What is it about assembling a home studio? Every detail leads to a mass of disagreement. One common, controversial element seems to be production monitor placement. Specifically the mounting of your speakers horizontally or vertically. Before reading on, it’s imperative for your own workflow and sanity that you remember a key guideline: Whatever advice you read, always use your own ears and experiment.
Probably the most iconic image of a monitor aligned horizontally, is that of the Yamaha NS10. After its launch in 1978 for the hifi market, the spectre of its stark, white, speaker cone soon began to manifest on mixing consoles across the world. Its commonly used 90 degree orientation led many to believe that this was the best route to a transparent sound. In fact, the real reason for lying the speaker sideways was far more straightforward: It gave a clearer view to the recording artist in the live room.
In fact, many engineers argue that, for the majority of studio monitors, lying them parallel to your desk isn’t a great idea. Normally, manufacturers align the two cones that form a speaker vertically. This is so that the sounds reach your ears at the same time.
All speakers have a ‘crossover region’ which is where the range of sounds emitted by the tweeter (top) and the bass driver (bottom) meet. If there were even the tiniest delay between the two sections you would have a disconnected and unusual representation of your music. Placing your monitors laterally can throw this alignment off kilter and lead to a slightly strange audio colouration.
Often, the vertical alignment of the tweeter and driver has been designed to contribute towards a far wider stereo image. This means that there’s more expanse to the listening ‘sweet spot’ in your studio so that you can move between your speakers without too much degradation in the quality of your sound. If you flip your monitors on their sides, there’s only one, exact, point where you’re equidistant from all four cones. Turn your head or try and squeeze two producers into that narrow, stereo image and you’ll notice a difference in the audio. Mounting the speaker on its side will move the bass driver closer to a parallel surface. Its 90 degree model was also created to avoid as many reflections from your desk or mixing console as possible.
There are of course monitors, like the PreSonus Eris E44 or the PMC two two 6 Active, that have been designed to lay both flat and upright. Even then, you may need to adjust the alignment of the cooling fins on the back of your equipment to avoid overheating. When you’re purchasing and positioning speakers, as dull as it is, always pay attention to the manufacturer’s specifications. Even then, as I said, always make your key priority your ears and your own personal taste.
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