Isolation pads are something that every music producer, audio engineer, or artist looking to get a more accurate sound from their studio monitors, will have come across. And, it often leaves people wondering: Do isolation pads work?
In this article, we’ll cover whether isolation pads are really necessary, help you decide which sound isolation options are best for acoustics and more!
Do Isolation Pads Work? (TL;DR Answer)
Yes, speaker isolation pads work well to help dampen unwanted resonance. They are designed to absorb the vibrations produced by your studio monitors, which are passed through the desk, table or stand that they are sitting on. This causes less resonance and a flatter frequency response, which is great for mixing.
Think of isolation pads as acoustic foam for your studio monitors.
They help to reduce some of the more problematic basses, and mid frequencies when playing. Isolation pads, or good studio monitor stands, should be used in a studio environment, to get the clearest and most transparent result.
Isolation pads and speaker stands, however, may not produce the most pleasing sound when used, so watch out for this. This less pleasing sound is, due to the absorption of lower bass and mid frequencies that are generally preferred by casual listeners.
Don’t take this as an example of isolation pads making your speakers sound worse – they are helping to produce the most transparent and flat frequency response, which is desired in music production and mixing & mastering.
Generally, studio monitors over-produce bass frequencies, as many do not properly reproduce sounds below 40-50Hz. Additionally, in small rooms, and when put on tables, desks, or even in corners, this can cause the bass to be over-produced and introduce resonances.
Although this might sound cool, it’s something you don’t want when mixing.
You can somewhat prevent this using the EQ curves on the back of your monitors, but it’s always best to treat the problem at its source. So, make sure your acoustic environment is treated properly and that you have isolation pads or speaker stands.
Are Isolation Pads Necessary?
Yes, isolation pads are necessary. They are a relatively cheap way to get the best out of your studio monitors and can help provide the most transparent frequency response & depiction of your mixes – giving you more chance to make informed decisions.
Speaker isolation pads will allow your monitors to perform at their best. However, room acoustics and treatment play much more of a role in getting a clear, concise sound.
One thing they can ensure is accurate bass response and unwanted resonance from your surface rattling.
In the case of hifi speakers, isolation pads are not necessary. They are used in studio situations to create a flatter frequency response, which isn’t something desired when listening to music casually. If you use isolation pads for hifi speakers, expect a lack of bass and low-mid frequencies, but as a trade-off, clearer mids and highs.
Some studio engineers use different options for stands or isolation pads. If you’re on a budget, things like cinder blocks, concrete, and Sorbothane can provide incredible solutions. But, you really need to know what you’re doing, and do the maths, if you’re going down that route.
You can also use high density foam pads like a yoga mat, or mousepads if you’re really bootlegging it.
How Do I Use Isolation Pads?
You can set up your isolation pads very easily. One of the most popular options (Sound Addicted 5 Inch Monitor Pads) will come with multiple foam pads that you place on top of each other. Depending on your setup you may want them flat, angled up, or down.
When setting up your monitors you want the tweeters to be at ear level, and the monitors pointed directly at your ears. Don’t have them angled up, or down, unless this helps you achieve the ear level tweeter.
You’ll also want to make sure that the speakers are aligned in an equilateral triangle shape, with you (the listener), in the middle
You can use each isolation pad to increase the height of your speaker or change the angle of them. Whichever works best for you, go with that. And, don’t forget to experiment!
Should I Get Isolation Pads or Speaker Stands?
When deciding whether to get speaker stands or isolation pads, take into consideration the size of your room. Your desk needs to be away from the wall, and your speaker stands should not be in the corners (to remove any corner bass traps). If you have enough space to do this, go with stands. If not, go with isolation pads.
If you already have speaker stands, you do not need isolation pads as many options come with isolation pads installed in the stand. In fact, speaker stands are the better choice (if you have the space for them).
Can I Use Isolation Pads With Other Isolation Products?
Yes, you can use isolation pads with other isolation products. They are used to absorb vibrations and prevent resonances from the desk, table, or floor vibrations (in the case of subwoofer isolation pads). Using more will prevent the speaker cabinet from vibrating on surfaces that create resonance, causing a more accurate response.
You don’t have to use multiple isolation solutions, and generally stands or pads work just fine. However, for bigger speakers, you may need more. It all depends on what will sound best.
For instance, for a large 10-inch cone woofer, it would be worthwhile using a small stand to elevate off the ground, then placing an isolation pad on top for further insulation. This ensures that the speaker won’t move and will provide the most accurate response.
What About Isolation Pads for Listening?
Isolation stands are not needed for listening. They reduce the bass and low-mid frequencies, which are often desired in casual listening. This will make the mids and highs clearer, so it all depends on what you’d like.
HiFi listeners often use harder coupling. This is where you use high mass stands to firmly attach the speaker or put the speakers on the ground. This helps to stop the speaker cabinet (enclosure) from moving around a lot, because when the drivers push or pull, the speaker is held in place, absorbing some of the vibrations. This gives a tighter, bass, and makes your highs and mids a little harsher.
Isolation pads in a hifi situation is a compromise if you don’t have room for stands (just like for studio monitors, stands are better).
If you live in a flat, or have your setup upstairs and want to reduce bass vibration and sound leakage below, isolation pads are useful. Using them will lose some of the lower bass frequencies but, as a trade-off, the mids and highs are more natural.