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Tutorial: Room Tone 101


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Gear Mentioned:

Canon Rebel T3i | Audio Technica AT 2020 | Shure SM58 | Electro Voice RE20


Tutorial Notes:


Hello, and welcome to another tutorial from sounddesignacademy.com

I’m Michael Heuer and today we are going to be taking a look at Room Tone.

Now what’s room tone?

Room tone is a combination of the reverberation and early reflections you hear in a recording based on the size of a room and the material it is made out of.

If that sounds confusing right now, don’t worry, it’ll all make sense by the end of this tutorial.

We’re going to be examining 3 different rooms including a bathroom, an officewhich is where many of us record our podcasts and tutorials… yeah, that’s me, and finally a closet filled with clothing which is where I actually recommend you do voice over recording for audiobooks and other related gigs.

For this tutorial I’ve used the onboard Canon Rebel T3i Mics, an Audio Technica AT2020, a Shure SM58, and finally an Electro Voice RE20.

The three external mics have all been processed the same. That is, normalized to -.2 dB and then the waves L3-LL Multiband Moderate Limiting Preset… for those that care about those sorts of thing.

You’ll notice some spitty mouthy sounds in the recordings because… well… I didn’t use a gate or any noise reduction so that you can really hear the environment.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s get cracking.

What can we take away from this little experiment?

Did you notice how absolutely brutal the onboard camera mic sounded? 

 It’s basically the same microphone that you’d find in a phone meaning:

  • It’s tiny
  • Is omnidirectional – it picks up sound from every direction
  • You can really hear the effects of the room

I personally was surprised with how the AT2020 performed. It’s still a little too crispy and crunchy for my taste, but it performs alright. 

The Shure Sm58 and Electro Voice RE20 are both dynamic cardioid microphones, so they had the greater isolation, more midrange emphasis, along with a pleasant bump in the bass especially with the RE20.

The difference between the office and the closet were fairly minimal, but I’d still recommend you opt for the closet when you are doing voiceover. That isolation will help you focus, and the extra absorption really does make the audio cleaner for that sort of work.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Dynamic Cardioids offer the better results than a cheap condenser
  2. Don’t record in reflective rooms — wood, plaster, and concrete are total DO NOTS
  3. Be sure to use a gate, so you can avoid those nasty spitty mouthy sounds.
  4. I still recommend the RE20 if you’ve got a bit to spend… if you’ve got a lot to spend go with a Neuman U87. 

If you found this tutorial useful or helpful in any way be sure to leave a comment below or share it with a friend! Also, if you haven’t already be sure to subscribe to the Sound Design Academy Newsletter. You’ll receive 18 royalty free music tracks just for signing up, plus you’ll receive updates on new content and articles.

Thanks again for listening! This has been Michael with a Sound Design Academy tutorial. Take care – keep recording.