Randy Coppinger

Portable Recording Booth

It started as a simple idea: what’s an effective way to improve location recording acoustics with low cost materials? Since I already owned some packing blankets and absorptive panels, all I really needed was a method to prop them up effectively. And everything needed to collapse into relatively small pieces to fit inside my Camry.

I decided to focus on the packing blankets, with a support structure made of PVC pipe – the kind used for delivering water in houses, for irrigation, etc. I thought it might be handy to have the ability to hang one blanket on the structure, or configure a larger version that could hold two blankets. Over the weekend I spent roughly $60 on PVC & hand clamps then went to work.

The first pic shows the smaller, single blanket “L” configuration. I laid a panel on top to see how it might function as a lid. This single blanket likely doesn’t have enough coverage to significantly contain a performer and provide much separation from other sound sources. But it might be useful to cut down reflections behind a performer.

The larger, two blanket “C” configuration shown below would significantly deaden a recording situation, especially with a third blanket on top as shown. I’d like to reduce the sag of the top blanket with some additional structure up there. The blankets are heavy enough (have enough mass) that they would also provide some isolation from other sound sources in the same room. This larger version seriously limits sight lines though, so I’m considering clear vinyl sheets (as used for some shower curtains) to create small windows.

It’s worth noting both configurations can open up if the top-front support pipe is removed. Wider angles form more of a wall/curtain than an enclosed booth. I can also imagine making a few more of these that could work together in a modular fashion, further expanding options.

This is a solid beginning to affordable, portable acoustical tools that are easy to transport. With some more work, improvements may be discovered. I hope this inspires you to take a do it yourself approach to acoustics and recording. And here’s a pro tip if you decide to work with PVC: a handheld pipe cutter tool is far superior to a hacksaw.

Got a pinboard for articles like this?