I recently got this incredible sound proofed studio that can be built in about an hour from what are essentially really fancy high tech legos. I only wish I had this 20 years ago as it would have changed my life.
Let me know if you can relate. At some point, in high school, I started taking practicing the saxophone seriously. I mainly practiced at school in the band room during my lunch period, study hall, and when I was cutting French class which was absolute torture for me. (irony: now I live in France) When I went to college for music, I was introduced to the practice room. We had these windowless rooms, each with a piano, a chair and a music stand. They were like little prison cells but in a good way. No distractions, we could step in there and focus on the work we needed to do.
When I left college, my practice routine suffered greatly mainly because I no longer had access to those wonderful practice rooms. As I lived in various apartments in cities around the world I no longer had the luxury of playing my saxophone whenever I wanted to as loud as I wanted to. And I really missed that practice time.
In 2012 I moved into a new apartment that had a basement storage space which I converted into a practice room. I knew that as a renter I would have to leave all this behind when I moved out, but I didn’t care, I just had to have that isolated space to focus on the saxophone and making music. And, it’s because of that space, that I was able to create this YouTube channel. The first couple years of BetterSax videos were actually all filmed in that basement room.
We doubled up all the walls and added a think layer of sound absorbing isolation between them. I also added acoustic foam and later panels to manage all the echo and reflections. It wasn’t the prettiest, but just having that space literally changed my life. I was able to practice which makes me happy, relieves stress and gives me a daily accomplishment similar to the feeling you get from doing workouts. It just feels good to practice when the conditions are right.
A couple years ago, we moved out of the apartment and into an actual house. You would think, problem solved right? Well in most houses you still have neighbors that live close enough to hear you playing your saxophone and other people in the household who want to sleep, study, and watch tv without hearing a saxophone honking away for hours.
This Studiobricks booth is the solution I wish I had since leaving college. I could have brought it me with each time I moved (on the same continent) and it is equally beneficial if you live in an apartment or a house. The guy who designed this thing is unsurprisingly a saxophone player himself and he reached out to me to see if I wanted to try one of these booths. So that’s why these guys drove from Barcelona to my house in the South of France to deliver and set up this Studiobricks booth. I did purchase the booth but at a discount in exchange for making this review video.
If I had known these things existed before, I would have wanted to hear from a saxophone player all the details before deciding if it was a worthwhile investment. So here is what it’s like to have a Studiobricks sound isolation booth.
Building the Studiobricks booth
First thing is delivery, these get delivered on a pallet. Mine got delivered by Alex and Jordy in a van. But it’s good to see the amount of space necessary to transport everything. The whole package fits neatly inside a Renault Traffic. It took them about an hour to unpack and set this up on the 2nd floor of my house. They have videos on how to do it with step by step instructions.
The booth is made up of interlocking components that just fit together. There are no screws or adhesives. It’s genius. You just build it like you do legos but in a particular order. The sound isolation starts with the floor. The booth rests on these foam padded feet leaving a few centimeters of space between it and the floor. This is crucial for stopping the transfer of sound waves. You have to be really careful with the measurements. We did encounter a problem with the door, while the booth itself fits into the space I chose, I didn’t measure for the opening of the door. Not to worry though we just had to shift the booth over about 10 centimeters to solve the problem.
It includes a ventilation kit which is remarkably quiet and effective. I got the voiceover edition of the OnePlus Booth which comes with a bunch of extras like this fold down table and this adjustable arm which can hold a monitor or a music stand. The lights fit right into the walls of the booth and you can put them anywhere you want. These reflectors slot in the same way and allow you to customize the sound of your booth. You can further customize the sound of your booth with diffusers, and the final touch is a vented ceiling which just slips right on top.
Just over an hour later and the Studiobricks One Plus Vocal Edition Booth is ready. This booth got delivered and installed a couple months ago, and since then, I’ve spent many hours in here practicing and recording. I wanted to really try it out properly so that I could answer any questions you might have in case you were looking to get one of these for yourself. I didn’t participate in the building of this thing but as you saw, it’s pretty straightforward, and I think anyone who can play the saxophone can manage setting this up with the help of a friend or two.
How well does it work?
The biggest question of course is, how much does it reduce the volume of playing the saxophone? I set up a microphone about one meter outside the door and I’m going to record with the door wide open and then with the door shut. On the Studiobricks website it says the booth should reduce the sound by about 45 decibels on average. I’m going to use this iPhone app to give us some sort of an idea of how accurate this is.
It is very important to be clear that the booth is not sound proof, that would require much thicker walls and it would just make the whole thing impractical. While I haven’t been outside of the booth with someone else playing saxophone in here, I can tell you that I have practiced in here for hours while my daughter is asleep just down the hall with her bedroom door open, and she’s never heard a thing. I would say that in a normal apartment or house, this booth would completely solve the problem of annoying your neighbors. It’s very unlikely that anyone could hear you playing in this booth from outside the walls of your home. Playing at my maximum volume in here, I estimate that the sound just outside the booth in the same room would be about the volume you’d watch TV at. So if the booth is in a closed room, you should be pretty much good to go anytime day or night, and that is a freedom that many horn players just don’t have.
Is it worth it?
When you consider the fact that this booth costs about the same as a typical professional level tenor saxophone, it’s an investment that would make a lot of sense for a lot of people. I would say more sense than buying that backup horn or some vintage collector saxophone that you’ve got your eye on. These do come in a bunch of different configurations so the actual price does vary quite a bit. You’d have to get in touch with Studiobricks to get a quote for your needs.
What’s it like to practice in a small booth?
I’ll be honest I originally wanted the larger size booth, but it just wouldn’t fit in the space so I had to get this One Plus size and now I’m glad I did, no regrets. After spending many hours in here, I have never felt uncomfortable or that I didn’t have enough space. It’s actually quite cozy and somehow comforting to be in this booth for long periods of time practicing.
To get the most out of practice sessions we want to be in a super focused mental state with no distractions, and for me, this booth really helps me get in that space. Partly because the sound isolation is in both directions, so when you’re in here, you’re not hearing noise from outside. I also like how the saxophone sounds in here and the acoustic response of the booth. It is really good for trying out horns and mouthpieces as I get an extremely direct and accurate impression of every detail.
With a laptop and mic, you’ve got a wicked recording studio with a very neutral sound. I know these booths are widely used by voice over artists for tv, radio and podcasts, you get a great vocal sound in here too.
How hot does it get in there?
The included ventilation system works really well so as long as the room you’re in isn’t too hot, you should be okay in there. They do offer an air conditioning unit with this as well. I haven’t felt it necessary yet, but on a hot summer day, it would probably be very welcome.
Total game changer
If I had this booth 20 years ago, it would have changed my life, but better late than never right? Unlike the basement studio I built for myself in my last apartment building that I had to leave behind, this booth can be taken with you easily or sold locally to someone else if you no longer need it.
Studiobricks did sell me this booth at a discount in exchange for making this video. I told them I wanted BetterSax subscribers who ended up purchasing one these to get some sort of bonus so if you tell them you saw the BetterSax video when you order, they will throw in 2 additional flat reflecting panels. Use the link in the description of this video to claim the bonus. That is an affiliate link which means BetterSax will get a small commission if you did end up buying a booth.
If you don’t have the budget or the space for one of these booths, there are still several ways you can practice without bothering the neighbors or other people in your household. Watch this video next, where I show you eight different options.