Home studios aren’t perfect.

In a perfect world, your home studio would be designed by a professional. You’d have a great-sounding control room, a couple of tracking rooms, and a nice, quiet vocal booth.

Raise your hand if your control room, tracking room, and vocal booth are all the same room. (Joe quickly…and sheepishly…raises his hand.)

That’s the reality we face. We’re weekend warriors, home studio recordists. Hobbyists. We’ve got to make the best of what we’ve got.

One of the casualties of a less-than-perfect room is your studio monitors’ stereo image. What’s stereo image? Simply put, it’s how wide your music sounds, coming out of your monitors.

As you might have guessed, your room (and the stuff IN it) plays a big role in how good your monitors sound. It can also severely effect the stereo image.

To be a bit tongue-in-cheek today, I’ll share with you 3 ways to KILL your monitors’ stereo image.

If you’re into bad-sounding music, by all means do the steps below. 🙂 The rest of you should avoid them.

1. Don’t acoustically treat the side walls

One of the easiest and quickest improvements I made to my monitors’ stereo image was when I placed some simple absorption on the side walls (to the left and right of the speakers).

IMMEDIATELY I could hear things much more clearly. It was almost as if I was listening in mono before. Wild.

2. Place obstructions next to the monitors

One of my readers, Binu, commented a while back on my home studio tour video. He said:

Hi.. Joe.. nice arrangements. Please put your rack into floor, I think it will obstruct the sound from your monitor.

By the time I read that, I had already figured it out, but he was absolutely right. I had my equipment rack to the right of my mix position. It was obstructing the sound waves from being absorbed by the treatment I had placed on the side walls.

The results was an off-center stereo image. Everything sounded like it was panned slightly to the left. (Talk about ANNOYING.)

I moved the rack back behind the monitors, and everything was good again.

3. Don’t center the monitors

You’ve got no chance of a good stereo image if you don’t center your monitors along the wall in your room. If they’re in the corner, forget about it. You’ll never get a clear stereo image.

Which of these tips are you going to apply to your studio TODAY?

[Photo Credit]

  • Tony

    Hey Joe! I have bass trapping in all 4 corners of my mix room. Would it be a problem acoustically, if I moved my equipment rack back into the corner behind the monitors? Or should I leave it up against the side wall?

  • Hi, I have a question about a positioning of desk/monitors problem.

    I have a small bedroom (3.25m x 3.62m or 128 x 142 inches).
    In that room I have a bed (of course), a closet, 2 desks and what i think is called a cupboard. Since it is difficult to throw something out, and because one wall has a slanted wall, there is no way to have a good room setup with a decent sound.

    But I was thinking about buying a small corner desk for my monitors and music PC. I know that it is best if the desk was in the center of a wall, but it is unpossible to have it completely centered. Is it good idea then, to buy a corner desk instead, or should i just leave it the way it is, not in a corner, but not completely centered either?

    If it wasn’t for the money, I would just move out of my parents place of course, and find myself a nice house where i can use the living room, but that’s not for in a couple of years…

    Thanks in advance

    • Corners are the worst place for low frequency buildup, so I’d avoid setting up in a corner.

  • Nice article. Thanks. Here’s one I wrote about setting up nearfield monitors correctly: http://recordmixandmaster.com/2010-03-the-sweet-spot-perfect-speaker-placement I hope some of you find it useful. Cheers. Simon

    • Nice, Thanks Simon! Great site. Glad to meet another blogger!

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  • Lucas

    Number 3 is my only problem. I cant center my mix position because of some space issues since my home studio is also my bedroom but, I fix that by tweaking pan settings using headphones and it works great I think.

    Joe you the man!

  • The only one of these Im guilty of is lack of acoustic treatment (need some monies first, and then Ill be doing a DIY acoustic panel post). Great points, just one thing ive been told though is to never completely centre your monitors/listening position to the wall your facing. Just a couple of inches left or right will help, and means each monitor is a different distance from the wall, as you never want them to have the same wall to wall distances as each other. However, Im no acoustic professional, just found this out from a lot of study and testing!! 🙂

  • Eh, I have an issue with my mixing space. Like, the monitors are perfectly stretched to provide a decent image buttttttt I feel as if the room takes a bit of the stereo away because my right monitor is sitting right next to a wall… Fail.

  • Toth

    I’m guilty of all 3! But I live in an apartment. I just bought a house where I’ll be able to build my own studio. I plan to follow all thee of the rules Joe posted in my new space!

  • Collin Vander Ark

    I measured my speakers this morning and realized that my monitors were 2 feet to the right, that is now fixed. I treated the right side of my mix position but to my left there is a window that I can’t really glue foam onto. Any recommendations?

    • A staple-gun works great on foam. Or you could mount the foam to a piece of light plywood or a ceiling tile, then hang it from a single nail in the wall, like a picture frame.

  • Toby Baxley

    I already have the side walls treated and the monitors are free of obstructions, but my desk is not centered on the wall because of a door.

    I should just build out a separate mixing room. Maybe from the sales of my next CD. 🙂