You saved some money, you bought a pair of studio monitors, you placed them on your desk and they probably don’t sound that great.
The low end is kind of muddy, and the overall sound is a bit off.
But why is that?
One of the things that are probably happening is that your speakers are transmitting vibrations through your desk which causes unwanted signals that mix up with your original sound.
Here come in the isolation pads or stands or whatever kind of similar devices. There are a few of them as you’ll see.
In this guide
What do speaker isolation pads actually do?
Clear up the sound by preventing desk resonance
While your speakers or studio monitors are in direct contact with the desk, the vibrations from the speakers going into the desk turn the desk into a pseudo-speaker so to speak.
Meaning that alongside with the sound coming directly from the speaker you also get another sound coming from the desk and mixing with the original sound.
Think of it like mixing a clean audio track with a very poor quality version of it in the background.
Preventing those vibrations from going into the desk you basically minimize that secondary audio track.
The end result will depend on what pads you end up going for but be aware that desk resonance might not be the only issue you are facing.
Every surface that the sound comes in contact with has the potential to add bad sound in the mix that ends up in your ears.
Dealing with desk vibrations is just a part of the process of solving these issues and getting a clear sound.
Minimize desk reflections
As we just mentioned, vibrations are just a part of the problem. Another issue you might be facing are reflections from the desk surface.
Some pads are quite tall and using these taller pads you also increase the distance between the speaker and the desk.
As a result, you also minimize the sound reflected from the main desk surface.
If you should get taller pads depends on your setup, you might not need them.
Some desks have some kind of raised areas that you can use for the speakers so they are already quite far from the main desk area.
If your desk is just a flat surface with legs then something to raise the monitors would be preferred.
Help get your monitors into a better position relative to you
In a studio setting, where you care about mixing, maybe some mastering and all that, the ideal position of your monitors is at ear height.
Also of note, the monitors should directly face you.
Some pads/stands can help your setup your monitors in that ideal configuration from a height perspective or from an angle perspective.
If you can’t get the right height you can at least adjust the angle of your monitors to directly face you.
Things to consider when shopping for isolation pads
Pads, desktop stands or floor stands
In the ideal scenario, you get a good pair of floor stands.
But if you don’t have the room for that or you just don’t want to go that route for whatever reason then you can consider some desk pads or desk stands.
If you go with desk stands, depending on what you get, you might also want to get some pads for those.
Not all desk stands try to mitigate the vibrations.
Deciding between desk stands and simply going with some pads with ultimately depend on the height you need for your monitors.
If you have to raise them by a lot more than pads can cover then maybe stands will solve the problem for you.
If you don’t need to cover much height, some low-ish profile pads could be enough.
Surface size and supported weight
While I wouldn’t worry much about weight it’s worth mentioning to be aware of.
If you get the right size for the monitors that you are using, they are probably fine in regards to the supported weight.
So, measure the base of your studio monitors if needed and be sure to get pads or stands that fit those dimensions.
Most popular pads are made of foam, you might now that already.
However, not all foam pads are the same. Even if they look like they are same.
You will see a lot of pads that look exactly the same but they are being sold at a lot of different prices.
Part of the reason is the brand, of course, but part of it is the actual material used.
Also, some foam like looking pads might actually have more than foam.
So, it’s worth taking a closer look at what the thing actually is before you form an opinion about the price on those.
Let’s start with these, they are very affordable and can do a lot of “work”.
People use these for all sorts of things from speakers to subwoofers to washing machines, yep, washing machines, those vibrate a lot.
Sorbothane advertises them as able to absorb up to 94,7% of vibration so on paper at least they do a damn fine job.
One thing to keep in mind is that you have to use them properly in order for them to work. What I mean by that is that they have a weight rating that you need to be mindful of.
If you put too much or too little weight on them they won’t be effective.
So, if you want to grab these, make sure you get the version that fits the weight of your monitors.
The disadvantage is that you don’t get much in terms of increasing the height of your monitors and you don’t get any adjustments.
These are probably the most known isolation pads out there.
They are made out of dense foam that can support heavy weights and absorb vibration.
Other than the isolation properties the can also help you angle your monitors towards you in case you don’t have them at the right height.
Depending on how you configure them you have 5 possible positions for your speakers -8/+8 degrees. -4/+4 degrees and flat.
There are many companies that sell clones of these some with different angles, some with different foam thickness but Auralex is the go-to brand for many people looking for a solution like this.
If they are over your budget, you can get the ones from Adam Hall. The foam might be a bit different but they still do the job.
A great product that I believe deserves more attention, and maybe some updates, is the MoFo Rizer.
This is the typical foam pad on steroids.
They are made of more foam that the usual products, which translates into more energy absorption.
What I particularly like is that they are taller than typical pads meaning that the speaker desk distance is greater than with typical pads.
The MoFo Rizer is 4” tall while other foam pads are usually 1” – 2” tall, so it’s double or even more in terms of height.
The design also allows you to angle your monitors at whatever angle you find satisfying without limiting you to a couple of angles.
The problem with that is that you will spend a bit of time making sure that both your speakers are at the same angle but they are worth a couple of minutes to set up.
They are also quite large and if you put a 5” monitor on one of these it looks strange, they literally dwarf the monitor.
It would be great to see more sizes in this series. Currently, there is only one.
Ultimate support MS-80
Ultimate support is one of the top players in the speaker stands game and they make stands for a lot of things, not only speakers.
With the MS series, they address the studio monitors. Besides the desktop stands they also have the MS-90, a beefy floor stand and the MS-100 which is an MS-80 on top of an MS-90.
Going back to the MS-80, it’s a unique design that features 4 rubber feet on the bottom to minimize the contact area between the pads and your desk.
They also have an easy angle adjustment mechanism by which you just rotate a thingy to increase or decrease their angle.
On the surface, there is also a layer of foam to help reduce vibration.
What I don’t like about these is that the lip on the front is a bit too large and might cover the bass ports on some monitors but that is a minor-ish gripe.
You could also switch them around so that the lip sits on the back but if you angle your monitors towards the front then you want that lip to prevent the speakers from sliding down.
Overall a great product that also looks quite good.
This is another interesting and unique product that offers quite a bit in terms of adjustability and I find it to be great for the usual desk setup.
The stands come with two sets of bars at different heights that can further be adjusted with some caps that are also included.
Those caps also help you angle the platform but you have to pull it apart, reassemble, repeat until satisfied so they are not as easy to use as the MS-80.
With these try to make sure you get the right ones for your speakers as they are a couple of different sizes available.
ISO-L8R130 – 5.1″wide x 6″deep (130mm x 152mm) – generally for under 5” speakers
ISO-L8R155 – 6.1″wide x 7.5″deep (155mm x 190mm) – generally for 5” – 6” speakers
ISO-L8R200 – 7.8″wide x 10″deep (200mm x 254mm) – generally for 6” – 8” speakers
For bigger sizes, there is the ISO-L8R200 Sub and for horizontal design monitors, there is the ISO-L8R430.
Decoupling your studio monitors from the surface they’re sitting on is important in any monitoring system.
Luckily there are solutions to fit most situations and budgets so if you want to improve the accuracy of your monitors this is a good way to do it. Not a lot of variation but there are a few options.
Also, keep in mind that the ones presented are just the ones that we consider to be the best studio monitor isolation pads. There are plenty more for you to choose from though they’re mostly variations of the ones presented above.