So, you’ve been saving and saving, and your brand new set of studio monitors are finally here. Your next step is to make sure you’re getting the most out of them, and a great place to start is to give them a set of monitor isolation pads to rest on.
Some folks say that studio monitor isolation pads are an unnecessary investment, and others simply decide to make their own. If you’re on the fence, then I’d suggest finding some DIY guides to make your own. That being said, not everyone has the time to do this.
In any regard, speaker isolation pads are a pretty important utility for your studio monitors, especially if you’re planning on placing them directly on your recording studio desk. The reason I say this is because they function as another form of treatment for your room, and we all know how important treatment is in a home studio.
To understand the benefits of pads, we need to break down what they do and how they do it. Let’s get into it.
How Do Studio Monitor Isolation Pads Work?
Isolation pads vary in style, but we will take an in-depth look at those later on. For now, let’s first understand what they do.
Studio monitor isolation pads serve one purpose, and that’s to rid of any resonance created from your monitor’s interaction with your studio desk. This process creates an environment for your monitors that helps them to achieve the natural sound that they were designed to have. In other words, accurate sound reproduction.
Resonance occurs when the vibrations from a set of studio monitors hit your desk with no buffer in between them. This creates a distorted sound that can give you an inaccurate perception of the frequencies coming from your monitors. Basically, isolation pads are the buffer to prevent this.
The official name for this process is called decoupling.
Now, there are two ways that isolation pads can handle this job. First is strictly through absorption of the reflections, and the other is by reducing the connection to the surface.
All of that is well and good, but what steps can you take to get rid of reflections outside of monitor pads? Well…
The Root Of The Problem
Typically speaking, the majority of vibrations occur in the low-end to mid-range frequencies of the monitor’s reproduction, this is especially the case with studio subwoofers. The root of the problem is any flat surface that comes in contact with these high-level vibrations. In most cases, we’re talking about desks.
If you have no other choice than to make your desk the home for your monitors, then you need iso pads for them.
If you’re putting your monitors on stands, then it’s a little more complicated.
Most studio monitor stands prevent resonances naturally, because there’s little to no vibrations created from the stands. That’s assuming that the stands are on a good surface and they’re of high-quality, of course. If that’s the case, you might not need isolation pads. With some stands, they can even come equipped with pads.
The problem really lies within your studio desk itself, and monitor pads are only one way of solving it.
Related: Small Studio Monitors Guide
Related: Studio Subwoofers Guide
How To Get Rid Of Desk Reflections
The whole idea behind monitor pads is to create some distance between your monitors and the desks surface, while also providing a sound absorbing buffer in the process. Some pads are taller than others, thus creating more distance and more of a buffer. In turn, this further eliminates the chance of reflections.
With that, one obvious way to get rid of reflections is to invest in a speaker isolation pad, but there’s other steps you can take as well.
- The Proper Studio Desk
The best studio desks out there have a riser shelf that’s meant to house your computer monitor, as well as your studio monitors. This shelf is typically more thin and has an adequate amount of empty space underneath it.
This type of desk is ideal for further elimination of resonance. Now, you put iso pads into the mix on top of that, and you’ll have an amazing sounding setup.
- Studio Monitor Positioning
If you want the absolute most out of your new studio monitor speakers, the steps above are more than helpful. That being said, you’ll likely be hindering yourself if you don’t position your monitors properly.
There are numerous guides on this scattered throughout the internet. The main thing here is that the addition of monitor pads doesn’t ruin the positioning of your monitors. Keep that in mind as you go through the process of setting up your monitors.
Related: Studio Desks Guide
Types Of Speaker Isolation Pads
There are three main types of isolation pads, each with their own characteristics and abilities. Moreover, each type handles it’s job of decoupling very differently than the last.
As we talked about earlier, there are two ways that monitor pads perform the job of decoupling: absorption and reduction of surface connection. To better understand the three types of pads, we need to keep this in mind moving forward.
The three types of isolation pads are as follows:
- Foam Pads
- Iso Stands
Let’s break each one of these down a little more…
The most common type. These isolation pads are made of a high-quality foam that’s designed to absorb reflections and stop them dead in their tracks.
They do reduce points of contact by design as well. Foam is not one “solid” object, there is quite a bit of empty space that exists there. The main form of decoupling here is absorption, and that’s what these types of monitor pads do best.
