Proper home studio monitor placement is vital to ensure a high standard of translation in music productions, mixes, and masters.
Monitor placement is all dependant on the size of the room. It is vital to use monitors which are not too big or too small for the room dimensions. Knowing if your current monitors are best for you room can be tested with intensive critical listening. Learning how to calibrate the monitors (if that is an option), the room (with acoustic treatment), and your ears will be the focus of this article. We will also share an action plan for you to follow to get the most out of your home studio monitor position.
Home studio monitor placement should be in the form of an equilateral triangle. The aim is to have your head and the speakers at the same distance from one another. The equilateral triangle shape ensures the best stereo imaging of the mix and the highest level of translation.
To get the most out of your monitors spend some time with a friend “dialing in” extremely accurate measurements. Take turns moving the monitors in small ways to get the proper imaging angle. Make sure that both of your subjective perceptions (regarding the stereo image) from the sweet spot are consistent. If you do not have anyone to do this with, that is OK, just be objective and take your time! Once the monitors are in the place, you will never need or want to move them! Do not rush this process; it is eminent!
On less expensive monitors this is not an option via the monitors. Mid and higher level monitors have options on the back of the units which allow for cuts or boost in general frequency registers to account for reflections and issues with rooms. If your monitors do not offer such options, you must take the time to understand your environment. You must be vigilant with this task to apply experiential adjustments or “manual calibration techniques” to your mixes.
If you are getting a lot of low end in the room, based on not having bass traps, or the inability to position the monitors at the recommended distance from the wall (illustrated in most product manuals) making EQ moves in the mix will often help in the translation of mixes.
For example, if the mix sounds balanced in the studio but has a way too much 100 hertz (or general low end) in the car, then it would be wise to adjust the mixes to sound lighter on the low end in the studio. This will take some serious effort and adaptation.
We can tell you from personal experience that our previous location had major low-end issues which rendered dull sounding mixes. Therefore, we had to take out way more bass than we wanted to in the studio while mixing. Once we adjusted to mixing in this manner, we found that all of our mixes translated much more efficiently.
“Manual calibration” is not a fun process, and it is one that takes massive time and dedicated effort, but “the manual calibration approach” is much more practical than seeking out a new mixing room or spending thousands of dollars on modifying the room.
When working in less than ideal environments, it is vital to understand the difference between the sound of the mixes and reference tracks in the studio vs. other rooms, cars, etc. If the music emitting from the studio monitors sounds thin in the studio but full in the car, then that tells you a lot about how you need to calibrate your ears or room (with treatment) to adjust for such variations.
By doing ample trial and error (with critical listening sessions), you will be able to decipher what your monitors can do well (through intensive listening sessions), and what issues your setup is currently challenging you with (room problems and monitor calibration). The more action you can take to render a higher potential level of mix proficiency and translation.
It all depends on the size of the room and where the sweet spot is. Either way, it is wise to have absorption pads under the monitors. Do the best you can to eliminate reflections from the desk or whatever flat space is between your ears and the monitors.
Many people cannot attach cloud panels on the ceiling. If you are one of these many people, be mindful that flat surfaces (which are between the monitors and your ears) equal reflections. These reflections will be bouncing off the desk and the ceiling before reaching your ears. So, take this into consideration which calibrating your ears, room, and monitor position.
Position the monitors in an equilateral triangle behind or to the side of the desk, whichever is proportionally aligned with the sweet spot.
For example: If your speakers are 6 feet apart positioned on the outside of the desk on stands, and you are sitting 2 feet closer than the triangle permits, the speakers need to come in closer.
Home studio monitor placement has a lot more considerations than people often discuss. The position of your monitors, for the most part, is limited, based on small room dimensions, a desk causing reflections, and a lack of acoustic treatment.
If mix translation is your objectives do everything you can to learn your monitors inside and out. From there, it is all a matter of budget and doing small but significant modifications to acoustic properties of the room to best accentuate your current home studio monitor placement and setup.