How to Position Studio Monitors
Have you ever taken the time to consider how to position studio monitors? Did you know that you may be hurting your mixes without even realizing it? This is a critical step in any home music studio.
The truth is, very few things affect our recording projects more than the monitoring source we've mixed them by. Learning how to position studio monitors is not impossible but it is critical. The good news is, this tip is absolutely free.
In reality your home music studio monitors are what your mixing/control station should be configured around.
So let's talk about how to position studio monitors in the space you have.
It's important to understand, at least a general idea of how sound waves travel. Without getting too technical let me give you an illustration.
Imagine throwing two small rocks into a pond about 2 feet apart. As each rock hit the water both would no doubtingly cause ripples. These ripples would begin to move across the pond until they eventually rippled into one another.
When the two sets of ripples hit together there would be visible effects. Some ripples would collide and essentially knock each other down. Others would magnify the ripple of its counterpart. Some would change direct after hitting. Still others would never hit and continue to move across the water until their energy was gone.
Though there is much more to the science about sound waves, this illustration does serve as a good visual. So let's put this picture into our equation as we learn how to position studio monitors.
Your studio monitors are much like the rocks in our illustration. When they produce audio, much of the sound travels outward into your room. Still certain frequencies also travel out of the back and sides of your monitor's speaker cabinet. These sound waves can be compared to our ripples across the water.
The goal of knowing how to position studio monitors is to eliminate as much "ripple" effect as possible. When sound waves collide, some frequencies are canceled while others are amplified.
Later this week I will post about how to control the acoustic of your room, which is the other side of this equation. For now, let's look at our starting point, monitor placement. To do that I will list some general concepts that apply.
Don't place your studio monitors in a corner.
In the typical smaller space for home recording, often the mixing desk ends up in a corner. Lower frequencies are amplified in corners. This would be great for live sound but not for the home studio.
Hearing more lows than your mix is producing will cause you to EQ less lows into your mix. Thus your final project will be too light on the low-end. This is because you were hearing something produced by the room, not your tracks. Get those studio monitors out of the corner.
Get those speakers off your desk.
For the same reasons noted above, it is best to have your speakers on in-dependant stands from your mixing desk. Lower frequencies are felt more as vibrations than heard like higher ones. When you share the same surface as your monitors, you will also feel/hear more lows than what is truly present in your mix.
Place them on your shortest wall if possible.
Now I know some will disagree with this theory on how to position studio monitors so let me explain. When you mix, you need to hear the purest sound, frequency wise, as possible. If your room is not exactly square then place your speakers on the shortest wall. This would mean most of their sound would travel further before any potential bounce occurs.
The exception here would be if the short wall forces them to be in the corner as well. In this case I would place them on the longest wall of the room and work on acoustical treatment of the room.
So where would you place your speakers then?
Keep in mind that room acoustics do play a role here. As I said I'll cover that later this week. Knowing the acoustic of my room I would place my speakers at ear height on separate stands in front of my desk. They would be on the shortest wall about 4 feet apart at their center. Each speaker would be angled in toward my listening spot about 30 degrees.
One post doesn't give enough room to cover everything about how to position studio monitors. With that in mind I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions. Please add them to the section below.
Any experience with monitor isolation pads? Space limitations led me in that direction. Both my sets of monitors sit on my desk on iso pads from Alctron Audio through Amazon. They made a notable difference in low end reduction. Separation is an issue that I plan to alleviate using shelf across the desk method Dan used with foam under the shelf along with the iso pads. If it’s stable that is.
Seeing that the comments here are over 2 yrs old, probably won’t help previous posters but, if, like me, someone finds your site now, or in the future, this could be of help.
Isolation pads are a great option as well. Depending on your setup, even if your speakers are off your desk they can still give you some benefit. If space is limited then having them on your desk with isolation pads is a great option.
Hi David, I have a small problem, literally! I have JBL Control 2P 30 watt Monitors, they are ear level, but I am truly a bedroom recorder, and they are only about 1 1/2 feet apart. What kind of problems will that cause me? I don’t have a lot of choice, either that or 6 feet apart with a 32″ TV in between, what do you think? Thanks again, loving your site!
Ideally, your head and the two speakers should all be the same distance apart (i.e. and equalateral triangle). So if your speakers are 6 ft apart, your head should be 6 ft from each speaker.
If the speakers are too close together, it will be more difficult to pan instruments and judge stereo width, which will stand out when listening on other systems. On the bright side, you would hear comb filtering / phase cancellation problems better. ;)
I will try to talk the wife into rearranging the bedroom! I’m a guitar player mostly, so I need a little more room anyway, physically, and, in the mix. I know how how fun it is recording a good guitar sound! Thanks again.
Hey Mark, Dan is exactly right on the triangle placement. Six feet apart with your head 6 feet back and directly in the center would be a better option than 1 1/2 feet apart. If you don’t have that option than your stereo field adjustments (panning) could be judged by using a good pair of headphones.
If your speakers are closer together you will most likely have a harder time hearing a true mix. Depending on the frequency and the phasing some tones will be canceled while others will be boosted. This is not ideal to mix with.
Bottom line, if you can separate them even at 6 feet, that’s what I personally would do. Hope that helps.
I have been wondering for a while about the effect of setting speakers on the top of my desk. Mine sit on a 10″ shelf across my desk, so that’s probably helping out my situation a bit.
I will double-check my bass levels in other rooms from now on. If they are weak on bass, now I know why.
For sure Dan, thanks for the reply and I’m glad I could point out something that may help your projects out. Ya, I’ve got my monitors sitting on bar stools and some 2 foot DYI stands that bring them up to ear level. ;) It certainly does make the mix more accurate on the low side of things.
keep in touch
Thank you for all the helpful information. I especially liked the illustration about throwing small rocks into a pond to cause ripples, that makes it easier to understand how things work.
Your welcome Wanda, glad you found it helpful!