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The Importance Of Speaker Positioning


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I had been without a speaker based system since July of last year having made due with a nice AudioQuest Dragonfly/Sennheiser HD600 combo until this weekend when I added a modest Bel Canto C5i Integrated Amp-DAC/Focal Chorus 714V combo. While enjoying again the benefits of a speaker based system, that sense of air and space, soundstage and imaging, thoughts on the importance of speaker positioning came to mind.

 

I know how that physical limitations to some spaces, WAF and other things in the general course of life may come into play when it comes to ideal placement. Even is it the Golden Ratio, equilateral triangle, toe in or no toe in that effect the decision on placement. I had these set up pretty good right from the start but sensed something wasn't quite there yet. A slight 6" adjustment in terms of physical separation and everything snapped into place.

 

I am curious on an individual basis just how much effort you put into speaker placement? What are the limitations and challenges you face? What are the procedures you follow if any? Or, do you just set them down, get them in a general position and let it go?

 

I am not looking for or want said this is the right way and that's the wrong way but as an individual what are the steps you go through and the considerations you take into account.

 

I have some flexibility being alone that others may not have when having to consider others in your home. Here are my procedures and thoughts for speaker set up.

 

 

  • My AV stand with HDTV is between the speakers and centered in the room on the short wall
  • the speakers are set to be equal distance from the side walls and equal distance from the AV stand
  • the speakers are 7' apart from tweeter to tweeter
  • I sit 9' from the speakers centered between them
  • the inside rear of the speaker is 24" off the rear wall which places them at approximately the same distance as the front leg of the AV stand and in front of the HDTV
  • I use spikes and check for leveling
  • I use a laser level to toe in the speakers with each tweeter. In my chair there is a vertical upholstery line on each side of the chair almost exactly where my ears are placed. The laser is positioned on the top of the speaker cabinet at the center over the tweeter. I position the speakers (toe-in) so that the laser line "hits" on the vertical upholstery lines. This gives me the effect of the tweeters crossing about 18 inches behind my head.
  • I use tape measures and 36" metal rulers to measure the distance for each speaker and make sure they match

 

I have always worried about the potential impact from reflections from the HDTV but have never had the option of a specific music room so I have to make it work best I can. The other issue is the rear wall. I don't have a solid wall directly behind me. There is a kitchen counter/island that separates this space from the kitchen space about 4' behind me and then the back kitchen wall another 8' behind that. The other challenge/consideration is an Arcadia sliding glass door with vertical blinds is the right wall for about 8' but then opens into additional room area forming an 'L' shape.

 

Oh oh you lucky dogs with those perfect rooms and nothing else to consider but doing it right. However even with the limitations and challenges it sounds great to me.

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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Speaker positioning is very important, and related, room treatment. This forum is mostly about fiddling with wires and such, but if your electronics and wires are reasonably ok, then the type of speaker, where you have them in the room, the room shape/size, surfaces, wall treatments (or lack therof), and furniture make more difference than anything else. I have a fairly high end setup, and just moved from one house to another. My prior music room had a lot of acoustic wall treatment, but was shaped poorly. My new room is shaped well, but has no wall treatments. The sound differences are very interesting. I use Room Perfect to help correct for room effects, and it does help. I also have used Audyssey, but like Room Perfect better. One thing you might try, if you haven't already, is the position of the HDTV screen. In my former room, I replaced a somewhat clunky HDTV with a very thin panel, and the soundstage and stereo imaging was drastically different. The clunky HDTV was probably blocking/reflecting sound between the primary L/R speakers in unpleasant ways, and the thin panel, moved back slighty from the plane of the L/R speakers, was much less 'in the way'. Wilson Audio sent someone to set up my L/R speakers when my system was first setup, and they spent quite a lot of time moving the L/R speakers around, pointing, etc., and it did really help the sound from the spot first placed.

Have fun,

Mark

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Speaker positioning is very important, and related, room treatment. This forum is mostly about fiddling with wires and such, but if your electronics and wires are reasonably ok, then the type of speaker, where you have them in the room, the room shape/size, surfaces, wall treatments (or lack therof), and furniture make more difference than anything else. I have a fairly high end setup, and just moved from one house to another. My prior music room had a lot of acoustic wall treatment, but was shaped poorly. My new room is shaped well, but has no wall treatments. The sound differences are very interesting. I use Room Perfect to help correct for room effects, and it does help. I also have used Audyssey, but like Room Perfect better. One thing you might try, if you haven't already, is the position of the HDTV screen. In my former room, I replaced a somewhat clunky HDTV with a very thin panel, and the soundstage and stereo imaging was drastically different. The clunky HDTV was probably blocking/reflecting sound between the primary L/R speakers in unpleasant ways, and the thin panel, moved back slighty from the plane of the L/R speakers, was much less 'in the way'. Wilson Audio sent someone to set up my L/R speakers when my system was first setup, and they spent quite a lot of time moving the L/R speakers around, pointing, etc., and it did really help the sound from the spot first placed.

