Speaker Placement


Mixing​ ​isn’t​ ​easy.​ ​Despite​ ​that​ ​fact,​ ​I​ ​would​ ​be​ ​willing​ ​to​ ​bet​ ​that​ ​you​ ​are probably​ ​making​ ​it​ ​even​ ​harder​ ​for​ ​yourself​ ​in​ ​more​ ​ways​ ​than​ ​one.

Nowadays​ ​it’s​ ​common​ ​for​ ​professional​ ​engineers​ ​to​ ​mix​ ​completely in-the-box,​ ​in​ ​small​ ​home​ ​or​ ​project​ ​studios.​ ​Some​ ​famous​ ​engineers​ ​even mix​ ​on-the-go​ ​with​ ​headphones.

It​ ​takes​ ​a​ ​long​ ​time​ ​to​ ​develop​ ​the​ ​skills​ ​necessary​ ​for​ ​that​ ​level​ ​of​ ​confidence. Sure,​ ​it’s​ ​perfectly​ ​possible​ ​to​ ​produce​ ​professional,​ ​radio-worthy​ ​mixes​ ​in​ ​a less-than-ideal​ ​room​ ​with​ ​affordable​ ​equipment​ ​and​ ​hardly​ ​any​ ​acoustic treatment.  It​ ​will​ ​probably​ ​take​ ​you​ ​years​ ​to​ ​get​ ​to​ ​that​ ​point.

Instead,​ ​as​ ​you’re​ ​learning​ ​you​ ​should​ ​try​ ​to​ ​create​ ​a​ ​listening​ ​environment that​ ​allows​ ​you​ ​to​ ​hone​ ​your​ ​skills.​ ​That​ ​requires​ ​some​ ​awareness​ ​of mix-room​ ​acoustics.​ ​It​ ​doesn’t,​ ​however,​ ​require​ ​a​ ​large​ ​budget​ ​for professional​ ​acoustic​ ​treatment.

You​ ​see,​ ​you​ ​could​ ​be​ ​placing​ ​your​ ​monitor​ ​speakers​ ​in​ ​completely​ ​the​ ​wrong place.  Other​ ​factors​ ​are​ ​important​ ​in​ ​studio​ ​setup,​ ​but​ ​simply​ ​by​ ​moving​ ​the​ ​speakers you​ ​could​ ​create​ ​a​ ​more​ ​accurate​ ​listening​ ​environment.  There’s​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​complicated​ ​science​ ​behind​ ​this,​ ​but​ ​in​ ​this​ ​guide​ ​I’ll​ ​keep​ ​it simple​ ​and​ ​give​ ​you​ ​a​ ​few​ ​practical​ ​guidelines​ ​that​ ​will​ ​make​ ​a​ ​huge​ ​difference to​ ​your​ ​mixes.

Embrace​ ​Imperfection

No​ ​room​ ​is​ ​perfect.​ ​Even​ ​a​ ​purpose​ ​built​ ​professional​ ​studio​ ​will​ ​have compromises.​ ​The​ ​guidelines​ ​that​ ​I’m​ ​sharing​ ​with​ ​you​ ​can​ ​rarely​ ​be​ ​met​ ​all​ ​at once. Instead,​ ​focus​ ​on​ ​implementing​ ​as​ ​many​ ​of​ ​these​ ​principles​ ​as​ ​possible.​ ​Don’t become​ ​upset​ ​or​ ​disheartened​ ​if​ ​you​ ​can’t​ ​meet​ ​them​ ​all.​ ​You​ ​can​ ​still​ ​learn​ ​to mix​ ​and​ ​produce​ ​radio-worthy​ ​mixes​ ​in​ ​a​ ​less​ ​than​ ​ideal​ ​setup​ ​…it​ ​might​ ​just be​ ​a​ ​bit​ ​more​ ​difficult.

