improvised sound booth tutorial

Recording in the field poses a number of challenges to phonetic inquiry. The primary challenge is creating an environment that will result in clear recordings without the benefits of a sound booth. Most of my field recording locations were rooms with concrete (or wood in one case) floors, concrete/cinder-block walls, concrete or corrugated ceilings, which create conditions for noisy recordings with much echo. In order to capture clean recordings which were high quality enough to be analyzed with software like Praat and Voicesauce, I improvised a portable sound booth in the field. This sound booth was made from upholstery foam shaped into a U-shape standing on end, with a roof and floor of foam to create a 5-sided-structure inside which a shotgun microphone could be placed. Below are schematics and two examples of booths used in the field.

A smooth foam was used in the first iteration. To increase echo dampening, foam circles were hand sewn on to the inner surface.

A foam with an egg-crate shape was available for this iteration of the improvised field sound booth.

Speakers sat in front of the structure, which was placed on a table. Language teachers were able to sit naturally in front of the structure to engage in fieldwork.

When possible, a blanket was hung behind the speaker to further reduce echo.

The sound booth is easily rolled up and tied with the rope for ease of transport from location to location.

banner photo: Nueva Atzacoalco, Mexico