How much does your room affect your recordings?

This is another one of those irritating topics that people keep bringing up in Gearslutz threads when people ask about mics, or preamps, or plugins, or whatever.

I mean seriously… I just want to justify buying some new gear!


But back to the topic at hand.

If this topic is brought up earnestly by so many different people in every single gear related thread…

Is there something to it?


Yeah, probably.

Someone always brings up the fact that, if your room sounds bad, there will always be a limit to the quality of your recordings no matter what gear you have.

I ignored this advice for a while, but something recently made me think a little harder about it…

I was mixing one of our online services for church (like I mentioned before), and I noticed that something about the quality of the recorded vocal of one of the other singers was much clearer than mine.

Now I had already switched my mic from the SM7B to the ADK, because that one seemed to suit my voice better.

But there was still just a level of clarity that I seemed to be missing.

It wasn’t an issue of pitch or tone or anything, it just seemed to be more accurately captured.

And then a thought struck me.

We recorded the band in our church office and, while it’s nowhere close to a studio, it is a decently sized room, and the ceilings are at least 12 feet high (if not more).

But I was redoing my vocals in my home office/studio, a room that is MUCH smaller and has a ceiling height of about 7.5 feet.

And so the seeds were sown for another one of what are quickly becoming my signature unscientific, hastily done amateur recording comparisons!

the “room Comparison”!

Once the dramatic difference in room characteristics struck me, I decided to do another little test.

I have been treating the vocals recorded with the band basically like a scratch track, and redoing them later to get better takes (since I’m the engineer and can do that!)

So, this time I decided to go back and record them in the church office, rather than my office so I could see if it made any qualitative difference to the tracks.

Then I realized that I could get an A – B comparison if I recorded them one more time in my home studio!

So that’s what we’re going to do.

Now, these vocals will be longer than the 15 second mic test, so skip around or do whatever works for you.

Once again, we’re also going to listen to these takes blind and see what you think about how they differ.

So to summarize the test:

  • Same song
  • Same singer (me)
  • Same mic (ADK Vienna)/pop filter (JZ PF)
  • Same mic placement/vocal proximity (roughly, of course)
  • Same preamp/interface (Presonus 192 Mobile into Studio One 4 on a MacBook Pro)
  • Same gain settings
  • No editing or effects at all
  • Different room

the hypothesis

My guess is that the take in the office (the larger, open room with high ceilings) is going to come out better over my office/home studio (Small, low ceiling).

the test

As usual, we’ll just label these A and B so that it’s not evident which is which, and the sound can be judged on its merits.

Vocal Take A:

Vocal Take B:

the conclusion

There you have it!

Of course, this is another experiment that may or may not have any bearing on your setup, but it is an interesting experiment to see what difference a room makes.

I’d love to know what you think.

Listen on studio monitors, good headphones, crappy laptop/cell phone speakers, whatever.

I’m incredibly curious to get your thoughts.

Leave a comment and let me know!

P.S. I’m building some acoustic treatment, so the next test will be the same vocal in my home studio, but with acoustic panels hung to see if that has an impact.

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