The Sweet Spot – Nearfield Monitor Placement
by Simon Duggal
When monitoring music in your studio what you hear is a combination of direct sound from the speakers and reflected sound from the rooms surfaces – walls, ceiling, floor and furniture. The balance between the direct and reflected sound depends on the size and shape of your room, materials in the room such as carpets, curtains and windows etc, and the positioning of your speakers in relation to the boundaries of the room.
Getting this balance right is crucial to getting a good recording or mix. It doesn’t matter how much gear you have, how expensive your studio speakers are or how many channels your mixing desk has. If this balance is wrong your end result will sound poor and amateurish.
There are two things you can do to address this balance:
1. Make sure your room is properly acoustically treated.
2. Make sure your speakers are positioned correctly.
In this article we’ll be looking at how to set up your speakers properly.
Correct speaker positioning is a very important factor in creating an accurate listening position. This will be the position where you sit whilst monitoring the recording of instruments or voices, and mixing. This position is often referred to as the Sweet Spot.
There are a few things to consider when setting up your speakers:
Make sure your speakers are positioned at an equal distance from the left and right walls and the speaker wall, the wall behind the speakers, and that the height is adjusted so that the tweeter in each speaker is slightly above ear level when sitting.
Position your speakers so that the distance from the sweet spot to the centre of the woofer on Speaker ‘A’ is equal to the distance from the centre of the woofer on Speaker ‘A’ to the centre of the woofer on Speaker ‘B’ thereby forming an equilateral triangle. Toe the speakers in to approx 30 degrees so they are directed towards you.
Sit in the sweet spot and listen to commercial music that you know well. You may find that you need to shuffle your speakers back, forward, left or right a couple of inches until they sound right.
If you are using a sub, a good trick for setting it up is to sit it on your chair in the sweet spot and play some sine wave tones through it, in mono with your satellite speakers switched off. Make a loop of 40hz to 150hz sine waves in 10hz steps playing for around 10 seconds each with a second of silence between each and play it at a moderate listening level. Now, spend some time crawling around on the floor behind your speakers/under your desk whilst listening to the tones. You will notice that some tones sound louder than others. Find the spot where there is the least difference in level between the tones and that is where you should place your sub. Once you have positioned the sub you will need to carefully adjust it’s level in relation to the satellites. Remember to high pass your satellite speakers as you don’t want the same low frequencies playing through them as your sub!