Tweeters at Ear Height? Not Necessarily
Tweeters at Ear Height? Not Necessarily

Tweeters at Ear Height? Not Necessarily. Many acoustics experts state that when setting up your nearfield studio monitors the tweeters should be at ear height. An inch or two above or below is good too. Should you always set your speakers up so that the tweeters are at ear height? Not necessarily.

Setting your speakers up so that the tweeter is at ear level is all well and good in a room where there are no interfering reflections from the rooms boundaries. For project studio owners there’s the problem of interfering reflections from the ceiling, side walls, rear wall and the desk in front of you.

Placing your speakers at ear height on stands behind your desk will ensure the angle of incidence of any reflection off the desk will be enough to avoid combining with the direct signal from the speakers, which would otherwise cause comb filtering. It would also change the angle of incidence of reflections off the side walls and the ceiling. These areas can be dealt with by placing acoustic panels at the reflection points on the walls and ceiling, to absorb potentially damaging reflections.

So what’s the problem with all of that?

The problem is that many project studios do not have the space to place the speakers on stands behind the desk and even if they do it’s usually not enough distance to change the angle of incidence enough to avoid desk reflections. Some people sit their speakers on the desk itself and use methods of raising them so the tweeter sits at ear level. This might be a good position for bass response but not necessarily for the high end. This approach can cause the same problem, reflections off the desk interfering with the direct sound causing peaks and dips in the frequency response. To add to the problem these peaks and dips change as you move your head back and forth or side to side.

Tweeters at Ear Height? Not Necessarily

What’s the solution

I combatted this problem by breaking the rules of convention and defying the wisdom of many acoustics experts. I’ve moved into a smaller less than adequate room temporarily so I can still work while my main room is renovated. My speakers, HEDD Type 07 are incredible. I won’t start getting into how good they are but trust me, they’re superb. You can read my short review of them here:

HEDD Type 07

I’ve got the bass end sounding great in this small room with a combination of broadband bass traps and SonarWorks Reference 4 room calibration software. But when sitting in front of my speakers the high frequencies would change drastically when I moved my head backwards, forwards or looked down at the keyboard. This made it impossible to judge the high end accurately. Transients sounded exaggerated, the top end generally sounded harsh the stereo image was ill defined.

My speakers are sitting on stands very close to the sides of my relatively small desk. This is just about the only practical place for them. I would say the tweeters were around 45cm higher than the surface of the desk and I’m sitting fairly close – around a meter away. Lows and mids sounded great but high frequencies were bouncing off the surface of the desk resulting in horrendous comb filtering.

So how have I fixed this issue?

Simple, I flipped my speakers upside down. The tweeters are now only 10cm higher than the desk, nowhere near lining up with my ears. The bass ports on the cabinets however do line up with my ears.

In this room, with these acoustic constraints flipping the speakers was the perfect solution. My HEDD Type 07 monitors now sound as superb in this small room as they did in my main purpose built studio. Any reflections off the desk, side walls and ceiling are at such a steep angle of incidence that they don’t come anywhere near interfering with what I’m hearing.

The point of all of this? There are rules, there are conventions and there are always going to be plenty of opinions – whether based on science or assumption – but there are times when you have have to throw all of that out of the window and simply go with what works for you.