By Gregory Daurer | Mar 07, 2022
Park City / West Jordan, Utah
When Dwyer began pursuing freelance voice-over work for documentaries and commercials around 2016, he says the top question he'd get from vocal coaches is, "What kind of booth do you have?" Sure, microphones and recording equipment came into consideration, as well. But Dwyer quickly realized the importance of having a way to reduce unwanted sounds in his immediate environment -- or outdoors -- from bleeding into the recordings he'd be making himself in his home.
Looking around at his options, Dwyer saw there were inexpensive enclosures made from PVC and moving carpets for around $800. Then there were pretty nice sound reduction booths starting at $5,000 and climbing cost-wise from there the better they got. "I'm not going to spend ten grand on a booth," he ultimately decided. "I'm just going to build my own!" His wife, Tracey, a psychotherapist and author, was suitably impressed with his handiwork. "This is beautiful!" she told him. "I bet you could sell those."
Since then, Dwyer has been doing just that with VoiceSuite. The base price for his models range from $1,495 to $3,425, before any additional customization. "We're really filling a void between the $1,000 mark and the $5,000 mark," he says. "There's literally nobody else in the market that's doing what we're doing."
After putting his first model up for sale on Etsy last year, orders began taking off. "I think we're probably nearing 100 booths, so far," says Dwyer of sales for his various models.
There are now VoiceSuite booths now in Seattle, Los Angeles, Boise, New York City, and San Francisco, as well as a couple up in Canada. Customers have included "tons of podcasters," a person who records rap music projects, parents who want a place for their child to rehearse instruments within, professional audiobook readers, and voice-over artists. In fact, the business has become so demanding that Dwyer no longer pursues audio work, himself, putting his "golden voice" to work instead with customers over the phone as one of his tasks. "My whole attention got diverted to this," he says.
The smallest booth, at 3' by 3', is shaped like a telephone booth and, from there, they widen -- with the top-end model measuring 5' by 4', which Dwyer has named The Master Suite. It's big enough to fit a couple of podcasters, he says. Customers can make aesthetic choices in the customization: everything from the choice of door and whether it's stained and which direction it opens, to the thickness of the acoustic foam on the inside, to whether or not there will be a floor added to the bottom. A ventilation fan is another choice for customers who live in hotter climates. There's even the option to add a green screen for people doing Zoom meetings at home.
At his 3,000 square feet of rented shop space in West Jordan, Dwyer and his employees build the booths, starting with their wooden frames. The frames then get wrapped with carpeting, the color of which customers get to decide. Next, a sound deadening membrane is added to the walls inside. The next layer is a rigid foam insulation panel. Finally, on top of that, goes the pyramid-shaped acoustic foam.
Dwyer is quick to point out that the majority of vocal booths "reduce sounds," but aren't technically "sound proof." "We get about a 25- to 30-decibel drop from the outside noise," he says of his models. "I'm not going to say that's perfect for everyone." Potential customers can spend more money -- in the $10,000 range and above -- on other brands if needed. But "for 85 percent of people, the 25- to 30-[decibel] drop is more than acceptable," he says of his VoiceSuite products.
The booths are modular, making them easier to send to customers, before being assembled in about 20 to 30 minutes using the included bolts. It also makes them easier to move, further down the road in time, if needed.
"When we put one of these things on a pallet and ship it out, I feel really proud that I'm supplying the industry with a quality product, and it looks incredibly different and nicer than anything on the market, at a reasonable price," says Dwyer.
Challenges: "Getting supplies," says Dwyer. Nowadays, obtaining the single-pane glass the company uses for its windows "can be difficult."
Opportunities: "I look at it as quite endless," Dwyer says about potential streams of income, citing examples like school music programs for kids, as well as including them as an option within model homes. "We believe that all of the upper-scale hotels should have one of these in their business center," says Dwyer.
Needs: Juggling the needs for more finances and more time and more employees. "That whole balancing act of running a small business," Dwyer says.
There's also the need to play catch-up after a December 2021 roof collapse at the workspace destroyed most of the company's building materials, finished booths, and ones already in production. "That'll all come back in insurance claims, but that process is a nightmare," Dwyer says.