Acoustics In a Nutshell

Posted on November 2, 2011 by

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OK maybe not in a nutshell, but maybe a banana peel. (This could get slippery)

The problem with talking about acoustics is that, while there are some standards we look to achieve, there are so many variations to think about. Lets go to the easy specifics.

What are the main acoustical considerations when “creating” a home voice over studio?

1. Keeping  outside noise out, or to a minimum.
2. Reducing the amount of sound “reflection.”

Those are two totally different things, requiring different strategies.

To keep noise out, you have to be in a quiet place.  (Duh) That means finding a room (or closet) that is far away from outside noise like traffic, airplanes, lawnmowers and leaf blowers. Inside noise thats even more prevalent like washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators and the dreaded HVAC are actually more controllable. You can turn those things off. As for “Sound proof booths” Unless you’re on the landing path to La Guardia or LAX, if you can find the right quiet space, the SPB is an expensive strategy that has its drawbacks. The way I look at it, from a home studio perspective,  time is relative. OK, we all have clients that want it “yesterday.”  If they hired you, have confidence that they like you and your voice. They can wait for quality. Not days, but an hour or two to insure you give them your best. SO, as far as the sound proof booth goes, you can spend thousands on a sound proof booth, or you can wait until your neighbor stops cutting his grass. *Note. This doesn’t apply to a scheduled session on phone patch or ISDN. In order to have ISDN, you have to justify its cost. You get it when its cost effective for you to have it. To get it as part of a start up is putting the cart before the horse. But, thats another topic.

A spare closet is your best choice, especially if there are lots of clothes in it, or you can put those in there. Not everyone has a closet like that, but some simple modifications to a small one can render it voice booth “worthy.” But, every situation is different, every room is different, every voice is different. To knowledgeably create that space, you need to consult with someone familiar with how to do it.  Your “audio guy” (Who installs speakers for MUZAK) isn’t the one. Truly, only a handful of people really understand the unique environment of a HOME voice over studio. It doesn’t have to be expensive, you can use materials you already have, but you have to know WHAT its supposed to sound like. That takes understanding of how sound travels and how to attenuate or mitigate it. A home studio has to be “tuned.” You want to succeed? Consult an expert.

Now, room reflection. You can’t sound like you’re in bathroom! Yet you wouldn’t believe how many times I hear audio that sounds like it was recorded in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace at Versailles. So, unless a script calls for yelling in the French court of Louis the XIIII, its not right.

How do you accomplish that?  How do you create a non-reflective room? We’ll discuss that next week.

Picture by Quentar