How to Record Killer Audio On The Road With Portable Vocal Booths

portable vocal booth

One of the advantages to be a musician today is that you are not necessarily limited to one physical place to record.  Modern technology provides easy to use portable recording equipment and DAWs, and files can be instantly transmitted over the internet.  The only limiting factor is the room acoustics.  Not matter how smart the technology is, proper acoustics can make or break your gig, let alone save you lots of time on editing.  What if you have an urgent licensing opp and you are actually in a car driving?  Do you have to say “NO” to the client?

It does not have to be that way.

RELATED: Carry-on Vocal Booth Pro Put To Test 

How to Record Vocals on the Road 

Ideally, if you have a nice home studio set up, you want to take your set up anywhere you go, but it is probably not going to fit in a suitcase or not even in a car. So let’s talk essentials.

Recording Equipment 

  • A USB microphone to plug into your computer (read our review of the Audio-Technica AT2020+ USB Condenser Microphone).
  • A laptop or tablet with recording and editing software (read our review of Mixcraft Pro 7)
  • A mic stand is not a must, but very helpful for recording standing up.
  • Internet access to upload your files is more and more readily available in hotels, coffee shops or even from your mobile phone Hot Spot.
  • A way to deaden echo and reflections in your hotel room, car, or reduce the noise if you record outside.

This last part is not so obvious, but is extremely important. See some of the photos in this article for people improvising ways to come up with proper acoustics in hotels.  Heading under a comforter seems to be the most favorite solution! Recording in a car on a roadside, does not even cross people’s mind. Yet, there is a way to do this.

portable recording booth

How to handle acoustics and deaden reflections (echo) 

If your recording sounds muddy – chances are your microphone picks up the sound reflected from the walls and bouncing around the room.  In a studio, the walls are covered with sound absorption materials. Hotel walls are usually bare and reflective.

What can you do? If you’re not traveling with a portable vocal booth kit, then you’ve got to improvise.

Some solutions we saw

  • Put a comforter over your head! Note: Hotel blankets are usually thin and do not provide too much sound deadening.
  • Stand up the mattresses and create an enclosure. NOTE: mattress foam is not the same as acoustic foam.
  • Pile up pillows around you to beef up the blankets.

This actually exhausts your hotel options.  Unlike your own closet, full of nice clothes – closets in a hotel are usually empty.  So unless you are traveling with a large wardrobe, it will not help.

RELATED: How to travel with a carry-on vocal booth. 

recording drums on the road in a portable booth

recording drums on the road in a portable booth

There are better options available for professionals who want their recordings have studio-quality sound no matter where they record. Here they are:

Portable Vocal Booth like the Carry-on Vocal Booth Pro.  Unlike the foam-based vocal booths, this booth provides great acoustics in pretty much any environment.   It is also large enough to accommodate your mic, your sheet music and your laptop/audio interface.   Yet it folds into a flat carry-on bag that is allowed in the airplane and goes through the X-ray security machine without any problems.  If you want to place it in luggage – the outer nylon shell is strong enough to withstand harsh airline handling.  It is also much more durable for travel, washable and can be used as a carry bag for the rest of your recording equipment.

Instead of acoustic foam it is made out of Producer’s Choice acoustic blanket material which has an 80% noise absorption coefficient (NRC 0.8). Common complaints about foam-based Portable Vocal booths, available for sale or a DIY shoe box stuffed with a foam, are that the recordings sound “boomy” and “boxy.”

This is because these contraptions have a small interior space and the acoustic foam is too close to the mic, so it sucks out all the high and midrange frequencies.  It is also because of the acoustic foam properties, which absorb more of the midrange frequency sound.

portable vocal booth - the SPB63

portable vocal booth – the SPB63

Carry-on Vocal Booths can be mounted on a mic stand, used as a table top setup or even as a laptop vocal booth, if you want to record in a car, or even a hotel lobby.

A new service has become recently available – Vocal Booth Rentals from VocalBoothToGo.com. You can rent the booths on a weekly basis, and it will be delivered directly to your hotel and then after you are done, just leave it with concierge for carrier pick up! For a single vocalist, the AVB33 is sufficient. It is a 1 meter x 1 meter x 2 meter high mobile acoustic booth, that consists of an easy-to-assemble frame and a specially made sound absorbing cover.  It can fit your mic stand, chair and of course yourself.

SPB66 booths can fit a full drum set, and the SPB 63 might be optimal for your needs as it can fit smaller settings.

Additional Tips

  • Try to book a hotel room that is facing away from the main street and far from the elevators, if you plan on recording while on the road.
  • Check to make sure there no ongoing construction in or around the hotel before you book your travel.

Good luck with your travels and I hope this was helpful! For more information, please visit https://www.vocalboothtogo.com/

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