I’ve had a chance to play around with the Editor Keys Portable Vocal Booth Pro quite a bit for the last month or so. I knew it was going to be a struggle between the Portable Vocal Booth and my trusty Ninja Turtle blanket on a mic stand. I’ve found that there are situations where the Portable Vocal Booth wins out.
First off, I was surprised by the weight of the Editor Keys Portable Vocal Booth. I expected a light weight contraption that I could knock over without feeling bad about. This was certainly not the case. This thing is built way tougher than that. (So much for breaking it!)
When I opened the box there was quite a bit more assembly than I had expected. I suffer from mechanical engineering manic depression where I’m either pretty sharp or a complete idiot. In this case I must have been in idiot mode because it wasn’t overly intuitive how to put the thing together. After looking on the picture on the website, it all came together. Most likely, my review version had the instructions omitted. Not a big deal.
Boom Mic Stand
The unit comes with a boom to mount a mic. This can be handy for someone who only uses one mic for their vocals or voiceover work. However, I found swapping out mics required me to spin the mic repeatedly. That’s not too big of deal, but my big tube mics with bigger shockmounts made me nervous. It wouldn’t bother me at all with my more durable solid state mics.
Mics mount differently. A Shure SM7 mounts quite a bit differently than my Peluso 251 with large shockmount. The end result is the mic ends up in different places. The further from the portable vocal gadget, the less it’s effectiveness. This isn’t the end of the world either, but it needs to be noted. You don’t have the ability to position the mic like you would with a normal stand. Then again, with vocals crazy mic placements aren’t always needed.
Lastly, the boom didn’t inspire extreme confidence with me on my high end mics. The leverage working against it with my heavier mics made be a bit nervous. Mics run the gamut from super light to way heavier than you’d expect (Shure SM7b comes to mind). The stand for the portable vocal booth is not your usual mic stand. It’s sturdy but it has a bit of play in it. It’s more like a stand for lights or a volleyball net where you pull out a pin, raise to the desired position, and place the pin back in. The problem is this leaves the stand just a hair wobbly. It’s not a big deal, but it’s just wobbly enough to make me think twice about tossing my $2,600 Neumann M147 up there. It doesn’t inspire extreme confidence. If your mic doesn’t weigh more than a brick, it may not be an issue.
Is it a big deal? Not really. It is worth noting? I think so.
After discovering these factors, I ditched the boom mic stand idea and decided to use my own mic stand in conjunction with the portable vocal booth. If you are using a microphone that weights less than a 5lb bucket of water having the built in mic stand is a nice tough.
The main reason for buying the Editor Keys Portable Vocal Booth Pro is to reduce ambiance getting into the mic. There are two basic ways we can reduce the amount of ambiance getting into a microphone. The first is to block the source from creating the ambiance in the first place. The second is the block the existing ambiance from getting into the mic.
The Editor Keys Portable Vocal Booth takes the first approach. When using a cardioid microphone (which is most common for vocals) the portion the Portable Vocal Booth covers is already rejected by the mic. So it’s not going to necessarily keep ambiance out of the microphone. These reflections come in from the front of the mic.
The Portable Vocal Booth does to an excellent job of keeping your voice from exciting the room in the first place. I think this is what was intended. I definitely noticed that the reflections in the room were diminished tremendously. This in itself makes the Portable Vocal Booth worth having a look at. For people who require a certain aesthetic in the typical unideal home studio environment, the Portable Vocal Booth is going to improve your vocal sound. No doubt about it. In fact, if some authoritarian government took away my Ninja Turtle blanket (and all other blankets) I’d absolutely require a Portable Vocal Booth.
Just keep in mind that it’s not going to keep other sounds in the room from bouncing all over the place. For example, the Editor Keys Portable Vocal Booth Pro offers little protection from a TV playing in the background or an air conditioning vent. That doesn’t appear to be what it was trying to do, but I’d guess some people would expect it to if they hadn’t put much thought into it. So just keep in mind that the Portable Vocal Booth is an acoustic treater gadget and not necessarily a breakthrough in soundproofing technology.
Maybe I’m a bit claustrophobic, but I did find it a little strange burying myself into this concave surface. It wasn’t world ending, but I’d suspect that some vocalists are going to feel a little nervous doing this. I’m not sure if this would effect 50% of the singers of 1% of the singers. Then again, it seemed like other singers felt more comfortable hiding behind their shield. I can’t figure these people out!
I did find it to be troublesome when a paper was necessary for lyrics or voiceover work. I’d say 1/3 of the people I work with are making changes in mid-session and a paper is absolutely a must. When your face is buried into a portable vocal booth there isn’t much room for holding up a sheet of paper. A music stand is pretty much out of the question.
On Other Instruments
While it wasn’t intended to be used on other instruments, I was interested in how it would perform on acoustic guitar. The stand did allow me to lower Mr. Vocal booth a bit, but I never really got it down to where I wanted, unfortunately. I gave up on that idea right off the bat. Oh well. It would have been awesome to knock down the reflections of acoustic guitars and electric guitar amps. If only they could get this thing on standard mic stand.
This thing looks really cool. The pics on the website are impressive. It’s the kind of thing that a dominating wife may even allow in her house. I could see this thing being the kind of thing that clients who don’t pay on time say “Wow! Neat!”. It definitely has the “wow factor” down. It seems like something that belongs on a battle star ship.
Opening Omni Doors
I tend to record vocals in omni mode more than the average guy. The benefits for this can be great, but the possibility of unwanted ambiance getting into the back of the mic is dramatically increased. I found the Portable Vocal Booth to be excellent for using mics in omni. It guards the back of the mic like a secret service agent.
For my buck, I’ve been happier with my trusty Ninja Turtles blanket on a mic stand. Some clients think this is cheesy or even unprofessional. I tend not to return their calls when they inevitably call back for a second session. I find my sewer swimming comrades provide better overall acoustical absorption of both vocal ambiance and misc noises in the room, don’t instill much anxiety from the claustrophobic, and are extremely flexible in terms of position on pretty much every instrument I’d ever record.
For some people this isn’t going to be an option.
As with most things in recording, you can go the guerrilla do-it-yourself method and save quite a bit of bucks and end up with a super effective, mega ugly device. You can also spend a fortune and have an upscale doctor’s office looking studio like you see in Mix Magazine. I think the Editor Keys Vocal Booth is a nice balance between function and aesthetic. I just happen to be brain dead in the aesthetics department. I understand most people are the opposite.
If you can’t treat your room and need a cool looking gadget to knock down acoustical ambiance from your voice the Editor Keys Portable Vocal Booth is excellent.