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A soft vocal booth - it's the next big thing in recording!

Vocal booths are commonly constructed with four sides and a ceiling. And a floor of course. But why does a vocal booth need sides at all?

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It is an unwritten law of recording studio acoustics that small rooms are harder to work in than large rooms. If you have only ever worked in a small room, you will find a large recording space unbelievably easy to get a good sound in.

It is a fact that small spaces inherently have poor acoustics. The reason for this is standing waves, also known as room resonances. These are frequencies at which the air in the room will easily be set into vibration, and thus these frequencies are not only artificially boosted, they hang on for a longer time too.

In a large room, standing waves frequencies are low and therefore the resonances are usually not too noticeable. But in a small room, the standing wave frequencies can be well up into the mid band where they are clearly heard.

And a vocal booth is the smallest recording space of all, therefore it is likely to have the worst possible acoustics.

One reason for having a vocal booth is to isolate the singer from the control room and control room monitoring. But if you can live without this, then you don't need to have a vocal booth at all!

Recording the singer in the control room is a common thing to do, as it keeps the producer in touch with the artist better than shutting the artist away. But control room acoustics are not ideal for vocals. Vocals should be recorded dry without reverberation, so they are more easily effected later in the recording process.

To achieve this, what you need is a vocal booth, but without the hard reflecting surfaces. Easy... simply hang absorbent material from the ceiling enclosing a space around the singer. The booth doesn't need hard walls.

Even heavy drapes would be enough to make a significant difference. You could install a circular track so you could pull them back when not in use.

Setting up an even more absorbent 'soft booth' could be done with mineral wool, enclosed in a suitable material so that particles are contained, mounted on a frame.

So, a 'soft vocal booth'. You know, it just could be the next big thing in recording.

By David Mellor Tuesday December 6, 2005
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