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The Pros & Cons of Stacking Studio Monitors

I haven’t ever needed to stack my studio monitors on top of each other. I’ve seen some people do it, and in my humble opinion, I could see flaws in stacking monitors straight away, so I decided to dive deep into the pros and cons of stacking studio monitors.

The only pro to stacking studio monitors is to save space. At the same time, the cons list includes incorrect sweet spot monitor positioning, monitors which resonate with each other creating peaks and valleys in frequencies, and then electrical interference from one monitor to the other.

Let’s take a look at how to set up your studio monitors for correct critical listening and if there are situations where you would stack your monitors. You would be surprised that the positioning and placement of your studio monitors are quite critical in achieving high-quality audio, and stacking your monitors inhibits that.

But before we get into that, if you’re looking to buy some studio monitors, don’t forget to check out our recommended monitors for any budget here.

Let’s get into it.

Should you or shouldn’t you stack studio monitors?

The simple and definitive answer is you shouldn’t ever stack studio monitors. This is for various reasons, and we will get into them. Sometimes you may have to stack studio monitors, but these reasons will not be to enhance the quality of the sound or your listening experience.

What we will need to do is first explain how to set up studio monitors for proper critical listening. Then from that, we will be able to understand why stacking studio monitors are generally bad and not recommended in your home studio setup.

How to set up studio monitors for proper listening

There are a few rules of thumb to apply and to live by when setting up your studio monitors for critical listening, and let’s get into them now. The most basic thing to understand is that because you are probably setting up your home studio in a rectangular room and it will most likely be small, is that the sound from the monitors will bounce and funnel around the room, creating discrepancies.

Due to this fact, we need to be able to set up our monitors in the studio in such a way as to minimize reverb, delay, boom, and other noises and interferences. Just looking at these problematic possibilities and adjusting our speaker layout and placement to compensate, if you stack your studio monitors, these problems will be more problematic and grow exponentially.

Remember, studio monitors are similar to microphones with respect that minor changes in placement produce massive results.

Speaker and sweet spot placement fundamentals

Short-throw vs long-throw

As we said, most rooms are built as rectangles, and as such, you are probably going to be working in a rectangular room for your studio.

Short-throw is where the studio monitors are placed perpendicular to the short walls of the rectangular room, and in essence, they play sound, which takes the direction of the short walls in the room.

Long-throw is the opposite of short-throw. This is where the speakers are placed perpendicular to the long walls in the room, and the sound essentially would travel down the long sides of the room.

The best way to place your studio monitors is by the long throw method. This has more benefits than the short throw method, and some benefits include:

  • The sound has to travel further to reach the back wall; thus, there will be less reflection in the audio you are listening to.
  • The other main reason is that bass (the low end) actually needs space to develop (low-end frequencies are long). Thus if you give the low-end room to develop, then you will get a more even flat response.

If you stack your monitors, the low end of your audio could distort and interfere with the other monitors’ low end. More on that later.

The sweet spot

The sweet spot is where the tweeters and woofers (the drivers) lie in relation to your ear. The sweet spot can also include how the speakers are placed in relation to your listening position, but we will discuss that under the next heading.

The tweeter of each studio monitor should be in line with your ears. That being said, you can place your studio monitors either upright or on their sides, depending on your circumstances and space available.

When stacking studio monitors, this crucial part of your studio monitor layout may be compromised (tweeters at ear level), and this will affect your high frequencies. High frequencies are super directional, and if the tweeters are not inline with your ears, you will lose a ton of audio that you do not realize.

The stereo triangle

This is a method of placing the speakers in an equilateral triangle from each other and in terms of where you are sitting (the listening position). Depending on if you are using near field or medium field studio monitors, the distance from one speaker to the other will vary.

The distance to yourself in relation to the studio monitors should be almost exactly the same (for near field monitors, the triangle will be smaller, and medium field monitors, the triangle will be larger).

We require this setup because if one speaker were closer than the other, the stereo image would be compromised, and the closer speakers would appear to be louder.

If we stack studio monitors depending on how many studio monitors you use, the stereo field would be lost, and you would not be able to mix audio within a 180-degree field of range.

