Now that you’ve bought your dream monitors, it’s time to figure out how to get the best from them. In the real world, monitor placement is a matter of compromise — you do the best you can with what you have to work with. But ithelps to know what you should do, even if circumstances don’t permit the ideal placement.
1. Find Your Listening Position
Before settling on monitor placement, it’s worth finding the best listening position in your room. Since the majority of rooms are more or less rectangular, start by facing the shortest wall of the room, equidistant from the left and right walls (the longer walls). The ideal listening position will be somewhere between 30% and 40% of the distance between the front and back walls, midway between the side walls. For example, if your room is 10 feet by 12 feet, the listening position should be five feet away from each of the side wall (centered on the short wall) and somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.5 to 4 feet from the front wall (30-40% of the long wall length).
2. Center Your Desk on the Short Wall in Your Room
By centering your workstation along the short wall, reflections from the side walls will arrive at the listening position at the same time. This will give you a better stereo image. When choosing where to place your workstation, strive for symmetry. For instance, a door, window, or other opening to your immediate left or right when sitting in the listening position will change the reflections that reach you from that side, and will mess with the balanced stereo image you’re trying achieve. Choose your location with this in mind.
3. Put Your Monitor on a Sturdy Platform
Contemporary music includes a lot of low-frequency information, and some of those low frequencies can cause the monitor cabinets to resonate or vibrate. Make sure that none of that vibration is transferred to the surface on which the monitors sit. At best, this can allow the transfer of energy to that surface with a resulting loss of volume. The worst case is that the surface itself can begin to resonate, emphasizing unwanted frequencies in what you hear. The two best way to eliminate these problems is to use high-mass speaker stands and isolation pads or shock absorbers that sit between your speaker and the stand it’s sitting on. IsoAcoustics, Primacoustic, Ultimate Support, and Auralex all make great monitor isolation solutions.
4. Move Your Monitors Away from the Wall
While it’s common to want to maximize the usable space in a room by putting the furniture against the walls, you should leave a little space between your speakers and the wall behind them. Close proximity to the wall can boost the low frequencies as much as 3dB — which can make your mixes sound huge. The problem is that when you take those mixes outside of your room, they don’t have much bass. Why? Because you’re hearing the bass buildup in the room, not the “real” bass coming out of the speakers. Place the speakers a minimum of 6 to 10 inches away from the wall — 2-3 feet is better; this will minimize bass buildup from the front wall.
5. Create an Equilateral Triangle
Visualize an equilateral triangle, where the length of each side of the triangle is the same. The distance between the two speakers should be the same as the distance between each speaker and your head (in the listening position). If your speakers are four feet apart (measured from the center of the speaker cone), then the listening position should be four feet from each speaker.
An easy way to make this measurement is to use a tape measure and a microphone stand. First, put the mic stand in the listening position. Then, measure the distance between the two speakers (from the center of the cone of one to the center of the cone in the other speaker). Then measure from the cone of each speaker to the microphone stand in the listening position. If the distance from each speaker cone to the listening position is shorter than the distance between the two speakers, you’ll need to move your listening position back or move the speakers closer together. If the distance between the speaker cone and the listening position is farther than the distance between the two speakers, you’ll need to move the listening position closer or move the speakers farther apart. Once the measurements are done, remove the mic stand and place your chair in the same position — that’s the sweet spot.
6. Point the Speakers Directly at You
Your monitors — actually, the whole room — should be laid out so that the listening position is the sweet spot. That means that the speakers shouldn’t just point into the room; they need to be aimed directly at the sweet spot. You’ll need to turn the speakers in slightly to face you, adjust the height of each speaker so that the tweeter is at the level of your ears or slightly above when you are sitting in the listening position.
By following these instructions you can optimize the position of your monitors in your room, which will help you monitor more accurately and create better mixes!