Have fun,

Mark

 

My HDTV is a fairly thin panel (about 2") newer plasma and I do have the rear edge of my speakers extended beyond the screen a couple of etches. The front of the speakers are about 14" beyond the HDTV screen.

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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For me, speaker selection, placement and the room together are the most critical part of system selection. There's so much to consider to achieve the 'best' possible outcome and so many variables to consider, it's IMO impossible to score 100% here! particularly when considering ambiophonics, psychoacoustics, and your subjective listening preferences.

 

I would say the the first battle waged in this war would be against the non variables, particularly the room. There's so many speaker offerings with individual radiation characteristics to make best of the limits of the listening space. Get this wrong, and all is lost with the war' outcome already dictated by the first battle. The results are often long, grueling experimentation with placement, the addition of unwanted physical treatments or adjustments to the overall ergonomics for the space to meet the requirements of the speaker. Ill gotten gains for those who don't have dedicated listening spaces.

 

So there's my point in all this.....directivity...or lack there of. It's an extensive topic, grossly misunderstood amongst hobbyists and dare i say even commercial speaker designers, not for a lock of knowledge mind you, but in trying to produce a product for a multitude of environments when the interaction with the environment is paramount. What a quandary when you think about it!

 

That being said, there are some 'knowns' and 'givens' when it comes to speaker transducers and how they radiate sound by device type. Dome tweeters, ribbons and planars, horns, cone drivers diameter and profile. All of these have some physical constrains and characteristics by design. The size of the baffle and the drivers proximity to one another and room boundaries can also give a purchaser some insight into how the system can potentially perform in their space.

 

This ain't small signal stuff here guys and if there's ever a time to do the research, this is certainly IT!

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I recently moved from a large house with a large dedicated listening space to a smaller house with a much smaller and oddly shaped listening room. It took me about eight months to fine tune the system where it now sounds actually a bit better than in my old room. DRC via a DSPeaker AntiMode Dual Core, GIK room treatments, and unorthodox speaker placement all helped. So my advice would be to be patient and try a variety of moves. Speakers and rooms are all different and formulas tend to provide only starting points. Patient experimentation is key, in my view. Best luck!

 

Regards,

 

Guido F.

For my system details, please see my profile. Thank you.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I run an ambiophonics crosstalk elimination DSP in my system, so speaker placement is very narrow compared to contemporary theories...and slightly toed in. This gives a very obvious center stage to vocals (perceived maybe 1/3 distance from speakers to listening position) and the ambio takes care of the rest of the stage, which sounds very close to 180 degrees apart.

Sounds in certain material literally sounds as if its coming from outside the wall of the listening room!

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Completely agree about the importance of precise positioning. Many speakers vary in the angle towards the listener. Some do need to face in towards the sweet spot, some even need to cross slightly in front of it. Most have seemed best to me when not quite angled in completely. It always pays to experiment with this, as with the other aspects of placement. Since this will affect imaging and soundstage mainly (possibly timbre if the tweeters are really beamy), it's a more subtle positioning than getting the speakers to minimize room node interaction. Unfortunately, like other subtle changes, this may vary from recording to recording, based on mike set up, etc., so there's some compromise.

 

I end up moving my listening seat forwards or backwards some with different recordings, to get the best balance between soundstage and presentation. Same with volume-there's a balance between how loud something should be and how close or far away the mike perspective is.

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  • 1 month later...

Speakers are heavily interacting with the room, except you are only listening near field (eg close by monitors in a dampened recording studio).

 

In order to create a believeable soundstage, the radiation pattern of the speakers as well as reflected and reverberant sound will play an important role. Our brain determines direction with the first wavefront.

The reflections/reverberant sound are neglected by the brain , if the reflections/reverberant sound carry the same spectral content as the first wavefront.

This may be achieved by eg constant directivity monitors (like LX521), which transmit the same sound "color" backwards. The bafles are open at the rear side.

 

You find lots of background information on this in Siegfried Linkwitz´website linkwitzlab. Enjoy reading (and listening)!

