Monday, 2 May 2016

Getting geeky about speaker placement

Its a good thing !

So recently i'm sitting in front of my speakers, working away on a track and I notice that one seems slightly closer than the other. I'm hearing a tiny phase issue, just some washiness so I decide to get out the measuring tape and investigate. I'm not wrong. One is not only closer to the back wall but its also slightly pointing at an angle compared to the other. I can only assume that at some point I must have nudged it just a slight amount, caught it walking by. Why is this important? Well it's important because the distance your speakers are from each other, the wall and you can make a massive difference to what's known as the sweet spot. The sweet spot is where you can hear the mix translated most clearly, every frequency in it's place and nothing over-exaggerated or over-hyped. For most speakers this is a fairly small point (Think Sheldon from the big bang theory trying to locate the perfect spot in the cinema) and as such can be basically nuked out of existence by a few inches difference in speaker location.

It amazes me how much I still come across people who will agonise over speakers and which to buy etc only to get them home and proceed to best guess where to put them in the room and never measure them and adjust until they are at the right location. I spent a small fortune on my studio monitors but I also spent a long time assessing where to put them, how to angle them and measuring out distances on a plan and replicating these distances in the room. Quite simply, getting geeky about your speakers could mean the difference between great speakers sounding great and great speakers sounding like a bad hifi.

As an example, I didn't use to be so picky about speaker location. At one point I moved into a cottage in the countryside and proceeded to pick out the main living room area as my chosen studio location. I promptly set up my gear slap bang in the centre of the room and to my horror couldn't hear any bass whatsoever. I had epic speakers and bass heavy music, why couldn't I hear anything? In short, I was sitting right in the middle of the null point of the room. I experimented by moving my desk (Then on wheels) around and eventually decided on both a different room and an off centre position. The moral of the story, when it comes to speakers, is to read a little and think a lot. You'll thank yourself later.

For those not so keen on reading lots of articles I would say some quick tips are as follows:

1.) There should be a triangle formed between yourself and the speakers. The sides of the triangle should have the same length.

2.) Don't sit with your head in the centre of any dimension of the room. If you sit in the absolute centre of the room, expect to hear no bass, triangle or otherwise.

3.) Imagine a mirror on any surface you see. If you also see a speaker in the imaginary mirror, your speaker will reflect sound off that surface. Invest in acoustic treatment. I don't have thousands of pounds worth of the stuff, you don't need a lot either. Just be careful and plan where you are going to put it.

4.) What are the speakers sitting on? If it vibrates then you just created an issue that might distort the sound.

5.) Avoid putting speakers right next a wall. Especially in corners. Bass will build up and frustration with your weak sounding mixes will follow. As an aside I did get very good results, at one point, from putting a mattress directly behind my monitors. The room I was working in had a terrible shape and I had to make do. Sometimes thinking outside the box can help with less than optimal conditions.

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