Complete Guide to Studio Monitor Placement in Small Rooms

If you are an avid producer, mixing engineer, or any other type of audio production enthusiast, the importance of studio monitors cannot be overstated. Studio monitors provide a balanced listening experience that will allow for accurate judgment on your music’s overall sound quality. However, one crucial detail that gets overlooked constantly is the studio monitor placement, especially in small rooms. 

Optimal studio monitor placement involves picking the right room, using proper angles, and avoiding reflection from hard surfaces. Moreover, you should Position your studio monitors along the longest side of the room to obtain a more balanced sound. Finally, avoid mounting your monitors on the wall and keep the monitors upright. 

This article will tell you everything you need to know about studio monitor placement so that your mixes remain high quality, regardless of where they are played back.

studio setup

Pick the Right Room

The size of your room will dictate how to position your studio monitors. However, before we get to that, we need to ensure that your small room is ideal for a home studio.

For starters, you want to pick a room with few to no windows. Windows that allow in a lot of natural light tend to create an undesirable reverb effect that can ruin the quality of your mixes.

Moreover, you should remove ill-fitting furniture from the room because clutter will interrupt the sound waves and cause distortions in your music’s overall quality.

You should also choose a room with a tall ceiling. Tall ceilings will allow the sound waves to extend outwards, creating a more prominent “sound” that can help judge your music correctly. Low ceilings are bound to cause reflections, which are undesirable when it comes to producing great mixes.

Another important consideration is to avoid rooms with carpets because these will absorb quite a substantial amount of sound.

Choose the Right Type of Studio Monitors

There are three main types of studio monitors: near-field, mid-field, and far-field monitors. Each type has different properties that can affect your studio monitor placement, so be sure to pick the right ones for better results.

Near-Field Studio Monitors

Near-field studio monitors like the PreSonus Eris E3.5 BT-3.5″ Near Field Studio Monitors (available on Amazon.com) are designed with small rooms in mind. They typically have a very narrow listening angle, making them ideal for smaller rooms.

Their speakers are also designed to handle higher frequencies with ease, which makes them perfect for achieving balanced sounds on your music.

The main disadvantage of near-field monitors is that they are not ideal if you have larger mixing areas, as these will create issues when it comes to producing accurate mixes.

Mid-Field Studio Monitors

Mid-field studio monitors are designed for medium-sized rooms. They have wider listening angles than near-fields, which means they can be placed further apart to avoid issues with phase cancellation.

However, you also need to keep your mid-field monitors at the proper distance from the listener, about 3 meters (10 feet); otherwise, you will experience a loss in detail.

The main advantage of mid-field studio monitors is the increased level of accuracy in your music’s overall sound quality. You can place them further from your mixing station without worrying about any undesirable effects on the sound.

Far-field Studio Monitors

Finally, we have far-field studio monitors. These are designed for larger areas with proper acoustics, which means they cannot be used in small rooms.

They tend to have wider listening angles than mid-field monitors, but this also means that the sound will not remain as clear and detailed compared to the former.

Be sure to keep your far-fields at an appropriate distance from your mixing station; otherwise, you might experience phase cancellation. This will result in an inaccurate representation of your music’s overall sound quality.

Angles for Studio Monitor Placement in Small Rooms

One of the most significant factors that affect studio monitor placement is positioning angles. By using proper angles, you can improve the accuracy of your mix by making it sound much closer to the original mix.

Angling your studio monitors usually follows the 60-degree rule where one speaker is at a 60-degree angle with respect to another, creating an equilateral triangle in the process. When you do this correctly, the sound waves coming from each monitor will meet at your listening location, creating what is known as “coherency.”

Consequently, you can also use 30-90 degree angles for broader sound dispersion. In general, though, the 60-degree angle is ideal for achieving accurate mixes.

A key consideration with angled studio monitor placement is having a good listening distance. The speakers must be located at a point where they are just outside of your head’s first reflection points. This will ensure that you hear no extra delay or reverb coming from the speakers (and, therefore, your mix).

You can use this speaker placement calculator to get more specific calculations of your monitor angles.

Room Treatment

One of the most common issues with many home studios is treating the room. The problem with untreated rooms is that they will often cause you to hear an altered version of your mix due to the reflective nature of the walls.

Since each wall has different absorption and reflection properties, there can be multiple echoes and reverb sounds coming from various surfaces. These reverberations affect how we perceive monitor placement and the overall quality of your mixes.

For this reason, you must treat your room or at least cover up certain reflective surfaces to avoid such issues.

If you do not want to go through the trouble of proper treatment and instead want a quicker solution, we suggest using acoustic panels and foam to cover up those reflective surfaces.

In any case, proper studio monitor placement is crucial for avoiding such reverb and bad mixing decisions due to the room’s negative effect on your ears.

