How High Should My Studio Monitors Be?

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When setting up your studio monitors in the recording room, you may be tempted to blindly follow any advice you find in the owner’s manual. However, most tutorial placement studio monitors deal with ideal room sizes and soundproofing, leaving little margin for error.

Unfortunately, we all know that the ideal case happens very rarely, and you need to adjust your studio monitor setup accordingly. While the most common studio monitor heights are 47 and 55 inches from the floor, these measurements can vary wildly depending on your studio’s conditions.

Several things can influence how high your monitors should be.

Height Level

For best results, sound technicians recommend placing studio monitors so that the tweeter is at eye level while you’re at the mixing table. The sound will be focused on you and not disperse or reflect around the room as much.

If you can soundproof your room to prevent more reflections, then you’re at the ideal use case. The heights most commonly associated with an eye-level range between 47 and 55 inches, depending on your desk setup. Placing your studio monitors below 47 inches can add floor reflections that can muffle the sound.

The tweeter should fire at ear level because higher-frequency sounds are more directionally malleable than bass. By placing the tweeter directly towards your ears, you have a much better chance of picking up clear sound from both sides. However, don’t point the woofer too far down, or it might reverberate off the table and floor.

When placing the monitors at eye level, it’s best to keep them as close to parallel to the floor as possible. Tilting the speakers can introduce more distortion in the system, which can be difficult to compensate for and overcome.

If you must tilt your studio monitors, perhaps because you own overly tall speaker stands, it’s better to tilt them down towards your ears. Keep the tilt below 15 degrees from the ground parallel, and you shouldn’t expect too much sound muffling and distortion.

When placing the monitors, angle them such that they are towards you and equidistant to you and each other. This maximizes the amount of sound coming directly from the monitors towards you and produces the necessary stereo effect.

If you’re using a third monitor as the system’s center speaker, you can place it a few inches above the other monitors’ tweeters. However, most professionals place the primary monitor at around 58 inches from the floor.

Location

When placing studio monitors, you definitely want to avoid placing them in the middle of the room. The sounds bouncing off walls, floors, and ceilings can cause the sound to become muffled and distorted due to standing waves.

However, going too far up or down causes different problems with sound reflection and makes it difficult to angle the speakers towards eye level.

If possible, place the studio monitors just below or above half of the room’s height and angled towards you. You’ll get a clearer sound and can manipulate the system more easily. Speaker stands are the best way to go for that purpose since they’re adjustable and can be moved around easily to accommodate various distances and setups.

How High Should My Studio Monitors Be

Desktop vs. Monitor Stands

One of the first questions you might ask when setting up studio monitors is whether they can be placed right on the mixing desk. Unfortunately, the answer is not so cut and dried.

If you’re using a desk with a large partition to hold the monitors, so they’re near eye level, that setup can work with some adjustments. For example, vibrations coming from the speakers move faster through wood and metal than through air, meaning that you’ll feel the music faster than you’ll hear it, which can have some weird effects.

If you’re putting the speakers on a flat and dense surface, you can add some soft padding between it and monitors, such as soft cell neoprene.

While desktop setups are more budget-friendly, speaker stands can be a more worthwhile investment. With a good pair of stands, you can place the monitors at an optimal distance from your head and adjust their angle easily without needing additional cushioning.

With far-field studio monitors, stands become near mandatory since mounting them on the wall goes against the idea of placing monitors away from any obstacles behind them.

Desk Surface Interference

Another factor to consider in this regard is your mixing board or desk surface. A sizeable wooden surface will reflect the sound coming from the speakers, resulting in a second wave coming out of phase. Since you can’t pad the entire desk with neoprene or other acoustic treatments, all you can do is tinker with speaker positioning.

Placing the speakers closer to you can help mitigate some of the reflections, but angles will be the best way to go. If you have studio stands and near-field speakers, move them farther away from the desk while keeping them within their best listening range.

Horizontal or Vertical Placement

Some studio monitors are designed to be placed on their sides, but they are rare and typically not found in a home studio’s inventory.

When a speaker is placed on its side, moving your head side to side can cause the relative distance between it and the woofer and tweeter drivers to change. That means that some frequencies can get smeared and distorted.

With vertical placement, the same problem can occur while moving up and down, but this is generally less of an issue since you’ll mostly be sitting down at one height for the duration of the recording.

It’s Not an Exact Science

If you’re not in the business of high-quality productions, you don’t need to worry so much about how high the studio monitors are. Most systems will work fine with studio monitors being slightly off from the recommended 47 to 55 inches.

If you keep them away from the walls and angled towards you, you should have solid results. Of course, after the initial setup, you can always go back and make changes if you find the result unsatisfactory.

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