How well does treating a room with acoustic foam work for vocals?

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RobC
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Post 01 Aug 2022

I was thinking about turning a smallish bedroom into a vocal recording room.

Simple stuff, adding acoustic foam on the walls and ceiling, and getting some sound proofing carpet. That and obviously the recording system (with the computer being outside the room of course, so there is no fan noise and alike). And maybe a portable fake wall to cover the windows, too.

Would that be okay for recording full range (male vocal, spoken word, rap, but also beatboxing which is similar sounding to LinnDrum)? I'm okay with a bit of multi-band gating.

One thing is for sure, it would be MUCH more comfortable than recording the cheapo way - inside a car, where it's tricky to avoid comb filtering. : P (Even if car acoustics can sound delicious sometimes.)

I'll add the room size later. EDIT: roughly 230 cm / 90 inch (maximum)height; 208 cm / 81 inch width; 332 cm / 130 inch length. (Or in paws, 7.5 height 6.75 width 10.83 length)

Would the sound be dry in a DIY treated room, or would it be a disappointment?

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guitfnky
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Post 01 Aug 2022

since you’re only planning on recording there, the sound treatment can be less involved than it would need to be if you were mixing in the room. some carpet/rug and a bit of treatment on walls to cut down on flutter echoes should be sufficient.

shouldn’t need to worry too much about bass traps (which becomes much more important in a mixing environment). this is the one case where that cheap “studio” foam may actually be enough—that stuff is almost completely useless in a mix room environment in my experience, but should help a bit to deal with flutter echoes.
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DaveyG
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Post 01 Aug 2022

Before you go crazy on room additions try one of those foam reflection filters that mount directly behind the mic. Like this:

https://www.thomann.de/gb/the_tbone_micscreen_le.htm

Combine one of those with some simple sound deadening behind you (duvet/blanket/curtain) and you can get really good results for vocals.
There are cheap versions on ebay, expensive versions in the usual shops or you can even make your own. My first one was made from cardboard, normal packing foam and Duck tape, using no science whatsoever. It made enough of a difference to persuade me to buy a proper one which didn't really sound any different but was a whole lot easier to mount and robust enough to survive my clumsiness.

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huggermugger
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Post 01 Aug 2022

Dude, if your reference is recording inside a car, any room with a decent amount of furniture (good for diffusion) and not a lot of hard flat surfaces (flutter echoes and standing waves) will sound stellar by comparison. Recording vocals inside a car?? lol

RobC
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Post 01 Aug 2022

guitfnky wrote:
01 Aug 2022
since you’re only planning on recording there, the sound treatment can be less involved than it would need to be if you were mixing in the room. some carpet/rug and a bit of treatment on walls to cut down on flutter echoes should be sufficient.

shouldn’t need to worry too much about bass traps (which becomes much more important in a mixing environment). this is the one case where that cheap “studio” foam may actually be enough—that stuff is almost completely useless in a mix room environment in my experience, but should help a bit to deal with flutter echoes.
After I did some calculation, I realized that foaming up the whole room wouldn't be as cheap as I thought. x D But yeah, with a little brain work, the treatment can be done more efficiently from the looks of it.

Another thing is, after seeing some pics of rooms fully covered in acoustic foam, I got a bizarre feeling.

Thanks for the heads up!
DaveyG wrote:
01 Aug 2022
Before you go crazy on room additions try one of those foam reflection filters that mount directly behind the mic. Like this:

https://www.thomann.de/gb/the_tbone_micscreen_le.htm

Combine one of those with some simple sound deadening behind you (duvet/blanket/curtain) and you can get really good results for vocals.
There are cheap versions on ebay, expensive versions in the usual shops or you can even make your own. My first one was made from cardboard, normal packing foam and Duck tape, using no science whatsoever. It made enough of a difference to persuade me to buy a proper one which didn't really sound any different but was a whole lot easier to mount and robust enough to survive my clumsiness.
I've seen those, although there were some discussions on here, if I remember correctly, that they may or may not create other response issues. That said, they most likely can improve bad acoustics.
The other thing is, that the room has fairly good acoustics (for vocals), and it might be easier to silence the mild echoing and reverberation with a little work.
Thank you for the recommendation!
huggermugger wrote:
01 Aug 2022
Dude, if your reference is recording inside a car, any room with a decent amount of furniture (good for diffusion) and not a lot of hard flat surfaces (flutter echoes and standing waves) will sound stellar by comparison. Recording vocals inside a car?? lol
Privacy was a big issue, too. : P But it's not like you can't make a good recording with close micing and careful positioning - even if it's limited.

