How to Setup Your Speakers in a Home Studio

When setting up a home recording studio, one of the most fundamental (and most overlooked) tasks is the positioning of monitoring speakers. If the monitors are incorrectly positioned by even a few inches, the representation of the stereo field can become inaccurate and full of frequency 'holes'. This can potentially mean catastrophe for an engineer who tries to compensate for this in the mix.

For nearfield monitors, a basic guideline is to try and form an equal triangle between the left speaker, right speaker and your head (ears). Essentially, the distance between the speakers is the same as the distance between each speaker and your ears. This should ensure that it takes the exact same amount of time for sound from either the left or right speaker to reach your ears, creating a balanced stereo field.

This approach is good in theory, but it does not take into account the impact of room reflections on the sound. Unless you are working in an anechoic chamber (and let's face it, many home studios are in bedrooms!), Up to 80 percent of the sound you hear may actually come from the room, with only 20 percent coming from the speakers!

Anything in a room, from the basic shape and dimensions of the space to the items and objects that are contained within (eg. Storage cupboards, wall mountings) will have an effect on the sound. Bass is often the largest casualty in poor acoustic environments, as bass dead spots can be created in the nearfield listening space where the engineer is sitting. This means that the engineer may try to compensate for this in the mix by turning up the bass. In reality, it is just the acoustics of the room fooling his ears into making the mix unnecessarily bass heavy. If you play a track in your home studio and find that the bass is lacking, stand up and move around the room. You may be surprised to find that bass is gathering in the corners or even under your mixing desk!

One of the most practical ways to improve your listening space is to move your speakers into different parts of the room. Often having a standard equivalent setup flush up against the wall may not be ideal. Try moving your mixing desk closer to or further from the wall, or even against another wall absolutely. Listen to the sound at each position and find out where the stereo image achieves the most uniform density – this should be where you mix from. When it comes to setting up your home recording studio, it is more important to follow what sounds right rather than what looks right. Trust your ears!