Without having to acoustically treat your room (which should always come first if possible), here are five simple fixes that you can do to instantly improve the performance of your playback system.
1. Avoid placing the speakers up against a wall. This usually results in some strong unwanted peaks in the low frequency response. The further away you can get from the wall, the less it influences the frequency response of your monitors and the smoother that response will be. Figure an absolute minimum of 12 inches, although 18 inches is even better.
2. Avoid the corners of the room. Even more severe than the wall is a corner, since it will reinforce the low frequency response even more than when placed against a wall. The worst is if only one speaker is in the corner, which causes the response of your system to be lopsided on the low-end towards the speaker located there.
3. Avoid being closer to one wall of the room than the other. If one speaker is closer to one side wall than the other, once again you’ll get a totally different frequency response between the two, mainly caused by reflection issues. It’s best to set up directly in the center of the room if possible. Symmetry is essential to keep a balanced stereo image with a stable frequency response in the room. That means that your sweet spot listening area will be in the exact center of the room if the speakers are exactly the same distance from each side wall. While it may seem tempting to set up some other way, acoustically you could be asking for trouble.
4. Make sure that the controls of each speaker are set the same. Almost everyone uses powered monitor speakers these days, but don’t forget that many have a few parameter controls either on the front or rear. Be sure that these are set correctly for the application (read the manual) and are set the same on each monitor.
Bonus Tip: Avoid different types of wall absorption. If one side of the room contains a window and the other is drywall, carpet or acoustic foam, once again you’ll have an unbalanced stereo image because one side will be brighter sounding than the other. Try to make the walls on each sides of the speakers the same material (preferably soft and absorptive).
None of the above cost a dime, yet can make a big difference in the way your playback sounds. Note that they also apply to PA speakers as well, although since most PAs are mono, we’re not so much worried about the stereo image as we are that the sound might feel lopsided to one side or the placement might cause feedback.
Producer/engineer Bobby Owsinski is one of the bestselling authors in the music industry with 24 books that are now staples in audio recording, music, and music business programs in schools around the world. Visit Bobby’s website at bobbyowsinski.com.