Studio Monitor Setup : 9 Common Mistakes & Tips to Do It Right

Howdy SEA Fans, welcome to another tipTuesday blog post sharing tips related to audio engineering. As you have read in the title of this blog post, today we are discussing the placement of studio monitors for optimal audio quality.

There are plenty of suitable—even excellent—studio monitors out there, at all sizes and price points, but the setup is just as critical as choosing a good pair.

For those who are new to audio mixing, it is better to get a basic idea about the topic / the product which we are talking about, like what are studio monitors and why studio monitors are used.

What are Studio Monitors and the purpose of monitoring?

Studio monitors are loudspeakers in speaker enclosures specifically designed for professional audio production applications, such as recording studios, filmmaking, television studios, radio studios and project or home studios, where accurate audio reproduction is crucial.” Source: Wikipedia

The main purpose of studio monitoring is to promote a consistently enjoyable listening experience, but to reveal the truth about the sound of the recording or mix—good, bad, or ugly, what you hear through the monitors must reveal not only what sounds good, but more importantly, what’s wrong, and what needs to be fixed.

Why not use consumer speakers?
The sound of many consumer speakers is often “hyped”—this usually means that the bass and/or the treble (and maybe presence) frequencies are accentuated, for a punchier, brighter, more “in-your-face” tonal balance.

After buying the first studio monitors, the question often arises how to set up the studio monitors correctly. This is very important for your studio monitors to reach their full potential.

With regard to placement of studio monitors the most debated topic among the mixing engineers is the “correct mixing position”. Nowadays, most of the mixing engineers have reached a consensus to what is generally considered “ideal.”

The 4 main points that all the mixing engineers recommend is.,

1) When mixing, your head should form an equilateral triangle with your monitors.
2) Point the monitors directly towards your head
3) The ideal angle for stereo monitors is ~ 60° (between speakers, or ~ 30° between each speaker and the “sweet spot”).
4) Most engineers recommend working/mixing at consistent average levels of around 83–85 dBspl

Every recording studio belongs a good pair of reference monitors and most of the monitors come with a recommendation for placement, and may include adjustable low-end response, to match the speakers to the placement—“full space” for the (preferred) free-standing placement, “half-space”, for wall placement, and sometimes even “quarter-space”, for corner placement

How else should one be able to judge whether the frequencies in the mix are balanced or the stereo placement of the individual instruments can be improved? However, it is not enough to buy good studio speakers alone. Also, the room should be acoustically optimized – with an optimal setup you can get it right.

Here are some more tips other than mentioned above which you have to keep in mind while setting up studio monitors.

1. Changing Position.

Although many monitors already have built-in filters to room acoustically adapt the speakers, you should still leave them as untouched and first, try to fix problems in the transmission process by changing position.

2. Studio monitors placed too close to the wall

The monitors should be either less than 60 centimeters (without subwoofer) or more than meters (with subwoofer) away from the wall. Everything in between leads in most cases to a restless frequency response.

The best place to find them is by trying out: Run a sine test tone and sit in different places within the above-mentioned distances. At the place where you perceive the frequency response smoothest is your new Sweetspot. Here you can already see that you are more flexible with a subwoofer.

Another case is due to the pressure jam in the wall there will be an increase in low bass reproduction. However, at the same time, it usually comes to a reduction/extinction in the upper bass. Experiment with the distance to the back wall in order to achieve as linear a tuning as possible.

3. Boxes placed in a room corner

Paying attention to left / right symmetry is enormously important. You should be right in the middle of the room. This is the only way to obtain uniform reflection patterns. First, mark the center of your room, specifically: Sit in the centerline of your room so that the left and right speakers are as far away as possible from the side wall. If you are clearly offset, ie too close to the right or left wall, some of the reproduced frequencies may cancel each other out.

4. Speaker too far away from the listening point

In general, you will work with near field monitors. These are called because they should be placed in the immediate vicinity. As a rule, the distance to your ears is about one meter. The bigger the distance to the speakers, the more the influence of the room on the sound increases – and we really want to avoid that.

5. Speaker too far or too close to each other

Your listening position and speakers should form an isosceles triangle that is as equiangular as possible. The internal angles are therefore about 60°. Sometimes the portrait of the semicircle, in whose center you sit, also helps.

This means that the distances between the speakers (measured from tweeter to tweeter) and to your back-head should be the same. This setup is also called “stereo triangle” and provides a better stereo location of the sounds.

6. Monitors at the wrong height

The acoustic axis of loudspeakers is usually located between the woofer and woofer. And this should also show on your ears. You can achieve this by using tripods or wedge-shaped foam pads.

7. Sub-woofer setup not correct

For the subwoofer to complement your setup in the best possible way, it must be placed in the optimum position. This is in most cases on the wall in front of you.

You can proceed as follows:

1. First, place the subwoofer at your listening point. Yeah, right, the place you usually sit.

2. Play a test tone equal to the separation frequency.
These can be found in the manual of your subwoofer. Mostly it is between 80 Hz and 85 Hz. Some subwoofers can produce the test tone themselves.

3. Now look for the maximum pressure (where you hear the sound the loudest). Mark the place.

4. Next, look for the pressure minimum (where you can hear the sound the faintest). Mark this place too.

5. Place the subwoofer exactly between the two marks. Done

The last step is to adapt the subwoofer to the two monitors. It must be adjusted to a suitable volume and phase ratio. Most manufacturers offer test signals.

Now you have your studio monitors set up optimally. This provides the foundation for a good sound and for all further steps in the form of acoustic enhancements.

8. Is it right to mount it horizontally?

It is one of the common question asked by most of the newbie mixing engineers, whether to keep the monitors horizontally or vertically? When you look at the pictures of big studios, in some studios behind the mixing board you could see that monitors are placed horizontally.

Most of the speakers can’t be laid in that way as many studio monitor box designs are curved.

It is better not to keep the speakers on the side, why is it so?

The high frequency comes from the tweeter, low frequency from the woofer and midrange comes from both. If the speakers are placed sideways, that puts the tweeter farther away from the mixing engineer on the horizontal plane and that in turn brings the woofers close to the engineer. It will bring the medium mid-range to be closer and will affect the overall stereo image of the sound.

Another problem arises if you move your head to the left or right a little bit when the speaker is kept horizontally it can mess with the frequency response much more when tweeter and woofers lined-up in a vertical fashion.

9. Room acoustics to be improved

Even if you can improve a lot by a better positioning. Without room acoustic treatment, most rooms will not sound ideal.

We will be discussing tips for improving your room acoustics in the coming week and provide details about things you can use which can minimize phase effects and provides clean stereo positioning.

Hope you have found the above-discussed topic useful and we are inviting suggestions/updates on improving this post as comments in the box below.

Happy Sound Engineering !!!

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