Building My Professional Voice Booth Part 1 - Research & The Plan.
I thought it would be good to write an account of how I built my studio.
Firstly, a huge caveat! This is not meant to be a step by step guide, it’s just an account of how a real VO coped (and sometimes quite honestly didn’t cope very well) with planning and building his own sound attenuated and acoustically treated room.
If you are a VO looking to build your own booth, I highly recommend signing up to Gravy For The Brain and enrolling in their “How to Build a Home Recording Studio” course, It's brilliant; I'd also recommend contacting lots of other experts, I'll list a few I've spoken to at the bottom of this post.
Once you’ve covered all those bases, if you have any questions on my build or just want to chat things through with a fellow VO, please get in touch with me via my contact page.
With that out of the way, here goes…
My old studio was a former storage cupboard, a 3.3 square metre (35 square ft) space situated in an outbuilding, sandwiched between my garage and a garden room. I’d treated the space with professional grade acoustic foam and acoustic blankets, but it was not sound proof.
Recording in the evenings or at quiet times during the day, I could get a fair bit of work done undisturbed, but if a neighbour decided to mow their lawn, or if the commuter traffic started to warm up, or if a plane flew over, or if a kid started practicing kick flips on a skateboard outside, recording was over.
This posed an issue, I’d started to get some great jobs, with some major brands, and more often than not they would ask for a live recorded session, fine if it was at a quiet time, not so good if they wished to record during the middle of the day.
Something needed to be done about sound ingress into my booth and due to the low frequency nature of the noise it was going to have to be drastic as low frequency waves are the hardest to reduce…
“In general, low frequency waves travel further than high frequency waves because there is less energy transferred to the medium they are travelling through, hence the use of low frequencies for fog horns.” Source Physicslab.org
To reduce low frequency rumble you need to create a multi layered barrier, this barrier needs to contain a lot of mass and thickness. Which will cost you a lot of space and money! As I found out…
Build a space where I can repeatedly create appropriately loud, clean and noise-free, high-quality vocal recordings, with no sound reflections.
Achieve a noise floor of -60db (with gain levels set to record my conversational read peaking between -6db and -3db)
Dont exceed £3,500 budget (Future self: ha ha ha ha ha ha)
First up, I completed the very useful “How to build your own voice booth” course on GFTB, if you’re planning on building your own booth and haven’t yet, what are you waiting for. https://courses.gravyforthebrain.com/courses/how-to-build-a-home-recording-studio/
Then I hit Google and the phone, I called the team at advancedacoustics-uk.com , spoke to the guys at Ikoustic.co.uk and finally I had a very useful chat with a friend of my Dad’s who is a professional drummer with his own self built studio.
“You need to build a bunker, solid thick concrete external walls are best, then you need a layering system on the inside”
“Don’t forget to invest in a good door, no point at all in soundproofing a room and forgetting that huge great hole where you have to enter and exit, in fact, two doors are a good idea, that way you can have an airlock in-between, which helps reduce sound ingress even further”
“Try and find a way of de-coupling your ceiling from the joists”
At this point, I was worried I’d need to start from scratch and build a completely new building, then I had a think, got my measuring tape out and worked out I might just be able to build my ‘bunker’ within the existing space, but it would require some heavy destruction/construction in order to do it.
Time to call Dad.
I’m lucky, my father is a former builder, so bringing him into help quite honestly saved me a few thousand pounds, especially as the cost of labour in the UK has gone crazy, My Dad and I talked through my plan and after a few tweaks and a long conversation with the guys at Ikoustic.co.uk landed on the below:
Knock down the wall separating the garage from my booth and push a further 60cm into the garage, giving me enough room to rebuild the wall in concrete block, without losing too much space in the studio and not taking too much space from my garage.
Rip up current floor and inspect its construction. It sounded hollow, so I suspected (correctly) it was a floating floor with no insulation or soundproofing, pour in a solid concrete base leaving enough room for me to install a sound dampening floating floor system on top
Remove existing ceiling
Plan out the electrics and ethernet connection, get a qualified Electrician to prepare the wiring for both.