Also, these types of iso pads are the cheapest options out there. It’s also possible to make these yourself just as long as you buy the right kind of high-density foam.
Pre-made options like those made by Auralex do give you the ability to tailor the position aspects to your liking both with multiple slopes and different sizes. If you make your own monitor pads though, then you can really dial in your monitor positioning.
Not to be confused with spikes, which are used for monitor and microphone stands. These types of isolation cones are an ingenious design that uses “isolators” (or pucks) and cones as a sort of “double-attack” on reflections.
The puck absorbs sound while the spherical ball inside the cone reduces the points of contact to almost zero.
Definitely the most effective option, but the price you pay can quickly add up considering you have to buy the cones separately and they’re sold individually. The pucks usually come in packs of 4.
You can use the pucks by themselves without the cones and they’ll work just fine. The cones with the ball bearing really do make a difference though.
Related: Studio Mics Guide
These are not the typical stands you might be thinking of. These are shorter in height, and are specifically designed for dealing with reflections.
They perform their job of decoupling by both absorbing and reducing points of contact. They do an adequate job of absorbing, but their main tactic is reducing points of contact.
Consider these to be the middle-of-the-road option between foam pads and cones but in terms of price and performance.
Combining These Factors
So, now that we understand how studio monitor isolation pads work as well as the three main types, it’s time for you to make a decision. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What kind of studio desk do I have? Should I invest in a better desk with riser shelves?
- How much room do I have on my desk?
- What’s my budget?
- What type of isolation pads do I think will work best for my studio monitors?
- Is the rest of my studio space treated well enough?
If I were to make a suggestion, then I’d opt for a typical set of high-density foam monitor pads. They are the most versatile and they won’t break the bank. With that, cones are always a great option for those of you who want to go the extra mile and don’t have the room for monitor stands.
Best Monitor Isolation Pads List
Now that we’ve tackled the technical stuff, it’s time to dive into the list of best monitor isolation pads on the market. Let’s dive in.
“The MOPADs continue to be a wildly popular option, and they’re very affordable to boot.“
An easy top choice among speaker isolation pads. Here we have the one that paved the way for the rest of them. The Auralex MOPADs were the first foam padded acoustic isolation pads that really gained traction, and it’s easy to see why.
The idea is simple in terms of it’s design. These renowned iso pads are made entirely out of Auralex’s famous sound absorbing, high-density foam, but the foam is cut at an angle. In fact, both the top and bottom pieces are angled.
This helps to add some versatility with monitor positioning, so you’re not confined to a completely flat surface. The angled design on the MOPAD monitor pads is also functional in terms of decoupling as well due to the fact that the deepest part creates more distance from a hard surface.
Even though the angled design of the Auralex MOPADs is clever, and somewhat helpful with positioning, it’s not perfect. You are more limited in terms of positioning options compared to other pad styles on this list, but it’s definitely possible to make things work.
All in all, this is a tried and true option from Auralex. The MOPADs continue to be a wildly popular option, and they’re very affordable to boot.
Vibrapod Pucks & Cones
“Put these two together, and you have some very effective acoustic isolation. Sound reflections don’t stand a chance against these things.“
Next up are those “cone” style isolation utilities that I spoke of before. This iteration comes from the biggest name in cone isolation, Vibrapod.
They seem a little complicated at first glance, but I’m here to help you understand them better. Basically, this option can be broken up into two parts. The isolator and the cone.
First is the “isolator,” otherwise known as “pucks” or “feet.” These come in 4-packs and can be used by themselves without the cone piece. Keep in mind that you need 4 pucks per studio monitor.
The second part is the cone itself, and the design is quite clever. There is a spherical ball that attaches to the bottom of the studio monitor via an adapter. That means that the only point of contact is the very small circular section on the ball.
Put these two together, and you have some very effective acoustic isolation. Sound reflections don’t stand a chance against these things.
The only downside to the Vibrapods is the price of the isolation cones. The pucks are fairly affordable on their own, especially in a 4-pack, but 8 cones on top of that really hikes the price up. So, if you have the funds to spare, then the cones really do a killer job and are definitely worth it.
Otherwise, the pucks are pretty darn effective by themselves, so you aren’t really missing out if you can’t afford the cones.
