Monitor placement makes all the difference in your studio when mixing. This article helps you make sure you get the best out of your monitors.

This is a post from Avid’s website on Monitor Placement.

Understanding Studio Monitors: Placement
Learn how to choose the best possible arrangement for your desk, speakers, and other gear.

The “location, location, location” cliché doesn’t just apply to the real estate market. It’s equally (if not more) applicable to the subject of loudspeakers and room acoustics. Strategic monitor placement is one of the most important factors in getting your sound right—and it’s simpler than you might think. Proper placement means choosing the best possible arrangement for your desk, speakers, and other studio equipment.

When it comes to monitor placement, you’ve probably heard a lot of talk about the “sweet spot.” This refers to sitting in the middle position between the two speakers, where the stereo image is optimized. The sweet spot lets you hear a true representation of the music so you can make accurate judgments while recording and mixing. When positioning your monitors, observe the following guidelines to maximize the sweet spot and enjoy better performance from your monitoring setup.

Align your speakers in an equilateral triangle from the listening position
When mixing, it’s important to sit as closely as possible to the center of the sweet spot. Select a comfortable seating position and angle each monitor to accurately face that position. The “toe-in” angle of each speaker should be carefully arranged at an equilateral triangle to the listener.

Place monitors symmetrically within the room
Try to achieve symmetry in the room when setting up monitors. For example, if the left speaker is three feet from the back wall and four feet from the side wall, place the right speaker the same way (if possible) in order to give each speaker a similar acoustic environment. By centering the listening position along a wall, your system will maintain better low-frequency clarity. In a rectangular room, the best sound can be obtained by orienting the console and loudspeakers into the room’s long dimension. This gives the low-frequency waves enough time to develop before hitting the rear wall (see figure 1).

Distance from back wall should be different than distance from side wall
It’s always better to place the monitor a different distance from the back wall than from the side wall. In other words, if your monitors are two feet from the back wall, make sure they’re not also two feet from the side walls.

Place monitors vertically (or “right-side” up)
Although it may be tempting to place your monitors on their sides, this can significantly degrade the stereo image. Place the monitors vertically to get the best stereo representation (see figure 2).

Use monitor stands whenever possible
When you place speakers on a mixing console or desk, sound waves bounce off the flat surface before reaching your ears—degrading the tonal balance, clarity and image localization. Placing monitors on stands will prevent early reflections from interfering with your mix. (However, if this isn’t practical, it’s generally acceptable to carefully position your speakers on the desk or mixing surface.)

Tweeters should be at ear level
It’s important to place the monitors so the tweeters are at the same height as your ears (see figure 2).

Avoid placing monitors in corners
This helps prevent bass buildups that occur naturally at boundary and corner locations.

figure 3

Place monitors at least 8-12” from the wall
This prevents sound waves from bouncing off the wall and reflecting back towards you (see figure 3). When using monitors that contain bass reflex ports, make sure there is enough space to prevent air flow obstructions.

You’ve now mastered the basics of monitor placement. Stay tuned for next month’s article, where you’ll learn how to use acoustic space controls, fine-tune your setup, and add a subwoofer to the mix.