Monitor stands are often forgotten during the exciting time of setting up your home studio. Just set your near-field monitors on your mixing console or desk, or perhaps on some bookshelves! The most important thing is quality gear, right? And who hasn’t seen the photographs of an awesome studio with a zillion channel mixing console with a pair of NS-10s perched on top of the meter bridge
Why monitor stands?
Fact is, what you place your monitors on can radically affect the sound of your monitoring system. You can count on the fact that those “awesome studios” are not using their NS-10s for anything critical because placing monitors near a flat surface will cause some serious comb filtering as the sound reflects off the console.
Comb filtering significantly colors the sound; it happens when a sound is reflected back into itself, causing some frequencies to be cancelled and others to be highly magnified.
You need to get those monitors off the console or desk and onto some independent stands.
Good, bad—the difference
While your monitors pump out the tunes they also do something else—they vibrate. Vibrations transfer from the speaker to whatever the speaker is sitting on, causing that, in turn, to vibrate. In the case of a monitor stand, it will vibrate at its resonant frequency. I am not an acoustic scientist, but according to the research I have done this resonant frequency is largely determined by the mass of the object. The greater the mass, the lower the resonant frequency and vice versa.
A light, hollow stand will often resonate in an audible range, coloring the sound of your monitors and therefore reducing their accuracy. If you can increase the mass of the object enough, you can lower its resonant frequency into an inaudible range and maintain the accuracy of your monitoring system.
Build or buy?
Of course, you could go out and buy some high-quality high-mass monitor stands, but these things cannot be that hard to make, can they? Here is the approach that I took…
Decide on the size that you need
The height of the stand was my first consideration: too high and the monitors shoot over my head, too low and, well, my ears are on my head, not on my knees. Based on how high I sit in my office chair I need stands about 3.5 feet high. The column should be as wide as you can get away with. I went for 3 inches because of the availability of the material, but the wider, the better.
The other size consideration was the width and length of the top platform—it has to be, at the very least, the size of your monitors, or you risk instability. One-foot square fit my HR824’s just nicely.
Purchase your materials
- • Three 2x2 sheets of MDF (a compressed wood board, easy to work with), for the base and platforms.
- • Two 3 -foot lengths of 3-inch (minimum) diameter ABS pipe, for the columns.
- • Four “closet flanges,” also called “floor flanges,” to attach the columns to the platform and base. These are plumbing fittings (I think the intended use is to connect your sewer pipe to your toilet). These must match the size of your ABS pipe.
- • 16 bolts (at least 2 inches long) and corresponding nuts, to attach the flanges to the platform and base.
- • 16 screws, for various uses.
- • A bag of sand (the “magic” ingredient).
- • A tube of caulk. (Optional.)
- • Your choice of paint.
The main idea is to use the “closet flanges” to attach the ABS columns to the platforms, top and bottom. Take one 2x2 sheet of the MDF and cut it into four 1x1 pieces—these will become the “platforms.”
Center the “closet flanges” on each of the platforms and drill 4 holes for your bolts. (I found the center by measuring the half-way point on each side and drawing two crossing lines—the center point being where they crossed.) I suggest that you counter-sink the bolt heads on the other side of the platform to ensure a flat surface.
To create the bases for your stands you take the remaining MDF boards and attach them to two of the platforms. I felt that a 2x2 base was a bit larger than I needed, so I cut the MDF boards down to 19”x19,” giving an additional 3.5” around the platform.
Place a platform, flat side down, onto the center of the larger MDF board—make sure it is centered by getting an equal measurement on all sides from the edge of the platform to the edge of the larger MDF board.
Place a screw in each corner of the platform to secure it to the larger MDF board. With that done, you have completed the bases for your monitor stands.
Secure and fill
Almost done! Now you place the column onto the base and secure it. You will find that the ABS pipe will fit smoothly over the closet flange. Drill four small guide holes equally spaced around the base. This is where you place four screws to firmly attach the column to its base. It may not be necessary, but I also put a bead of caulking around the base just in case there may be some leakage from the sand!
Sand? Yeah, that magic ingredient which makes this whole project worthwhile! With the column securely attached to the base, pore the sand in until you have only a couple inches of clearance at the top of the column (enough to allow you to attach the top platform). By filling the column with sand you drastically increase its mass, which in turn lowers its resonating frequency, out of the audible range!
Once you've filled the column, pop the top platform on the column and you can admire your handiwork! I suggest that you do not use screws or glue to attach the top platform. The platform won’t be going anywhere, and it has been very handy to be able to rotate the top of the stand to angle the monitors that sit on them.
Unless you like the rough handyman look you may want to paint your stands. I am no expert, but I used some black primer on the MDF to match the black ABS pipe, then some Fleckstone spray paint to create a stone-like finish. (For you novice painters like me, getting the stands primed with all the same color means that the finished coat of paint will have a consistent shade throughout.)
Instead of going out and purchasing high-qualty high-mass prefabricated stands, you can ma ke the little bit of effort, build your own, tailor the size and look of your home-made stands to your studio, and save yourself a few bucks!
D. Bruce Moore can be contacted through us, via firstname.lastname@example.org