Setting up your speakers correctly in your personal studio is vitally important to getting the best sound from them – and help you improve your mixes.
In this series, we look at how best to position your speakers in your room, how to improve the acoustics of your room, and several common problems faced by musicians working in small rooms and how to remedy them.
PART 1: Monitor Placement – The Basics
The most common type of studio monitor that most people working in home studio are likely to use are near-field monitors. These are optimized to be accurate when placed close to the listener and tend have a narrow “sweet spot”, where their sound is at its best.
Firstly you will want to get your speakers positioned to the correct height. Near-field monitors are designed to sound best at around the same height as your ears. Start by lining up the tweeter on your speakers with your ears and then adjust slightly to taste if needed. This is easier to do if you speakers are on stands; however if they are placed on your desk you can try raising them slightly with a speaker isolation pad (or even some books if you have nothing better), or you could lower/raise your seat until you find the perfect position.
Next you will want to check the angle of your speakers. When positioning your monitor speakers it is vitally important to get the geometry of your setup correct in order to get a correct stereo image as well as get the optimal sound.
You want to avoid asymmetrical setups (see image) as much as possible and opt for a symmetrical position (see image).
One of the easiest ways to think of how best to set your speakers up is to visualize a triangle. Here your head becomes one point of this virtual triangle with your speakers becoming the other two points. Setting up your speakers this way ensures that you are equally placed from each speaker (another vital consideration for correct placement) and that you are in the middle of the stereo field.
The angle between your head and the speakers can be adjusted to alter the perceived width of the stereo field to your liking. Typically an angle of around 30 degrees from center is recommended, however this can vary slightly between different models, so it is often worth checking the manufacturer’s recommendations in the manual before experimenting with different positioning angles.
Note: If you have a smart phone, there are some useful apps to help with measuring the angle of your speaker setup.
Once you have placed your monitors where you think it correct, make sure to test your setup out with some commercial recordings to make sure everything sounds as it should. If you have followed the above steps, hopefully you should now be hearing a nicely balanced stereo image with a well-defined phantom centre that makes vocals sound like they are coming from directly in front of you.
In PART 2 we will look at more speaker placement considerations as well as setting up surround sound monitoring environments.