When I was new to the voice over business, I made one basic mistake many aspiring VO’s make. I thought my biggest investment would be to buy a nice microphone and a solid preamplifier. But as soon as I started recording, I noticed that the acoustics of my space were terrible, and something needed to be done about that.
The problem was, I hadn’t made any money doing voice overs, so my budget was close to zero. How was I ever going to afford a double-walled WhisperRoom? Would I even need one to make my space sound dry and dead? I mean, a voice over booth is basically a padded box built around a microphone. Couldn’t I come up with a simple and cheap solution myself?
The next day I took one of those empty cardboard Quaker Oats containers, and lined it with some leftover Auralex foam. I drilled some holes in it for my microphone, and was very proud of myself for saving a small fortune. From now on, there wouldn’t be any reverb in my recordings!
Much to my surprise, the first demo I recorded sounded absolutely terrible. First of all, the room echoes were still there, and secondly, my voice sounded …. boxy. What on earth did I do wrong?
Fast forward to 2022.
MOVING TO A DIFFERENT SPACE
If you’ve been following my adventures in Vermont, you’ll remember that I’ve been slowly putting my new voice over studio together. At one point I was waiting for a couple of acoustic panels from GIK Acoustics, to complete the project.
This company makes excellent products but they admitted they had a supply chain problem (like many businesses these days). On top of that, quite a few employees were sick with COVID, so production had slowed down significantly while the orders were building up.
I really, really wanted to get back to work, so I researched alternatives to these acoustic panels. What if I could find a quick and cheap solution that would tide me over; something that could tame the flutter echoes in my recording room? Technology has advanced considerably since I built my Quaker Oats enclosure, so why not do some research?
Of course there’s the controversial Kaotica Eyeball which usually retails for a whopping $198. It’s advertised as a “studio booth alternative.” Some of the audio samples I had heard didn’t sound that bad (Joe Cipriano seems to endorse it), but I am not going to spend nearly two hundred bucks on a foam ball. That’s just insane.
So, I found this unknown Chinese knockoff for $49 (see top photo). The maker calls it a:
“High-Density Noise-Canceling Sponge: Efficiently filters out ambient noise and captures pure human voices, it uses a high-quality, studio-grade noise-canceling sponge that can effectively capture and absorb noise and prevent sound reflections from being absorbed by the microphone.”
Here’s the unboxing video:
You don’t have to be an expert on soundproofing to know that acoustic foam cannot filter out ambient noise. For that to happen, you need mass (like a wall) to stop the sound from being conducted, and mechanical decoupling that allows the vibration to travel through an air cavity and through an insulating/absorbing material.
Any idiot can see that foam doesn’t have mass. Foam does absorb sound, dampening the resonance somewhat. But here’s the problem with these “microfoam” balls:
Most of the dampening foam is around the back and sides of the microphone. The part of the mic that picks up most sounds and reflections is… in the front! That’s the part without the magic foam.
So, did I just buy a useless piece of junk, or was I in for a big surprise? Let’s begin by installing it.
So, we’ve already established that the Micfuns shield, is rather unpractical, because it covers up part of the computer monitor. But does it work as advertised? Here’s a quick audio sample:
Now, when I posted this sample online, some people rightly commented that my studio space already had some treatment. The true test of the Micfuns MF 1 would be to take it to an untreated room. That’s what I did, and here’s the result:
Well, that says it all, doesn’t it? I think I just saved you some money.
FORGET CHEAP AND EASY
The thing is, solid soundproofing is never simple and never cheap. You may be able to dampen your room by putting up some moving blankets and adding a carpet, but you still have to deal with ambient noise. No matter how much foam you’re going to use, you won’t get rid of the sound of your neighbor’s dog, the Amazon truck, or your children playing video games.
And as long as you don’t have a quiet and “dead” recording space, you aren’t going to be able to claim that you can deliver “professional audio.” My voice over career only started taking off for real when I built my own booth in the basement of my Pennsylvania home. Within a matter of two months, that studio had already paid for itself. The fact is, I should have built it much earlier. Trying to do things on the cheap was actually an expensive mistake!
So, guess what will happen to this useless high-density noise-canceling sponge?
I think my cats just got themselves a new toy!
PS I want to make it clear that I have only tested the Micfuns MF1 foam enclosure for this article. Even though I believe that the same acoustic principles apply to similar products, this review is not a reflection on other products on the market.