Whether a freelance engineer or a newbie to music technology, learning how to set up your monitors is crucial to creating quality audio.
In this article, we won’t just give you valuable tips and tricks on setting up your monitors.
You’ll also learn how to avoid newbie mistakes and learn how to set up your entire studio space!
Ready? Let’s get started!
- The placements of any monitor can make or break your entire setup.
- Knowing the exact places you set up your monitors is essential, or you will not fully utilize your entire setup.
7 Studio Monitor Positioning Tips
Here are the basics of setting up your studio space.
1. Position Your Speakers AWAY From the Back Wall
Did you know that bass frequencies tend to bounce off the room’s back wall, creating a boundary effect?
A boundary effect causes amplified in-phase frequencies while out-phase frequencies are canceled out.
We need to eliminate as many rear reflections as possible to prevent this by ensuring enough distance between the speakers and the back wall.
Putting enough distance between the speakers and the walls will prevent sound waves from hitting the wall and reflecting on you.
When setting up your monitors, measure at least one to two feet from the wall to your speakers.
2. Form an Equilateral Triangle
An equilateral triangle is a triangle that has 3 equal sides. So, how do you create one with your setup?
First, you must take note of the following equation:
Distance between your two speakers = distance of each monitor from your (or your seat)
What’s the reasoning behind the equilateral triangle?
You want your listening position to be the “sweet spot.“
You can only achieve this if you are in the MIDDLE of the two monitors, the crossover point of the left and right speakers’ sound waves.
A safe distance will be three feet if you’re using nearfield monitors. Position each monitor three feet apart; your chair is also three feet away from each monitor.
3. High-Frequency Driver Should Be at the Same Height as Your Ear Level
You might need monitor stands or speaker stands for this.
When you sit down in your workspace, you want the tweeter to be the same height as your ears.
Compared to low frequencies, high frequencies are far more directed.
Because of this, if the high frequencies are focused on your ear, you can hear what is going on more clearly.
You could also turn your studio monitors upside down to ensure that the center of the tweeters is at level with your ears.
4. Identify the Correct Monitor Orientation
Some studio monitors must be placed vertically, or it will ruin the stereo image.
Meanwhile, other units won’t have any issues even if you place them horizontally.
If you want to attempt placing your monitors horizontally, check with the manufacturer’s instructions first.
5. Position Your Head
Getting your monitor speaker placement right isn’t the only thing that will affect your work. You also need to sit in the sweet spot at ALL TIMES.
First, ensure that your listening position is in the middle of the two side walls to maintain the SYMMETRICAL stereo image again.
Next, you don’t want your head to be in the middle of the ceiling and the floor. The vertical plane also matters!
Lastly, ensure that your chair is NOT in the half-space between the front and back walls.
6. Your Speaker Placement From the Back Wall Must NOT Be Equal to the Distance from Either Side Wall
You don’t want to create corners when setting up your studio monitor placement.
To ensure this, you want the distance between the left and right speakers from the back wall to be different from their respective distances from either side wall.
For example, if your studio monitors are eight inches from the back wall, you will probably want to be twelve inches away from either side wall.
7. Your Studio Monitors Should Face You
Aside from ensuring your speaker placement makes an equilateral triangle, you also want both monitors to face you.
Angle them both so that they face you and each other to fit perfectly in the triangle so that you can hear the direct sound.
Otherwise, the sound waves will bounce around the room on your keyboard, walls, floor, ceiling, and even desk before reaching your ears.
4 Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Up Studio Monitors
Now that you know what you should do, let’s look at what you should NOT do:
Yes, we know we wrote a lot of rules above about studio monitor placement and that a lot of those said, you should center yourself or your speakers in your studio space.
However, you also need to ensure that all the distances between these three dimensions are NEVER at the same length, namely:
- The distances from your front and back walls
- The center position from your right and left wall
- The distances of the ceiling and floor from your head
Use a tape measure to ensure that your measurements are all CORRECT!
When you place your main speakers directly on top of your desk, you risk the sound waves bouncing on a reflective surface like your desk.
The vibration from your main speakers could also resonate through your desk and may distort the sound you hear by accidentally boosting certain frequencies.
You might want to invest in monitor stands to avoid these unwanted reflections. Isolation pads will also work if you stick to a budget for your setup!
Isolation pads are placed under your studio monitors on top of your desk.
They absorb the vibrations instead of letting them resonate through your desk, giving you a cleaner, undistorted sound.
3. Too Much Volume
Another mistake music producers make in their home studio is monitoring levels are too loud.
Our ears are more sensitive to treble and bass sounds when the volume is loud so that it can sound good, and you might always be tempted to keep your speakers cranked up.
However, too much volume will not only give you ear fatigue faster, but it can also permanently damage your ears.
Which, of course, will negatively affect the important aspects of your work. So take care of your ears and keep your average levels of sound at around 83–85 dB SPL.
You can use an SPL meter to ensure you’re in the safe zone.
4. Too Much Bass
If you have subwoofers to supplement your studio monitors, beware of boosting the bass response.
Your goal is not to crank up the bass response and boost it but to extend the bass energy to lower frequencies because your main speakers can no longer reach them.
The subwoofers should still be giving you a flat response.
Why Is Studio Monitor Placement Important?
Proper setup is important because the way sound waves interact with all the other elements in your room boundary before reaching your ears affects your work.
The placement has more impact than the quality of most speakers!
Not setting your monitors properly before you start working can create peaks and valleys in the frequency spectrum and give you a distorted sound.
