This post might be a little more niche than the ones I usually write, but I thought this was still an important DIY project to share. There are tons of uses for home recording aside from what I use it for. Perhaps you are an aspiring singer or musician, or you are a filmmaker or animator and need high quality audio but don’t have the money for expensive studio time. Whatever the use, this is a fun, easy, and fairly inexpensive project.
I’ve been doing voiceover commercials for television and radio since I was three years old. Kind of unusual, I know. Anyway, with recent shifts in technology, the industry and the way we submit auditions has changed quite a bit. Most actors booking frequent gigs have home studios of some sort, and the turnover time went from a week to sometimes a day (when I first started out, cassette tapes would have to be snail-mailed to the clients!) It has become necessary to have some kind of home recording situation, and though I tried recording auditions with my phone for a while, the sound quality wasn’t great, and my takes suffered. My agent said things like “sit in your closet and put a blanket over your head,” or “put pillows against the walls around you in the closet,” but nothing seemed to boost the quality. That was when I did some research…
First, after looking over a lot of home-studio equipment, I gave myself a budget. Most home studios can cost a few grand, but there was no way I was going to pay that. I considered what kind of quality I needed, and decided my budget was $200. Very skimpy!
Next, I had to consider where exactly I was going to put this studio. I could clear out my tiny closet, and purchase soundproofing foam to panel the walls, but that seemed like a HUGE undertaking, as well as a giant waste of space! As I searched for soundproofing foam, I stumbled upon these:
This concept seemed so simple. Why hadn’t I thought of it originally? All I needed to do was put the microphone and sound in a soundproof space, not my entire body! Duh! But $300? And some of these didn’t even include microphones! I knew I could make one cheaper. I now had a new price point in mind because of the $39.99 box listed above. I had to make my studio for less than $40 (before the microphone and mic stand cost).
The first item I needed to secure was the actual box. I could tell these were made with a soft fabric, so that there would be maximum sound absorption. I found several different boxes on Amazon, at the local hardware store, and at Ikea. Once I did a little comparison with soundproof foam measurements, I deduced the Ikea box was not only the cheapest, but the best size to fit the foam and a microphone. This box was only $5.99! And, it is collapsible, and has a back zipper which would be perfect to put microphone wires through so I wouldn’t have to cut holes in it!
Next, I had to secure the foam. I decided I only needed four pieces (one for the top, one for each of the sides, and one for the back). I compared prices, and the cheapest pieces I could find were on ebay. I wanted the foam to be at least two inches thick, and I was able to find 12″x12″ pieces for $4 each with free shipping (after using ebay’s “OR BEST OFFER” option and haggling with the seller a little). So I spent $16 total on foam.
My box was complete for under $22! Almost half the price of the cheapest box listed on Amazon.
My next step was finding a good microphone. I knew I wanted a condenser microphone, and that I wanted it to be digital (rather than having to buy extra adapters to plug it into my computer to record). I searched for all of the microphones under $100 on Amazon, and fell in love with one due to the many good reviews. It was the CAD U35 USB Studio Condenser Recording Microphone. When I purchased it, the price was only $49.95 (It has since raised to $64.99, which is probably closer to the price it is worth. I really can’t say enough good things about this microphone).
Next, I had to consider recording software. That was a no brainer. I went with Audacity. Not only is it free, but it is user friendly and works great if not better than a lot of paid software I’ve played around with. I was an audio major for a semester in college and worked with some really expensive softwares, but Audacity provides the same quality recordings for FREE! I think, perhaps, if I was mixing sound or editing a lot more than I do, I’d prefer a different software, but for what I need it for, and for beginning recording, you can’t beat free!
So there you have it, all of my supplies (including recording box, microphone and software) for a grand total of $71.95! That was less than half of what I had allowed myself to spend! And as for assembly, I simply propped open the box, put the mic chords through the zipper in the back and shoved the soundproofing foam inside (I did this while the foam was still compressed from shipping, that way it expanded to fit perfectly. No glue required!) It was so easy. The beauty of this box is also that it only takes up a little over a cubic foot (13″x15″x13″). I can easily store it under a desk, in the closet, pretty much anywhere, and it is ready to go when I need it!
So now I have this box, and I’ve been using it for a few months. I can’t believe the quality of the recordings I get out of it. Neither can my agents! It seriously sounds that good! So whether you need a recording box for something professional, or you just want to make one to have some fun, this is a super easy way to get high quality recordings for cheap!