Studio monitors are NOT cheap!
People invest a lot of money in the best studio monitors, and placing them in the right location and direction is very important.
Its placement greatly affects the frequency response of a room and overall user satisfaction. Placing the monitors incorrectly could result in a DISASTER in every recording that you do.
So, let’s avoid that, shall we?
This guide will help you with your studio monitor placement and layout to optimize your sound!
Standard Studio Monitor Placement
Though it may take a little time and effort, it is not difficult to achieve a recording studio that has great sounds.
Just follow these simple steps!
Step 1: Desk Should Be AWAY from Walls and Corners
The first step is to locate your listening position. This is the starting point for laying out your studio.
For a RECTANGULAR room, start by facing the SHORT SIDE of the room.
Measure the length of the entire room and calculate 38% of the room’s length and position your desk there.
- Ideally, the listening position is around the range of 35 – 43% of the room’s length.
- Avoid putting it at the center.
- The desk should not be too close to the rear wall because of comb filtering.
- Place your desk at least 8-12 inches from the front and rear walls to avoid sound waves reflecting straight back to you.
The reflected sound will cause undesirable acoustic sounds and phase cancellation when it hits with the direct sound coming from the speakers
Step 2: Check Your Studio Monitor Orientation
Studio Monitors should be placed VERTICALLY, mirroring each other.
Although there may be studio monitors that can be placed horizontally, you have to check with the model of monitors you have.
If you choose to orient it HORIZONTALLY, the tweeters should be on the outside.
Step 3: Create An Equilateral Triangle
To achieve the best stereo image, try the EQUILATERAL TRIANGLE method!
The speaker placement should create a triangle shape with the listening position.
Both speakers should be of the same distance from the listener’s head!
How do you know if it is an equilateral triangle?
- Turn the direction of your left and right speakers at a 60-degree angle!
- Make sure that the distance between each monitor and you is equal to each other.
Step 4: Optimize The Speaker Distance
The DISTANCE has a big effect on room acoustics!
The speaker stands should be placed at different distances from the rear wall and side walls.
- If the studio monitors are 2 feet from the rear wall, the distance from the side wall should be 3 feet.
- Avoid putting the monitors in a corner. Make sure the distances between side and rear walls are not the same and not the exact multiple.
Remember to place the monitors SYMMETRICALLY!
If the left monitor is:
- 5 feet from the left wall
- 2 feet from the rear wall
Then the right monitor should be:
- 5 feet from the right wall
- 2 feet from the wall behind.
Both speakers should be the SAME DISTANCE from the front wall.
- Sound reflections can bounce off from all sides of the room, including the ceiling and the floor.
- VARYING the distances is the most recommended position for optimizing audio.
The height of the speaker stand should be the SAME level as the listener’s ear. This is because high frequencies are more directional than low frequencies.
Once you have found that sweet spot while in a sitting position, check if your ear level is the same height as the center of the tweeters.
Use of Acoustic Treatment
It can be difficult to determine audio quality in an empty room, no matter how much measuring you do!
To create an ideal listening environment, you can make use of acoustic treatment in your studio. This will help produce accurate stereo imaging and improve the frequency response of your studio.
NOTE: Furnishings and window treatments can affect sounds in a room!
Once furnishings are in place, you can make use of acoustic treatments to adjust the audio output to your liking and find that sweet spot for the listening position!
You will need to control the reflected bass frequencies in the studio.
Bass sounds reflect BACKWARD from your speakers, bouncing towards the wall in front and causing some cancellation of sounds.
When direct sounds and sound-reflecting in the boundaries of the room are similar in strength and half a wavelength out of phase, the waveforms eliminate each other.
This is what they call the speaker-boundary interference response or SBIR. It is the boundary-induced comb filtering effect on acoustics.
SBIR can affect low frequencies and bass energy because of the deep dips in a certain frequency.
- Bass traps absorb and damp lower frequencies by converting them into heat by friction.
- Bass traps flatter bass response by eliminating the low-frequency resonances in the room.
There are FOUR initial reflection points that could cause problems in the room.
Reflection points are where the next sound comes from after the direct sound from the speakers or what they call ECHO.
It can confuse listeners and add unwanted noise in rooms or commercial studios!
To hear increased definition and enhanced accuracy, find the initial reflection points in the room by using a MIRROR.
- Sit in the listening position.
- Have an assistant hold a mirror along the left wall and drag it along the wall until you see the left speaker’s reflection.
- Do the same on the right wall and the ceiling, and you will find the reflection points of the room.
