If you frequently watch YouTube singers, you would often see them using some screen or metal mesh behind their microphones. Nine out of ten, that screen is a portable isolation booth. And since you’re here, you probably have taken an interest in getting one, but you have no idea how to use it and why you need one.
The fundamental purpose of a portable isolation booth is to prevent unwanted reflected sound from getting through your mic. It works by merely blocking noise behind the mic. Your body, on the other hand, will take care of the front side. Most PIBs extend to your sides to complete your “virtual booth.”
The side that faces the microphone is often made up of materials that have sound absorption capabilities such as thick foam. What it does is block and absorb your voice to make sure it won’t reflect back to the microphone.
The other side is made of a thin, smooth plate often made from steel, aluminum, or plastic. Any sound that’s reflected from the wall that faces this side is either absorbed or reflected back to prevent them from reaching the microphone.
The question now is that “Are these portable isolation booths actually effective?” The short answer is that it’s a handy solution. Still, it’s not a replacement for a fully acoustically treated room or booth. The long answer is sliced up below:
It’s a cheap and quick answer to budget recording artists or practicing singers. Compared to the cost of performing complete acoustic treatment for your recording or music room, the price for this product is peanuts.
Its effectiveness depends on your location. If you live in a boisterous environment, it can significantly shield unwanted audio in your recording. It won’t altogether remove unwanted reverb or noises, but it will still result in a much more acceptable record.
It completes a recording booth setup. Despite having the tag portable in its name, it’s still a great recording accessory to further amplify the acoustic treatment in your room. Because of this, it becomes more of an investment than a temporary convenience.
Aside from blocking external reflections and noises, it can block out your voice a bit from spreading throughout the room. Since your voice becomes isolated, it won’t easily hit the walls, which in return prevents you from being heard by your neighbors.
It will save you from the additional work of cleaning your takes. Most recording or digital audio workstation software can instantly remove noise or improve your records. The truth is, noise removal tools can actually damage your sound file if there’s too much noise to remove.
Portable isolation booths are made from various materials, created in different sizes, and available in multiple forms.
A portable booth can be made from aluminum, foam, wood, or even polystyrene. Each of those materials can change the effect of the product.
Some can be as big as a regular bathroom mirror, while some can be as big as a door. The booths can also come in the form of a foldable panel, a half-circle-shaped shield, a half-box, or a foldable half-hexagon.
And here’s a DIY version:
Effects of Form Factors
The size of the portable isolation booth directly dictates its effectiveness. You can get the foldable door-sized ones, which offers a great deal of protection from reflections both from the back and sides of the microphone. Some of these kinds of PIBs can even cover at least a quarter of your body’s behind.
Of course, the main flaw of this kind of PIBs is that they aren’t exactly portable anymore. Take note that the regular-sized ones easily weigh around 6.2lbs or 2.8kgs. The bigger ones can weigh more than 15lbs or 7kgs. That’s one heavy baggage you’d instead leave in your house.
The medium-sized ones, which are typically four feet in height, are often used for instrumental recording. They are usually placed on the ground while the instrumentalist records while sitting and playing his instrument.
The regular-sized ones, which are often two to three feet in height, are made for vocalists. They offer sufficient protection against reflection but expect that sound can quickly get through on the sides. This is especially true if you’re recording with a loud voice.
One of this product’s selling points is that it’s portable. You can start recording anywhere and not worry about any potential incidental sound ruining your session. It also has the added bonus of isolating your voice in the small space between you, the mic, and the screen. It basically provides a bit of soundproofing, which is especially helpful if you’re living or will be recording inside an apartment space.
The biggest flaw of this product is its position while you’re recording. PIBs are often placed on the back of the microphone, right? Unfortunately, most microphones’ backside is usually the least sensitive side. This means that even without a PIB, that side won’t easily pick up anything like low amplitude reflections.
However, it does its job effectively if you use an omnidirectional microphone. It also works well if you prefer recording with a microphone standing upright instead of its membrane directly facing your mouth.
Here are some of the PIBs I can recommend to you. Just click on the image of the product you want to have.