There will come a time in a voice over artist’s career when they feel they can no longer live without a dedicated booth for recording.
When I first started out, my space was a 1m x 1m section of a room, an often-used passageway from the kitchen to the garage. It had 3 doors around it and an open end into the rest of my studio.
I had to plug 2 of the doors with huge wooden frames filled with rockwool, cover the 2 side walls and ceiling with acoustic foam panels and hang an acoustic blanket behind me. Every time I wanted to use it. EVERY TIME.
However, if anyone else was in the house during sessions, noise would bleed in. People going up stairs, making drinks, watching TV. This limited recording time to late at night or when everyone was out.
This is fine for a while, but as workload starts to pick up and you find yourself needing that temporary booth more and more, waiting around to record becomes less of an option.
As a related side note, setting up a temporary booth and taking it down at the end of the day/session is one of the most annoying and inefficient things to do with your time. Necessary, but TERRIBLE.
So, when you get to the point of needing a permanent solution there’s a choice to make. Do you go with new, used, or self-build?
I considered the DIY route for many months, watching videos, reading articles and researching materials. I decided against it in the end. Although cheaper in the short term, I didn’t want to spend weeks building something that might end up being sub-par. My handyman skills are lower than average so chances were high that it would be wobbly, let noise in or not have a good sound.
Next I considered buying a used booth. At the time that I was looking around, there were very few available and those that were, I’d never heard of the brands. There’s also the considerations of condition, transporting it home, having no guarantees and the smell. WHAT IF IT SMELLS?!
Because of the sparse numbers, I started to look at new models. There are several companies offering booths for voice work - Studiobricks, VocalBooth.com, Vocal Booth to Go (offering portable voice over booth solutions) and Whisper Room - to name a few.
Enter the Kube vocal booth
I found Kube through another voice over artist’s profile on a job site. I contacted him to get the lowdown and he only had good things to say about it. I found it difficult to find vocal booth reviews so this was excellent info – someone endorsing the exact model for precisely what I’d be using it for.
What eliminated other brands from the list was Kube’s diamond shaped model. My studio is rectangular with a toilet room at one end and a garden door at the other. I can basically live in there if I want. But it meant that a square or rectangular design would encroach into the space far too much and leave the garden door inaccessible.
After covering my studio floor in tape to make sure the Kube diamond would fit how I’d imagined, I gave them a call.
I spoke with Phil who was helpful, informative and friendly. There was no hard sell - I got a bit of history about the company, some details about the booths and he answered all my questions immediately.
After the call, I placed my order via the site. Be sure to look out for special deals, there were decent freebies being thrown in when I purchased mine. There are many optional extras available too so you can pimp up your new box. Lights, steps, shelves, ventilation systems, DIFFERENT COLOURS.
You get a 5 year guarantee with Kube, which shows you how confident they are that they're well made and do the job.
Delivery was estimated at around 10 weeks, which gave me more than enough time to prep the room and optimise the rest of the studio space wise.
The booth arrived in pieces (not broken, just unbuilt and well packaged) on the back of a huge lorry. Some of the parts are extremely heavy so having someone to give you a hand unloading and bringing it indoors is a very good idea.
Kube’s attention to detail is second to none. The instructions enclosed were printed in colour and tailored to the model and extras I’d ordered. Each part was labelled with, well, labels, that corresponded to the instructions.
Unless you're very and I mean VERY strong, you’ll need two people to put it together. As mentioned above, some parts are heavy – the door is an absolute beast which needs to be hung on three hinges with pinpoint accuracy.
Also worth a mention is the roof/ceiling/top section. It’s not as heavy as the door but because it needs to be lifted up and slotted into position, doing it alone is impossible.
The floor goes down first, OBVIOUSLY. It has grooves along the edges which the walls slot into firmly. Everything is pulled tight with screws and sealed off with big bottom to top metal things (see photo for said bottom to top metal things).
If you have a low ceiling (like mine) you’ll need one of those special angled screwdrivers to get the screws in after you’ve slotted the roof into place.
Overall the whole build took about 90 minutes. Nothing taxing or confusing here.
The most difficult part was the door but the satisfaction at the end is more than worth a few beads of sweat. And swear words. Sorry dad.
There’s not really much else to say here – it’s more or less flat pack. A modular voice over booth - you missed a trick, Ikea.
Let's take a look at what it has to offer.
Sealed cable outlet
We're going to need cables going in, right? Well that's ok, just shove them under the door. OR you could feed them through this rather handy, sound treated cable hole/box type thing. It can take quite a few through there - I have 5 - a mic lead, power for the light, power and HDMI for the screen and a headphone cable. I don't know why I felt you needed to know that but thanks for reading.
Click on the images to zoom.
The outlet is at floor level, and has a screw in/out knob. When you open it up you'll see how well treated it is - a piece of rubber compresses around the cables on closing making sure everything stays as quiet as possible.
