Image of a microphone

It’s a constant challenge for e-learning developers to get good sound quality during recording. Just look around the E-Learning Heroes community and you’ll see plenty of discussions on microphones, audio software, and portable sound booths. Today, I’d like to talk about how a portable sound booth can help you achieve quality sound.

When you hear professional audio narration, it’s super “clean,” meaning you don’t hear background noise or echo. Professional studios typically have enclosed spaces (think of a small booth) with acoustic wall panels that soak in the sound so it doesn’t bounce off the walls.

But…not many people have access to a professional studio. A commonly cited solution is the portable desktop sound booth, a five-sided foam enclosure for your mic that mimics some of the effects of a professional studio. While I like the idea of the portable desktop sound booth, I’ve found two challenges with it: cost and functionality.

The average portable sound booth starts at around $100; prices top out with the popular HarlanHogan Portabooth, at over $300. And, because it’s an enclosed box surrounding your microphone, it can be hard to work with. To read your script, you typically need to print it off and place it inside the box to view as you narrate. With these challenges in mind, I found a Do-It-Yourself solution that achieves pretty good results. Here’s how:

1. Go to your local fabric store and buy four foam seat cushions. They typically cost $5 to $10 each (I got mine on sale for $4.99 per cushion). The cost varies by size, but I found the 18-inch-square cushions to be adequate.

2. Construct a foam box around your microphone, using your monitor as the back wall of the recording booth. You can use just about anything to hold the foam together (I love duct tape!), but if you feel ambitious, you could sew some old fabric pieces together like they do on the commercial desktop booths.  If you have an unstable microphone base, you can simply remove the bottom piece of foam.

And that’s it! The beauty of this particular design is that it’s both inexpensive and super functional. Yes, there’s a small trade-off on sound dampening from using your monitor as the back wall instead of a cushion—but when I record audio this way, I still end up with really nice sound quality and a huge functional gain because I can display my script right on my monitor and easily access my favorite recording software.

I hope this tip helps you capture some great audio for your e-learning course. Do you have a favorite DIY audio tip? If so, please share in the Comments section below!

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