Vocal Booth: build or buy?

As promised, here is a longer post about building versus buying a vocal booth for voice over recording. This is a cost-benefit analysis of building my booth.

Cost

When making my decision to build or buy a vocal booth two considerations were at the front of my mind:

  • The cost of building a booth
  • The cost of buying a booth
  • The amount of income I could make doing voice over during the time I built the booth

In shopping for prefabricated vocal booths that were at least 4 feet by 4 feet, I found that an entry-level model for a leading brand of vocal booth, like a Whisper Room cost about $5000, and the costs escalated from there. Other models were less expensive, about $3250, but no prefabricated booth could come close to the cost of building my own booth. I built my booth for $700 in materials and about 30 hours of work. But was this actually a good deal? How much is my labor worth?

Because I planned to do the work of building the booth, I deducted the cost of my labor from the income that I couldn’t make from voice over work while I was building. Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ average hourly wage for a carpenter, about $21/hour, 30 hours of labor is worth $630. Additionally, I wasn’t get paid to audition, and I didn’t have any paying projects while I was planning to build my vocal booth. Because carpentry work cost me much less than buying a vocal booth, and I didn’t have any other paying projects, it was worth my time to build the booth, rather than buy a booth to get me back to voice over work as quickly as possible. In other words, I save money by spending my time to build a vocal booth, and I also like building things.

Quality

How does my booth sound? Did I trade the quality of a prefabricated booth for a lower-quality product that I built myself? I don’t think so. My booth has zero reverberation or room tone. You can hear samples recorded in it here. External noises are reduced by 25dBA or more, depending on the frequency, and the interior is dead with no boxy sound at all. I’m thrilled by the acoustics of the booth.

With a double-wall, more insulation, and a double-door, it would be possible to reduce external sound even further, but a design like that would exceed the specs of any industry leading booth, like a Whisper Room, which only have one wall and a single door. Maybe I’ll build something like that in the future, but for this project, I wanted to improve my recording quality as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. This booth met that goal well.

Watch This

As someone who creates things for people, this video is inspiring. It’s 70 minutes long, but it’s worth it.

It digests the complexities of creating things for people. I thought the most helpful ideas were:

– Make work you care about for people who care. Who do you want to work for? Who should you work for? Are you working for those people? If not, what can you change to meet those people?

– Make work for the smallest viable audience. In other words, you want to find the right people who need your work. Don’t try to make work for everybody, unless you want to make work for nobody.

– You need to fit your clients’ story. Depending on your industry, clients don’t care if you have the coolest tools or the nicest office, but they most certainly care if you produce the best work, however that is measured. Distinguish between what is important to your story and what is important to your clients’ story.

The Productivity Revolution

The audiobook of Marc Reklau‘s title, The Productivity Revolution will be available soon, and I wanted to thank Marc for trusting me with his audiobook production.

It’s not often that I get to work on a project that makes a direct comment on the work I am doing, but that is exactly what happened while producing The Productivity Revolution.

Every day I was in the studio, Marc’s words were right before me, inviting me to question whether my work habits were as effective and efficient as they could be. This helped me notice some bad habits, and hopefully his book will do the same for you.