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I too spent around eight months getting to a sound I'm now enjoying.

 

I used REW (Room EQ Wizard), a free software, with microphone, to measure the best positions in the room for speakers and chair. I found that the two best were 'the thirds' set up, and having speakers and chair as far apart as possible. Using these locations I made further REW/microphone measurements and made adjustments to an equaliser to home in on the best sound - I adjusted for the full frequency range. Finally, I listened to pink noise test tones to make adjustments for my ears (which do not hear like microphones). This last was the real key to getting things 'right'.

 

I tried the thirds arrangement - speakers in a third the length of the relevant walls and chair a third the length in - for six or more months to give it a fair hearing and allow 'me' to adjust to the sound. At first it was a revelation having depth to the music but unfortunately there were too many anomalies in my recording to make it really satisfying and further adjustments never really sorted these problems out.

 

I therefore went to the speakers and chairs as far apart arrangement. I've given up on depth but have a nice 2D image which my red book CDs work well with.

 

So, I have good gear including a digital equaliser, room treatment, and REW, microphone and test tones to get things set up.

 

It's a frustrating journey but if you think it's important then it's worth doing. I recommend the effort. Any system can be improved by placement even if you are compromised by multi purpose room use and WAF.

 

One tip that allowed me to improve the sound considerably was to move the gear from between the speakers. It removes a source of reflections and also allows room treatment in that area. This came from Jim Smith's book 'Get Better Sound' which contains much good advice.

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It can make or break your listening experience. A very good speaker can sound shite if not placed correctly.

 

Some others have mentioned room measurement software, which is an excellent way to quickly spot spikes and drops in certain frequencies. By changing position from side and back walls, toe in angles, furniture interaction you can re-run measurements and visually check impact.

 

I have been playing around with Dirac, which has a very user friendly interface to capture your room and spot areas that might need improvement. Used in conjunction with a frequency impact chart such as:

 

Magic Frequencies

 

Cheers

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If you have a flat surface behind & between your speakers it is worth trying to break it up. I obtained a noticeable improvement in sound quality by opening cupboard doors in the unit behind my speakers.

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If you have a flat surface behind & between your speakers it is worth trying to break it up. I obtained a noticeable improvement in sound quality by opening cupboard doors in the unit behind my speakers.

 

As my listening room is actually a large master bedroom, complete with Air Conditioning unit , I use 50mm thick 1M high medium density foam in front of the wall immediately behind the speakers. Are you able to attach pieces of sound absorbent material to the opening cupboard doors without making them non functional ? You won't need to go more than a metre or so past the inner sides of the speakers. Because of room limitations I use the foam in an arc curved around the wall behind the speakers. This covers the wall corners at the front.

 

Regards

Alex

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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I have to say positioning and room treatment is everything. I have the position down perfectly for my speakers. It took about 3 weeks to get it right (talking moving the speakers in 1/2" increments in every direction and adjusting toe in as well. Was a PAIN...but well worth it as I think I found the optimal place for them. Soon I will be adding the maple plinths underneath them, so I'll have to re-do the exercise again (but not as much as the first time since I know roughly where I need to go and what kind of toe in I need. Which my toe in points the tweeters just to the left and right of the listening position... maybe 3 inches to each side of my head.

 

I've been in the process of building sound absorption panels (have the Owing Corning 703 fiberglass) and still need to get the framing done and cloth ordered. SO in the mean time... I wanted to see what I am going to get with them behind the speakers. Well it's still a little bit cold so I have the front window's screens down here, figured that would make a nice "rough size" estimate. So i took a couple towels and blankets over them and just set them behind the speakers.

 

Another decision I decided to do was find the first reflection point and put something "soft" there to help... so a blanket sitting on top of the couch and pillow on top of a bookcase work wonders for breaking up the first reflection point. On the one side it opens up into the laundry room (don't mind the mess in the picture) so that helps as well as I can open the door into there... though one of the panels will most likely be hung on the door for when it's closed.

 

WOW. What a difference. I'm super excited!!! Clarity went up, realism got a HUGE improvement, and the sound stage is absolutely MAGIC. The sound stage is deep and wide... and the speakers COMPLETELY disappear except when called for by certain recordings. Bass is amazing, it might be the most accurate I've ever heard on a system now. Powerful and so quick. Still my favorite though is the ability of the system to exactly recreate the recording space and everything is pinpoint in it's correct location. I'm also hearing things that I haven't heard before... which I'm finding crazy.

