One of the big problems I’ve been noticing while recording an audiobook vs. my usual shorter copy is the fact that I get interrupted by outside noise pretty frequently. I can often hear lawnmowers, the dogs next door, thumping bass music in someone’s garage, and noisy trucks passing by on the street. I think they’ve always been there, but I haven’t realized how annoying it is until I hear something in the middle of a long paragraph! I’ve tried to surround my mic (a Blue Baby Bottle) with Aurelex foam panels to help, but it doesn’t always filter things out as much as I would like. I record in this typical office space. The mic is on a boom stand, in front of an open closet that I have hung thick blankets and foam in, behind where I stand. Not the prettiest setup, but it works.
In a grumpy huff after the bazillionth time my recording was interrupted by a truck passing, I jumped online and started gathering quotes for a vocal booth I could install in my house.
…oh my. They cost THAT much?!? Well…never mind then. Perhaps it will take a bit longer than I thought to save up for one of those. What if I build it myself, I thought. Then my husband pointed out that I would probably cut my hands off with the saw, because neither of us knows squat about building. Hmm.
So when I heard about the new Kaotica Eyeball, an audio treatment device which claims to allow for pristine recording in even an untreated room, I was intrigued! Maybe this was the answer to my dilemma! The videos online showed examples of singers, but I couldn’t seem to find any reviews of the Eyeball from voiceover artists. In my online VO groups, everyone seemed to have the same idea…a reluctance to purchase it until they heard from some VO people! So I took it upon myself to contact the company and ask if I could try it out and report my results from the perspective of a voice artist recording from home. I was delighted to hear that they were going to send me an Eyeball! (*happy squeal*)
I waited anxiously all week for the box to arrive. When it did, I pounced on it and opened it. Oooo….it looks so cool! I like the simple packaging that really shows it off. The Eyeball looks exactly like its name…a moderately sized foam dome with a bright blue pop filter that fits onto the front of it. It feels thicker and more stiff to the touch than typical audio foam.
The first test was to try it out in my office and see if it improved my sound. I took a baseline recording of me reading an audiobook passage without the Eyeball in the mostly untreated area, then fit the Eyeball onto my mic. I did have to push it pretty firmly in order to get it to pop over the head of the Blue Baby Bottle, but it seems to stay in place pretty well once it’s there. According to Kaotica, this should fit on most condenser mics, but for a mic that’s much wider than the Baby Bottle, it may take some stronger pushing, and I’m not sure it would accommodate some wider mics without carving the hole out further. (Check Kaotica’s website for specs) You center your mic in the middle of the hollow dome, then place the blue pop filter over the front.
Test #1 – Microphone without Eyeball. On this day, it was raining hard, so there may be some extra noise in the background (but I thought that might be a good test!). It looks like my noise floor is somewhere around -48db. Here’s the recording. The text is from an upcoming audiobook I’m working on, “Virulent: The Release,” by Shelbi Wescott.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/125939581″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Here is just the room tone. You likely won’t notice anything, but if you want to download it and look at the waveform, it might help.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/125940112″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
And now the same passage using the Eyeball.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/125940370″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
And the roomtone with the Eyeball installed.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/125942147″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Thoughts: Though it’s hard to tell through normal computer speakers, I did notice a difference of sound in what I was hearing in my headphones while recording. The sound had a clearer feel to it; there weren’t as many noticeable reflections. I also did notice that it sounded a bit deeper; as if my mid-low tones were highlighted a little more. Since I tend to have a very nasal, higher voice, this helps because I often have to adjust the EQ a little anyway. Looking at the waveform, it looks like there was a slight reduction in background noise as well. The noise floor was around -53db. The size of the Eyeball is just about right, big enough to surround the microphone, but not so big that you can’t see your script in front of you. I used an iPad, held in my hand, and could see it just fine. It sits on top of the shock mount comfortably. One thing I did notice is that for the best sound out of the Eyeball, you do have to speak directly into the blue filter area. It is not as effective when your voice is off-axis, and it sounds better when you lean slightly closer to it than the typical 6 inches we’re used to for voiceover.
I’m not an audio engineer, so I can’t really give you an in-depth explanation of how the Eyeball changes or improves your audio on that end…I’m still learning a lot about that side of the field! But I am a working voiceover artist who does not have a large budget, yet needs a professional sound from my home studio. I’m relying simply on my own ears, and the entire experience. At $199, the Eyeball is comparable or cheaper in price to other noise-reducing devices, such as a surround screen or filter, and it is nice that it includes a built-in pop filter, which eliminates one more piece of equipment you have to clamp onto your mic stand (I don’t know about you, but I hate those droopy gooseneck pop filters that keep moving around or falling). The Eyeball won’t magically silence motorcycles on the street or the gardener’s lawnmower (oh how I wish there was a mute button for those guys!), but it is a great space-saving, noise-reducing solution for the home recording artist that can’t quite afford a vocal booth yet. I can see this working quite well for someone traveling and recording in untreated spaces. I’m looking forward to testing it in new locations. And I like the fact that it’s an extra layer of protection for my sensitive microphone, which sometimes gets bumped around by overenthusiastic pets or husbands. I will still be looking for ways to improve my room’s sound quality (most likely looking at the windows, which are big old single-paned monsters that let lots of sound in), but the Eyeball will definitely be incorporated into my recording setup.
… at least until I can afford to make a custom vocal booth that looks like this:
A geek can dream, right?
If you’re a newbie to voiceover work looking to earn experience, a good mic, an Eyeball, and the free Audacity recording software might be all you need, for not too much investment! Just don’t be too surprised when Santa gives you an odd look when you tell him you “want an eyeball for Christmas.” 😉 The Eyeball retails at $199.00 USD, and can be ordered at www.kaoticaeyeball.com.
Take a listen and compare, and see what you think! Anyone who knows more about audio want to weigh in on what they hear?
Thanks again to the folks at Kaotica for allowing me to review the Eyeball!