Tech's Files: Do You Hear What I Hear?

Oct 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Eddie Ciletti

OPTIMIZING THE LISTENING POSITION IN YOUR RECORDING STUDIO

Polls


Mix Regional

The Mix Regional section for Mix's May 2014 issue focuses on Nashville. Send us your studio news: updates, sessions, new rooms, club performances and installations. Let the Mix audience know what is going on! Send photos and descriptions to mixeditorial@nbmedia.com.

Fig. 1: An Anthony Gallo orb placed atop an Auratone Cube retrofitted with a newer driver. The two “cabs” are wired in parallel, receiving the same information with no crossover. The Green-Red-Blue (GRB) color separation details the directivity.

Fig. 1: An Anthony Gallo orb placed atop an Auratone Cube retrofitted with a newer driver. The two “cabs” are wired in parallel, receiving the same information with no crossover. The Green-Red-Blue (GRB) color separation details the directivity.

This month, I'll explore the relationship between high-frequency drivers and their next of kin (midrange or woofer) — essentially, how to optimize your monitor listening position.

Back in the day, a friend and I spent hours in local hi-fi shops checking out gear we couldn't afford. As geek teens attempting to help the adult world to get it right, one of our favorite pastimes was discovering miswired stereo systems.

These days, allowing time for such creative technical distractions may be harder to justify, but the process can still be very rewarding. My desktop has a pair of 3-inch “full-range” drivers that are well above average as a system, but rather forward in the presence region and a bit shy from the low-mids on downward. This is an impractical range for a subwoofer to cover so I augment each channel with a 4-inch driver in a cube cabinet. Some might think this is a waste of time, but geek diversions have a way of turning into moments that can be taught.

While adjusting the physical placement (see Fig. 1), sliding the orb from front to back would vertically steer the sound up or down. This is a mechanical phase adjustment that changes the arrival time between the drivers and the ear — an easy “lab exercise” that's worth sharing. Speaker designers use this technique to optimize the phase between the tweeter and its mate. In live applications, phase is electronically manipulated to steer line arrays. After the fact, we do it instinctively — the audio version of preening in front of a mirror — by bobbing up and down, and shifting left and right to find the sweet spot.

Fine-tuning the monitor orientation assumes that the majority of the control room acoustics have been tamed. There's no shortage of books and articles about minimizing reflections, de-coupling monitors from the console meter bridge or pedestal, creating a symmetrical listening environment and living within the sweet spot. Each loudspeaker system is unique, and therefore each should have a specific orientation.

For example, take the Yamaha NS-10M, a unit that nearly everyone admits is neither accurate nor a studio monitor. It makes sense that the NS-10M should be vertically oriented so left-to-right console excursions don't change the woofer/tweeter relationship. That said, the majority of users seem to prefer the sideways (bookshelf) orientation. Being off-center exaggerates the NS-10M sound that we don't like, which is especially problematic on a large-format console but less of an issue when “mouse-mixing” (i.e., staying in one place). You will find that the sweet spot width (focus) varies from monitor to monitor — some are wide, some are narrow.

Honky-Tonk

There's some merit to the majority's NS-10M solution, although it contradicts geek intuition. It is one solution and there are alternatives, as this simple test may prove. The sound source should be pink noise, which is very good at emphasizing any comb filter effects.

To optimize monitor placement, listen to one monitor at a time while shifting position from tweeter-center to the center of the next driver (woofer, in many cases, but midrange driver for other monitors). There should be one region that yields the smoothest, clearest frequency response. Conversely, if the drivers are miswired, there will be a null where optimum should be.

If our results concur, “NS-10M optimum” places the ear in-between the two drivers, so keep this in mind if you try the vertical orientation. As the tweeter is offset, the vertical center is offset to that driver and not the woofer. The comb filter effect between woofer and tweeter was less on the NS-10M than I expected, but was more obviously “wrong” if listening from the woofer's center. The “power focus” (the strength of the signal in-between the drivers) was pronounced, almost hypercardioid.






Acceptable Use Policy
blog comments powered by Disqus

Mix Books

Modern Recording and Mixing

This 2-DVD set will show you how the best in the music industry set up a studio to make world-class records. Regardless of what gear you are using, the information you'll find here will allow you to take advantage of decades of expert knowledge. Order now $39.95

Mastering Cubase 4

Electronic Musician magazine and Thomson Course Technology PTR have joined forces again to create the second volume in their Personal Studio Series, Mastering Steinberg's Cubase(tm). Edited and produced by the staff of Electronic Musician, this special issue is not only a must-read for users of Cubase(tm) software, but it also delivers essential information for anyone recording/producing music in a personal-studio. Order now $12.95

Newsletters

MixLine

Delivered straight to your inbox every other week, MixLine takes you straight into the studio, with new product announcements, industry news, upcoming events, recent recording/post projects and much more. Click here to read the latest edition; sign up here.

MixLine Live

Delivered straight to your inbox every other week, MixLine Live takes you on the road with today's hottest tours, new sound reinforcement professional products, recent installs, industry news and much more. Click here to read the latest edition; sign up here.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

The Wire, a virtual press conference offering postings of the latest gear and music news, direct from the source. Visit the The Wire for the latest press postings.