How to Make a Portable Sound Proof Vocal Box for Mobile Podcast
I am seeing a lot of podcasters with mobile rigs lately. This is great – you have to get our your podcast but your environment changes. Maybe you podcast from your dining room table or you take this rig to a hotel with you because your podcast is time-sensitive (TV show podcast, major event, etc).
One problem you run into is external noise – Maybe the walls in the hotel are thin or you are two doors away from the elevator, even the air conditioning is pretty loud. Heck, maybe the laptop fan is too loud, which is harder to get rid of because you need the laptop close to podcast.
Well fear not! I have an item you can easily fold into your suitcase then pull out if you need to kill some external sound.
Turn a Fabric Drawer into a Podcast Box
This item is the Closetmaid 5066 Fabric drawer. It is 8 inches by 15 inches by 17 inches so it will fit a microphone just fine. It has a cardboard-fabric bottom, which will allow the box to stand on its side without any issue.
Get the Closetmaid fabric drawer #5066 at Amazon
Simply open up the box, put the cardboard-fabric insert in, place your microphone inside and you are ready to podcast!
The canvas sides and cardboard-canvas backing will reduce any noise coming from the sides or behind the microphone. You will need to use a podcast microphone that can fit inside the box – this won’t work with iPhone headphones or if you use the mic straight from the laptop (if there is a fan to deal with). Make a couple holes to run cables through (it shouldn’t affect the sound too much) and you can put the laptop behind your box.
Adding Extra Sound Cancelling Foam to Podcast Box
I get weary when people just say “go buy audio foam and that will solve all your problems”. Truth is, you need an equal amount of bounce and cancellation. Too much foam and you’ll never get the high frequencies of the microphone or your voice. Your podcast may sound really bass driven, which could turn off listeners.
If you’ve ever walked into a recording studio, you might have noticed the walls are not completely made of foam. They have wood slats in pre-determined spots to bounce certain frequencies across the room. A wood floor is also noticable in recording studios. This makes the microphone sound much livelier without getting annoying room reverb.
To accomplish a sound block and still have a bounce in the box, I recommend going to your local hardware store and getting Dow Super Tuff-R 1/2 inch thick insulation. This insulation will kill a lot of sound inside and out, yet still have a bounce to give your microphone the high frequencies. They come in 8 foot by 6 foot sections, and your home improvement store might have smaller ‘scrap’ sizes or be able to cut the foam for you.
If you are a videographer, this stuff is great because if you flip it, the metallic-looking side acts as a reflector. Place a tap-light in the box to shine it up nicely.
With a piece of egg-foam or soundproofing foam behind the microphone and the TUFF-R insulation cut on the sides, this podcast box will kill outside sounds and still capture all the frequencies you throw at it.
Need More Sound Proofing? Use a Towel!
That’s the best part of a hotel – they usually have towels to spare. If not a towel, use a blanket. You can place the towell in the box, or even outside the box to further kill outside noise. Wrap the box in the comforter for more padding.
How do I Know I Have the Right Frequencies?
I install and use a program called TrueRTA or Real Time Analyzer. The idea of this program is to show you which frequencies are too much and which are not enough.
The idea is to get the RTA to display an arch effect. The lowest and the highest of frequencies will not be as loud as the mid frequencies.
This will get a close reading, but not exact. In order for that to happen, you will need an RTA microphone to really read the room frequencies. This simple setup will help tune in your microphone a little better.
The fabric box was $10. Insulation was $3-4 (but you might be able to get scraps at the hardware store for cheaper). The cancelling foam might just be the most expensive piece in this design.
Other Uses for a Sound Cancelling Box
There have been times where I was asked to record a panel of guests – where I only have a couple microphones to do so. By putting them in the box, I could have helped with room noise while the mic pointed at the speakers.
If you are micing a guitar amp, this box helps keep out other sounds. Sometimes, guitarists will have plastic shields that do the same thing.
Other tips: move the desk around to a street-facing wall. Use more towels around the outside of the box. It might not get rid of all the bad sounds but it can reduce them to a level where you can use software to fix the rest.
Now you are armed with a sound proof addition to your podcast. Get that show out and have fun. Let me know how your sound proof podcast box works out!