Monitoring Etiquette: 4 Tips for Better Studio Reference Speaker Monitoring

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The age of the bedroom producer is in full swing, and virtually everyone has access to the bare minimum required to begin recording and producing music. Although the choice of the monitor itself is important, the placement of your monitors in your studio plays a huge part in how your mixes will translate. There will be certain issues that only treatment can fix however there are a handful of simple things you can keep in mind to make the most of your monitors and give yourself the best possible mixing position:

1. Mixing position choice

Where you put your workstation in your room has a huge impact on the sound of your monitors. The ideal position is in the middle of the shorter wall, even distance between both corners. How your monitors are ported comes into play when making this decision. If they are rear-ported, you need to give some distance between your monitors and the wall to avoid build-up of low frequencies. If your monitors are front ported you can afford to have your desk closer to the wall with minimal detrimental effect.

2. Monitor height and angle

Ideally, your monitors will be an even space apart with you being the middle point and be at the same height as your head, making an equilateral triangle. This position is called the ‘sweet spot’, the point where the stereo image of your mix will be the best represented. Certain monitors have a wider sweet spot (such as the JBL LSR3 MkII series) due to their patented Waveguide shaping to extend the area of the sweet spot but not all monitors have this and most entry-level monitors will not have a large area for the sweet spot. If your monitors are sitting too high or too low you can angle them up or down towards you using specialised slanted foam pads made specifically for monitors which are usually available at any pro audio store. Foam pads also provide separation between your monitors and your desk, completely reducing or mitigating any vibration or rattling your monitors will cause to your desk.

Monitoring Etiquette:

Monitoring Etiquette: 3. Matching levels

Another important thing to keep in mind is matching the gains on your monitors. Make sure the volume for each speaker is matched and any other settings (such as -10dB/+4dB switches and inbuilt EQs) are matched otherwise your monitors will start to give you a false representation of your mix.

4. Balanced connections

The final thing to consider is what cables you are going to use for your monitors. Some monitors will only have RCA inputs so you will not have a choice but if your monitor has a TRS or XLR input it is always better to go for these. XLR and TRS cables are balanced and negate any electrical interference your cables pick up. RCAs are unbalanced and therefore introduce interference which in turn will affect your mix and monitor performance. It is also important to note that balanced cables only provide this functionality if the outputs on your interface are also balanced.

Regardless of your budget, these tips will help you achieve the optimised listening position and performance from your monitors. Not everyone can afford high spec monitors but these tips will help you get the most from your monitors irrespective of what you paid for them.

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