Podcasting from Home: Improve the Acoustics of Your Room

In this article I want to show you how to improve the acoustics of a room. This will help you reduce the echo in a room, and eliminate any ring to the voice. If you are looking for information on preventing outside sounds from entering the room where you record, that information is found in my article on soundproofing a room for podcasting.

Any room can be excellent for podcasting with a little work. My former office space was in an bank building built in the 1800’s. The only room available to podcast from was from within a steel bank vault. As you can imagine, the echo in a small metal bank vault was as bad as it gets, but with trial and error I came up with the following tactics that I outline below, and when I was done with the project, it sounded like I was recording in a sound booth.

The Two Best Ways to Eliminate Echo in a Room
Echo is created when sound bounces off surfaces repeatedly. The two best ways to keep this from happening is (1) Provide a more porous surface to trap the sound instead of reflecting it, and (2) Change the shape of the room to prevent sound waves from bouncing efficiently.

In a professional sound studio, acoustic foam is placed on the walls. Acoustic foam soaks up the sound wave and prevents much of the sound from reflecting off the surface.

Acoustic foam also breaks up the surface of the wall. The foam is not flat but instead has dramatic geometric shapes protruding from the foam which deflect the sound so that it does not continually bounce from one facing wall to another.

The problem with acoustic foam is simply that it is expensive, and looks ugly unless you want your office to feel like a padded cell in a psych ward.

First of All
Before doing any acoustic project trying to reduce the echo in a room, get a high quality directional podcasting microphone. With the mic that I use, I could record on the stage of an auditorium or in a tiny spare bedroom and the audio would sound nearly identical on the recording because the mic is so directional that echoing sounds around the room are not picked up.

My main motivation for improving the acoustics of my office was not so much for when I use my podcasting microphone, but more for when I use the cheap mic on my webcam to communicate with students or record a really fast video when I don’t want to break out the podcasting setup. Working on the acoustics of my office did help with my podcasting setup, but the difference is slight since the mic does its job.

Also, before working on the acoustics of an entire room, consider simply changing to a room with better acoustics. The best acoustics you’ll ever achieve are found in your own closet. With clothes everywhere around you and carpet below you, a closet is excellent at deadening sound.

Another inexpensive option is to simply get a small piece of foam and curve it around in front of the mic. Having this foam blocking echo right where it will be recorded is highly effective and much simpler than fixing the entire room.

My Solution
Go out to an army surplus store or hardware store and buy as much foam as you can buy within your budget. If possible, get foam that has ridges in it, but I have found that even the flat foam works quite well.

Instead of layering it all over your walls, hide it! I put it behind canvas gallery wrap photos on my walls, put a large piece behind the open back of my desk, behind an open-back shelf, etc. I stashed 6 full-size camping mats in my office and since they are neutral gray, you would never even notice them in the office unless you were looking for them.

I also included a large arm chair in my office which acts like a sound deadener as well.

My current office has plush carpet, but in my former office with tile floors, I purchased two rugs (one stacked on top of the other) to cover the floor, which dramatically reduced the echo in the space.

The difference in the echo of the room was dramatic with only this change. But there is more that you can do. Work to change the shape of the room by arranging the furniture differently. Instead of putting your furniture against the wall, find ways to put some of the furniture kiddy-corner to break up the way sound waves will bounce around the rooms. This also helped.

Comments

    1. Jim uses the Rode Procaster. I use the Audio Technica ATR 2100. You can find all of our recommended gear on our recommended setups page.

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