How a setback turned into a comfortable and creative space

In 2021 I decided it was time to upgrade from Studio-1, made with a PVC frame and duvets, to something more effective at consistently keeping sound out. I researched popular brands of fabricated booths, looked at DIY plans, and went so far as to get a studio designed for my detached garage. After an attempted garage conversion hit a major setback when the builder went out of business, I decided to use a room in my house as Studio-2. After comparing prices including shipping and some Return on Investment (ROI) analysis I contacted the fine folks at Kube Sound Isolation Ltd in Yorkshire, UK and placed an order for their Silver double-walled booth.

Delivery Day

After a surprisingly short wait for the booth to be built, transported to the English coast, and transferred to a Northern Irish firm to cross the Irish sea and make final delivery, I got a call to confirm delivery day. I was asked “do you have a forklift”, which was ominous but I knew I had specified a tailgate lift and expected it to be unloaded at the top of my gravel drive. The lone driver arrived in a light rain and struggled with the hand pallet truck to get it onto the lift. Unfortunately as he pulled to wrestle his pallet truck out from under the load…it shifted, slid to the edge of the lift, and flipped end over end falling about 4 feet to the ground! My heart sank as I watched an expensive piece of kit potentially turn into a pile of firewood!

We pushed it over twice to get it back onto the pallet and so I could assess the damage (if any). The photographs below were to be used if I needed to file a claim. But to prevent any further damage from the rain, which was picking up, I ripped off the broken bracing, peeled off the black plastic wrapping, and began to haul each very heavy panel and the few boxes of accessories down my drive and into my house one at a time. 14 trips later I was winded, my back and shoulders ached, and the driver was long gone.

Assembly Time

Luckily there was no visible damage as I pulled each piece into the house and set it on the floor. I had to let them dry and check them more closely the following day. Would I find dings, broken corners, swollen joints from moisture? If I kept going would I discover missing parts? It was a day for faith and to tackle it once rested.

The room where the booth was destined to live was a small “L” shaped space just off from the front door. I had made sure it was freshly painted and the floor cleaned. I was going to lose access to one window and some outlets, but it was already quiet. So the next day, piece by piece, the pile outside turned into a vocal booth. All the pieces fit, bolt holes lined up, and Kube had well-labeled bags for parts and customised instructions along with color-coded dots. It was a simple (but heavy) process of matching the pink dots, blue dots, white dots, etc. and bolting or screwing them appropriately. Getting the door lined up with an equal gap was the hardest part but again Kube supplied spacers and a small pry-bar to make it straight forward.

The booth measures 1.5m wide X 1.8m deep X 2.1m high externally. This was the biggest standard size I could fit into the nook. Two walls have ventilation – one to let fresh air in and the other to exhaust it out. I also upgraded to a more powerful but quieter fan and I pull the air out of the booth versus pushing air into it. Kube builds air channels within the walls so the lower port on the outside is an upper port on the inside. They were fantastic about sending drawings and answering all my questions before I ordered the booth so I could plan where the fan would fit. And although it’s “quiet”, I don’t run the fan while recording for a job. It’s fine for practice or during coaching sessions…or if your use is something other than voice recording with a sensitive microphone.

Minimal Damage

I don’t know if it was the luck of the Irish or good Yorkshire craftsmanship, but the only damage I found during the entire build was these two small tears in the carpet on the lower part of the door. It’s on the inside so they were potentially covered by acoustic treatment. I simply took a black felt-tip pen and darkened the wood beneath so they weren’t noticeable. 

Given the tumble off the truck when it was delivered, I was so thrilled there wasn’t any structural damage that I tell this story as a testament to the build quality. This booth is built like a tank! The walls, floor, and ceiling are about 3 inches thick. Even the work shelf inside has the front edge doubled-up to give it more structural strength.

Treating and Filling the Interior and Workspace

The purpose of the booth is to keep unwanted sound out and keep the sound I create in. I’m lucky to live in the country so the external sound is fairly low, but there are occasional trucks that drive by, a helicopter fly-by, or an enthusiastic cow mooing for dinner. But a booth on its own has terrible acoustics. I declined the foam sold by Kube as part of their standard package (and they reduced the price accordingly), and instead ordered acoustic panels from GIK Acoustics Europe – also based in England. 

The panels on all four walls are 4-1/2 inches thick in a navy blue to match my brand. On the ceiling I have 2-5/8 inch thick panels to tame more reflection and use up minimal space. Hats off to GIK for offering free panel placement design based on the measurements of the Kube booth. I used small “L” brackets to mount the ceiling panels and the one on the door which covers the window.

To light what is now a very dark space, I installed LED strips in a track around the perimeter. I’ve added a few more lights over time such as a monitor light & webcam and a ring light. The best part – because I’m a nerd at heart – is that most of these are “smart” and connected by my Alexa system. Being able to say “Alexa, turn on the booth” and seeing it light up is such fun!

To actually do my job, I have a 28 inch second monitor connected to my Mac Mini which is outside the booth. This mirrors the primary monitor on my work desk. I also have a second wired keyboard and quiet mouse in the booth. On top of the monitor a bar light which shines on the keyboard and has a webcam built in. I’ve installed two boom arms and they hold my Sennheiser MKH-416 shotgun microphone, and a Rode NT1 large diaphragm condenser microphone. These are both connected with Mogami XLR cables to an SSL-12 audio interface. I also run a Rode Podcaster microphone from my work desk into the interface for taking calls on Skype, Zoom or Meet sessions, or socials with my voice over friends. Since I generally stand when I record there’s a thick memory foam kitchen mat on the floor. And if I get a marathon job there’s a wobble stool tucked under the work shelf – also in Gibson Voice Over navy blue.

The Final Results

The last piece of the studio was a small work desk outside where I spend much of time. Above it I have a GIK acoustic panel with a printed image of a lightning storm. This helps with reflections when I’m talking online, and inspires me to think creatively and have big ideas. I put the Mac Mini and a USB hub under the desk to keep the space clean. The monitor outputs from the audio interface are wired with a stereo TRS cable to a Mackie Big Knob on the desk so I can control the volume on a second set of headphones independently from the interface in the booth.

In the end, I’m very happy with Studio-2. My noise floor is within the standards for a professional or broadcast studio, measuring in at -65 dB. The panels are doing a good job at controlling the reverberation found in any small booth. I’ve since added a few 12 inch foam base traps to see if I could prevent even more boxiness before addressing my sound with processing. I’ve tested how effective it keeps sound out, and can comfortably have the refrigerator running, the tumble dryer tumbling, and a bath draining or toilet flushing above me without picking it up on my equipment. 

If I were to go back in time the only thing I would change would be to raise the height of the booth. I have 9-1/2 inches between the top of the booth and the ceiling of the room. And while it makes for convenient storage, I’d rather have more of that space inside the booth.

Studio-2 Tour

Come with me into Studio-2, where I genuinely love to work on client projects and my business. A tidy space to keep my tasks under control, yet light and open so I can express myself. And the best part is…it sounds as good as it looks!