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Monday, March 21, 2016

Carry-On Vocal Booth Pro: a Thank You and Review

March 11 was my birthday, and I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who wished me well. I had a fantastic 3-day weekend, and I understand that National Erin Palette Day has gone both international and inter-continental, with celebratory rumpuses (rumpi?) being performed in Canada, the UK, and Australia/New Zealand.

While I got some very nice things, including this nifty scope and mount for my AR-15, the main thing I want to talk about (and issue a formal "Thank You" for) is my lovely new portable recording studio!

On March 3, Sean Sorrentino (head honcho of the GunBlog VarietyCast) sent me an email saying "We need to figure out how to afford one of these for you."



"$200 and you've got a sweet on-the-go audio booth. No more Blanket Fort." Apparently Sean was tired of dealing with the hard echo and other sound artifacts that were the result of me recording in my church's office, despite crawling under my Blanket Fort of Preppitude for each session, and decided that a fundraiser to get me a portable studio was the way to go.

I looked at the price, gave a low whistle, and then threw a Hail Mary by saying "Post it to my wall. Someone might feel generous and buy me one."  He did, with a link to the GBVC's Paypal and saying "If you want to contribute, earmark this for Erin and we'll get her one." I thought that maybe we'd raise the money in time for Christmas.

As it turns out, we got half of our goal within the day (Thank You, Anonymous Donor!) and over the course of the week more donations continued to flow in ( Thank you, John and Ian! Thank You, donors whose names I don't know!) such that Sean was even able to upgrade me to the Pro version with extra goodies.

And so it came to pass that entire vocal booth was funded in a week, and it reached me the Wednesday before my birthday. Let me tell you, I was thrilled at this! Not so much because "Swanky new recording studio", but because this is a physical representation of the fact that enough people think highly of me and the work that I'm doing with my GBVC Blue Collar Prepping segment that they though buying this for me was a worthwhile investment of their money. Thank you so, so very much!

For the record, Sean likes it too. The first time I talked to him from inside the Vocal Booth To Go, he said that my voice sounded like it was "wrapped in a soft, velvety cloud." If you've listened to the last two GBVC installments, you've heard the difference it makes.

Overview
This is the "You Are Here" view of my new workspace, the Carry-On Vocal Booth Pro. It's basically a folding tent made of sound-absorbing blankets, and it comes with customizable features like a mic holder, script/tablet holder, a pop filter on an adjustable arm, and a no-noise LED light (not seen, it's at the very top).

The cables run between the velcro closures to the laptop on the left which records my side of the Blue Collar Prepping Gunblog Varietycast segment. As you can see, there's plenty of room inside the studio "tent" for things like a drink to prevent drymouth and a mouse to control the laptop.
Here's what it looks like from the outside. This picture is from the Vocal Booth to Go website and is of their 2.0 model, but it looks almost exactly like the 1.0 model I received.
It folds down into a convenient 23"x 23" x 5" travel form which, while somewhat bulky, is ergonomic enough that carrying it isn't a hassle, and at 12 pounds it's light enough to easily carry between my car and the church office.
Setup
Setting up the Vocal Booth is very easy (see video, below). Just put on a stable surface (it comes with an adapter for mounting to a music stand, which is a big plus for singers), unzip it, lift up the hood, and swing the support arms from the back to the front. After that, set up the microphone/ light/ pop filter/ etc according to your personal preference and you're ready to go!

When I first got the Booth it took me a while to get everything configured the way I wanted ("Hmm... do I want the microphone here in the center, or offset?") but now that I have everything the way I like it I can get set up in under 2 minutes. Teardown is similarly quick.

Performance
This one is very simple to demonstrate:  listen to a segment recorded with the booth, and then listen to the one just prior. There's a noticeable improvement in audio clarity.

Criticism
There are two things I do not like about this booth, and they're quite minor.

The first is that mine did not come with instructions on how to set it up. Forunately, there was an instructional video on the product website, but I would have liked instructions. At the very least, a link to the video ought to be included!



The second minor complaint is that after a few minutes, it gets rather hot in the booth. Which makes sense, given that it's made from blankets and I'm projecting a lot of hot air into an enclosed space!

Fortunately for me, I don't need to have my head under the hood; in fact, that's too close to the microphone. Instead, I sit with my face just at the edge of the booth and talk into it. This allows me to back off to get some cooler air if necessary.

Recommendation
Would I recommend this to others? Bearing in mind that I have no experience with vocal booths other than this one, I absolutely would. It might not be up to the needs of a professional voice actor, but if you're a podcaster or a YouTuber then this is a simple, effective, low-cost solution to eliminating background noise.

Really, the best thing I can say about the Vocal Booth To Go is something that I didn't say at all: Sean liked the improvement in my vocal performance so much that he bought one for himself. 


Vocal Booth Pro to Go: A+
I really ought to knock it down to 'A' for not having the instruction manual.. but I can't bring myself to do that. It's not like it was hugely difficult putting the thing together, and there was a video that I easily found by Googling "Vocal Booth to Go setup video" that answered all my questions. 

Okay, okay. A and half a plus. 

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