Once you have found the reflection points, you need to install ABSORBERS that are at most 4 inches thick. These absorbers are called ACOUSTIC PANELS.
These will absorb only lower mid-range frequencies upwards in the first reflection points.
You will experience a big difference once acoustic panels are installed!
The sounds will be much cleaner and more direct. Echoes will also be eliminated, and you will be able to discern each channel level more accurately.
Using Monitor Stands
Speaker stands will further enhance your listening environment!
Aside from the walls and floor, your desk is a reflective surface as well! Sound waves travel and bounce off your desktop if your monitors are placed directly on top of the desk.
To achieve clear and balanced audio, you need to limit unwanted noises before it reaches your ear. These include:
- Loose screws on the table
- Boosted frequencies from vibrations coming from the desk
Isolation pads can be used in smaller home studios!
- These pads act like stands, but your monitors are still on the desk.
- It will mitigate vibrations and resonances when monitors are placed on a hard surface.
These foam and rubber pads are a very INEXPENSIVE alternative but at the same time effective in redirecting the vibrations.
- They also decouple the speakers from the desk, which is a reflective material.
- The vibrations from the monitors travel into a flexible and absorbent material instead of the desktop.
- It can also adjust the monitors’ vertical angle, which is useful if the height of the surface is higher than the sitting position.
Either way, if you decide to place your speakers on stands or isolation pads, make sure the placement is correct against the mixing environment!
You can also opt to set up soffit mounts for your studio monitors.
Once your main monitors are in place, it’s easier to find the right spot for your subwoofers.
The ideal way to find the spot where low frequencies will sound good is to start in the MIXING POSITION.
- While it is there, try playing some music with a lot of bass tones.
- Move it around the same plane as the main monitors until you are satisfied with the output.
To avoid phase issues, it is recommended to place subwoofers on the SAME PLANE as the full-range speakers.
NOTE: DO NOT place subwoofers too near the back wall or the side walls as they will amplify lower frequencies!
Why Studio Monitor Placement is Important
Placement plays a big role in optimizing sounds from your studio monitors!
All rooms have ROOM MODES, so placement is crucial and should be studied well before finalizing the layout.
But, what exactly are room modes?
Room mode is the natural existing resonance frequencies inside any room.
These resonances occur when some wavelengths correlate with the fundamental resonances in a room. The room dimensions determine the fundamental resonances of the room.
- If any of the room’s dimensions are of the same length as in a cubic room or multiples of each other, it creates unwanted resonance.
- Some frequencies boom or get louder at a certain spot in the room, or sometimes it gets quieter.
STANDING WAVES cause these acoustic effects in a room. These are stationary waves that are the same in a given room.
- In a room that has equal dimensions, there are twice as many standing waves with the same group of frequencies. So, the sound waves are amplified.
Room modes can be countered by simply placing the sound-producing devices in the correct position. You just have to vary the distances between the speakers and each wall.
Here’s a guide on different home studio ideas you can do!
Frequency and Wavelength
FREQUENCY is the number of times a sound wave repeats itself per second. WAVELENGTH is the distance between the repeats of the waves.
For home studios, the usual problem with standing waves is those below frequencies of 300 Hz.
- The reason behind this is that low frequencies are LONGER
- As they approach the room’s dimensions or their exact multiples, they become more affected by room modes.
- Higher frequencies are SHORTER and have no problem traveling the room dimensions because of their short lengths.
This is also why audio sound is better in bigger rooms than in smaller rooms.
In setting up your project studio, you would want a natural balance of sound and achieve a symmetrical stereo image to get that crisp and clean audio.
Monitor placement is very crucial and here’s how you can make sure you’re getting the right sound:
- The equilateral triangle method is a great starting point, but feel free to adjust and fine-tune your audio output.
- Keep in mind that you have to consider front, rear and side wall reflections and room boundaries.
- Your listening position also affects sound in the room, so make sure you study where the best position is.
- Since a studio always involves a seated mixing position, you should check the height and distances of the monitors as well as ear level.
- If you are still experiencing unwanted resonances, audio treatment will be very helpful. Bass traps and acoustic panels can further enhance the environment and remove clutter.
- You can also test the set-up you made by using a bass sweep. Play an audio clip containing many bass tones at a constant level and pinpoint problems you hear from the lower frequencies.
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It can be a hassle to figure out the perfect location for your studio monitors, but once you find the perfect place, you will be glad that you took the extra time to figure it all out!
Don’t forget to make sure to get a good pair of studio monitors for the best audio quality.
Enjoy the process of setting up your home or commercial studios, and we hope these few tips will be a great help!