Review: Imperative Audio Portable Vocal Booth
Podcasters, producers, singers and voice artists are often at the mercy of room acoustics and reflection filters. Enter the PVB, a semi-open booth that comes in a bag, a really big bag.
Image: Imperative Audio via YouTube
⊕ Well-balanced acoustic response without troublesome resonances
⊕ Plenty of flexibility for mic stand setups
⊕ Easy to assemble and adjust
⊖ Portable means carrying over 30kg
⊖ Very much a professional option
It's hard to fill the gap between a heavily treated room and a reflection filter, but the PVB delivers exactly that, and with great simplicity.
The Portable Vocal Booth (PVB) package is impressively substantial, with a shipping carton large enough to tempt one to climb inside. Removing the black bag containing the packed PVB is best carried out by two people, as is the whole assembly, though it is possible solo, as I found out.
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Erecting the booth is simple and, with familiarity, should take mere minutes. The main section consists of four curved panels, each a combination of a slatted metal frame and layered acoustic materials. The panels are connected via pivoting joints that allow the whole structure to fold in half for storage. Once out of the bag, it’s just a case of folding out the panels and securing a jointing plate between the centre panels.
Legs and light
With the basic semi-circular shape achieved, you can extend the five legs as necessary. The legs allow for two main operational heights with locking pins, but they also have standard screw adjusters for other leg lengths. These enable the PVB to straddle a desk for seated work or sit on the floor to baffle a guitar amp.
Completing the booth is a mount for the music/script stand and a roof with a central slot for an overhead mic stand. Of course, there is plenty of room for more common straight/boom-arm stands. A battery-powered lamp is included, which clamps to the music/script stand.
Acoustics and mics
The black foam-lined interior may be dark, but the semi-circular design prevents an oppressive, claustrophobic feel. The change in acoustic as you enter the PVB is immediate and while speaking or singing, there is no obvious resonance or reflection. Though the acoustic within the booth is very dry, the problematic high-frequency attenuation often associated with vocal booths is not on the menu. There is a slight top-end roll-off with the exposed foam layer, but the balance of materials manages to keep things natural without the low and low-mid-range dominating.
Though a cardioid condenser is the best option for most situations when using the PVB, you can deploy an omnidirectional mic to reduce the proximity effect without the usual room sound trade-off. Another pleasant surprise is that a mic in figure-8 pattern can be pushed up quite close to the booth wall without getting any excessive boom.
No more room
External room reverberation rejection is as important as booth sound, and here again, the PVB performs well. The studio live room where we set up the booth is lively, and though relatively controlled, it will make itself known to all but the most closely placed microphones.
The voiceover work carried out with the booth brought none of the room to the final mix, whilst loud sung vocals only showed a larger room sound when massively over-compressed. Meanwhile, dropping the PVB down for a guitar amp eradicated the external room sound completely. In every instance, the booth did precisely what it needed to.
At just over £1,000, the PVB is a professional investment, one that we would recommend with the caveat that we did not try it in a noisy environment, so consider that even the impressive 28.4dBa of reduction won’t completely eliminate external noise such as roads A/C and children. But, if our isolation tests with ambience are anything to go by, it should still make a palpable difference.
This is a different ballpark to stand-mounted reflection filters and will suit a relatively isolated yet untreated room, providing a dry space to allow an aurally open area for those long hours of editing.
- Noise Reduction: 28.4dBa
- Reflection Time: 0.07s (RT60)
- Height (in use): 181cm to 210cm
- Circumference: 324cm
- Opening Width: 80cm
- Packed Dimensions: (W) 125cm x (H) 115cm x (D) 35cm
- Weight: 35.5kg
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