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Basics of Room Setup and Monitor Calibration

Today I came across this great post from GIK Acoustics Basics of Room Setup and I started reflecting on some basic things you can do to setup your listening environment.

Have a read through the link above and look at the nice room in the picture – its residential, and looks like the second floor of a brownstone apartment in Brooklyn or New York area in general. Notice the grey panels that are on the back wall, in the front corners, and against the widow. They are placed to cover the “first-reflection points”. These are the spots where sound from your monitors bounces against the wall and then back into your ear.

We can’t see the roof in this picture but the room looks like it has a lot of headroom. If you have a low ceiling, you will likely want to hang a “cloud” above your head as well, as sound goes up to the room and bounces into your ears as well.

Using some acoustic panels in these spots can radically improve how your room “sounds”. You will hear more truly what your mix sounds like, especially if you monitor at reasonable volume.

What is reasonable monitoring volume?

Well – can we agree that if you really crank your listening volume, you feel it in your chest, but your ears will get tired quickly. This is good for short periods of time to hear what you bass and kick drum sound like. But its really hard to get instruments balanced well at loud volumes.

So switch to a really quiet volume for getting balances between instruments.

Bob Katz has published a paper that gives you the “why” you would calibrate you monitors, and a few bits of info as to how you physically do it. Here is the updated version on his website, and here is more info on setup from his website.

Basically he is giving you a method where a certain spot on your monitor gain level (you can mark it with pen, or tape) corresponds to a certain loudness.

I have done this each time I change my monitoring setup, using a cheap meter I got at RadioShack. There are also ones available for a variety of prices including some free on the App Store.

Feel free to contact me – andy (at) andygabrys (dot) com – if you are interested in doing this to your own room and its not making sense.

I strongly believe that I am able to mix at a higher standard because I have some basic room treatment up, and I have calibrated my monitors.



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