Anyways, the topic is treating a room now.

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bxbrkrz
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Post 01 Aug 2022

Look up: moving blankets soundproofing
And: DIY gobo
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guitfnky
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Post 01 Aug 2022

you’ll be happy to know you definitely don’t need to coat your entire room in foam in order to make things better. honestly, a rug underneath, and a little treatment on the walls opposite of where the vocalist and mic are located should suffice—less than 50 square feet of coverage should be more than enough. hell, even a bookcase on a wall or two will help, so you may not even need that much. I’d suggest to start with one of the small packs of treatment panels and see how much that helps before buying any more if you need it.
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Mataya
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Post 01 Aug 2022

Just use rockwool instead of foam and you'll be much happier.

M

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guitfnky
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Post 01 Aug 2022

rockwool or owens corning is not really necessary if you’re just tracking. couldn’t hurt, of course, but that stuff is better suited for more serious treatment when you’re trying to soak up low end.
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LABONERECORDINGS
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Post 02 Aug 2022

We've just redone our studio room here, bit of a rearrangement to maximise space and comfort, while still doing treatment. We found that adding a couple of bass traps (used fairly dense acoustic foam the local factory had left over from a 'room in a room' demonstration area to silence out the manufacturing lines, aroudn the 70kg-80kg/m3), some ceiling clouds (thinner framed like the bass traps in same foam), acoustic foam (grey pyramid) mounted onto 3mm hardboard with a drilled hole so we can hang them (saves sticking to the walls) does a fair amount to the room without over deadening. Even with the PC on, our fans are pretty quiet, we can always get a noise print of the studio 'silence' so we can subtract that with some plugins if we decide to, or we just simply gate the mic.

System fans: look up Noctua, we even modded our X32 mixer to have one since the noise from the stock fan was pretty loud, and we've got a couple in the PC too (one on CPU, one on exhaust fan) - having a 90degree motherboard also helps (so sockets which traditionally go down the back are actually on the top plane, keeps heat down = less fan noise...)

Shutting the door does 'seal in' the sound better, but if we want a bt of a natural 'what would this sound like in a regular space' we open the door and let the sound bounce around

You want to try a single clap in the room with the door shut, and the door open to get a feel of how the room changes the reverb / flutter / 'zing'. Softer furnishing are key here: adding things like heavy curtains can deaden too, carpeted flooring also can 'round off' a touch, hell even a sofa bed works (handy since you're converting a bedroom to a studio, so if you can fit a sofa bed in with your kit laid out, spare room still if you have long sessions). You want to try to absorb reflections if you can, but also you can break them up using things like CD racks/shelving (what are those?!?) and book shelfs / racking on the wall, make a bit of a diffusion system with them while being practical at the same time, at minimal cost, and practicality. You'll be surprised how much simple things like this can help out, double use too without the need for double space.

We run our system thorugh IK ARC 3, to see what sort of effect it has on the room (definitely a couple of nodes in ours mainly bass of course due to the dimensions), but ARC rescues those pretty well and tames the room to a nice even flat response.

What's your room dimensions? If more square shape, you might find some massive build ups at certain frequencies, and then when you move your head around you might unintentionally hit a nullspot where you near next to no bass (purely where the frequencies just cancel out) - adding a weird angle room (if you can afford it) also helps here, or a sloped ceiling can work. Lofts may be useful if you can afford the space / setup etc.

For some serious reading our friend got some books called The RA, which has some very impressive studio builds (famous ones) plus some basic detailed construction methods (like floating floor construction etc).

End of the day it comes down to budget >> affordability >> justification >> satisfaction. You can have a massive budget but may take a while to get to final satisfaction, but by that point Joe DJ has just put out 3 tracks he made on his laptop and headphones, and it's a banger... so it really does depend on what you want to do. If you have a smaller budget, do what you can on a shoestring, make as much of the acoustics yourself (bass traps are typically a 6in frame, MDF or other wood, foam lined inside then fabric wrapped). Had ours for years and they do the job well, and look good (quality fabric for aesthetics as well, so you can be arty here for added 'zen')

Recording vocals you also want the best affordable signal path. We've got a Slate ML1 and the preamp too, which is ace and really hits the spot, but if the room was an echoey cave, there's no way to get a great sound without some acoustic treatment. We've also got a reflection shield and yep you can TOTALLY hear the difference, it really does do what it should in smaller project rooms.