Outside, the cables appear through a well baffled hole.
There are vents in the walls so you don't die while recording an 8 hour long audiobook. For the full effect of these you'll want to get the ventilation system. It pulls the old / hot air out, while sucking in fresh air from the room. I say fresh, it will be whatever air is in the room. But the point is, it will be better than a booth that's full of carbon dioxide.
You won't be able to record with the thing turned on, but after around 10/15 seconds you can feel the cool air replacing the warm. It's very good.
Click on the images to zoom.
What's so special about handles? Nearly all doors have handles! Well, these ones are very robust. They have to be, given that you have to tug or heave to open and close the door - a by product of the excellently snug fit.
Click on the images to zoom.
I chose to have a lockable booth so I have somewhere to sleep in peace.
The third image in the gallery shows the additional inside handle to make sure you can pull the door in those last few millimetres.
There's an LED light included (at least it was when I bought mine) that you screw to the ceiling or wall (or floor if you really want to). It provides nice white light, that's not too strong. Just right for reading scripts.
However, there's no switch. It's either on or off and you'll probably want to leave all plugs outside. So the solution is thus (yes, I said thus): A wireless remote control socket. It actually comes with 2 plug sockets so you can hook up the ventilation too. You need never leave the booth again.
EDIT: I recently bought a second one of the remote packages. My set up now is that I turn on a light and monitor inside the booth before I even step inside. I know everything is ready for me to start recording as soon as I go through that door. I also have some silly fairy lights that I use the other remote for!
Excellent. It’s sturdy. REALLY sturdy. Watch the video - I do a few tests to illustrate.
In all seriousness, it's very high quality and gives me the impression that it will last for decades. It's certainly stronger than me (and I'm AT LEAST seven stone in weight).
I've attached a Rode boom arm and some shelves inside the booth and they're holding fast. (I actually asked Kube advice on doing this and they responded the same day with detailed instructions).
Click on the images to zoom.
This is probably the most important part, which is why I kept it 'til the end (thanks for sticking with me, it does wonders for my Google rankings!).
The ceiling, floor and walls are high-grade, multi-layered acoustic panels, providing very good insulation from the horrible outside world. The window in the door is made of double glazed acoustic glass panels with an air space between. It really is very quiet inside. Don't believe me? Read on!
This short audio sample is recorded at 44.1khz/16bit, with peaks averaging around -6db. To give context to the piece - it was raining heavily outside, I left the doors in the room open so I could hear the fridge whirring, my partner doing stuff on a laptop, and cars driving past.
I think the only thing I can really hear from inside is the low drone of planes. But that's infinitely better than hearing EVERYTHING.
The section of "silence" in the clip should give a good illustration that it shuts out a good deal of noise. I challenge you to find a 100% soundproof booth. I'll be round with my jackhammer as soon as you press record.
You'll hear no reverb - these things are dead. I added extra foam panels and a bass trap, but they weren't absolutely essential. The walls are covered with carpet that does a good job by itself and because it's diamond shaped, reflections are non-existent.
These are taken directly from the Kube site:
Wall: Front: 1200mm
Wall: Front Right: 660mm
Wall: Back Right: 1200mm
Wall: Front Left: 660mm
Wall: Back Left: 1200mm
Height: External: 2100mm
Wall, Roof & Floor Thickness: 80mm
4000Hz - Internal 99.2dB - External 38dB. Reduction 61.2dB
1000Hz - Internal 101dB - External 55dB. Reduction 46.0dB
500Hz - Internal 98.5dB - External 52.8DB. Reduction 45.7dB
200Hz - Internal 92.1dB - External 38DB. Reduction 54.1dB
Looking at the front, it's a 48 inch width. But remember, this is a diamond model, so it spreads out to the sides. The widest point inside is 57 inches, so there's a good amount of room to move your arms about. I'm a bit of an inflatable tube man when I'm working so it suits me well.
The back point of the diamond is a right angle so it slots nicely into a corner.
Going from a makeshift recording set up to such a high quality solution, I really couldn't be happier - it's highly likely this will be my first and last voice over booth. The sound is excellent and the structure is formidable.
Every piece of work I record happens in the Kube, including a recent TV commercial for Lego (plug). Joking aside, my point is - if you're looking for a professional grade vocal booth and believe in good customer service, Kube is the way to go.
These strange times have seen a change in many industries, with thousands of people staying away from offices and working from the comfort of their sofa. Something that's become more or less essential in this biz is the voice over home studio. Not just somewhere to mix and edit, but somewhere you can produce broadcast quality material. It's not impossible to get that in the cupboard under the stairs, but it's a pain in the <naughty word>.
If you want further evidence of the quality of this booth (of course I'm going to plug myself now) have a listen to my voice over demo reels! They were all recorded in the diamond...
...and if you'd like to see what other VO gear you might need, have a look at my voiceover equipment list post.