How important is it that your monitor loudspeakers are at the right height?

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Record-Producer.com.

Wednesday February 19, 2020
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If your studio monitor loudspeakers are too low then their position will affect what you hear, leading to problems in your finished work. They might be bad for your posture too, which is a potential problem that should not be ignored.

If your studio monitor loudspeakers are too low then their position will affect what you hear, leading to problems in your finished work. They might be bad for your posture too, which is a potential problem that should not be ignored.

This could possibly be a publicity photo and not a real working studio. It's part of a press release from Focusrite advertising a three-year warranty (which is of course very welcome and we're pleased to hear of it). But it can tell us interesting things about loudspeaker positioning and general studio convenience.

The main issue, if this were a working studio, is that the monitor loudspeakers are too low. You can see under the right monitor that there are books or notepads that raise it a little, but nowhere near enough. I would presume that the left monitor is raised similarly.

Speakers generally give their best performance at 90 degrees from halfway between the woofer and the tweeter. There may be some tilt due to the drive units not being precisely time-aligned, but sitting with your ears on a level halfway between the drive units looking square-on at the cabinet is the best place to start, then find the sweetest spot by moving your head around while listening attentively.

Consequences

So what are the consequences of having the monitors too low?

Well firstly because you're not getting the best sound from your speakers, you will automatically compensate for that in your mix settings, mostly in the EQ. You'll hear the benefit, but to your listeners outside of your studio what they will hear is your over-correction for something that wasn't actually wrong in the first place.

Secondly, I find that if the speakers are too low I will automatically and without thinking adjust my posture to get a better sound. And although I can't speak with any medical authority I certainly can speak from personal experience that the hunched posture that results causes discomfort leading to pain over time. Of course, hunching over a laptop isn't really a good thing either.

So what's the solution?

Simple - raise the speakers up. It puzzles me why adjustable desktop speaker stands are not more of a thing than they are. But if you look hard enough, you'll find a reasonable selection on the market.

A workable alternative is to tilt the speakers so they point up towards the plane of your ears. I wouldn't say that's quite as good, but it's definitely better than nothing.

Anything else?

Focusrite headphone cord

While I'm looking at this alternative crop of the picture, I might also comment that the cord on the headphones attaches to the left earpiece. This means that with the audio interface placed on the right, the cable drapes over the user's lap. Swap the interface over to the left and there's less of a tangle.

One more point might be that placing ornaments on your monitors (as in the main image) is an option, as long as you are absolutely sure that they're not going to rattle. And perfectionists would say that placing an ornament on one speaker is subtly but definitely going to unbalance the sound.

These 'anything else' points are of course small, but any small improvements you can make to your working process will lead to improvements in your finished work.

But get those speakers raised up first - that's what's really going to make the most difference.

Oh by the way - We've heard great work from Audio Masterclass students using Focusrite equipment.

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