Overdeaden the room though can suck the natural sound out. We've done say 25% coverage (we might do more, but it works from our point of view) and you can tell a fair difference between door open and door closed, even walking in your voice stops echoing from the corridor so these little changes can make a big difference.

Hit us up if you have any other questions

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LABONERECORDINGS
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Post 02 Aug 2022

This - all day long. Get this as the 2ns step (you got the mic aready) and try what Davey said - get a curtain rail or something like (or even hang on the back of the door and close it) to create a double-dead zone. Have the mic up a little higher that normal for singers too as that helps get the sound projection a touch (or can do).

Also don't pressure the singer, if they are new to it reassure them, even if it takes 50 takes, there's no rush (we only charge per session, not per the hour as working to a clock can knock the signer / vocalist into a time-constraint frame of mind, which isnt good) - once they have a few sessions, it'll come easier.

We had a guy in doing hip hop raps and within 2hrs we had 3 tracks of his tracks wrapped up quite quick;

1) because the mic is what it is and it does exactly what it should (and it's looked after, another consideration ;) )

2) the template project was set up good to go (get a template made up specifically for recording, so you can import a track stereo stem / mixdown and record on a 2nd mixer channel, nice and CPU light) - turn on, load up, import track, start recording - minimal effort = maximum output - if the signer / vocalist is waiting for you to rig up that can suck life out of the project a bit

3) hydration for the singer - always a plus, and if the room is acoustic treated with door shut, may get warm

4a) regular breaks - do say 20-30mins (unless you've done faster of course) so you and the vocalist can have a break, the studio will always be there waiting ready to go when you get back or

4b) do it all in a oner if the vocalsit knows their songs, lyrics etc and can fire dem in da booth super fast - a 3min track done in one go saves time, catches the vibe, and means commiting straight away. A 2nd take may be better, but also may seem forced if they are trying to be perfect

All these steps above can benefit from the refelction shield and some acoustic treatment, no matter how simple or complex it may be. We're not mastering houses too, those guys do it all the time in the IDEAL environment with gold bullion budgets, so back on topic, yes do what you can to isolate the vocal as clean as you can with what you have, then decide what may help you further.

There's no hard and fast rules though, some artists actually recorded on stairwells and bathrooms for that extra effect (although you can't clean those as the rooms 'bake in' to the source signal)

RobC
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Post 07 Aug 2022

Firstly, I'd like to thank again everyone for all the great info! It's great to know that there are so many possibilities.

One major problem I ran into was: sound leaking out from, and into the room. Otherwise, generally, it would be fairly quiet.

I'm mostly concerned about sound leaking out. x D It's kind of awkward. And I can't be myself like that.

That said, I could add a fairly thick and large sponge from an unused single bed, on the outside of the door. And I have other such sponges/mattresses, some that fit into the window (though that's not too practical). The bedroom does have a single bed in it, and I can also add an armchair, which is yet again a nice, spongy material, coated in some textil material (so no leather or anything hard). There's also a wardrobe with open shelves - I actually wanted to store blankets there anyway, so that might help as well. Plus there's a basic thin carpet.
On the door area I could hang a blanket or something.

When clapping, there are places where it sounds like it would have a really short delay effect with feedback. About in the center, it has a short, smooth reverb.

Now, once I do my best with furniture, the question would be, what is the most effective solution to minimize reverberation/echoing (and sound leaking out)? I mean, what should have priority? The gobo for the microphone stand, professional foam for the walls, or those special curtains? (Also, seems that material, like rockwool is cheaper here - although thinner than the studio foams.)

Also, what microphone stand would you recommend? Large/tall tripod, or the arm type that can be mounted on desks or similar? (Although I could DIY myself out there, since there is an iron pipe or something on the ceiling - and I have plastic coated hard wires, which I could simply connect to the shock mount - even if it would look like shit x D ~ but hey, I can save money for room treatment, and just get cooler looking tools later. Only drawback is that it's in the center of the room.)
A good thing is, only I would use it, so that's less embarrassment, lol. It's the sound that matters. But I don't want it to be too ugly either.

