The sound of success

Bend sound studio designer growing, adding new products

By Elon Glucklich / The Bulletin / @EGlucklich


Published Nov 18, 2013 at 11:46PM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:09AM

How many businesses can say their customers include Grammy Award-winning bands and some of the world’s largest computer companies?

For Bend company VocalBooth, an A-list client base is all in a day’s work.

VocalBooth manufactures portable sound recording studios out of an industrial building off Nels Anderson Road.

The company’s beginnings are simple enough: In 1997, Calvin Mann, a Bend singer and songwriter, was fiddling with the idea of a sound studio in his garage. His friends were impressed, and he constructed several more for them.

Sixteen years later, VocalBooth has built thousands of audio booths for companies including Intel, Microsoft and Dolby, as well as music groups such as rock band Muse. The voice actor of the animated gecko in the Geico car insurance commercials recently had a VocalBooth delivered to his London home, Mann said.

VocalBooth has come a long way in 16 years, from Mann’s garage to an 11,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, where 15 employees do the wood and metal work that makes up each booth.

The booths come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from simple, square, 4-by-4-feet booths to diamond-shaped booths roughly 5 by 7 feet. The booths start at $4,000. Mann said the difference between a VocalBooth and a rival recording studio is like the difference between a Kia and a Lexus: For a bit more money, customers get a custom-made booth with full sound insulation that is built to last.

The company is in growth mode. Last year, Mann leased a 16,000-square-foot building near VocalBooth’s main facility to give him more space for working with sheet metal. VocalBooth is sharing the workspace with another company.

Mann said the company is working to be more environmentally friendly, recently switching to recycled wood scraps and glue with less toxicity.

He’s also diversifying. A large woodworking area has Mann thinking the company can find a niche making and selling wooden crates for shipping companies.

Q: What do you think has driven VocalBooth’s success?

A: Having an entrepreneurial mind has kept me moving forward. I’ve also really learned as I went along. I’ve had more than 15 years of education from making mistakes. Almost inadvertently, my design has just gotten better.

Q: Where do you see Vocal- Booth going from here?

A: One area I’m just starting to get into is selling booths for video conferences, like for law enforcement, where a judge can have a video conference with a prisoner. I’ve sold a few to contractors, and it’s something we’re working on the design for.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, eglucklich@bendbulletin.com