Optimizing Your Home Studio Setup

If you have a home studio, chances are it’s in whatever bit of spare room you can find. It might be in a corner of your living room, your bedroom, or even a closet.

Your studio might not be a professionally treated space, but that doesn’t mean it has to sound bad!

If you use monitors, an easy way to improve your home studio is by optimizing its layout. By positioning your desk and monitors the right way, you can instantly improve your music production capabilities.

Room Acoustics and Selection

To understand how to position your desk and monitors, it’s helpful to know a little bit about room acoustics. This can be a very complex subject, but you only have to know two things to get started:

  1. Your monitors generate sound, which reflects off of the various surfaces in the room and creates unwanted noise.
  2. Some of that unwanted noise will find its way into your ears.

The more noise in the room, the harder it is to accurately hear your music. This will negatively impact every stage of the production process, especially mixing and mastering when the smallest details matter the most.

Reducing the amount of noise that reaches you, even if it’s only by a little bit, can make a big difference.

If you have the opportunity to choose where to put your studio in your home, bigger is better. The larger the room, the more sound will naturally diffuse before reaching the walls. Other than that, just about any space will do. You’ve got to work with what you have, right?

I recently moved, so I needed to setup my new workspace. I was limited to putting my studio in my bedroom, so room selection was automatic. Here is the shape and size of my room:

Starting Room Dimensions For Home Studio Setup
Figure 1: Initial room layout (not to scale)

Desk Placement

Once you have your room identified, the next thing to do is measure it. If you have an odd-shaped room, measure the most general width and length of the room. As you can see with my room, I ignored the doorway when I made my measurements. 

The best place to put your desk is going to be centered along one of the shorter walls of the room. This will help maintain even reflections from side to side and keep you as far away from the wall and corners behind you as possible.

If you have enough space, position your desk away from the wall so that your ears (when sitting) are approximately 38% of the length of the room from the wall in front of you. This position will typically give you the best acoustic balance within your room. 

My room is a little bit longer than it is wide, so I chose to put my desk along the window wall, centered along it. I was able to move the desk away from the wall a little bit, hitting the 38% mark. Here is what this looks like:

Desk and Chair Position In Home Studio Setup
Figure 2: Room layout with desk and chair placed (not to scale)

One of the questions I faced with this room was the window. I decided to place the desk in front of the window for a few reasons:

  • Windows have similar reflective properties as drywall while absorbing lower frequencies slightly better
  • Sound is mostly emitted in front of the monitors, leaving the back side of the monitor area as the quietest and least reflection-prone. Even if some sound bounces off that wall, it’s competing with the direct signal of the monitors, which will be much louder.
  • Placing the desk on one of the longer walls would give me uneven side reflections – closet doors and the entry area on one side and the window on the other

Another question was the doorway. While it’s not the most optimal room feature, keeping  it as far away from me as possible and behind me minimizes it’s impact and effectively lengthens the room in that spot.

Monitor Placement

Once your desk location is determined, monitor placement is next. 

First, position your monitors about a foot (or more) away from the wall if possible. This will help reduce the volume of the reflections you get from the front wall.

Next, position your monitors side to side in a position that creates an equilateral triangle between the front of the monitors and your ears/head. The size of the triangle does not matter.

Depending on your desk size, you might consider using monitor stands to get the right width. Again, do what you can with what you have. 

Finally, angle the monitors so they are pointing directly at your head. If possible, raise them up to ear level. 

Remember, getting all of these details perfect isn’t necessary. If you’re an inch or two off, it’s not going to make a major difference.

Here is how these guidelines played out for me:

Monitor Position In Home Studio Setup
Figure 3: Final room layout with desk, chair, and monitors placed (not to scale)

My desk sits about a foot away from the wall while still being comfortable to work at. It’s a wide flat table, so I put the monitors on monitor foam pads (optional) to give them some extra height and angle them up towards my head. I might consider a smaller desk and dedicated stands in the future, but this works for now.

Optimize Your Music

Do as much as you can to improve your space, but don’t fret about making it perfect. Solutions like acoustic treatment and Sonarworks can be highly beneficial too, but optimizing your studio layout is a quick, easy, and cheap way to get started. 

The more optimized your studio is, the better you will hear your music.

The better you hear your music, the better your music will be.

If you’re still not sure what the best setup for you is, let me know! I’d love to help you find the right home studio setup.

Ready to make some music in your new and improved studio?

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