Studio monitors are the perfect tool for listening to your mixes and for finishing your songs, you will find at least one pair of them in every recording studio. But how do you place them correctly? What’s the correct distance from your ears? Should they point at you, and at what angle? Does it even matter? Make sure to follow these simple rules to get the best out of your freshly acquired studio monitors!
1. Don’t place ’em too close to the wall!
Loudspeakers can project a tons of sonic pressure – this can be good or bad, depending on the way you use them. When you place a loudspeaker near a wall or in cornered position, the (sub) bass gets wild and may rumble a tad too much, while the upper-bass frequencies are on their way to completely disappear from the mix. Since you don’t want this, because bass is crucial for music, experiment with the monitor placement until you have a nice and clear sound. Ideally, the monitors should not be placed too close to any hard surface.
2. Symmetry is life
The first rule to follow is that your monitors must be positioned to form an equilateral triangle with your listening position. Remember your math lessons, the equilateral triangles are equi-angular, ie the three angles are equal (they are 60 °). Loudspeakers need to “breath” in order to reproduce the frequencies without compromises – don’t cramp them to the left or right wall of your room.
3. The right distance from you
There are different types of Monitors: since we are talking about the near–field ones, it’s pretty obvious that they have to be close to you. Bigger monitors have to be placed more distant from the listener (you). This means not meters away, and not inches from your ears – one to two should be just fine – the manufacturer usually recommends the ideal distance for their product. The closer they are, the less influence from the room acoustic you will notice.
4. Horizontally or vertically?
For best sound reproduction, it is generally recommended that the near-field monitors should be positioned vertically so that the distance between the listening position is the same between the treble and bass speaker. Even if it is not always very aesthetic, always position your proximity speakers vertically. You can slightly tilt them down if they are too high, so that the tweeters are directed towards your ears (see next point). And if you decide to place them all the same in a horizontal position, make sure to place the tweeters outside!
5. The height is important
Monitors shouldn’t be placed too low or too high in relation to you. Most of the time people wrongly assume that the big speaker (low frequencies) should point to your ears: that’s not completely correct, because the high frequencies (carried by the tweeter) are more directional than the low ones. If you tilt them, don’t place them directly towards your workstation or desk to avoid unwanted early reflections. You can achieve this by using height–adjustable tripods or wedge shaped foam pads.
6. Boxes on the desk? No, thanks!
It has been said over and over but still, people don’t really understand this: speakers shouldn‘t be placed on the desk! Why? Well, you don’t want your desk to absorb and amplify certain frequencies AND you want to avoid tone changes from the monitors due to the hard surface of the desk. Use the method mentioned above to separate the loudspeakers from the hard surface.
7. Acoustic Treatment
After all the minor but crucial changes that we mentioned, there’s still one thing that needs to be taken care of: the room acoustic. If the room is resonating weirdly (which happens most of the time inside normal rooms) you need to treat it accordingly with acoustic elements such as Basstraps, standard absorbers and diffusors.
Active monitoring speakers are often equipped with tone adjustments to compensate for the influence of room acoustics. Again you have to experiment and trust your ear in any circumstance! There are also calibration tools to correct the frequency response and stereo image of the studio monitors at the listening position.
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