Do I need an isolation booth?Hmmmm...
ProsReduction of outside noise
Isolation booths are great for isolating you from the sounds of the outside world and for reducing the impact of your loudness on that same outside world. For example - if your room is facing a noisy street, and you do not want those sounds included in your recordings.
Reduce chances of a noise complaint
This is great if you are in an apartment or similar situation where annoying someone on the other side of the wall could be bad for your home recording career.
The good ones have acoustic treatment on the inner walls, to help reduce and control the sound waves bouncing around.
It can be uncomfortable performing in a restricted space, it can feel claustrophobic. I have worked with very few musicians who would be comfortable delivering a natural performance in a wardrobe, keeping in mind performance/vibe is the most important part of any recording. Add to this the idea of holding a guitar in such a space! Banging the walls with the machine heads - messing with your tuning.
If you are currently recording yourself, as many of us are, think about the process of pulling off the headphones, wandering over to the computer or recording gear to make some tweaks and then getting back into position in front of the mic to record… Consider adding climbing in and out of a booth to this process.
Shrinks your room
Recording in a small room is the number one challenge of home recording, an isolation booth is an even smaller room… and it makes the room it is in smaller too! This will impact your mix position and your ability to record larger instruments or multiple people.
Just the other day I was pitched one for $15,000 incl GST.
No, not for what I am doing.
Would I buy one?
But how would you get the benefits without one?Make sure there is actually an issue with outside noise
If you have recorded some vocals, and mixed it with the rest of your song, and you can hear cars revving or honking horns, then you definitely have an issue. If you can hear car sounds when soloing your recorded track only, then you may have an issue. If you have to really turn things up to hear the car sounds, while the make recording makes your ears bleed… Perhaps it can be your little secret!
Make sure there is actually an issue with annoying neighbours
Ask them if they are currently being disturbed, and give them your phone number so they can let you know. If there is no issue, you're sweet as!
Schedule recording time
Workout when things are quietest around your recording space, and when your neighbours are often out. Schedule your recording sessions for then.
Choose the right microphone
A hyper cardioid microphone will focus on sound directly in front of it, so if you point it away from the outside noise, and position the subject being recorded nice and close, you will eliminate most of your issues.
Good acoustic treatment will help reduce the energy of the soundwaves in your room, including the soundwaves coming from the street/next door.
If I was doing voiceover work and earning enough to cover the $15k, and my other costs, and give myself an income, then I would consider purchasing an isolation booth. But I am not, so I will not.
To achieve similar results I have invested hundreds in good quality acoustic panels and less than a thousand in a professional dynamic microphone.
And schedule my recording times to suit my environment.
You could even get some cheap office partitions or similar off Trade Me or empty a wardrobe, and stick high quality acoustic panels to the inside walls it if you really want a little booth! Save some money using your Kiwi ingenuity.
If all else fails, you may be best to book a session at a studio to record the loud stuff, and then do the rest, and the mixing, at home. You would likely still be spending less than you would if you brought an isolation booth.