Are you trying to get a great sounding mix, but whenever your take your music to the outside world, it just sucks? Well, you can most likely blame your room. If you can’t trust your speakers, how can you get an accurate representation of what you are recording or mixing? Even though you may have some respected monitors according to the reviews, that is not the only factor affecting your sound. Here are some elements to help you improve your monitoring situation and learn how to setup studio monitors which in turn will improve your recordings and mixing. Sounds great, huh?
Let’s get started then!
How to Setup Studio Monitors – Getting the Positioning Right
Discovering how the sound is being reflected in your room is a difficult task and no two rooms are going the be exactly the same. However, there are some general guidelines to help you get started in finding the best location in your room.
In the end, the following are just general guides, not RULES, if there is a location in your room that you feel sounds good and believe it is giving you an honest representation of the sound by all means setup your studio monitors there.
Here are some general guidelines to follow:
Avoid the Walls or HUG the Wall? – You have probably heard conflicting advice about if you should put your speaker against the wall or not. The thing is that if you put your speaker against the wall, it will cause a problem AND if you don’t put it against the wall, it can cause a different problem! What the hell? You need to experiment and decide the lesser of the two evils. In smaller rooms, It is better to put your speaker against the back wall. The corner is still not preferred.
Not Against the Wall
The benefit of this is that you will not get a boost the in bass response due to the proximity of the rear wall. So you avoided that problem, but what problems does it cause?
Speaker-Boundary Interference Response
Speaker Boundary Interference Response is basically comb filtering caused by the sound wave that is being sent towards the back wall mixing with the direct sound wave. When the distance from the driver to the wall is 1/4 of a wavelength you get a cancellation at that frequency and then a boost, cancellation at multiples of this frequency. This is comb filtering and it can have a bigger affect on your sound than the room nodes/standing waves. It can cause huge nulls and peaks in important bass frequencies.
So there is a null at the 3/4 wavelength. That location looks a lot like where you would have your listening position, right?
Against the Wall
If you place it against the wall, you are going to get a general bass boost due to proximity. This is easier to control than having huge peaks and null in your frequency response. Now, you are still going to get comb filtering, but as you get closer and closer to the wall the comb filtering will start at a higher frequency. What is the good thing about that? Higher Frequencies are easier to control than lower frequencies. So you can reduce the comb filtering with your acoustic treatment.
Here is an example.
The front of your speaker is 1 meter from the back wall. You are going to get a huge dip at 86Hz. Now that is an important frequency for bass. Then you are going to get a peak at 257Hz.
If the front of your speaker is 20cm from the back wall, you will get a dip (null) at 390Hz and a peak at 1170. In this frequency range, the sound is more directional so not as much is being sent to the back wall anyway.
So in short.
- Get as close to the wall as possible to avoid speaker boundary interference.
- Or get be far away enough from the boundaries that the frequency is so low that your speaker does not reproduce it. Thus not causing a problem.
Avoid Asymmetry – You want your mixing position to be equal distances from both side walls. If the distances are different, you are going to get reflections at different times skewing your stereo imaging.
Avoid Poor Angles – You want to setup the studio monitors so that they form an equilateral triangle with your head.
Space Behind You – Generally you want to setup studio monitors on the wall that will give you the most space behind you
Here is a great example of how to setup studio monitors in an equilateral triangle. However, I would change it just a bit so that the speakers are pointed to your ears instead.
Image by Avid
How to Setup Studio Monitors – Acoustic Treatment
So how much money have you spent this year on plugins to make your music sound better? And how much have you spent on getting acoustic treatment? This can be the best investment for you home studio in the beginning and forever.
The primary location you want to place the acoustic panels are the first reflection points. What are the first reflection points though?
Imagine all of your walls are mirrors and there is a laser coming out of your speak instead of sound. Pretty crazy speaker huh? But anyway…
The location the laser hits the wall and angles directly to your ear is the first reflection point. Now This doesn’t mean just the side walls. It’s the ceiling. It’s the floor. It’s literally every hard surface in your room.
So you want to get some acoustic panels on your side, front walls, and ceiling to cover the first the strongest first reflections.
Bass traps need to go in the corners to reduce the nodes and bass buildup. It is important that these bass traps are actually thick enough to absorb the long wavelengths of the low frequencies. 2-inch Fiberglass will not be enough for your bass traps.
Also when setting up panels, it is good to have an air gap between the panel and the wall. This will help make them more effective.
How to Setup Studio Monitors – Room Analysis Software
So you have probably done most of this with your ear alone which is great! But unless you have a really trained ear and know what you should be hearing. You might need to bring out the big guns, or just an omnidirectional microphone. There is a free software that you can use to test your room. It has every metric you will need to get your room tuned from frequency response, decay time, phase, etc. It is a very handy piece of software and it is free. It is called Room EQ Wizard.
BUT you will need to get an omnidirectional microphone preferably with a calibration file, but if not it will get you in the ballpark.
So these are some of the basics that should get you started on how to setup studio monitors. I may have gone too in-depth on some aspects of these, but it is hard to explain it, without explaining it all. And since this is a huge topic, it is important to educate yourself on many of these topics if you want to improve your room and your mixes.
This acoustic company has great information if you want to learn more. http://arqen.com/
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