A space where no one can hear you scream

bind00

New member
Hi. I want to build a small sound room primarily for recording vocals. The purpose is quite specific - to get a better performance from myself by reducing the inhibition of knowing I can be heard by neighbours when singing louder. Some people don't have a problem with that kind of thing. I do and that's a given.

The studio is a spare bedroom about 17' x 14' which is mostly fairly quiet with quite thick, solid party walls either side. So my goal is not to eliminate all sound leakage, but to get louder singing inside (not really screaming) down to, say, ordinary speech level outside which wouldn't register beyond the containing room. So rather than over-engineer a complete sound block I'd prefer to reduce the overall wall thickness to maximise internal space for a given footprint. Been reading about gypsum and acoustic metal stud but open to suggestions.

OK, I said small. Ideally I'd like to keep the external dimensions to around 5'6" x 4'6". Room ceiling is 10' and I'm 6'2" so maybe 8'+ inside (?). At this stage I'd like to just establish that it's even realistic to achieve the above goal with this kind of dimension. I've assumed that it would have to be made acoustically dead and apply reverb in the DAW later and to the monitor for performance. But a space this small - can I achieve a good sound?

By the time I've built the walls, then treated them internally, I have to consider what internal space will be left. I'll be standing. I've tried to mock up an internal space 3'6" x 4'6" and it didn't feel too claustrophobic.
Happy and safe New Year and I look forward to your comments.
 

mjbphotos

What?!?
HI've tried to mock up an internal space 3'6" x 4'6" and it didn't feel too claustrophobic.
Happy and safe New Year and I look forward to your comments.


How long do you think you can breath in a small enclosed box that size? It will also get hot - so ventilation needed, which then kills the 'soundproofing' idea. Tiny vocal booths seldom work for anything other than voice-over work, as the sound is just 'dead'. But for singing, the sound may be boxy or have other resonant frequency issues.
There are several companies out there selling 'vocal booths'. There efficiency and claims are questionable.

If you were to build a 'room within a room' with standard building materials, what about the weight - are you on the ground floor with a suitable foundation/concrete floor? Remember that you need to completely decouple the 'room' from the floor, other walls and the ceiling. Not cheap (or light). I question the STC ratings on a 'acoustic metal stud' supplier online (52) as the number really depends on the frequency. Of course, a stud wall, packed with insulation and 2 layers of sheetrock/gypsum on each side - decoupled from the floor - will cut down on a lot of sound transmission. Add some rockwool panels on the inside, and you will get more and absorb some of the bad reverb of the small room.
 

Bongo Bill

New member
I was involved with overseeing the design and building of some government contractor rooms called SCIFs which are for having top secret conversations about ____??? Some of the construction specifications that I recall were caulking at all dissimilar joints (between studs and sheet rock and floor, etc). Double sheetrock layers (there was sheet rock that had a layer of steel on one side but that may have been more to keep out spies/listening devices), doors were sound rated had thresholds that would drop down to fully seal when closed, grout packed in metal jambs, rubber seals around other 3 sides of jamb, z-dampers for HVAC (if you put one in you would have plenty of air so no worries on that front), flexible boots for ducts, double-rocked walls, white noise machines. I'm sure you can accomplish something that works pretty darn well w/o going to extreme measures and some of these details may help combined with applying appropriate insulation.

A better option may be what I've seen at some furniture suppliers lately. It's a portable room designed for offices so people can have a private conversation. They have glass so wouldn't feel confined and available in various sizes. You may need to pull a window if you have a single standard door. I stepped in one for the fun of it and yelled just to see if the person who was with me could hear me and they couldn't. Pretty neat. I would bet is a less expensive option that wouldn't be such a permanent modification.
 

Orson

Member
Whenever you sing or talk you use your body to express yourself properly. This means moving your arms and upper body. A sound booth needs to be big enough to be able to do that. You will also need to feel comfortable while in the booth........and for more than 5 minutes. What you are proposing is just one step up from a coffin.

I would say you will lose approx 16"/400mm off your dimensions for construction materials, insulation and treatment. That may give you internal dimensions of approx 38"x50"/970mm x 1270mm. That would be only giving you 4"/100mm of insulation. That thickness would be great but it certainly will not be 100% and stop your screaming being heard outside. So the dimensions here would be the best you could achieve.

More expensive but a better job would be to insulate and treat your entire studio room ...... job done! Or being as you have lots of space .... build a decent size sound booth instead of a broom cupboard.
 
