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Nearfield Monitors

How to use nearfield monitors to get the most out of them for recording, mixing and mastering.

In many Professional CD mastering and recording studios you will see studio control rooms with full-sized loudspeakers. Some with 15" woofer driven bi amped 3 or 4 way speaker systems. Many control rooms are very large and are designed to use this type of monitoring properly. This type of monitoring environment is still used today in professional recording and mastering studios. With current speaker technology, and the increase in home and project studio popularity, smaller speakers have become more popular. These so-called "nearfield monitors" are designed to be able to somewhat accurately recreate the sound of the music in a smaller environment with the speakers placed more closely to the "sweet spot". That said, many commercial, home and project studios still do not use them properly. If one is going to go to the considerable expense of buying nice speakers one should also put out the comparatively small effort of using them properly and get the best performance from them.

Stereo Speaker Placement

Nearfield speakers, as the name implies, are meant to be listened to from a closer range than common speakers. Typically nearfields are within 6 feet of the listeners ears. The speakers, in an optimal situation, will form a perfect triangle with the two speakers and the listeners head. If the right speaker is 6 feet from your right ear, the left should be 6 feet from your left ear and the two speakers should be six feet apart. Once you have that situated properly, it's time to deal with height. I am unsure if this is a rule or just my experience and habit, but I personally place the speaker upright tweeter over woofer and have the tweeter as close to level with my ear as possible since the tweeter is the high frequencies, as they disperse less and die quicker than the low frequencies. Now there is the small matter of what to set them on. I will get in to the details of what works best after I say this: Whatever you set them on, make sure it's the same for both of them. As we all know, different substances have different properties for absorbing vibrations and sound. Therefore, you want them both on the same surface. Setting them directly on your desk or any furniture like that is usually what happens, and it does work, but it's not the best answer. This is problematic because if the full bottom surface of the speaker is resting on the desk a lot of vibration is then transmitted through the speaker and into the desk and will throw off your monitoring. Try to isolate the monitor from the rest of the room by absorbing vibration before it creates a problem. You can do this by using speaker stands. Make sure you set them to the correct height and distance from your mix position. You may want to fill the speaker columns with sand to help with sound vibration and to keep them stabilized. I use lead pellets or "buckshot" that is available at a gun shop or at a sporting goods store. This may be a little less messy then using sand. There are some things you can do much quicker, and less expensive. Putting any sort of small "feet" on your speakers, rubber pads or the little felt sticky things people put on chair and table legs that sit on wood floors can help minimize contact between the speaker and the surface it's resting on, as well as absorbing vibration. In my next post I will explain how to set up your monitors with 3 simple household items.

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