 

For anyone that hasn't tried doing room treatments, window screens and a couple of blankets can show you what you can get with them! :)

 

Sound-Panel-Test01.jpg

Sound-Panel-Test02.jpg

Sound-Panel-Test03.jpg

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This is one of many interesting threads that I have been following talking about speaker placement. Every one has a little different flavor depending on reader perspectives. I recently bought a new home with a square family room (23' X 23' X 9') and it's my luxury to use is as I see fit for my listening room. It's great to have all this open space to get my planar speakers off the back wall and away from the sides but from what I have read, square rooms aren't optimal. One solution would might be to make the best of it, or I could divide the room with a movable acoustic wall. Any thoughts?

That I ask questions? I am more concerned about being stupid than looking like I might be.

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@PopPop: Rather than dividing up the room, you may want to try orienting speakers and listening position along the diagonal of the square. Plus, of course, sound absorbing panels at the first reflection points.

 

Good luck! Regards,

 

Guido F.

For my system details, please see my profile. Thank you.

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This is one of many interesting threads that I have been following talking about speaker placement. Every one has a little different flavor depending on reader perspectives. I recently bought a new home with a square family room (23' X 23' X 9') and it's my luxury to use is as I see fit for my listening room. It's great to have all this open space to get my planar speakers off the back wall and away from the sides but from what I have read, square rooms aren't optimal. One solution would might be to make the best of it, or I could divide the room with a movable acoustic wall. Any thoughts?

 

Hi PopPop,

 

With a 23 foot square room, there will be some serious room modes at ~49 Hz with harmonics at ~98 Hz and ~196 Hz.

These can be treated to some extent, with well designed and implemented cylindrical traps (perhaps a 16" diameter column at the corners and half points along each wall and a 9" diameter column in between each of the 16" columns).

 

While proper trapping will help (and I would recommend it for any domestic sized room), it can only improve upon whatever the starting point is. In the case of a room with equal length and width dimensions, the resonances (fundamental and its harmonics) are the same, so they will reinforce each other: the room will "sing" at those frequencies, filling in what should be the quiet parts "between" the notes, altering apparent pitch in the bass and obscuring low level detail.

 

I don't know about movable "acoustic" walls. (In my experience, those things tend to do more harm than good.) I *would* consider a real wall though. If the room could be finalized to 23 x 14 x 9, it would be quite balanced in terms of its resonant characteristics. In my experience, trapping still makes an enormous difference but now the starting point would be that much better, so as a result, so will the ending point.

 

For a bit more on the subject in general, perhaps an article I wrote a while back will be of interest.

See Setting up your monitoring environment. I am happy to report that a good number of folks I know have had very successful results using its suggestions.

 

A shorter, more recent take on the same subject came in, Can you hear what you're doing?, the latest entry in the Soundkeeper blog.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

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Thank you Barry, that is very helpful. I know you're right and I'm looking forward to moving in and getting started. Part of me hates the idea of breaking up the open space but the whole point of buying a townhouse with a lower level was to have a good listening room. Maybe the pool table will have to go in the guest bedroom.

4451026-11.jpg

That I ask questions? I am more concerned about being stupid than looking like I might be.

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PopPop .. how about using room correction software like Dirac? My room and system is very different from yours but the Dirac module built into Amarra Symphony brought significant improvements and was well worth the price paid. Here is the measurement/correction for my MMGs:

 

MMG QuteHD sofa.png

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I don't know about movable "acoustic" walls. (In my experience, those things tend to do more harm than good.) I *would* consider a real wall though. If the room could be finalized to 23 x 14 x 9, it would be quite balanced in terms of its resonant characteristics. In my experience, trapping still makes an enormous difference but now the starting point would be that much better, so as a result, so will the ending point.

 

Hello, Barry,

 

That is curious. My listening room is 22 X 13.4 X 8.6 and the results are good except for a room node affecting my JL Audio F112s which Art Noxon solved by changing the low pass from 80 to 55Hz. Otherwise, the room sounds so good. iRC helped in other ways as Melvin remarked about his own experience. And the rule of thirds appears to be applicable with a touch of George Cardas' The Golden Ratio and Fibonacci numbers which I have experimented with. In fact, Art Noxon's staff person's recommendation for the distance for my KEF Reference 107 from the back wall and the distance I had "intuited" and am using were the exact same to the 100th of an inch, i.e., 7.69". We both had a good laugh when he recommended the distance which sounded familiar to me. Re measuring produced the exact distance.

