Many audiophiles know the importance of investing in quality gear and equipment, but studio monitors also require proper knowledge of placement. Sound is particularly sensitive to the spatial parameters of a room, so studio design is key in producing and recording quality sound.
When setting up your home recording studio, it’s important to understand the properties of monitor angling and height, as well as how you design the flow of your audio studio space.
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What is An Audio Monitor?
Audio monitors are an integral part of your home recording studio setup. Like speakers, they project sound into your space, but unlike speakers, audio monitors produce professional-quality and more transparently balanced audio that eliminates distortion and irregular audio frequencies. Linear phase response audio and increased power to control and project high-volume audio tracks makes studio monitors vastly different from your everyday speaker.
Monitor Placement and Height
Buying quality audio monitors is only the first step in creating your optimal home studio setup. Placing monitors at the wrong place and height in your audio studio can greatly reduce their impact and overall sound. You’ll want to create a triangle between yourself and the two monitors, which should be facing you in the seated listening spot at an approximately 30 degree angle. Each monitor should be equidistant from the listening seat and ideally at least 3 feet apart.
You’ll also want the monitors to be at ear height for maximum listening quality, avoiding any possible sound reflection off of nearby surfaces on the way to reaching the listener. Audio monitors should be placed a minimum of 6-12” inches or ideally 2-3 feet away from any walls.
Studio Monitor Stands
For optimal and easy placement, find studio monitor stands to elevate your speakers and free up the usable surface space in your audio studio. You can also find small stands to use on your desktop to keep the monitors isolated from the desk. If your monitors sit directly on your workstation, the surface noise and vibration will affect your ability to hear the pure signal from each monitor. There are also specially-designed foam pads you can use to help accomplish more isolation on top of your workstation.
Cables & Connectors
Building quality sound happens long before the audio comes through your monitors. Finding cables for your instruments, monitors, and other gear is key to building a functional, high-level studio. Since monitors will be receiving line-level signals from an audio interface, the best place to start is with balanced interconnect cables, which come in different configurations of ¼” and XLR, depending on the connections you require. If you have an interconnect cable already, you may be able to use an adapter to achieve the connection type you need, but it’s always more ideal to have a single cable where possible.
Important Considerations for Your Home Studio Setup
In addition to proper studio layout and functional flow, there are several other considerations in setting up your home recording studio. The first and perhaps most important consideration is sound treatment. This is not only to prevent sound from leaving out, but also to help contain and balance the sound that’s being produced. Frequencies interact with walls and space differently for each room, so there are many options available for sound treatment and consultations on balancing the audio in your recording space.
Room size can also affect your studio by altering sound quality; many experts insist that the smallest ideal size for a recording studio is 14 by 8 feet. Overall room volume is also an important factor, so the higher the ceilings, the better. Last but not least, you’ll want to make sure your home recording studio is outfitted with all the necessary gear.
Other Essentials for Your Home Recording Studio Setup
Perhaps you’re just beginning to design your home recording studio, or perhaps you’re looking to optimize your current set up. Either way, it’s important to make sure you have all the audio recording essentials for your growing studio. If you’re taking the leap from amateur hobbyist to professional-level producer, you’ll want to add these items to your repertoire.
Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) and Audio Interface
If you’ve experimented with audio programs before, you likely already have a computer to pair with a digital audio workstation (DAW) and digital audio interface. A DAW is the software that works in conjunction with your physical interface to capture and convert the audio produced by your instruments and gear. The digital audio interface converts all inputs into the same audio format for easy mixing and quality audio production. Taken together, your DAW and audio interface are the lifeblood of your home studio setup.
Investing in a quality set of headphones is a key part of building your home audio studio. Typically, it’s recommended that you begin with closed-back headphones for sound isolation and cost-effectiveness. Being able to clearly hear the details of your audio during recording and editing is key to achieving the sound you want.
If you’re upgrading and expanding your studio headphone collection, you might consider upgrading to open-back headphones. These luxury recording headphones offer increased sound quality, but are more susceptible to audio leak both in and out of the headphones, so they’re best used in well-insulated soundproof studios.
Microphones, Pop Filter, and Mic Stands
Over time, it’s highly probable you’ll accumulate microphones and mic stands for various purposes. To get started, start with one or two, which you’ll want to choose based on what type of sounds you plan to capture. For vocals, you should opt for a large diaphragm condenser mic, while sounds with high frequencies like piano, acoustic guitar, and cymbal sound better with a small diaphragm condenser mic. Pop filters and windscreens are typically used in front of a microphone used for vocals and help filter out any accidental sounds like popping or scratching.
As you’ve likely already experienced, various types of cables will quickly become a natural part of your home studio setup. From power cords to AES/EBU cables, adapters, instrument cables, microphone cables, and MIDI cables, finding the right cables for each individual studio need is crucial to building your functional recording space. Equally important is storage and cable organizers to help your home studio stay decluttered, safe, and easy to use.
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