Illustration for article titled How to Build a Home Recording StudioPhoto: Sata Production (Shutterstock)

If you’re a podcaster, musician, or actor working during the pandemic, having a home recording studio can be critical to your business. This year most of the recording work has moved to our homes, but it often still requires professional sound. Unfortunately, creating a home studio isn’t the most intuitive DIY project. In fact, you can feel completely lost without a professional guiding you. With a little investment and ingenuity, you can produce studio-quality sound from home. Here are a few steps to get the best sound quality from your makeshift room.

Soundproof a small room

Soundproofing is essential when it comes to producing clean, clear audio. Larger rooms have more surface area for sound to pass through, and rooms with bare walls or high ceilings create an echo that is picked up by any microphone. Angela Sarakan, Senior Audio Producer at Dipsea, advises, “It takes more than a microphone to capture high-quality sound. You need to try to absorb as much sound from your surroundings as possible.” Sarakan notes that the easiest and cheapest way to do this is to sit under thick blankets with your microphone while you record or, aside from that, in a closet full of clothes that will buffer the sound. From experience I can say that the former method works once, but under these lids it can get hot and sweaty. For consistent recording sessions, a semi-permanent setup is much more convenient.

I spoke to sound engineer Daryl Bolicek from Wild Horse Recording, LLCwho advised me on the best soundproofing solutions for the home. Bolicek notes that a closet is indeed perfect for fitting out with soundproofing materials – the small space naturally limits the echo and is more soundproof. If you don’t have a closet that is big enough, you can use any normal sized room as long as you can furnish it with the right sound absorbing materials.

Illustration for article titled How to Build a Home Recording Studio

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Use sound absorbing foam

If you have a budget to work with, the fastest way to set up your home studio is Sound absorption foam. The material is similar to ice box foam, is thick, and comes in a limited range of colors like black, red, or blue (if you want to use a color scheme). It’s pretty cheap – between $ 30 and $ 48 for a pack of 12 ‘x 12’ panels, enough to cover up to 48 square feet of space. The good news is, you don’t have to cover your walls with foam from top to bottom. “You don’t have to do the whole room. You really want the front back and nail [walls] that fits the microphone, ”says Bolicek. The best way to make sure you’re covering your bases is to draw an X on the wall opposite the microphone in front of and behind you. The Xs mark areas where the sound hits the wall and bounces straight back into the microphone. Hence the most urgent need to install your foam.

A good soundproofing hack if you don’t have large closets or guest rooms is to use a small storage box. Make sure the box is big enough to fit your microphone first. Then line them with sound absorption foam and place the microphone inside. This setup is suitable for voice-over gigs, poetry recordings, or emceeing – any recording where a person speaks directly into the microphone. I went even further to attach the foam to one tri-fold presentation board this covers a larger space so that I can record while standing. (A tri-fold board can accommodate two people at the same time.)

As with any device purchase, you get what you pay for. “The more expensive, the better the foam,” says Bolicek. So if you invest in your business, the better foam will give better results. Cheaper foams work, but more expensive foams – when combined with other high-quality equipment upgrades – can make a noticeable difference. Personally, when listening to podcasts, I’ve found that the subject is more difficult to enjoy when it’s hard to hear or the audio mix is ​​severely disrupted. The better the sound quality, the more engaged your listeners will be (especially since they have nothing to do visually). Quality materials are more important to professional musicians and speakers because your career depends on your ability to produce high quality recordings.

Illustration for article titled How to Build a Home Recording Studio

Invest in the right microphone

As with soundproofing materials, the more money you spend on your recording equipment, the better your end product – and the first thing you should do is get a microphone. You don’t have to break the bank; Just make sure you get the right microphone for your space, needs, and budget. I use AKG XLR condenser microphones to record my voice over gigs and an entertainment podcast. Condenser microphones are easy to find, relatively inexpensive (like microphones cost – $ 99), and offer great sound quality for the price.

However, condenser microphones are very sensitive and require a well-soundproofed room to avoid unwanted noise. For this reason, Bolicek suggests investing in a dynamic microphone. Dynamic microphones are not as sensitive or pick up as much background noise as a condenser microphone. If you want an excellent dynamic microphone, it will cost you significantly more (between $ 400 and $ 500). You can find some for as little as $ 99, but you should do your research ahead of time to make sure the quality is up to date.

Illustration for article titled How to Build a Home Recording Studio

Use an external audio recorder

After you’ve set up the room and selected your microphone, you need the right equipment to capture clean sound. Depending on which microphone you choose, you may be able to connect it directly to your computer using a USB cable. However, these cables are less durable and do not always provide the best sound quality. Instead, use a sound recorder to record sound from an external microphone and store it on your computer or an SD card. Programs that turn your cell phone or tablet into a microphone with recording software are not reliable. Sarakan notes with an external microphone and audio recorder are preferable to using your computer’s speakers or a phone app as this gives you greater control over the fidelity (which minimizes the risk of sound distortion).

I use a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 with my condenser microphone for voiceover work. The Scarlett connects seamlessly to Garageband on my computer and costs about $ 159 for a model with two mic ports. When recording our bi-weekly podcast, my co-hosts and I use one H6 zoom recorder (Not to be confused with the video call service – I’m talking about hardware). The zoom recorder works better for multiple users and has connections for up to six microphones. (This was more relevant in pre-pandemic times). It’s a bit more expensive – around $ 329 – but older versions (H5 or H4) can be a cheaper option between $ 229 and $ 279 and are of comparable quality. Both recorders work very well, but I find the Scarlett easier to use when it’s just me and my computer.

Building a home studio is an investment. So take your time to plan and save. Recording a better sound can bring a great return on your investment.