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Sound Advice

Upgrade Your Nearfields For Free by Bruce Bartlett

Are you getting all the performance out of your Nearfield monitors that you can? There are some simple ways to flatten their response so they sound more accurate. And you won’t need to buy a graphic equalizer.

In a nutshell, experiment with placement. Where you place your monitors, relative to nearby walls and the console, has a big effect on their sound. For example, you can control the monitor’s bass response easily. Any loudspeaker gets more bassy when placed near a surface.

Here’s why. The tweeter radiates high frequencies mostly out front. But lows radiate in all directions. When you put a loudspeaker near a wall, the lows radiate behind the speaker, bounce off the wall, and reinforce the lows radiating out front.

The highs don’t radiate back toward the wall, so they are not reinforced. The audible result is more bass.

So, if your monitors sound thin when playing a kick drum or bass guitar, try placing them closer to the wall behind them. My monitors were placed on a desk just behind my mixing console, 1.5 feet from the wall behind them. In this position, they sounded too warm or mid-bassy. When I raised them up by putting them on some one-gallon paint cans, they lost their tubby character. An upgrade for free! I wrapped the cans in grey foam rubber.

Another upgrade is almost free. Get a 4-foot-square piece of acoustical foam, with wedges or convolutions. Such foam is made by Sonex and others. Tape or nail it to the wall behind and between your monitors. The foam absorbs sound, so you hear less wall reflections and more direct sound from the monitors. The benefits are many: sharper stereo imaging, flatter response, tighter transients, and better time resolution. It really does work.

Put monitors on stands just behind the console, not on the meter bridge. This reduces comb-filtering from console reflections. Align the monitors vertically to prevent lobing in the horizontal plane.

Another way to control your monitors’ sound is to experiment with angling them toward you, or straight ahead. The off-axis response of a speaker tends to roll off in the highs compared to the on-axis response. So if you toe-in the monitors to aim at you, they will sound their brightest. If you aim them straight ahead, the treble will soften a little. It’s free EQ.

Take some time to experiment with monitor placement, and you’ll be rewarded with a more-accurate sound.

Bruce Bartlett is a microphone engineer, audio journalist and a recording engineer.

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