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Speaker Placement: Nearfield Monitors

This post focuses on some of the basics of nearfield speaker placement, where and why and a little how.

It used to be that studios had huge wall-mounted speakers that required equally large rooms to work properly.  Commercial studios are carefully acoustically tweaked.  I won’t go into acoustic treatments here, but needless to say a properly tuned room will make any monitor system work much better.

Nearfield monitors are smaller and are designed to be placed closer to the listener.  One of the benefits of this is that you’ll hear more of the direct response from the speakers and less of the room.  This means that the room doesn’t have to be quite as perfect to get decent results.

Rooms have modes, which are frequencies that resonate particularly strongly in the room as a result of the geometry.  Because rooms usually have width, length, and height, they tend to have three modes.  As a result of this, it’s a good idea to have each of these modes line up in different spots of the frequency spectrum so that you don’t end up with a huge bulge in one frequency range.  This means that you either need to have a room with dimensions that aren’t cube-like or are irregular.  It also helps to have the speakers placed such that the speakers aren’t the same distance from any two walls to avoid setting up the same resonance in two dimensions.  Symmetry to the left and right if the walls are parallel, however, can help balance the reflections from those walls reaching your ears differently.

Speaker Placement Triangle

Generally you’ll want to have your speakers spaced apart from each other the same distance they’ll be from your ears.   Basically it should look like an equilateral triangle.  The speakers should be angled roughly along those triangle angles.

It’s a good idea to have some sort of acoustic treatment on the ceiling, behind you, to the left, and to the right in the middle between your listening position and the speakers because this is where sound will bounce from the speakers to your ears.

A good set of speaker stands (or some rubber feet if the speakers are on a desk) can go a really long way in reducing their mechanical coupling with the floor or with your desk.  If the speakers are coupled, they’ll cause the bass to transfer into the room’s materials, causing more annoying resonances.