Choosing and setting up studio monitors is, of course, one of the most important aspects of designing a good recording/mixing space. Every decision made during the recording process—from mic placement to final mix tweaks—is based on what’s heard in those monitors, and while headphones can provide a helpful reference, the sound from the speakers is usually what’s relied upon for the critical choices made throughout the process.

There are plenty of suitable—even excellent—studio monitors out there, at all sizes and price points, but setup is just as critical as choosing a good pair. A flawed or problematic setup—even with good speakers—can get in the way of achieving the best recordings and mixes. Here are 6 suggestions—things to avoid—to get the best results.


“Correctly setting up studio monitors is crucial to ensure your audio productions aren’t awash with problems.”

1. Avoid the Hype

Consumer speakers are often designed to make everything played through them sound as good as possible. However, this is not the goal for studio monitors. The purpose of monitoring is not to promote a consistently enjoyable listening experience, but to reveal the truth about the sound of the recording or mix—good, bad, or ugly, what you hear through the monitors must reveal not only what sounds good, but more importantly, what’s wrong, and what needs to be fixed.

The sound of many consumer speakers is often “hyped”—this usually means that the bass and/or the treble (and maybe presence) frequencies are accentuated, for a punchier, brighter, more “in-your-face” tonal balance. This can give music a more exciting quality, but it’s not what the mix actually sounds like. If you make key decisions about level balance and EQ based on a pair of hyped-up speakers, that mix may sound good right there in that room, but it won’t sound like that anywhere else—in fact, it’ll likely sound lacking on other, less-hyped playback systems.

Fortunately, most speakers sold as studio monitors shoot for a (more desirable) neutral balance, capable of providing a proper reference for decision making. Yet I still sometimes come across people who apply their own “hype” to their monitors, via amp/preamp tone controls, or by cranking the bass and treble adjustments provided on the back of many powered speakers.

Fig 1 Low-and High-Frequency adjustments on the rear panel of a studio monitor.

Fig 1 Low-and High-Frequency adjustments on the rear panel of a studio monitor.

But these controls are there not to add thump and sizzle, they’re intended to be used subtly, if at all, to compensate for speaker placement (see below), or for a particularly dead, or an overly bright, splashy room. Usually, if that’s the case, a dB here or there is probably all the adjustment you’ll need, and cutting bass or treble may be more effective than boosting.