Build a new solid concrete block shell, layering Rockwool in between the old stud walls and the new solid concrete blocks.
Fit new ceiling joists that fit the new room size across the concrete walls, lay the joists on thick rubber to help avoid vibration transfer from the walls.
To be continued…
Choosing the right sound reducing/layering systems for floor, ceiling and walls.
After a lot of research I decided to go with the ‘MuteCradle’ & ‘MuteClip’ systems created by the team at Ikoustic.co.uk there are several other companies out there that offer similar products, but I went with Ikoustic due to the ‘relatively’ slimline nature of their system, their excellent reputation and the fact that everyone I spoke to couldn’t have been more helpful and I knew I’d need all the help I could get when it came to installing.
After a lengthy consultation with their sound proofing consultants I went for the following:
Total cost £2,480 (inc VAT)
Ikoustic will sell you everything you need for their systems to work, although in hindsight I would recommend shopping around for more general construction items like Rockwool insulation, Cement Fibre Board and acoustic plasterboard, as the the large hardware chains can often offer a better price.
Work out how to ventilate the space
One of the things I was keen to try and avoid was a hot stuffy booth, so I was very keen to make sure I put in adequate ventilation and if possible a silent AC system.
This proved to be the hardest thing to research, and when I did eventually find a solution proved to be far far too expensive for my budget.
My original plan was to fit a couple of baffled vents to the walls, Rytons seem to be the only brand on offer for these, they can be manually closed or opened and promise to reduce sound by -41db when closed.
However, after speaking with Shaun Snaith at Advanced Acoustics (who was incredibly helpful) I realised it would still involve putting holes in my newly soundproofed walls and would end up reducing the sound attenuation of my new booth, which sort of defeated the point.
He recommended I get in touch with Nick Langley, Owner of Audio Schemes ltd, one of the UK's premier studio construction companies, who might have some answers, he did, and those answers weren’t cheap!
He came up with a 3.5kw silenced ducted AC ventilation system which would set me back well over £3,000, which at the time would have exceeded my budget.
My final solution? Open the booth doors every so often 🙄. (I'm hoping to upgrade this soon)
The Plan Continued
Install the MuteClip LP ceiling system
Install the MuteCradle floor system
Install the MuteClip Double Wall System
To be continued…
Choosing the right sound proof door
The second hardest thing to research was the door, It turns out there are only two door manufacturers in the UK who specialise in Acoustic Doors, and these are not cheap either.
Metador make their doors in steel, with a rockwool core, the doors can be bought as a pre-hung set with the frame (which appealed to me)
Enfield use a variety of materials but primarily their doors are made of thick wood.
Prices can get absolutely ridiculous, especially if like me you have to pay VAT, starting at £800 and going north of £5,000 if you really want to splash out.
In the end I went with a Defender Safeguard set from Metador spending some extra cash for the automatic mortice drop seal which would help to stop sound ingress. This door set me back over £1,000 after VAT had been added, but I could have spent 4x that if I'd ticked all of the options boxes.
My thinking was that as I was keeping my existing wooden door in place, there would be an adequate air-lock between the old door and the new door and when both were closed this would keep sound to a minimum. (Spoiler alert, I can safely say post installation that this method works a charm!
The Basic Plan Continued
Install new door within the structural opening of the concrete shell
Fit Tecsound underlay, carpet / felt wall liner / felt ceiling liner
Fit acoustic foam panels / blankets
Install standing desk
Refit recording equipment
Stand back and admire handiwork!
I wish it had been that easy! - Next time, I’ll take you through the demolition and preparation steps, some of the challenges we faced, and what we did to overcome them.
I intend to document the entire installation process, giving you a taste of what you might experience DIY booth building.
See you again soon
P.s Here are the list of contacts I mentioned at the beginning
Andy Youngson - Sound Proofing Consultant at Ikoustic, invaluable help from start to finish
Tel: 01937588226 Email: Andy@ikoustic.com
Shaun Snaith - Director at Advanced Acoustics LTD
Tel:01623643609 Email: email@example.com
Nick Langley - Owner, audio schemes ltd
Tel: 07889 964312
Business Account Manager at Metador