Studio monitor placement can make a huge difference in your ability to hear and mix tracks professionally. In the interest of reducing phasing, comb filtering, and getting the most accurate response from your speakers, you'll want to ensure their placement is the best for your speaker type and room.
In this article, we'll discuss the pros and cons of having your studio monitors sideways, and why it might not be the best set-up for your speaker type.
Should I Have My Studio Monitors Sideways or Vertical?
In most instances, you should have your studio monitors placed vertically. Sideways monitor placement causes stereo image issues, phasing and comb-filtering that become noticeable when turning your head. Most studio speakers are designed to be upright, so for the best results, keep them that way.
This is due to the fact that (when designed) the studio monitors' subwoofers and tweeters have been positioned in a way that puts the centres of both speakers on the same vertical line. This allows the sound from both speakers to travel directly from the centre, and therefore, reach the listener at the same moment.
When you have two studio monitors that are set up correctly, the sound from both, end up reaching you at the same time, creating a clear listening experience, and true stereo image.
If you place your speakers on their sides, it doesn't matter whether the tweeter is on the inside or outside.
It does three things:
- Puts wave dispersion on the horizontal plane
- Most monitors are set up to spread the sound out horizontally when placed upright, and minimize vertical dispersion. This is done to maximise the stereo image width, “sweet spot”, and prevent mixing desk/equipment reflections, providing a more consistent listening experience across the whole room when moving around.
- When you put your monitors sideways, the waves are now dispersing vertically, adding width to the vertical plane, and minimising the stereo image on the horizontal plane. Therefore when moving around the room, you will experience dropouts, a blurred stereo image and listening out of the “sweet spot” will be inconsistent.
- When monitors are placed vertically in your studio, it improves this because they disperse waves horizontally across the room. This means that you only experience inconsistencies if you move your head up and down. If you move across a room, you won't. You move across a room more frequently than you jump up and down when mixing. This is one reason you should have your monitors vertically
- Pushes the woofer and tweeter alignment out of place
- Placing your studio monitors sideways pushes the alignment of the woofer and tweeter out of place. This causes the distance between the woofer and tweeter to become larger, and as a result, the sound arrives at your ears, at slightly different speeds. This causes comb filtering and phasing issues.
- Moves the woofer closer to your desk or studio monitor stands
- The bass driver inside most speakers is designed to be pointed upwards, and as far away from the bottom of the speaker as possible. If your monitor orientation is sideways, this can put your woofer closer to the desk (or stands), causing bass frequency response issues.
You won't hear these issues unless you have supersonic hearing, because the delay is so small. So, it's always best to experiment with speakers in different styles and change the listening position to see for yourself.
You might hear these issues as phasing, causing smearing and skewing of the frequency spectrum. On top of that, you may also hear some dips or boosts in certain parts of the frequency spectrum.
However, this is a minute detail.
The reflections of an untreated room can cause far more issues than vertical or sideways monitors. So, if you're worried about speaker placement, and don't have room treatment – get room treatment first.
Why Do Some People Turn Their Studio Monitors Sideways?
Some people may place their studio monitors sideways for the following reasons:
- To align the tweeters at ear height in bigger studios
- To avoid blocking the view into the control room
- To avoid the drivers from other speakers being blocked
Most studios will have a pair of monitors on their side for the reasons listed above. It's more a practicality, rather than an optimal listening choice. You'll notice that these monitors are always usually secondary listening monitors, while the main pairs remain upright.
A common configuration in studios is, placing NS-10's on their side, leaving the higher-end Genelecs, Adams etc. upright.
If you want to place your studio monitors sideways, be sure to check your manual. In the HS5, 7 & 8 manual, for instance, it states: “When installing the product: make sure the top surface faces up; do not install on its sides or upside-down”.
Your studio monitors may well have been built for sideways placement (like the Eris E5s) and you could be able to place them this way with no issues – just make sure your check.
How Do I Know if I Can Use My Studio Monitors on Their Side?
Most studio monitor speakers are designed to be used vertically. If you have regular dome tweeters, you most likely cannot use them on their side. However, if they have horizontal waveguides, you'll be able to place them horizontally. Always consult your manufacturer manual before placing your speakers on their sides.
You will find all the information you need about speaker placement in your manual. If you don't have access to your manual, assume you can't put them on their sides.
What if I Like The Look & Sound of My Studio Monitors on Their Side?
By all means, if you like the look and sound of your studio monitors in a side placement, then do it. If you want to avoid the phase and comb filtering issues, it's recommended that you move your speakers further inward, creating a smaller triangle and tighter listening space.
This will help resolve some of the issues you're having but will reduce your listening space, and make it more important for you to be sitting in a “sweet spot” when mixing and mastering.
For accuracy, leave your monitors upright.