“The IsoAcoustics ISO-115 isolation stands are a worthy option for those of you looking to check off multiple boxes with one purchase.“
The IsoAcoustics ISO-155 kind of has a double-function to them. They provide a sturdy place to put your monitors, while also effectively neutralizing reflections. The results are a tighter bass response and a noticeable increase in sound quality of your studio monitors.
The IsoAcoustics ISO-155 isolation speaker stands have been a popular option for a while now. That can probably be attributed to the adjustable height and tilt options, which is truly a nice touch. So you get great decoupling, sturdy stands for your monitors, and easy positioning capabilities! That’s the triple-threat.
The main form of decoupling on these isolation stands comes from reducing points of contact, but there is a little bit of absorption that happens underneath it all as well. Nothing like a foam pad, but it’s there.
You can also choose from a number of different sizes so you can pick the right stand for your studio monitors. With that, don’t forget to measure everything before making your final decision.
One last note, these things are definitely more pricey than others on this list, but they’re of high-quality. Also, they’re not made of foam, so it’s not surprising.
Overall, the IsoAcoustics ISO-115 isolation stands are a worthy option for those of you looking to check off multiple boxes with one purchase.
Ultimate Support MS80
“The Ultimate Support MS80 functions almost like a studio monitor stand, but has all the reflection-killing capabilities of an isolation pad.“
Here we have probably the most unique option on this list, and on the market for that matter. The Ultimate Support MS80 functions almost like a studio monitor stand, but has all the reflection-killing capabilities of an isolation pad.
These monitor pads do their job of decoupling almost strictly by absorption. There is one good-sized flat surface as a point of contact, but the pad itself is somewhat separate from that. That’s even more true when you engage it’s handy axis adjustment.
When tilted, the isolation pad becomes mostly detached from the bottom piece. This is great for dealing with resonance. Also, the MS80 isolation pads are built to last and they feel very durable when you hold them.
As you’d suspect, these bad boys come with a pretty hefty price tag, but their unique design and amazing functionality are definitely worth considering.
“The RX7 isolation pads are an excellent choice and you get a level of performance out of these things that’s unrivaled.“
This is a cool isolation pad right here. The Primeacousitic RX7 uses a different method of dealing with reflections than any other option on this list.
It features a 3-layered system for sound absorption and separation. Let’s start at the top.
The top panel is made of neoprene. This material is slip-resistant so you don’t have to worry about your monitor speakers growing legs and jumping off your desk. Neoprene is also great for shock absorption (a.k.a getting rid of resonance).
The middle panel is made of steel. This is pretty much just for added durability of the whole unit. Also it makes the isolation pad more stable. Again, great for keeping your studio monitors safe.
The bottom layer is made of high-density urethane foam. This is where the bulk of the sound absorption occurs.
Put these three layers together and you get one very effective set of studio monitor pads. There is one problem: it’s pretty dang flat, and there’s no option for angling your monitors. So, if this is the route you go, then positioning your studio monitors might feel a little limited.
Overall, the RX7 isolation pads are an excellent choice and you get a level of performance out of these things that’s unrivaled.
Adam Hall SPADECO2
“The Ultimate Support MS80 functions almost like a studio monitor stand, but has all the reflection-killing capabilities of an isolation pad.“
I figured it was fair to include another “budget” option on this list of monitor pads. The Adam Hall SPADECO2 pads are a popular choice for those who don’t have a lot of extra cash to spend in this area.
There’s not a whole heck of a lot to say about these monitor pads. They have a similar design to the Auralex MOPAD in terms of the angled top and bottom half. The high-density foam does it’s job of sound absorption very well, and they’re certainly big enough to fit most monitors.
These are your basic, no frills isolation pads that come at a very reasonable price. So, if you’re looking to get the most out of your studio monitors without shelling out too much, then these are a safe choice.
So there you have it guys! My list of the best monitor isolation pads on the market today. Once you’ve figured out the style you need, as well as how much room you have, then you’re ready to make a final decision.
The clear best choice has to be the Auralex MOPAD. They are the pioneers for pre-made monitor pads, and they’ve continued to be most studio-heads first choice. They’re affordable, very effective at their job, and simply well-made.
With that, every option on this list has something to offer, especially if you want to go another route with the isolation pad style. My only hope is that this guide has provided you with some useful information.
My line is always open if you guys have any questions, so feel free to reach out.