I'll measure the room properly, but it's rather brick-shaped than square. 6.75 width 10.83 length, after all. The ceiling has both a flat part and a leaning part.

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selig
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Post 07 Aug 2022

Now you are moving from acoustics to isolation, and things get MUCH trickier/expensive. A “room within a room” is the only sure way to isolate. BTW, it works both ways equally - making it so sounds don’t leak out ALSO makes it equally able to keep external sound from leaking IN.
Sound can flow like water, so even with an otherwise perfect room and one ‘bad’ window, you’ll have issues. So your weakest link determines the amount of isolation you can achieve.
Here is a site that explains isolation (sound proofing) vs acoustic treatment (sound absorption):
https://www.soundproofcow.com/soundproo ... dproofing/
Selig Audio, LLC

RobC
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Post 09 Aug 2022

selig wrote:
07 Aug 2022
Now you are moving from acoustics to isolation, and things get MUCH trickier/expensive. A “room within a room” is the only sure way to isolate. BTW, it works both ways equally - making it so sounds don’t leak out ALSO makes it equally able to keep external sound from leaking IN.
Sound can flow like water, so even with an otherwise perfect room and one ‘bad’ window, you’ll have issues. So your weakest link determines the amount of isolation you can achieve.
Here is a site that explains isolation (sound proofing) vs acoustic treatment (sound absorption):
https://www.soundproofcow.com/soundproo ... dproofing/
Thank you again!

I'll be honest - after seeing those prices, I regret investing into the Rode NT1 (and the recording side of music). But it's too late now, so I gotta get creative with what I've got.

Clearly, I gotta seal those windows and that door as good as I can, and deal with remaining leaks by other means.

As for absorbing, what do you think about those gobo / vocal sound shields? (Can they maybe help a little with preventing sound leaking out as a bonus?) If they really work, then I'd likely rather get that first, instead of a microphone stand (since I can temporarily solve that, even if the DIY ugly way : ) ).

Reverb can be tamed, I think with a bit of close micing (thank god, spoken word, rap, beatboxing and trash like that actually benefits from the proximity effect), and again, gating.

That said, I'm not throwing my old USB microphone out either, since I can place that somewhere in the room to deliberately pick up ambience, and then use it for experimental Mid/Side micing. The Rode NT1 is cardioid, which could be the Mid; the USB mic is (a simple, yet pretty good little Samson Go Mic btw) dual-capsule, and works in cardioid or omni-directional mode, which could act as the side.

RobC
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Post 10 Aug 2022

LABONERECORDINGS wrote:
02 Aug 2022
What's your room dimensions? If more square shape, you might find some massive build ups at certain frequencies, and then when you move your head around you might unintentionally hit a nullspot where you near next to no bass (purely where the frequencies just cancel out) - adding a weird angle room (if you can afford it) also helps here, or a sloped ceiling can work. Lofts may be useful if you can afford the space / setup etc.

Hit us up if you have any other questions
To summarize, it's more brick shaped, and the ceiling has a slope.
As I said in the original post: 230 cm / 90 inch (maximum)height; 208 cm / 81 inch width; 332 cm / 130 inch length. (Or in paws, 7.5 height 6.75 width 10.83 length)
As for the slope, it's at 200 cm shortest height, and 80 cm width.

The room is at the corner of the house. And I remember that adding sealing to the windows and new silicone filling on the glass, worked wonders. I'll do that with the door as well. Ambience coming in from outside is minimal ~ multi-band gating could easily take care of that.

Carped, wardrobe, bed, armchair and PC desk can fit (and two fairly big "Hi-Fi" speakers that I never use).

So yeah, my choices currently are pretty limited. Originally, I wanted a microphone stand, but like I said in an earlier post, I can DIY that for now, and get a gobo instead.

I understand that one user said, anything is better than recording inside a car ~ just the car has little to no echoing or reverb, is very well sound proofed, and as such private.
This room, as is (just a bed, a wardrobe and two speakers), is pretty varied. Clapping sounds just awful in most places - it's most tolerable near the wardrobe, or above the bed, close to the wall. And by tolerable I mean that there's clean-ish reverb. And when testing just making an 's' sound, hissing around, I get similar mild "EQ" effects, just like inside a car. No doubt that recording inside a car is also a pain in the ass, so of course I want to drop that idea.

I'm at a total loss here regarding what to do. So I welcome any help, please.

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