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rob aylestone

Well-known member
Don’t forget that all you need to build is something to make you quiet insourcing room, and then your party wall will drop it form your neighbours room, so total isolation is not needed. Small booths really do get hot and also the proximity of all the sound absorbing materials argues with your eyes in your brain, and the effect can be quite unsettling. You will get used to it, but first impression is very strange. Personally, if it’s too small to go in with a guitar around your neck it’s too small to sing in.
 

bind00

New member
Thanks for all your replies. Given me plenty to think about.

...all you need to build is something to make you quiet insourcing room, and then your party wall will drop it form your neighbours room, so total isolation is not needed...
Exactly. Key design point. Considering thinner walls for more space inside given available footprint. See OP. And yes, ability to record acoustic guitar a bonus.

You will also need to feel comfortable while in the booth........and for more than 5 minutes.
Yes, this is the thing I won't know till I try it I guess. Fortunately I'm not a windmill singer. Typically I might do three takes of a song to comp outside. Say, 10-15 min at a time. But also, to practise sing more than I do.

How long do you think you can breath in a small enclosed box that size? It will also get hot - so ventilation needed, which then kills the 'soundproofing' idea.
Fair point. Simplest solution, just open door between takes. Otherwise, ventilation by maze traps and multiple low power fans seems to be the thing. Ideally I'd design to be able to add the latter if former doesn't work out.

Tiny vocal booths seldom work for anything other than voice-over work, as the sound is just 'dead'. But for singing, the sound may be boxy or have other resonant frequency issues.
This is perhaps the crux of my questions at this stage. Basic viability. Regardless of comfort, avoiding asphyxiation, etc. Yes, I've accepted it will be dead. This seems to be accepted for many larger designs too, with reverb added in the DAW. Is there any difference in the tonal quality of a deadened smaller space? Could it be made the same. Because, yes I've wondered that many of the smaller examples I've read about are for voiceover rather than singing. Is that perhaps more about giving singers greater freedom of movement?

...I'm sure you can accomplish something that works pretty darn well w/o going to extreme measures...
They have glass so wouldn't feel confined and available in various sizes.
Thanks. Lots of tricks. Re glass, when I think of the insulation of some standard double glazed windows I reckon that level of attenuation is not far off what I'm after. Thing about a lot of glass though is reflections - acoustic that is. Thinking of a smallish double thick acrylic window.

My gut feeling is that, if a small space can be deadened sufficiently then external leakage is less of an issue. It's still an 'if' though and if yes I'd need to estimate the thickness of internal panels to achieve it. (Since found a useful thread at gearslutz titled "Is a totally dead room useful for a small home studio?" which puts it succinctly.)
 

notCardio

I walk the line
I'm in almost exactly the same boat as you as far as what I want and why, just that I'm willing to make the box a little bigger.

Does a small dead box sound different than a big dead box? Short answer, yes. Depends a little on what you want out of it, though. If it's just to practice in, who cares? If it's to record in too, then that's a different story.

And VO is different because of the lower volume of the vocal, the limited range of the vocal, and the amount of air your moving and breathing.

I hope you don't mind the smell of your own sweat.
 

bind00

New member
I'm in almost exactly the same boat as you as far as what I want and why, just that I'm willing to make the box a little bigger.

Does a small dead box sound different than a big dead box? Short answer, yes. Depends a little on what you want out of it, though. If it's just to practice in, who cares? If it's to record in too, then that's a different story.

And VO is different because of the lower volume of the vocal, the limited range of the vocal, and the amount of air your moving and breathing.

I hope you don't mind the smell of your own sweat.
Thanks for that notCardio. Sorry, didn't see the notification if there was one. Haven't taken the plunge yet but about to.

You confirm what I suspected about the difference with VO. Just going to have to try it I guess. The bit about screaming in the title was click bait. I won't be going crazy.
My latest coffin iteration is now about 5'4" in length and about 3'8" wide inside.
As said, it doesn't need total acoustic isolation - the room is quite well insulated itself. I'd read all about double gypsum, floating walls, stuffed rockwool, etc, etc. But I figured an internal gypsum layer would have to be treated with acoustic panels for reflections losing more internal space. So instead I'm thinking of a single gypsum outer layer against an exterior ply shell for rigidity of fixings. And simply line the interior with fabric-covered 100mm rock wool which will provide both acoustic deadening and much of the sound isolation.

And just to make it not too easy it'll have five sides and fold when not in use. ;o) Think wide wardrobe with assymetric over-sized doors that overlap when closed and meet at a right angle when open. There'll be narrower mic end and wider human being end.

Sweat? No sweat!
 
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