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Whether one is producing music, podcasts, game sounds, or film sound effects, Digital Audio Principles provides the tips and techniques that will make the project a success. Author Dave Schroeder explains the basics of digital audio production techniques and covers the essential hardware and software. He also discusses sound theory, frequency response, the range of human hearing, and dynamic range.
Okay, assuming that you now have your speakers, let's think about how we are going to set them up in the rooms that we are going to set them up in. The first thing you want to do is find a location where you can set your speakers up so that they have the appropriate relationship to you, the listener. And in a nutshell, you want to find yourself in the sweet spot. Now, what this means is kind of these three items over here that I have listed. The main thing is equidistant between the three of you, and symmetrical so that there's balance. You want the left speaker be as far away as the right speaker. You want them to be coming at you from the same angle. The distance is usually 3 to 5 feet apart.
I usually say if you can reach the speaker with your arm, it's a little too close. But if it seems like its really far, beyond that, like you have to get up and really stretch to turn it, then it's maybe too far, so 3 to 5 feet, somewhere in there. Usually 4 or 6 feet apart from each other on a console or on speaker stands is where you want to start. And then you can rotate those in towards your head evenly, turn each one a little bit and tell where you want to be sitting, wherever that is, behind a mixing board, behind a keyboard and a computer monitor.
Make it so that they're pointed right at the sides of your head, and that you're here in the sweet spot. The other thing you want to do is keep obstructions to a minimum, which means anything that you kind of put in the middle, in between the speakers, or kind of off to the immediate sides. Because the speakers are going to generate sounds in all directions, and things close are going to reflect and deflect that sound and affect the sound that gets to you. So if you have to put a computer monitor there, try and get a flat screen monitor. But don't put a bunch of big stuff. Don't put a PC there obviously, one, because it's really truly noisy, but two, because it's a big box.
So try and keep that space clear between the speakers. The other thing you want to do is set up your speakers at the right height. The general thinking is that you want to put the speakers at about your height. So you can have them set up either vertically or horizontally, here is the vertical and the horizontal. The main thing to keep in mind if you go horizontal is to keep the Tweeters either on the outside or the inside, but just make sure it's the same. Don't have one with the Tweeter on the outside and one with Tweeter on the inside.
That will actually affect the imaging that comes to you. If they're set up horizontally, just put the Tweeters on the top. Again, angle them in. If this is you, and this is your green Mohawk, this is a good place to have your speakers. The other thing you want to do is put them on foam or insulate them somehow so that you reduce the vibrations. You don't want them sending vibrations through your table or through your desk, or rattling anything. So I've heard that you can buy pre-made foam things, you can also stack them up on a bunch of mouse pads. Anything to kind of put something between your speaker and the surface so that they're isolated from vibration.
Okay, so now that you know what relationship you want to have with your speakers, how do you want to set up that relationship inside different rooms? Well, basically there are a few kinds of rooms. Most of us are going to end up in either a square room or a rectangular room. In older houses and unique spaces, you'll get some different angles, and that gets crafty, and then you have to really play around and figure out what's the right location. But here's the basic thinking on stuff like square rooms. First of all, you don't want to put yourself in a corner. It'll do two things, it'll create uneven room reflections, and it will also cause an increase in the low frequencies that you hear from the speakers in the corner.
So what you want to do is find yourself in the middle of the room with a good distance from the back wall. This will actually increase the sound and your reflections, while you hear them, will all be the same. You want the way that the sound bounces through the room to be even, and you don't want to put any speaker too close to a walk, because sometimes it'll affect how you hear different frequencies. It might boost certain frequencies, and it might cut certain frequencies. So you want to try and keep your speakers away from walls, if you can. Now in a rectangular room, you basically have two other options, knowing that we want to be kind of in the middle of the room.
So long story short is if it's a rectangular room, don't set up along the long wall. Set up along the short wall so that you have maximum space behind you so that these direct reflections take longer to get back to your head. In this setup those reflections come a lot faster, and that's mostly it, plus, you'll be able to put these speakers farther away from the back wall without feeling cramped. Finally, let's talk a little bit about sound dampening. And what we want to do here is place absorbing materials on the walls to kind of limit the direct or immediate reflections of the sounds.
If you look at this graphic, you can kind of see I have shown where the immediate reflections go. The speaker, of course, shoots at your head and behind you. It really kind of comes in over here and bounces over there. That's a direct reflection. Also, these side walls, the sound comes off and comes back to you like this. What you want to do is try and put some foam or something that absorbs sounds like blankets, shag carpet, old Led Zeppelin tapestries, whatever you've got, in those areas. But try and do it evenly. You want it to do it about head level, which is also going to be about speaker level of your setup.
And you don't want to make it completely dead, you just want those sounds when they come to that back wall or on the side walls to slow down quite a bit. And you'll know if you've succeeded, because when you start to do your mixes with these dampeners in place, you'll notice a lot more clarity in the room. You'll be able to kind of hear the direct signal more, and there won't be, kind of some of the mud or murkiness that comes with a lot of reflections in the room. So these were a few things you can do to try and get better sound when you set up your monitoring system. It's really all about the environment. Now you're going to be in different rooms, and there will be different things going on, so you'll have to adapt a little bit.
These are kind of starting scenarios, and you always need to test and tweak, test and tweak. But if you start it out this way, you'll be doing pretty well.
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