06 February 2015
Studio Monitor Setup

How to Setup Your Studio Monitors In The Best Way

Studio Monitor SetupA 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.

Huh?

Check the diagram:

Studio Monitor Setup and Positioning

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…)

spl-meter-settingsHere’s what you do:

Step 1:

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)

Step 2:

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.

Step 3:

Adjust your audio interface (i.e. pro sound card) master volume knob to somewhere in the middle. We may have to adjust this later.

studio-monitor-backStep 4:

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.

Step 5:

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)

Step 6:

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

Step 7:

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.

4 Responses

  1. QV

    This is great info. I have a couple of issues, not with this article specifically, but with calibration methods and software programs in general. Neither this nor they take into account the hearing of the mixer. That is the most critical thing. People, especially musicians, often have some sort of hearing loss. Often they have different hearing in one ear opposed to the other. Personally, my left ear canal is shaped differently from the right, and this effects which frequencies dominate at different angles. No joke. In order to for me to hear the same amount of bass in my left ear as the right, I have to have the source at a different angle. This is the problem with “scientific” methods of calibration and software like Sonarworks Reference. They are objective, but what is important here is the subject, so we need to use subjective calibration methods.

    This is why you cannot get true grey noise anywhere but from the grey noise generator on mynoise.net. It solos 10 bands of pink noise and you adjust it until you just hear the soloed frequency through your system and monitors or headphones. This way, you get truly neutral noise because it accounts for both differences in output devices and the hearing of the listener. This is very important, especially for mixing music. This makes the whole approach of software like Reference by Sonarworks irrelevant. All a person needs is some pink noise and a stereo EQ that will solo 10–15 bands to get a custom calibration.

    Also, I thought you may want to correct a grammatical error in this article that may make what is otherwise a very intelligently written piece lose credibility with readers. The sentence “This is the ideal setting for you to produce your music at.” This is properly structured as follows:

    “This is the ideal setting in which to produce your music.”

    A sentence that ends in “at” sounds like a spoof of the cell phone commercial that was making fun of people who say things like “Where you at?” but the joke seemed to fly over people’s heads and they somehow got the idea that that was English. It is not. It’s certainly not something you want to have in an otherwise well-written article.

    Thank you again!

  2. Mfundo

    whats the max you can turn up volume on monitor speakers, when connected to sound card (should it be max)? and then control every thing on sound card, or is it dangerous for monitor speakers volume to be at 100%

    1. I wouldn’t go up to 100% right off the jump. Start at 50% volume and slowly move up until you find it distorting or getting harsh or difficult to listen to. Never listen to music SUPER LOUD for too long, too often – you’ll ruin your ears.

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