What are Room Modes?
Room modes are a result of sound reflection off various room surfaces. Room modes can bring peaks and nulls (dips) in frequency response.
When two or more waves meet and are in phase with one another at a specific frequency, your reaction will spike.
Meanwhile, your response will increase when two or more waves of a particular frequency collide and are in phase.
A room has three modes: axial, tangential, and oblique.
Frequency vs. Wavelength
Frequency is defined as the number of full-wave cycles that occur per second. It is used to measure distance.
Meanwhile, the length of a wave is the total distance it travels in one cycle. It serves as a gauge for measuring time.
Wavelengths are shorter at the higher frequency response and longer at low frequencies.
Bigger room dimensions encounter fewer problems since they only struggle with wavelengths at low frequencies (usually at the bass).
With small rooms, you’ll have to deal with more problems.
Minimizing Standing Waves With Positioning
If you have a small room for a studio, the least you can do is spread out the wavelength among multiple frequencies by varying the distances between the monitors and the walls.
1. Ensure That No Distances Are Equal
Make sure your monitors are NOT at the halfway point between the floor and ceiling.
The distances between the monitors and surrounding walls CANNOT be equal to the distance between the monitors and ceiling or the distance between the monitors and floor.
2. Position Your Monitors Along the Longest Wall
If your studio is a rectangular room, you want to position your workstation along the longer wall and ensure YOU are at its very center.
Setting up your monitor speakers against the longest wall and in the middle will ensure that you maintain a symmetrical stereo image.
This will minimize reflected sound from the side walls of the room, giving you a well-balanced mix!
If the speaker placement is at the center of the longest wall, you can ensure that your listening environment gets balanced reflections.
Your panning placement could end up being off-center if one speaker is closer to the nearest side wall than the other.
3. Acoustic Treatment
Positioning your speakers is just the very basics. The next fundamental step is acoustic treatment.
Here’s how to remedy standing waves by treating your room:
Remember how we said earlier to position your speakers along the longest wall? Avoid the perfect square rooms and go for the rectangle if you can.
Rectangle rooms are better for stopping frequency from accumulating in your studio.
Sound wavelengths bounce off everything in your room and build up at crossover point areas like corners.
To prevent this, you can attach bass traps on the corners of your studio to absorb mid and high frequencies.
You will need at least eight traps for every corner of your room’s floor and ceiling.
If you have more than eight bass traps, you can also place bass traps directly behind each of your monitors.
The bass traps will capture the problematic rear frequencies and provide a more focused sound.
If bass traps are for corners, acoustic panels are flat-shaped and are designed to attach to your walls.
You should place a pair directly behind your studio monitors (if you haven’t already installed bass traps) and at the opposite walls directly facing your monitors.
From that point, place panels around your walls continuously if you can. If you don’t have enough panels, you can place them in small, equally distanced gaps.
You will probably need at least 18 panels to complete your room acoustics.
Since you face your monitors and form an equilateral triangle, most of their live sound gets focused on you.
And if the wall behind you is flat, that energy will all bounce back to you. You must cover that wall with diffusers for acoustic treatment to fix this.
By installing diffusers along the opposite wall, you can distribute the live sound evenly throughout the room and prevent more standing waves.
4. Purchase Monitors That Have Front Bass Ports
If you’re still in the market for studio monitors, get a pair equipped with front bass ports.
Many monitors that are designed like this focus more on the energy in front and to you instead of the walls.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still have questions? You might find your answers here!
What is the 38% Rule?
The 38% rule is a stereo field setup that says the best listening position is 38% into the room’s length (it can be 38% from the back or the front wall).
While this is a good rule to follow as a reference point when you start to set up your studio, it’s not always the best place in the room.
It would be best if you also considered the different distance rules from the walls and proper positioning rules for your monitors and your chair.
It’s only a starting point, not a strict rule you must follow.
Should I Go for Desktop or Floor Studio Monitors?
It’s better to go for desktop studio monitors.
Speakers should be at least 47 inches from the floor because you need the sound directed at your ears, so the floor is not an option.
Meanwhile, desktop speakers work perfectly fine as long as they have isolation pads.
Should You Put Your Speakers Behind your Monitor?
Try not to.
It’s not a good idea to place your speakers behind your monitor. Nothing should be placed in front of your speakers.
Placing anything in front of your speakers will cause it to reflect sound, which will distort your audio.
How Do You Connect Monitors to the Computer?
First, you need to figure out your main output source. Is it an audio interface, a console, or a desktop mixer?
You will need a 1/4-inch jack port for audio interfaces and recording consoles and a 3-pin XLR output for desktop mixers.
What Angle Should My Studio Monitors Be At?
A good angle to follow between your left speaker and your right speaker is 60°, with both facing you.
Where Should a Subwoofer Be Placed in a Studio?
Your subwoofer should be placed on the floor, right about where you put your chair. It should also be facing the center of the room.
Should the subwoofer be in front or back?
It is best to place your subwoofer at the front of the room.
Do Studio Monitors Need an Amplifier?
Most studio monitors are ACTIVE, meaning they already have built-in amplifiers, so there’s no need to get a separate one.
PASSIVE monitors are the ones that need external amplifiers.
That’s everything we have to teach you about how to maximize your equipment and studio!
Never underestimate the power of a good and well-thought-out setup! A good setup will go a long way compared to a standard setup!
We hope this article has been of help to you. Enjoy your newly built and optimized studio setup!