A lot of new artists and producers don’t know how important it is to setup your studio monitors in the best possible way. And sometimes even seasoned vets don’t realize how much better they could get their beats/songs sounding by setting them up right.
Not doing this could mean that your music won’t live up to its full potential – the quality of the mix will be off, things won’t be balanced, etc. And when you’re making music professionally, you need to make sure you keep your game tight.
Why Bother Calibrating Your Studio Monitors?
You could just plug-and-play your monitors out of the box (what most people do) but that’s not going to help you when it comes to sounding your absolute best..
Follow this quick guide and you’ll hear everything in your beats/songs properly so you can get it sounding perfect.
You bought studio monitors so you could make sure your music sounds its best, right? So take 15 minutes and set them up properly.
How To Position Your Speakers
The first thing you want to do is make sure your monitors are sitting in the right spot.
It all depends on where you’re sitting when you will be listening to the playback.
Where you sit (mix position) should form an equilateral triangle with your two studio speakers.
Check the diagram:
So that’s how you set everything up in an equilateral triangle.The distance between the speakers and the distance between you and each speaker should be equal. 2-3 ft. is just an example – it doesn’t have to be that distance exactly.
Now, this might be kind of hard to do if you don’t have dedicated studio monitor stands. A lot of producers just put their monitors on their desks.
But seriously though, get some monitor stands like these. They’re fairly cheap and work great.
Having a studio monitor positioning setup like this puts you in the “sweet-spot” for hearing everything perfectly.
Calibrating Your Studio Monitors Correctly
Now it’s time to make sure both monitors are working optimally and sound the same.
Have you ever noticed one of your monitors sounding a bit off compared to your other one? Skip this step and you might not be able to hear proper levels/panning/effects/etc.
You’re going to need an SPL Meter to calibrate. If you’ve got a smart phone you can download one like I did. Just go to your app store and search for “SPL Meter” and download a free one like dB Volume by DSP Mobile.
If you don’t, you can buy one at The Source or Radio Shack. (Or you could come back from 5 years ago and buy a smartphone…)
Here’s what you do:
Open your SPL Meter app and set it to “C Weighting” and “Slow Response.” (See image on right)
Put your phone/meter in the position you’ll be sitting when making music at ear level (use a desk/chair/music stand if needed)
Open your DAW (i.e Cubase, Reaper, ProTools, etc.) and set your mixer’s master fader to Unity (0 db).
Load this file into a new audio track. This is pink noise and it’ll let us tune our monitors.
Adjust your audio interface (i.e. pro sound card) master volume knob to somewhere in the middle. We may have to adjust this later.
See the volume knobs on the back of each studio monitor? Set those all the way down and make sure there are no other knobs boosting/reducing certain frequency ranges or anything.
We’re going to calibrate each studio monitor separately so turn the Pan Settings on the audio track 100% to the left.
Hit play on your DAW to playback the pink noise (it should sound like TV static coming out of your left speaker)
Now adjust the volume knob on the back of your left monitor until your SPL meter hits 80db.
Now do the exact same thing to the right studio monitor. (remember to adjust your pan on the audio track in your DAW 100% to the right now).
NOTE: If you can’t get the SPL Meter to hit 80db and you’ve cranked the knob on the back of your speakers all the way up, go back to your audio interface volume knob and start turning that up until the SPL Meter does hit 80db
Mark this volume setting on your audio interface with a pen/pencil/marker or some tape. This is the ideal setting for you to produce your music at.
You can always go louder now and then just to hear how it sounds, but you should mostly use this level of volume.
Now Go Make Music
And that’s it – you just setup your studio monitors in the best way and calibrated them properly too. You’ll make better decision in the mix and while you’re producing music.