Building a Better Acoustic Screen

After I resolved the issue of not having a monitor stand wide enough for my new laptop computer, I had to address the next item on my to-do list: building a proper acoustic screen to reduce extraneous noise when recording audio.  A major responsibility in my work is creating online training materials.  One part of this is recording the narration that accompanies the training.

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The condo unit I use as an office has concrete walls and ceilings and a tile floor.  From an acoustic perspective, the room is very “live”.  My previous arrangement was to use a stack of throw pillows, carefully balanced, to try and reduce the noise.  Not only was this prone to collapsing in the middle of a recording session, but it also didn’t do a very good job reducing the noise.

Over the past few months I had tried to source acoustic foam panels here in Bangkok, an elusive product that exists but nobody actually seems to sell.  Finally, after going to a high-end audio shop that I had been told would have the foam, an employee there told me to go to the Ban Mor district near Chinatown.  “That’s where everyone gets everything,” he explained.

Ban Mor is about two blocks of a small soi, or alley, located across from the Old Siam shopping center.  I go there all the time with Tawn but never realized we were literally across the street from the electronics district.  Going from shop to shop on the crowded street, I finally located a speaker store that sold sheets of acoustic foam.

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Truth be told, this foam isn’t the same high-density acoustic foam that I originally had in mind.  But it is dense enough to do the job and was not too expensive.  I brought the sheets home along with some plastic fiberboard then started constructing the acoustic screen.  The idea was to measure carefully so the the two panels would hinge closed with the foam fitting together like crocodile’s teeth.  This way, it folds up flat, allowing for compact storage when not in use.

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After about an hour’s work, I had everything fitting together neatly.  The noise reduction is much better than the pillows I was using before and I don’t have any problems with them collapsing mid-recording.  One more thing I did to improve the quality of the recordings was to purchase a better quality microphone. 

Previously, I was using basically any random microphone you could plug into your computer, just like the ones you might use to talk on Skype.  After some research, I settled on a Snowball USB microphone from Blue Microphones.  This condenser mic has both omnidirectional and cardioid modes and produces professional quality sound.  Pairing that with a pop screen and the acoustic screen and my recordings have improved many times over.

Another project checked off the list!

 

0 thoughts on “Building a Better Acoustic Screen

  1. That’s a pretty practical approach. I like how you roll up your sleeves and get the job done. Maybe you should add acoustic tiles to the ceiling and walls later on. I can’t wait for your next video entries. (you are using this for your video blogs too right?)

  2. Nice. What are you recording? That pillow arrangement reminds me of the bottle I put behind my screen to keep it at a certain angle else it would get finicky

  3. Nice end product! One of the training forums I subscribe to (for research personnel) had a DIY sound booth for recording. They used egg carton foam on styrofoam board. Looked much like your set up. I can’t get anything to record with my computer so I’ve never been tempted to try such a thing…

  4. well I think you could have bought noise cancelling microphones but then I never have tried recording or using it so don’t know what I am saying.but this idea is spectacular – I will check this if it is here – why not stack them up in the never opening windows of my room to finally keep the unwanted noise coming in when listening to soft music? a question: do you think if I make 2 card board sheets of the size of my windows stack this foam inside and fix them from inside it will create enough vacuum to keep the sound coming in?

  5. @oldpartner – While there is somethign to be said for the McGyver design, when the pillows fall over mid-way through a recording, it isn’t the best thing.@alwateen – Have never heard of a noise-cancelling microphone, only a noise-cancelling headphone.  As for your question about using the foam around windows, it would certainly block a lot of the noise.@murisopsis – The egg carton foam works in general – I would use it on the ceiling, for example – but it is much less dense than the acoustic foam.  Back in college I was a dj at the university radio station and it was neat to walk into the studio and suddenly all that ambient noise went away and there was this still quiet.@Dezinerdreams – @beowulf222 – I have my handy moments…@stepaside_loser – Is this practical?  LOL@Roadlesstaken – Well, if you are going to do something, you might as well do it well, right?@npr32486 – There are these online training programs that I create for things like management skills and internal processes/software used by my employer.  Mine is the voice of most of the company’s internal training.@ZSA_MD – Thanks.  Nice to check it off the list.@ElusiveWords – The most recent video blog (about the high speed rail) did have the audio recorded on the PC and then imported onto the mac (iMovie).  Previously, I just recorded directly onto the mac’s internal mic, which isn’t nearly as good but there’s always the question of just how much time I want to spend on a project like this.@CurryPuffy – Semi-semi-semi-quasi professional, more like!@Fatcat723 – Ha ha ha!@jace1982 – I haven’t tried it for music but it is fantastic for the spoken word and has good reviews for musical recordings, so I would recommend.  Plus it has a nice retro look to it.@The_Eyes_Of_A_Painter – Well, if not chopping a cucumber I might as well be slicing some acoustic foam, right?@yang1815 – Glad you like it.  You should line your entire basement with acoustic foam.  Would kind of ruin your surround sound, but…

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