Watch Adam Audio explain in-depth on studio monitor setup.

Cons of stacking studio monitors

Distortion

Stacking your studio monitors will cause them to resonate with each other, especially if your audio is bass-heavy (has lots of low frequencies). Distortion will occur not only at the low frequencies but at any frequencies where the two monitors which are being stacked started resonating together. You will then get peaks and valleys in certain frequencies and lose that flat response your monitors (which you have paid good money for) are known for.

Panning

Stacking your monitors won’t really relate to panning in terms of the stereo field. However, because the monitors will resonate at certain frequencies and you might get a peak or a dip, and you may think that you have to adjust the audio accordingly or pan it left or right to make something fit better in the mix.

Ear level sound placement (sweet spot)

As I said, if you stack your studio monitors, then the sweet spot (tweeters in line with your ears) will probably not be correct, and you might miss out on hearing specific high frequencies that are in your mix but are not audible.

Watch The Stuff I Use Channel go through the reasons why you should not stack studio monitors.

Speaker stands vs stacking studio monitors

The best way to place your studio monitors is on monitor stands. If you opt to go for studio monitor stands, the possibilities of you stacking your monitors with stands are going to be problematic, to say the least.

If you choose to place your speakers on a desk and then stack them, your problems will persist, and then you would face even more problems. If you place studio monitors on a desk, the desk will actually resonate with the studio monitors causing booming, peaks, and valleys in certain frequencies when the desk resonates with the monitors.

Now when you stack your monitors, then this effect also occurs—more on that in a bit.

Vertical vs horizontal studio monitors in comparison to stacking

As we said, there is a sweet spot when trying to listen to your audio. There is the sweet spot and then the stereo triangle that we have to consider when setting up our monitors. Now, some manufacturers build their studio monitors to different specifications, and some monitors are better off being placed on their sides, while some monitors are better being placed upright.

You need to look at the manufacturer’s specifications when wanting to place your studio monitors. Therefore stacking them could be problematic because more likely than not, you would place your monitors on their sides and then stack them due to them being more stable on their sides.

However, if they are placed on their sides, and they are not built to lay this way, it could be very problematic to your sound to mention that if the tweeters are not at ear level, then there will be problems listening to the high frequencies in your mix.

Watch Adam audio explain the pros and cons of vertical and horizontal studio monitors

What’s inside a studio monitor and will it affect it by being stacked

Studio monitors are made up and comprised of various internal elements, most of them being electronic. You have your amplifier, power supply, circuit boards, and much more. If you know anything about how speakers work, you will know that they work by a magnet generating a fluctuating electric current, which is converted into sound waves and pushed out via the drivers (tweeters and woofers).

Because all these electrical components are generating, converting, and directing electrical signals and electricity, if you stack your studio monitors, the possibility of interference from one of these components to another component in a stacked monitor will be high.

You could get resonating signals and electrical fields overlapping from one speaker to the other distorting and creating peaks and valleys in your audio signal.

Watch IP audio pull a KRK Rokit 6 studio monitor apart so you can see what the inner workings are made of.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the only pro for stacking a studio monitor would be to save space, which would be about it. In all other respects, the cons far out way anything else, and you should, more likely than not, never stack your studio monitors unless you definitely have to.

We’ve gone through how to set up your studio monitors correctly and this in itself drastically changes the perceived audio signal that we hear. There are correct ways to set up your monitors, and you should consider these steps as critical as any other part of your studio.

And lastly, again, if you’re looking to buy some studio monitors, be sure to check out our recommended monitors for any budget here.

Devlon Jarrod Horne

I am passionate about everything I undertake with music being my first love! I started playing guitar and singing at the age of 13 and have toured extensively throughout the UK, SA, and the UAE, playing and recording in original bands, cover bands, theatres, shows, and productions. I graduated top of my class at Damelin College of Music in South Africa and have his graded classical theory and composition from the Royal Schools Of Music in London. I have taught privately, for schools, companies, and online since 2006, and have founded Master Music Talent Academy where I employ and share my love of music with some of the top pro players, performers, and teachers in the South African music industry.

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