Setting Up New Audio Monitors in a Studio

When setting up new audio monitors in a studio, their placement is an important choice in the successful operation of the monitoring system. Since no two rooms sound the same, here are a few tips to make the installation easier.

Before we get into monitor placement, we will assume you have made the right choices for your operation and budget. Hopefully, you considered passive vs. active monitors, the power for each speaker, the different driver types, ported or closed cabinets and whether a subwoofer is needed. Assuming you have and the monitors have arrived, how do you approach setting them up?

Audio monitors — no matter the cost or size — should be placed away from walls, both behind and to the sides of the speaker. A good rule of thumb is to leave at least three feet behind the speakers if possible. Leave even more space to the sides.

Sweetwater Sound, a pro audio dealer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, recommends that audio monitors rest in an equal-sided triangle. That means the speakers at two of the triangle corners and the third corner being the ideal listening position. This means they are placed so they’re as far away from the listeners as they are from each other.

This positioning will result in the most accurate frequency response and clearest stereo image. If you’re setting up a multichannel surround sound system, it gets far more complicated. If you’re not an expert, get professional help for more complex installations.

It is best to place the monitor tweeters at or slightly above ear level. The center focus of the tweeters should be slightly behind your head, not directly at your ears.

IsoAcoustics Isolation Stands.

IsoAcoustics Isolation Stands.

Place the monitors on stands with isolation pads under them for optimal placement. If the monitors must sit on a desk top, use isolation stands, such as the IsoAcoustics Acoustic Isolation Stands.

Once the monitors are placed, use a system like Genelec’s Loudspeaker Manager (GLM) software for set-up. Genelec’s SAM (Smart Active Monitoring) two-way monitors calibrate themselves to provide optimized performance even in challenging spaces.

Genelec’s Master Smart monitors can also be used with AutoCal to create an optimized and controlled monitoring environment. After automatic calibration, monitoring set-ups ranging from simple stereo to immersive audio will perform with consistency. It will compensate for deficiencies in the listening environment. Any number of listening positions can be catered for, with fully recallable settings to suit your needs.

If you don’t have software to set-up your system, it will be much more difficult to fine tune a system. In that case, you’ll have to acclimate your ears to how the monitors sound.

Genelec Master Series Monitor.

Genelec Master Series Monitor.

Another tip from Sweetwater is that despite all monitors claiming to be “flat,” each sounds a bit different and will also respond differently in each room environment. The recommended tool to quickly learn a pair of speakers is a reference collection of music. This includes songs that reveal particular aspects of a monitor’s performance: bass response, treble clarity, imaging and dynamics. This will help individuals familiar with the music figure out the sound characteristics of the monitor.

If you are not skilled with monitor set-up, get studio monitors with features that use digital processing that can optimize their performance for each acoustic space. It will make life much easier and ensure better results. With studio monitors, physics can’t be cheated. EQ and room correction DSP can help make the most out of a harsh room and can make a room with excellent acoustics sound even better.

Studio monitors aren’t trying to sound “good.” They’re trying to sound as accurate and precise as possible. They should reveal every detail in the mix, while portraying an accurate balance across the entire frequency range.

Finally, it is impossible to predict how a set of studio monitors will sound in any given room. Even if the speakers sounded spectacular at another location, it doesn’t mean they will sound as good at your studio. If in doubt of your installation skills, got with the software set-up.

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