Position Your Studio Monitors Along the Longest Side of the Room

If you place your monitor setup along one of the room’s shorter sides, you will get a very unbalanced sound because there would be too much bass. This is because each side of a boundary (wall or corner) increases both volume and bass frequencies.

The best way to solve this issue is by placing your studio monitors along the room’s long side, leaving at least 3 feet (0.9 meter) between one speaker and the nearest wall. This is because bass frequencies tend to increase in length-based spaces.

Avoid Mounting Your Monitors on the Wall

The issue with mounting your studio monitor on a wall is the resulting reverberation coming from the wall’s finish, which tends to skew your mixes towards sounding “too bright.”

If possible, use speaker stands instead of wall mounting. Otherwise, try using bass traps on your walls to reduce these peaks in the low-end frequency range.

Keep the Monitors Upright

To get the best results from your studio monitor setup, it is best to keep them as upright as possible.

Monitors angled towards a particular direction tend to produce more bass and highs while causing a lack of detail in the mid-range frequencies. This can give you a false sense of what your mixes sound like, as instruments can sound muffled.

Another reason to keep your studio monitors upright is that they will not produce a false sense of bass. Angling monitors downwards causes each monitor to behave like a subwoofer due to the air gap between them and you, which results in a loss of detail in both high and low frequencies.

Keep Your Distance From the Wall

Having a significant amount of space between your studio monitors and the wall is crucial for achieving accurate mixes. This is because the sound coming from the primary speakers will bounce off of each wall, causing multiple reflections in your room.

If you do not keep a good listening distance, you will hear three (or more) different versions of the same sound, which will cause a loss of detail. This especially applies if you close-listen to your monitors from less than 3 feet (0.9 meter) away, where you would notice a reduction in the high frequencies.

To avoid such issues with multiple reflections and echoes, make sure that you place at least 2 feet (0.6 meter) between your studio monitors and the nearest wall.

Pick the Right Spot for Your Subwoofer

Many professional studios use subwoofers because they can produce low-frequency sounds. At the same time, you should keep your subwoofer away from your studio monitors or any other audio equipment (mixer, etc.) to avoid audio feedback.

You should also make sure that the two are not too close together, as the sound coming from your subwoofer could cause a phenomenon called “cancellation.” This happens when specific frequencies that should be present in both speakers are canceled out by each other.

Thus, make sure to place your subwoofer at least 2 feet (0.6 meter) away from any other speaker (including your studio monitors) and 3 feet (0.09 meter) or more from your desk or mixing surface.

Consider Installing Bass Traps Behind Your Studio Monitors

If you have a long and narrow room, it is likely that your bass frequencies are being canceled. This occurs when the sound waves coming from one speaker are in the opposite phase with another speaker, causing them to cancel each other out.

To avoid this issue, you could either install bass traps or panels on both of your monitor walls or purchase studio monitor traps that go behind your existing speakers. This will not only improve the accuracy of your mixes, but you will also hear what is missing in tracks without having to turn up the volume too much.

Of course, it is best to use bass traps sparingly to avoid losing overall volume by relying too much on corrective EQing.

Calibrate Your Monitors for Optimal Results

One of the most important tips to remember when designing your studio is that you should calibrate your monitors every time you move them or play different types of music through them to get more accurate results with your mixes. If possible, then calibrating them with pink noise is even more beneficial.

To do this, simply run a sine sweep through your studio monitors while you move the volume up and down for each channel. 

You can watch this video to run a sine sweep:

Make sure that all channels are at an optimal listening level without any distortion or clipping before you calibrate your monitor levels.

Remember to have your preferred reference tracks nearby so that you get consistent mixes every time.

Keep Adjusting the Monitor Placement Until You Find the Sweet Spot

Finding the perfect monitor placement can be a lengthy process, which is why you should constantly adjust them until you get something that works for your studio. This will require moving your studio monitors and subwoofer around to different positions in your room so that you find the best spot for them before you start mixing music.

Once you find the right spot, you should mark it with gaffer tape so that the monitors will always be in the correct position when you start mixing. This can save a lot of time during your next mixdown session because you won’t have to spend any extra time searching for optimal monitor placement in your room.

Final Thoughts

Admittedly, a small room can be challenging to work with, especially if you’re just starting out. However, don’t get discouraged if you haven’t managed to get your studio up and running quite yet. Achieving the optimal placement isn’t impossible. 

With more time and patience, you’ll eventually be able to figure out the best setup for your studio that will allow you to make high-quality mixes with virtually no issues whatsoever. Until then, just remember these tips, and you’ll finally be able to get those mixes sounding as great as possible!

Sources

Vinnie

I'm Vinnie, and I'm here to support you to create your own studio at home, whether it’s for photography, recording audio, podcasts, or videos!

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