Maryland is a great place to live!
It’s got everything – beaches, parks and mountains. It only takes a few hours to get to DC and Philly. And with just a 5 hour drive you can go to New York City for an extended weekend.
My voice over studio is located on the beautiful eastern shore of Maryland.
Which just happens to be a perfect place for a voice over talent to have a studio!
Thankfully, in the part of Maryland where my studio is located, it’s relaxed, it’s rural, it’s farmland.
And most importantly for recording, it’s quiet and free of many outside noise disturbances.
If you’ve ever had to deal with a barking dog or car alarms while recording, you already know how much of a concern it is to prevent outside noise from making its way into the studio.
Here are a few photos (courtesy of Josh Hastings) from the surrounding area to give you an idea of the outside factors I’m working with:
So as you can imagine, I’m not battling to keep the sounds of traffic, sirens or neighbors out of my audio recordings.
Now do you see why the eastern shore of Maryland is a great place for a recording studio? Of course the whole area isn’t like that but it is where my studio is located.
As far as outside noise is concerned, birds singing, cows mooing, horses neighing and the occasional airplane (usually a crop duster) is about it. It’s rare for me to ever be interrupted from something happening outside.
In other words, I’m not as worried with outside noise making its way into the studio.
I’m more concerned with controlling the sound within the studio (echo off the walls when I voice).
A Voice Over Studio Needs To Start With Silence
I should note that all of my equipment (computer, hard drives, processor, printer, etc.) is located in a well ventilated closet. The recording studio room itself is 100% silent. No fans or noisy hard drives to interfere with recording.
I know some voice over talents work in a closet or a small vocal booth. I spend so much time voicing everyday, I don’t like the idea of being confined in an area that small for that many hours a day.
So I decided a long time ago to keep my studio gear in the closet (it hasn’t complained yet) and I get to record in an open studio.
But having the microphone in a large open area makes finding a solution for sound absorption even more important.
Why Does the Room Need Sound Absorption?
Without something to absorb the sound you create (voice over, music, singing), the microphone will pick up the echo from the walls. This echo just doesn’t work for voice over.
Some people may not even notice the echo in a room it’s so minor. Even a slight room echo though, will find it’s way to your microphone and into your recordings.
You really have to listen to hear it and then work on treating it.
A quick and easy way to hear the echo and judge for yourself how badly your room needs acoustical treatment, is to clap loudly. If you hear the clap more than once, that bounce back you hear is what you need to treat.
The goal of sound absorption is to control the sound waves bouncing off the walls so you end up with clean, echo free voice over.
My Original Acoustical Treatment
Years ago when first setting up the VO studio, I hung sound blankets with grommets (also used as moving blankets) from hooks on the ceiling to create an echo-free fortress around the microphone.
My wife referred to it as “The Cave”. The sound blankets reduced the echo some but didn’t get rid of all of it. I wanted better control of the room echo.
And I grew tired of working behind the curtains. It was dark, hot, and felt closed in (I might as well be voicing in the closet).
I started my search on forums and blogs to find a better solution and decided I needed acoustic foam.
Finding The Best Studio Foam
Like with most forums, there was a lot of debate on what was best.
I found graphs analyzing how many decibels different types of foam products absorbed.
Some recommended using egg crates, just buying mattress foam pads or inexpensive low quality foam, and others said Auralex Acoustics studio foam was the way to go.
I did more research and payed special attention to what other studios were using.
I found myself more impressed with those who used Auralex foam vs. the ones using a cheaper foam. I noticed cheaper foam seemed to crumble with age and wondered how well it would hold up over the years. I was also worried the cheap foam wouldn’t do as good of a job.
I decided Auralex was for me.
One other deciding factor for me personally was that I like to have top of the line equipment, products and brands in my studio. Not only because I want dependability and reliability, but I want my clients to be extremely happy with my work.
So I tend to go higher end when it comes to my studio. By selecting Auralex, I knew I’d have professional grade studio foam.
What to Buy and How Much Do I Need?
So now I knew I wanted to use Auralex in my studio. But before I bought studio foam, I needed to know exactly what to buy and how much of it.
That was another one of the benefits of choosing Auralex that I realized later. Auralex offers an awesome FREE personalized Room analysis.
It was simple! I measured up the studio (including where the mic was placed in the room, ceiling height, location of doors and windows, etc.) and recorded a quick audio sample with no sound treatment at all. I sent the room diagram and audio file to Auralex via their website.
Within a few days I was contacted by Ben Carlisle, an Application Specialist, who sent me my suggested plan of acoustical treatment and placement.
As you can see below, the plan I received shows the ceiling and walls of the room and the suggested location for each panel.
The plan also gives dimensions from the ceiling, so I was able to place it exactly as Ben suggested and where it would make the most impact in the studio.
My room analysis showed that my best bet was the Auralex Roominators Project 2 acoustic sound control kit. This particular kit included 24 Studiofoam 2’x2’x2″ wedge panels, 8 LENRD Bass traps and several tubes of adhesive.
Having the room analysed by a professional was very valuable.
I ordered the sound control kit from Musicians Friend.
The Studio Foam Installation
The kit came with several tubes of adhesive. The idea is to squeeze out the adhesive on the back of the foam panels and glue them to the walls and ceiling.
I’m sure the adhesive would have worked great!
But I’m a do-it-yourself kinda guy and drywall repair is one of my least favorite tasks. I couldn’t bring myself to put so much glue on the drywall.
I knew if I ever decided to move the studio, pulling off all that glue would probably ruin the foam and cause some drywall damage.
I could just imagine all the repair work I’d have to do in order to patch and paint the drywall. No thanks. I wanted it to be easy to remove.
So instead of using the adhesive to hold the panels in place, I had heard of another option using sewing pins.
I purchased a couple boxes of T-pins from Hobby Lobby.
I used four T-pins per panel and just pushed them into the valley of the foam and into the drywall.
The ceiling required a few extra T-pins to make sure the foam panels didn’t sag.
The T-pin head is so small you don’t even notice it’s there.
I will still have little holes all over the place to patch if I ever remove the foam, but that seems minor. And I’ll definitely take that over ripped drywall paper.
The Proof is in The Audio
Installing the foam completely changed the room for the better! Of course the foam looks great in the studio but I’m dealing with audio and I wanted results I could hear.
I didn’t notice it during install but when I walked into the studio for the first time afterwards, I could hear the difference instantly. I was able to hear silence in a new way.
The studio immediately sounded warm and closed in but still really comfortable.
Now I’m able to work in an open studio but sound like I’m in a vocal booth.
Working with the Auralex studio foam, I could tell it was high quality material.
I think it turned out great! The voice over studio is open and comfortable and sounds great!
I don’t notice that I need it but I do plan on getting more panels to fill in the gaps because I’m sure it can only improve it even more.
What Do You Think?
Have you used Auralex studio foam or any other type of sound absorption material in your studio?
How did it turn out for you? Did you get the results you were hoping for?
Let me know below. And if you have any questions on my setup, I’m happy to answer any questions.