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#3: Sound Isolation

By | January 5, 2007

Auralex Acoustic PanelsI could probably dedicate an entire blog to this topic alone, so I’m going to have to be somewhat brief. In brief, we’re gonna deal with everything from your mic stand to the ambience in your studio.

Mic Stand

Last time we talked about mics and you’re probably going to find out that most of your nicer condenser mics either come with, or have an option for a very special isolation mount. The goal of this mount is to isolate the mic from the stand. Why is that? Well, sound can be transmitted through the floor, desk, ceiling (or whatever the stand is attached to) and then to the mic. This isolation mount, or shock mount, helps keep that sound from being transmitted to the mic, that way if somebody lightly bumps the desk or taps their foot on the floor, the mic doesn’t pick it up.

Again we’ve got several options here but I’m gonna try to limit your selection by just telling you what the best thing to do is. Get an adjustable boom stand. This is what they use in real studios. You can get one that mounts to your desk and it has a series of springs and pivot points and you can pretty much move it wherever you want to and it will just stay in place. You’re gonna pay about $80 for the cheapest one and maybe $175 for a real nice one. I’ve got two so I bought the cheaper ones and I’ve got a picture of one of them posted on the blog. This type of stand provides lots of room so that it’s not getting in the way on your desk, and like I said, it makes it easy to reposition the mic. If you want a great source for boom stands, leave a comment and I’ll give you one of my trade secrets.

Filters

While we’re talking about the stand, I’ll go ahead and mention pop filters. These filters attach to the stand and kinda cover the front of the mic. They’re made of a very thin material that essentially filters out loud and punchy sounds like P’s and B’s. You’ll want to train yourself to talk into the mic correctly and become very gentle when you pronounce certain sounds, but until you do that very well, the pop filter will help out a lot. It’s also good for keeping moisture off the mic from people speaking very close to the mic. I’m gonna see if I can pull my filter up a bit and let you hear what a popped P sounds like, and again, part of this is training and part of this is having a filter. Some people get too close to the mic and the pound out pretty prominent P sounds. That’s gonna get very annoying to your listeners and it just doesn’t sound professional, so pay $20 or so and get a decent filter, it’s not something that typically wears out so you should have it for a pretty long time.

Room Ambience

This is something that’s a bit more difficult to tackle. It’s hard to give precise advice on something that can vary as much as acoustics. I can give you some general rules though. You want your room to be what’s called ‘dead’. Now that doesn’t mean that it has to be ugly or that it can’t ‘look’ lively, it just has to sound ‘dead’. That means there isn’t an echo, or more precisely, reverb. Reverb is like a lot of little echos real close together. It’s what you get when you sing in the shower. It makes you sound better, right? In the shower, yes. In your podcast, no. You want a very dry sound, and then if you have to, you can add something to it. If you’ve got a lot of reverb already, you can’t take it away.

That said, carpet is probably best, though rugs will deaden a wood or tile floor. You can also consider getting some acoustic absorption panels, and a little goes a long way. You’d be surprised how ‘live’ many rooms sound, even small bedrooms. You put some acoustic panels on the walls and all of a sudden, it’s a studio! I mean it’s really amazing.

Since most podcasters are not going to be doing a nationally syndicated program, I’m not gonna spend much more time on acoustic treatment, but I will say this, do your podcast when it’s quiet. You’re probably not going to spend the money on a full blown sound proof studio, so you’re going to have to be creative and smart. Don’t record when you’ve got children screaming in the next room. Don’t record when the neighbor is mowing his lawn. Some of that we can fix with editing, but not if it’s a constant problem. Once you’ve got all your equipment setup, do a recording of ‘just the room’, and then play it back. You’ll get a feel for how loud something can be outside your studio, and not be too loud for your recording.

 
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