The Poor Man's Guitar Amp Isolation Booth

Perhaps the most difficult-to-overcame challenge a home-recordist faces is a parallel-walled, low-ceilinged, small-to-medium-sized room. (Did I just break the record for most hyphens in one sentence?) In other words, a room designed to sound like crap. One solution is to knock down walls and spend big money constructing an acoustically superior space. Another is to dodge the problem the cheapest way possible.

Guess which one I chose...

I am all about low-budget, working man's solutions to problems. I don't know if that makes me a Proletariat, or a cheap bastard, but it's just how I'm wired. I've battled square rooms my entire recording life. They are my nemesis. Here's why:

The rooms in most homes are bad recording spaces because they tend to create what are called "standing waves"; waves that bounce back and forth between parallel surfaces. There's a whole science behind it, but suffice it to say that a square or rectangular room will artificially amplify whatever frequencies happen to be the same length as the distance between it's walls - side to side, back to front, and ceiling to floor. A microphone positioned on a sound source in that room will inadvertently pick up some of those "artificial" frequencies, making your recording sound like it was done in a...well...a small room that sounds like crap.

To overcome this, I generally isolate sound sources whenever I can. I put up non-reflective barriers that diminish or eliminate the sound of standing waves and other outside noise. Unfortunately, commercial products like gobos or isolation booths are generally more expensive than a cheap bastard like me wants to afford. My alternative when recording guitar amps? Couch cushions.

I think couch cushions are perfect in this application. Because they are made of sturdy foam they are great sound dampeners and rigid enough to stack well. Best of all they are (assuming you own a couch with detachable cushions) completely free! Just position your microphone on your speaker, and then pile them around your amp, house-of-cards style.

Later, during mix-down, you can create a feeling of a space around your tracks with artificial reverbs (VST plug-ins or rack effects) that sounds much better than a tiny, square room ever could.


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