By Harlan Hogan
If you and I were to walk in a professional sound studio - anywhere in the world - I'd ask you to clap your hands, then recite: "Mary had a little lamb" in Edison's honor... whistle a happy tune, and then - just for fun - scream at the top of your lungs. I guarantee you'll hear THAT sound. The sound we are accustomed to in professional recordings. Clean, and clear with no muddy bass, no fingernails on the blackboard shrillness, no Grand Canyon roominess and no dead-zone lifeless 'tunnel-talk'. Just pure, acoustically correct audio.
For most of my life I've recorded in rooms like that. Rooms just live enough to sound real but acoustically tuned to sound so much better than un-treated spaces. When it comes to sound it's all about the recording space - not the latest plug-ins or computer algorithms that try to "fix" the audio after the fact.
After much experimentation my first Porta-Booth was born. Creating the sound of an acoustically correct human-size audio booth with a portable, lightweight enclosure was far more difficult than I'd imagined. I knew the device had to "breathe". Audio is energy and has to dissipate through absorbency (acoustic foam) and a diaphragmatic surface like fabric. That meant plastic cubes, styrofoam balls and wooden boxes were out of the question. They would block some room noise but result in what engineers call: 'Bass Traps' creating a very muddy sound.
The obvious but more costly solution would be acoustic foam. First I tried out some, "just as good as" and "way cheaper than" top quality studio foams. I read all the manufacturer's data sheets and on paper everything looked good. BUT trial recordings proved these cheap knock-offs sounded like what they are: Packing foam (made of polyesters, polyethers or polyurethanes) masquerading as acoustic foam.
Aside from the muffled, horrible sound, it tore easily and had a bad case of "dandruff" disintegrating before my eyes. I remembered how common that problem was some 40 years ago when the use of foam was just gaining headway in recording and broadcasting facilities. I also knew that brands like Auralex solved those issues decades ago by blending their proprietary formulas to create a specific type of foam that was dense, tough, didn't shed and quite importantly, was flame-retardant.
Here's a photo of a pile of moldy, crumbled foam circa 1987 that simply disintegrated. It's an un retouched photo of what happens with early, poor-quality foam. I was quickly convinced that the most important part of my on-the-road device (and my home studio walls) hinged on covering that space with the right acoustic foam - anything else was simply junk and a waste of money.
I'd learned a valuable lesson - Keeping noise out of the booth is only half the battle. What happens IN the booth is just as important!
So that's the story of why I use the best of the best acoustic foam just like every major recording studio and broadcast facility does.
The cautionary part of this tale is beware of claims and advice on the web. Recently, a voice worker posted that he'd purchased "dirt cheap acoustic foam" from Uline Corporation. I buy shipping cartons and packing materials from Uline myself and it's a terrific company but the foam they sell is - as advertised - disposable packing foam. Perfect for - packing - but not recording! And on a very serious note it would likely catch fire and go up like a Roman Candle.
Fact is, you do get what you pay for and when it comes to our Porta-Booth Pro & Porta-Booth Plus what you get is the best acoustic foam money can buy - Auralex - installed in the best-designed and hand-made portable recording solution on the planet.
P.S. In case you were looking for a bullet list of why Auralex makes our Porta-Booths the best professional mobile audio booths in the business here it is!
- Maximize acoustical performance - It's not just about keeping sound out. Even your bed blankets will do that. It's also how the booth shapes the sound from your voice inside the booth. The Auralex Pyramid Studiofoam we use helps you achieve the highest acoustical performance possible. This is just not possible with other materials or cheap foam.
- Maximize longevity - Auralex Studiofoam does not crumble like most other foams out there. Auralex foam has been around for over two decades in some installations and it shows no signs of deterioration. "As good as new!"
- Maximize flame retardancy - Auralex Studiofoam is rated Class A. The foam will "self-extinguish" if briefly exposed to a flame.
- Minimize weight - Our Port-Booth Pro is a svelte seven pounds and the Porta-Booth Plus a mere five. Compare this to many so called "blanket booths" that weigh in at 15 or more pounds. Do you really want to be lugging that around in an airport?
- Maximize aesthetics - Auralex acoustical foam just looks good. That's because quality is built in through and through.