Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Soundproofing and Recording: Part I

Last Friday, Voice123 held a Meetup at David Zema’s recording studio in New York City. We all discussed soundproofing and recording from home. David Zema wrote a blog on the topic. Today’s blog will be about ‘soundproofing’, and you will see the extreme limits one must go to when working in the 'city that never sleeps' as a voice talent:

"I have been recording audio since I was 12 years old and shooting video since I was 18. I have sound proofed over twenty spaces in the last 20 years. One thing I have learned about soundproofing is that I am always working to improve it.

When I finally got my last studio to the point that I thought was perfected, I had to move because a noisy performance space had set up operation on the floor below. Their speakers were located right beneath my sound booth. It was going to take layers of lead and concrete to muffle that noise! In 2008, I moved to my current location at 1123 Broadway. The room I rented had previously been a recording studio, and the building has solid walls built in 1896. But it took layers of plexi-glass (acrylic) and homasote to muffle the sounds reverberating up from 25th Street.

Then along with hanging many baffles made of Berber carpeting and soundproofing foam fro
m Marketek, I found a used soundproof isolation booth on ebay. I added more soundproofing materials to the isolation booth and now everything is quiet enough to record. Additionally, I use pipe insulation on an iron based mic stand for a second corner area used for recording. This area uses a cork board, Marketek foam, Berber carpeting and a vinyl mat on top of the carpet to deaden sound before it reaches the mic. Remember that separation of your computer equipment from your microphone will reduce unwanted noise and vibration. Using the quietest equipment you can get is the ultimate goal. Consider a solid state digital recorder that is noise free as an option for small spaces. The microphone enclosure is another option if you can't soundproof an entire room. Materials that have mass or density are used to stop sound.

Homasote and even special sound resistant sheet rock called QuietRock, fiberboard, soundboard,
fiberglass insulation and another materials when used properly have enough density to stop some frequencies. However, these materials will most likely need professional installation by a soundproofing contractor to be done properly, or require a patient ‘do-it-your-self’ craftsman with tools and a lot of time. Concrete, sand, lead and mass-loaded vinyl are used in professional sound studios, but are very expensive and not an option for most apartment renters."

Coming up on Friday...Part II: Recording! David Zema is a voice over coach with Voice123. If you are ever interested in sharing a blog, please do so with the Voice123 community, or please email it to! We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

Tell us what you think, and if you found this helpful!

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Jamie Muffett said...

This was a great meetup and lots of good advice here about soundproofing/treating without paying a fortune for Auralex sheets.

Having said that, you can find used acoustic foam on Ebay/Craigsist, usually at a fraction of the RRP. Or in a dumpster somewhere shady, as was discussed on Friday - ha!

Chris said...

Hey I just read an article where a product called "Acoustiblok" was used to quiet the largest film studio in Ireland. The article can be found here:

D. Saunders said...

I think it's really important to make a distinction between "soundproofing" and "acoustics"

Soundproofing is the lead and concrete and bricks that keeps outside noise out. Windows are a big problem in this space.

Acoustics is the treatment inside a room to reduce/eliminate echoes and resonant frequencies and other reflected noise. foam pads and bass traps are good solutions here.

I've found that just putting lots of "stuff" in your studio room really helps the acoustics and deadens the reflected noise: furniture, bookcases, small tables and lamps in the corners. The walls and corner joints are your noisiest hot spots. put up plenty of art. Even my new 46" flatscreen TV really blocked low frequency reflections, even though it has a shiny front face.

Wall stuff that is mounted out from the wall by an inch or so are even more effective at trapping reflections.

Additionally, if you put your microphone in a super-muffled place inside a room that has been reasonably treated you can get even quieter. For example, my mic is set in front of a foam-pad-loaded shelf within a large built-in oak bookcase in my office/studio. The final quality of my voice tracks are very quiet.

BTW, I've found the best way to listen for noise is to use a studio monitor headset, and then set the volume as high as you can be comfortable with when you listen to a mic-check or track. I can pick up air-vent noise and computer fan noise when I do that. Certainly any flutter echoes would pop out when scrutinizing the track like that.

(note: I suggest only using high volume occasionally to check for noise, not as a regular practice -- ouch!)

Here's an awesome book on the subject:


Kymberly said...

Great specific info here - and yeah DS - I've found that lots of "stuff" helps enormously - I've currently renovated an actual closet - and put most of the clothing back in as it is enormously effective in reducing room noise. I like the idea of turning up the volume as a troubleshooting method. Thanks!