Despite everything that we know about acoustics, and the trouble we go through to treat our rooms properly, a popular practice in recording studios is to place nearfield monitors on top of the console's meter bridge. In many cases, doing so will result in the console acting as a mirror-like reflecting surface for sound traveling from the speakers to our ears at mix position. Because this first reflection has to travel farther through air than the direct sound from speaker to ear, it wreaks havoc on timing — smearing transients and collapsing the image — and disrupts frequency response too from the resultant comb-filtering. A quick way to check for console reflections is to rest a mirror (or even an iPad with the screen off) on the console. Move the mirror around, and try to visually locate each of the speakers through it. If there is no mirror position that will offer you a view of the speakers while you're sitting at the console, then you're fine. In my personal studio, my ADAM S3-A monitors [Tape Op #33] sit at ear height, on top of Ultimate Support MS series stands [#90], behind and above the meter bridge of my console, so that there are no first reflections off of the console reaching my ears. (My walls and ceiling are also treated to absorb and diffuse first reflections.) My second monitors are a pair of Avantone MixCubes [#55, #88]. These I want closer to my ears, so I have them on top of the meter bridge, but for various reasons, I do not want to raise them to ear height. Audioengine DS2 Desktop Stands ($34 pair; are perfectly sized and shaped for this application. The DS2 stand is a hollow rubber wedge that has just enough tilt so that each MixCube's single driver points directly at my head, and importantly, the 2.25'' rise at the front of the wedge is enough to prevent a first reflection off of the console. I also employ a pair of DS2 wedges to prop up the 16'' wide Boston Acoustics CS225C center-channel speaker underneath the Panasonic plasma screen in my filmmaker wife's office. Before the wedges, the glass surface of the flat-panel table/mount upon which the speaker was placed was causing a first reflection that was most noticeable in the midrange, exactly where you want the center channel to be most accurate — problem solved with the DS2 wedges. Moreover, the wedges look great — purposeful but unobtrusive. Audioengine claims that the dense silicon rubber provides acoustic damping and isolation. I haven't compared the performance of the DS2 against more expensive solutions, like the Primacoustic Recoil Stabilizers [#62] that I use in my studio office as well as in my living room. Recoil Stabilizers, in addition to providing isolation, couple with the speaker cabinet to increase mass, reducing movement and resonance of the speaker itself, which benefits transient response. They come in many sizes and several angles, but none that are appropriate for my MixCubes and center-channel speaker. Anyway, I can say that placing these speakers on DS2 wedges is helping the sound immensely; the improvement from the elimination of first reflections is not subtle, and I haven't noticed any sympathetic vibration or resonance. But that's not to say there aren't other solutions that might lead to similar gains. For example, I've seen $10 foam yoga blocks repurposed as speaker stands and even cut into wedges. Whatever method you choose, you'll hear more accuracy and less phasing-induced distortion if you identify and minimize the amount of energy reaching your ears from first reflections, including those from your console or worksurface.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

Or Learn More