The​ ​worse​ ​the​ ​listening​ ​environment,​ ​the​ ​more​ ​important​ ​it​ ​becomes​ ​to compare​ ​your​ ​mixes​ ​to​ ​professional​ ​releases​ ​and​ ​test​ ​the​ ​mixes​ ​on​ ​multiple speaker​ ​systems.

Speaker​ ​and​ ​Listening​ ​Position

Guidelines

  1. Create an Equilateral Triangle Between Your Head and the Speakers

This is perhaps the most important rule and the easiest to implement. Most studio monitors are designed to have a sweet spot, a small area where your head should be for the best tonal balance.

By creating an equilateral triangle between your head and the speakers, you’ll be in the sweet spot. In other words, the distance between the speakers should be the same as the distance between your head and each speaker. So the further apart the speakers are, the further back you should position yourself.

Creating a triangle between your head and the speakers
  1. Don’t Listen From Exactly Halfway Across the Room

This is another common mistake that’s easy to fix. Avoid placing the chair, and therefore ears, exactly half way down the length of the room between the walls in front and behind you.

If you do, you’ll suffer a loss of bass. This is bad. You need to hear the low end of the mix clearly, as this is where most problems occur. The mixes could end up sounding bass-heavy and muddy.

This also applies to the distance between the floor and the ceiling. Adjust the height of your chair so that your ears aren’t positioned exactly halfway between the two.

One exception to this rule is the width of the room. It’s best to be positioned exactly halfway between the left and right side walls in order to get an accurate stereo image

  1. Don’t Listen From Over Halfway Across the Room

Equally, if following the previous rule means that you must position your head OVER halfway across the room, then you may need to reshuffle the room. If you are closer to the wall behind you than the wall in front of you, the reflections from the rear wall are going to cause an array of issues.

Don’t go over halfway across the length of the room
  1. Position the Speakers Away From the Wall

I need to be clear here, because there is a common misconception that your speakers should be as far away from the wall as possible. This is untrue. The reflection from the wall behind the monitors will cause comb filtering and result in some frequencies completely disappearing.

Instead, check the manual or manufacturer guidelines for the minimum distance between the speakers and the wall and use this distance. This will probably be under 30cm (12 inches).

Now, positioning the speakers this close to the wall will result in a small buildup of bass. If the monitors have a control that allows you to reduce the low end, use this feature. If not, you could use room correction software or simply account for this in your mixes.

This buildup of bass is preferable to the comb filtering that can result from placing your speakers further away from the wall.

  1. The Distance to the Side Walls and Front Wall Shouldn’t Be Equal

This refers to the position of your speakers. For example, if there is a 30cm gap between the monitor speaker and the wall behind the speaker, there shouldn’t be a 30cm gap between the side of the speaker and the side wall.

If the distances are equal, a buildup of standing waves will cause random peaks in the low end of your room.

Make sure these distances aren’t equal
  1. In a Large Room, Use the Longest Wall

This rule only applies to large rooms, where it’s possible to position the speakers and chair along the longest wall without being over halfway between the front and rear walls. Refer to tips two and three.

Don’t use the long wall in a narrow room

The benefit of positioning yourself along the longest wall in a large room is that the first reflections from the side walls are reduced in volume, as they must travel further.

In this situation, the long wall would be preferable
  1. Position the Speakers at Ear Level

As mentioned earlier, most speakers have a sweet spot. This sweet spot only works if the speakers are pointed inwards towards your ears.

Point the speakers towards your ears

Also consider the vertical angle of the speakers. If the speakers aren’t positioned at ear level, angle them upwards or downwards accordingly.

Conclusion

Ensure that the speakers and listening position are properly placed in the room can go a long way towards creating a more accurate mixing environment.

It doesn’t cost a thing to reshuffle the room, so it’s worth spending time thinking about each of these guidelines. Consider how you might be able to plan out or re-organise a room using these tips.

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Written By Eugene Tsai
Written By Eugene TsaiProducer / Music DirectorInstagram Page