 

Enjoy the music,

Richard

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That's something I will explore, Dirac. As for the room size, I'm also OK with creating the best dimensions for natural sound. The whole point of buying this place was to accommodate my wife's need not to have to use stairs and my need to have an optimal listening environment.

That I ask questions? I am more concerned about being stupid than looking like I might be.

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Lots of fine advice here. I'll bulldoze with the statement that I think the equilateral speaker/listener setup was one of the lousiest fads that ever got traction. Especially the point-right-at-the-ears idea. Sure, equilateral can work, and can be optimal in shallow rooms, but for most spaces longer listener distance and zero or nearly-zero toe-in nearly always win. I've written about this before, postulating that when you have a deep listening position and nearly zero toe-in, your first front-wall reflections will be nearly time coherent. That enables a very deep and broad soundstage when side reflections are tamed. In fact I've avoided all side treatments because (I'm lazy and) I need them far less than you would imagine; truly excellent direct-radiation time alignment makes the room somewhat less important than the positioning of transducers or quality of the speakers. IMO, folks who say the room is most important simply don't know how to place and align speakers optimally. (Sound engineers excepted, their needs are different!) A lot of mixing and mastering engineers pushed the equilateral arrangement because they don't like great soundstage presentation: it diverts their attention away from tonality, and anyway they know from experience whether soundstaging will be accurate or not. Like nearly all speaker rearrangements, the change I recommend requires repositioning of transducers for correct time alignment.

 

Nearly as good as the rule of thirds is the rule of fifths, particularly when the room shape just won't won't work any other way. I measure from the front of the LF transducer.

Mac Mini 2012 with 2.3 GHz i5 CPU and 16GB RAM running newest OS10.9x and Signalyst HQ Player software (occasionally JRMC), ethernet to Cisco SG100-08 GigE switch, ethernet to SOtM SMS100 Miniserver in audio room, sending via short 1/2 meter AQ Cinnamon USB to Oppo 105D, feeding balanced outputs to 2x Bel Canto S300 amps which vertically biamp ATC SCM20SL speakers, 2x Velodyne DD12+ subs. Each side is mounted vertically on 3-tiered Sound Anchor ADJ2 stands: ATC (top), amp (middle), sub (bottom), Mogami, Koala, Nordost, Mosaic cables, split at the preamp outputs with splitters. All transducers are thoroughly and lovingly time aligned for the listening position.

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Hello, Barry,

 

That is curious. My listening room is 22 X 13.4 X 8.6 and the results are good except for a room node affecting my JL Audio F112s which Art Noxon solved by changing the low pass from 80 to 55Hz. Otherwise, the room sounds so good. iRC helped in other ways as Melvin remarked about his own experience. And the rule of thirds appears to be applicable with a touch of George Cardas' The Golden Ratio and Fibonacci numbers which I have experimented with. In fact, Art Noxon's staff person's recommendation for the distance for my KEF Reference 107 from the back wall and the distance I had "intuited" and am using were the exact same to the 100th of an inch, i.e., 7.69". We both had a good laugh when he recommended the distance which sounded familiar to me. Re measuring produced the exact distance.

 

Enjoy the music,

Richard

 

Hi Richard,

 

Just saw your post.

Sounds to me like your room, if not deliberately designed for music listening, was constructed with very fortunate dimensions.

 

Every room still has its resonant modes of course, but such dimensions would indicate they are spaced apart from each other, with none reinforcing any others (which would make for a more pronounced "character"). Such a room has great potential to "get out of the way" of the music.

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

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...I've written about this before, postulating that when you have a deep listening position and nearly zero toe-in, your first front-wall reflections will be nearly time coherent....

 

Hi Sam,

 

No argument if you like what you hear in such an arrangement but as far as reflections being nearly time coherent, it can't be unless the reflection and the direct sound emanate from the same place. By their nature, reflections will take a longer path than the direct sound, hence they'll arrive later. Again, one may like the resulting color but it is something added to the sound contained in the recording.

 

I agree 100% about equilateral placement. I have found something more like an isosceles placement, with the apex (the listening position) about 10% further from the plane of the speakers than the speaker centers are from each other, tends to allow the system to do a better job of "getting out of the way" and providing easier access to the recording itself.

 

Still, the best placement (whatever you deem that to be), in the best room (whatever you deem that to be) will still involve room modes and will still involve reflections. The only way I know to get around this is to take the system outdoors. Optimizing placement can minimize the room's impact but, in my experience, the optimization of placement *and* proper treatment can make all the difference in the world.

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

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