Tech Tip:Monitor Speakers: Studio VIPs :Size, Power, and Placement Matter
Monitor Speakers and their Habitats
The most important part of your studio, bar none.
In real estate they say the three most important things are location, location and location. In recording, it's monitors, monitors and monitors.
Think about it: if you don't know exactly what is on your recording, you cannot possibly know what to do with it. At best you'll be guessing, which could lead to some interesting accidents, and at worst you'll be completely deluded about what's really there on tape. Sorry, but your home stereo speakers are not up to the task. As with all recording equipment, money talks, and a solid monitoring system is going to carry a price tag. The good news is that solid, well-controlled monitors are cheaper than they have ever been. Competition in the home and small studio market has forced manufacturers to come up with new, inexpensive designs that mimic top-dollar units. Why can't you just use your stereo speakers or your computer's speakers, or just a set of decent headphones? If they are good enough to listen to pro CDs on, why not hear your recordings the same way? And why drop money on speakers when other gear is more fun? We're not here to empty your wallet, honest. Let's look at monitors a little closer and see what really matters.
The best speakers in the world, when poorly placed, will sound like dreck. Don't place them across the room cattycorner from each other, facing the ceiling, too high, or on the floor. Near-field speakers should be at ear level,four to six feet in front of you, at roughly a sixty degree included angle (see figure 1). Approximate an equal-sided triangle among Speaker Left, your head, and Speaker Right. This is at least where to start. Depending on your room, you may have to fudge things a bit. In a very bright, small room (say, 10'x12' with plaster or sheetrock walls and not much damping by way of soft stuff on the walls.... Did I just describe your bedroom?), like most of our home studios, you may want to set speaker height so that the tweeters are aimed just a bit above your ears. High-frequency signal from the tweeters is very directional; sending them above your ears cuts down some of the direct treble from the speakers to your ears. Any high-end lost by doing this is easily made up by the frequencies bouncing around your room.
Your Room Matters
·Put a couch in the room against the wall facing the speakers. This acts as a bass trap which will even out response in the 180-300 Hz range and can actually give a bit of a boost to sub-bass sounds around 50 Hz.
·Put up some heavy curtains on the wall behind the monitors. This will help to control the high frequencies bouncing back and forth without destroying all the natural response of the room. Most people don't want to work in an acoustically "dead" room (which you'd get if you wrapped all the walls in velvet and fiberglass), and this setup will give you a reasonable place to start.