pleased with it. I believe it went with him when he moved and is installed in his new place.
posted by jmsta at 12:56 PM on January 9, 2019

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