Setting up studio monitors in the right way is a key to preventing annoying problems throughout audio productions. One of the most aspects of making a good recording or mixing is choosing the best studio monitor and making the best studio monitor setup.
However, whatever decision you made during the recording process, no matter you make the final tweaks, you want those monitors – to sound great. There are plenty of excellent studio monitors out there but setting them up is just as critical as choosing a good monitor pair. Flawed and problematic recordings can still get in the way. This is how important it is to test studio monitors to achieve the best recordings and mixes.
Since the first and foremost job of studio monitors is to produce sound, test the audio signals. You can download MP3 files in different tones to help you evaluate the low-frequency reproduction in your audio system. Make sure they are giving signals that are equally suitable for full-bandwidth monitors and subwoofer systems. Here is how you can make a great start.
Step 1– Check The Individual Frequencies
Have a collection of tones at individual frequencies. Each of them should have at least 10 cycles long. Signal frequencies ranging from 16 to 150Hz are ideal for this job as there is a little space between the tones to enable your audio system to build up its forces. Pay attention to the purity of the tone as you play the signal. There should be a clean tone and all of them should have the same level.
In case you heard no any clean tone but distortion, noises and rattling, try checking your sound system or your room. The problem may not be your monitor anymore. Though the common source of the trouble is your loudspeakers but sometimes there is also something resonating in your listening room and even your audio equipment itself. Checking the individual frequencies of your audio signal is useful for testing the output capacity of your system. So, begin by starting up from a low sound level and work up towards higher levels. See the difference.
Step 2 – Do The Sweep Tone
Find MP3 files that contain tone that change linearly in frequency probably from 10Hz to 150Hz where the level of the signal remains constant. You can use this signal to check at what frequency the sound becomes audible in your studio system. It can also be used to know how precisely the sound level remains constant over frequency and locate any anti-resonances and resonances in the level of your listening location. Anti-resonance is also known as clear dips and resonance is also known as peaks at the sound level.
Tones that change linearly in frequency can also be used to locate problematic structures in your recording area. Problematic structures can be the resonating curtain rails or furniture-rattling.
Step 3 – Try The Pink Noise
Test your studio monitors by using a signal that contains noise. The so-called pink noise has a particular characteristic such as equal power per octave and power density that decreases 3dB per octave that makes all frequencies in the noise fairly audible. Therefore, the pink noise can reveal the very small frequency response differences in a very effective way. This signal is excellent for comparing the effect of any change in your sound system. It has a spectrum similar to actual musical signal making your sound system stresses the same way.
Moreover, the pink noise signal can be used better together with an octave-band or a third-octave-band real time analyzer in order to make your sound system calibrated.
Step 4 – Test With 85Hz Sinewave
Having a signal that contains tone for adjusting the phase of a Genelec subwoofer is another great way to test the audio of your studio monitors. Bear in mind that some subwoofer models do not feature a built-in test tone generator. This is what makes the 85Hz test tone important to help set the phase adjustment correctly. Testing with this signal needs a little knowledge from the operating manual. Get the instructions in the subwoofer operating manuals and Quick Setup Guide.
The 85Hz Sinewave is a full-scale signal. Do not forget to turn the volume down before starting the test to avoid studio monitor damages and from the user’s end.
Additional Tones to Test
The following tests don’t require high fidelity; using MP3s should be fine for checking your setup. This collection of audio samples designed to help check your monitor setup. Make sure your speakers still behave as they should. You’ll find these test tones helpful and enlightening. Since uneven bass response and poor stereo imaging are the two most common monitoring problems, each test is designed to cover these issues.
Sine Wave Sweep
A sine wave sweep has a range from 40Hz to 300Hz. You can use this test for bass response and sympathetic vibrations. If you are recording outdoor or listening on headphones, you will notice the volume rising and falling as the audio plays. Don’t worry because this is normal, even if the level does not actually change. You are exposing the acoustic response of your room, to a certain extent.
Use the Sine Wave Sweep test as a rough gauge of how extreme the acoustic issues are in your room. The sweep can also be used to expose low-frequency dependent rattles, buzzes and other sympathetic vibrations happening in the places around you. When you use this test, you may discover how it is great to unable to isolate the odd rattling sound even after puzzling with a mix for 15 minutes.
Two Octave Walk-up
The Two Octave Walk-up has consecutive semitones from G1 or 49Hz to E3 or 164.8Hz. This is great to test the monitor for bass response and other specific problem notes. With it, you can see the tone ascends through a chromatic scale. For the same as above, there are certain notes that will jump out or disappear. These notes are important to the character of your mixing space. For example, the B at 61.7 Hz drops in volume in your space, you can reconsider when you find yourself reaching for the fader when the bass guitar plays B.
5-Point Pan Check
This signal has 5 bursts of white noise at different pan positions which you can use for coarse panning issues. This MP3 file plays sound at the center, hard left, hard right, half left and half right motion. If you can’t hear these 5 separate panning locations then check your stereo. Most stereo issues are caused by incorrect speaker configuration such as not equal speaker distances from your ears. Most stereo imaging problems are also due to poor room acoustics.
With the short pan test, you can have white noise at 3 different pan positions. It works effectively for fine panning issues. This file plays a sound at 50% left then hard right and then 25% left. If your stereo imaging is clear across 9 points then you are in good hands for mixing in a home studio at any rate. This is because most listeners can reliably distinguish for only 5 to 7 pan prepositions, 9 is much better.
However, if the difference from 50% to 25% is not that clear in your studio monitors, you might want to consider using headphones. Using headphones to verify your panning decisions is also important if the difference is more defined on one side of the device.
Things To Avoid When Setting Up Studio Monitors
If you notice that nothing changes with the sound studio monitors are generated then check your area. If you have done with the entire tone test then there is something wrong with your setup. Check your job again and avoid these mistakes.
- Walls – Always avoid the walls. Placing a speaker of any size against a wall may deliver stronger bass response but it is wrong. It can give uneven frequency balance instead.
- Poor angles – Monitor positions shouldn’t be too close together or too far apart. This can result in a very bad mix.
- Reflections – Having the speakers pump sound at strongly reflective surfaces in the front will reflect too much to the listening position back.
- Excessive levels – Human ears are more sensitive to high end especially to the low end, at higher listening levels. If monitoring is done consistently at these, your decision about how to set the level of bass in the mix may be affected.
- Too much sub – Be careful in adding a subwoofer to the setup, this can lead to mixes lacking in bass energy when it is heard on other systems.
- Hype – Monitoring is not to promote a consistently enjoyable listening experience. The purpose of this is to reveal the real sound of the recording or mix.
What Makes A Good Monitor?
So, what’s make a good studio monitor other than the sound it produces? A good monitor sounds great but not just that. It should be rugged and can handle peaks, feedback mistakes, overloads and always ready for anything. Lots of hi-end 3-way audiophile speakers worked great for a year. But with constant tweaking of sound experiments, woofers just popped right out of their cones. Hi-fi speakers are not made to take abuse above typically programmed material. And speakers like these are truly frustrating.
One other great thing for a good monitor is that it does not artificially exaggerate frequencies. Everyone wants a speaker that sounds like a magical sound where it made hit after hit. That’s what where the bass and the treble are boosted. The mids are also cut. It is known as the “smile” because that’s how it looks on a graphic equalizer. There are many people, audio engineers, and even ordinary listeners, really like that sound.
If you like those sounds too, mix up a nice smile for your monitors. Aside from perfuming various test tones, try creating great sound yourself.