After 25 years in Business WhisperRoom Has Something to Shout About
How is it possible that a single company that has impacted everything from the Olympics, to internationally renowned recording artists, to television and radio broadcast stations around the world could remain virtually unknown? Well, if you’re WhisperRoom, Inc., the developer and leading manufacturer of portable/modular, sound isolation enclosures, it’s easy to understand.
From it’s humble beginnings on the patio of founder, Ben White’s, condominium to their state-of-the-art research and development and manufacturing facility in Morristown, Tennessee, WhisperRoom has emerged as the world’s premier source of portable/modular, sound isolation enclosures. Primarily a “behind-the-scenes” technological platform, WhisperRoom makes everything you hear sound better. From broadcasts and voiceover recordings to vocals and instrumental recordings, WhisperRoom gives serious professionals the edge and allows musicians and vocalists to hone their craft in the privacy of their own homes, without disturbing their neighbors.
This month Everything Knoxville is proud to interview WhisperRoom founder, Ben White, and design engineer, Josh Fletcher.
EK: Ben, describe for our readers just what a sound isolation enclosure is.
Ben: A sound isolation enclosure is a fully enclosed booth designed to reduce the volume (loudness) of sound, either entering or exiting a structure. WhisperRooms are designed, using both barrier materials and decoupling methods, to effectively reduce sound waves. For example, someone wanting to practice/rehearse using an instrument or vocals, or for a company testing a noisy product, the primary concern would be keeping the noise, or sound, in. On the flip side, for someone recording voice, vocals, instruments, or in a test environment such as audiology, they are trying to keep the day-to-day noises out of the recording.
EK: As a dedicated jazz saxophonist with a passion to play your saxophone in the middle of the night, how were you able to overcome the objections of your neighbors in adjoining condominiums who perhaps didn’t share your enthusiasm for your late night jam sessions?
Ben: When the saxophone bug hit me, I lived in the Baltimore/DC area, which happens to be one of the best locations in the world for jazz. Frequently I would go out to places like Georgetown to listen to some really great saxophone musicians perform. A friend and I would refer to it as being “in search of sax!” Usually I would get home in the middle of the night. I remember sitting in my 1100-square-foot condo, playing my saxophone without actually forcing air through the mouthpiece. I had neighbors on both sides, below, and above me! Well, after about a year, I decided that I needed to either move into a secluded house or build something, an enclosure of some type, that would allow me to play my saxophone anytime I felt creative! After some thought, I decided to build an enclosure. Of course I had to do this while my neighbors were at work, since I was building this on my 12’x16’ patio. My job at the time, a software engineer, often involved working evening and night shifts, so I was able to build by day and work by night! After about nine months, it was complete, and I moved my portable/modular enclosure from my patio into my dining area. It was a 5’x5’ enclosure complete with a 4’x4’ window, a sealed door, and an acoustically designed ventilation system that would allow airflow without allowing sound to escape. It was great! I could play and record anytime of the day or night without the worry of disturbing my neighbors!
EK: So while necessity became the mother of invention, when did you become aware of WhisperRoom’s commercial potential?
Ben: After months of my friends and I jamming away, with no complaints from neighbors, the thought occurred to me that maybe other musicians could use something like this. I did some research and found that the only sound isolation enclosures on the market, at that time, were made of steel, very heavy, non-portable, and very expensive, all of which made them non-conducive to use in multi-housing situations where starving musicians usually resided. So I decided to quit my job and go for it! I spent about a year better educating myself and seeking professional advice on sound isolation techniques. All along the way, I focused on portability and modularity. It had to be a product that could easily be assembled, disassembled, and relocated by average people. Once the prototype was complete, I filed for a patent, which I ultimately acquired.
EK: Describe for our readers some typical applications for WhisperRooms and why they are so important.
Josh: We have a broad and very diverse client base. Typical applications include residential and commercial voiceover or vocal recording, professional radio/TV broadcasting, podcasting, instrument practice and recording, audiology, equipment testing, and conference rooms. Basically, anytime someone needs to either contain sound or keep sound out, they can use a WhisperRoom.
EK: These sound isolation enclosures are available in a wide variety of sizes. Just how important is their portability?
Josh: WhisperRooms are often used as permanent studios/enclosures but are engineered to be portable, modular structures. Our design allows our clients the flexibility to relocate or reconfigure their WhisperRoom as often as necessary. Some clients choose to leave their WhisperRoom in the same location for years, while others routinely move them to different locations. We also have some clients that utilize WhisperRooms for specific events; for example, NBC, who has 20 WhisperRooms they use to broadcast the Olympics. We built custom crates for them, so they set up the WhisperRooms for the Olympic broadcasts during the events and then store them away in their crates until the next event.
EK: I take it then that it’s not unusual to find WhisperRoom enclosures in private residences?
Ben: Absolutely! Many musicians now have WhisperRooms in their residences. Some are very well-known professional personalities and others are people, just like me, who just want to sing or play an instrument without disturbing their neighbors. However, there are many other applications that require sound isolation in a residential setting. For instance, voiceover recording, which includes everything from radio and television commercial spots to movie trailer announcements, audio books, and online instructional videos, are typically recorded within the privacy of their own homes. Residential settings present their own host of recording problems, such as traffic, barking dogs, lawn mowers, or just the slight noise of an HVAC system or refrigerator compressor kicking on, which can deem a recording useless. WhisperRoom eliminates the issue of ambient noise to enhance the recordings to the professional level. Much of what we hear on the radio and TV is actually recorded from someone’s home from within a WhisperRoom.
EK: To celebrate WhisperRoom’s 25th anniversary, you’re planning a radio remote with Knoxville radio personality Phil Williams.
Josh: Yes, we’re excited to have Phil Williams and Talk Radio 98.7 broadcasting live from a WhisperRoom. Tune in on Friday, February 20, from 3:00 to 6:00 pm.
EK: Ben, we know that you credit much of WhisperRoom’s success to your associates. Is there anything you would like to say to your team?
Ben: Yes, if it wasn’t for my team, many of which have been with the company for 10+ years, this company would be nothing! I sometimes joke that they are more particular than I am and that they treat it as if it were their company! Throughout the years, we’ve all had our moments, disagreements, blowups, meltdowns, etc., but at the core, I know that they truly care about the company, the product, and me! I try to show them how important they are to the company and to me personally.
EK: How can our readers learn more?