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Speaker placement and imaging: A somewhat objective test

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I spent a bit of time today at home with my speakers and my favorite Bosch laser measuring tool. My primary concern was adjusting toe-in. Previously, I had the speakers aimed directly at the "sweet spot" seat, such that the front of the speaker was exactly perpendicular to the line between its center and the listening position. However, the speakers flank a fireplace that makes a 45° angle with the corner of the room, so that the walls make a 135° rather than 90° angle with the plane containing the front of the speakers.


I think, because of this, the toe-in was excessive. I moved them out a bit, and subjectively I thought it sounded better when I listened to some Beethoven piano sonatas.


I then put on "Perfect Sense" from the live Roger Waters concert DVD ($11 at Amazon, fwiw, cheaper than iTunes). Unlike the Studio CD, this one was made after Kubrick croaked, so he was able to put in dubs from Hal (2001). Due to the Q-sound, the voice of Hal saying "Stop, Dave, my mind is going" is off 90° to the left of the sound-stage. If the speakers aren't placed correctly, i.e., re-toed into their previous position, the image collapses. But when I finally got it right, it was absolutely shocking. Even the dog started barking at this floating, disembodied voice.


It even works with the compressed $1 iTunes version of the song.





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It even works with the compressed $1 iTunes version of the song.


Not only that, it even works with the free 30 second iTunes preview of the track, played through the built-in speakers of my MacBook Air sitting on my lap!


nigel[br]ALAC stored on Drobo -> Mac Mini -> iTunes -> Airport Express (1st gen) -> Monoprice toslink -> NAD M2 Direct Digital Amplifier -> Wilson Benesch Curve

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After having my new Arro's for a few months now, I too played with placement for a few hours the other day. Nothing scientific, no measurements, just by ear and mostly by what's possible with my space.


I ended up with them 6.5 feet apart where I feel they pretty much disappear when I am on the sweet spot.


I was curious If It is "normal" that with most vocal recordings, even very good ones, the voice is usually coming on the right side, inside the speakers, but closer to the right one.


Again, nothing scientific here but I'd say that about 20-25% of the time, the singer is dead center where the other 75-80% are coming more from the right side. I'd say most of the time, It is about 1 foot inside the right speaker and 2-3 feet further back.


Is It a matter of recordings/engineering/mastering or could It be my speaker placement?


I must say that I almost never hear the speakers, they really do disappear when I am on the sweet spot. And maybe because they are far apart but they never really soundstage outside the speakers even though the soundstage is quite deep and start 2-3 feet further back from the speakers.














Arcam rDAC / Oppo BDP-83 / NAD 315BEE / Totem Arro

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You should try one of those speaker channel tests to see if the left, right, center, images are all in the expected places. Also measure from your nose to the tweeter of each and try to get them within 1/8". What you describe sounds wrong... maybe a phase error due to different distances?


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with a change of speaker placement from wide stance with substantial toe-in to a more conventional narrower spread with less toe-in. It destroyed the soundstage and imaging. Also everything pushed right. A balance adjusent cured the push but thats all. Went back to wide (keeping balance L tho) and everything bloomed back even better. In short, the room and placement is a huge factor in SQ.


Steve Kuh[br]Mac Mini > Glyph HD > Weiss AFI1 (slave) > modded Esoteric D70 (master) > BAT VK51SE > Classe CA400 > Harbeth Super HL5[br]\"Come on the amazing journey and learn all you should know...\"

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I have watched Get Better Sound and read some of the fine links and advice here and indulged in the Bosch laser measuring thingy and continue to tinker and tinker with my speaker placement and what I have found is...everything matters! Which is so frustrating but interesting. I have bookshelf speakers and notice that closer to the wall and further apart, about five feet, gives me a more enjoyable sound. Actually, it's amazing. I played the Fleet Foxes' White Winter Hymnal using the iPod dock on my iNova for my wife and she wept. The sound stage was high and mighty and the music sounded cathedral-like. I have to employ a corner set-up and one speaker is placed five inches higher than the other because I want a friendly and kind household. Anyway, the strange thing is the devices have their own preferences: with my iPod dock the speaker placement works best a little closer together, tighter to the wall and toed in, and with vinyl another placement works best, further apart about three inches toe out, and with the USB and computer another placement.


This hobby is time-consuming.


Third Floor: AE>Pioneer solid state integrated>Sony PS-x70 turntable>KEF 103.2 speakers

Second Floor: Intel NUC>LampizatOr GA TRP/LampizatOr Integrated Solid State amp>triode wire labs speaker cables & power cord and wywires power cords>vapor über auroras speakers

Old school: VPI Prime Signature turntable w/ Ortofon Bronze Cadenza cartridge and Technics SP-10 mk2

First Floor: AE>lifatec silflex glass toslink>schiit bifrost über>Kimber kable hero RCA>audioengine 5

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One of the problems (or possibly benefits) of speaker placement is that it doesn't just affect the soundstage, but the frequency response too (even more so if your system employs full range speakers as opposed to limited low freq speakers/subs). Just a few inches of movement of one of my speakers makes the difference in the critical midrange. It pretty much cures a deep suckout at 250hz and somewhat flattens out the whole 200-800hz range.


An RTA, a mic or sound level meter, and some good pink noise are needed to measure this stuff. Well worth it. The REW program, which includes an RTA and much much more, is free, and a Radio shack meter is pretty cheap and good enough for measurements up to about 3k hz. They're also alot of fun to play around with, and almost indispensable if you have subs.





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Speaker positioning is very important and it can be more so with some speakers than others. A few weeks back I put a set of Magnepan MMG speakers back in my system. I had worked hard dialing in the speaker position of my previous speakers. Prior to replacing them with the MMG I placed tape on the floor marking their position and intending to use that as a starting point, reference for the MMG. I did place them there but didn't think about it again until reading this thread and realized I never dialed them in. Out came the laser and a couple of adjustments and voila, my soundstage and imaging just snapped. It really is amazing to me how such a really subtle change in position can make such a nice difference.


"A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open."
Frank Zappa
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I struggled with similar issues before I got the position just right.


Something probably isn't quite right.


One thing I learned recently is that VERY SMALL changes to speaker location can make very large difference, both good and bad.


Shunyata Power -> 2011 Mac Mini -> OYAIDE NEO d+ FireWire -> Weiss DAC 202 -> Dual Mono McIntosh 2102 -> 2x Double Shotgun Clear Day Cables -> B&W 803D

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But you're not quite there, I think.


Once everything "clicked" in my system, I was surprised by how universally well it worked.


I too had noticed a LOT of finicky behavior, i.e. one recording sounded great, another not so good, only to have them reverse that behavior with another setup.


But, once I got some help and got the speakers dead on, everything sounds good, even recording that had *always* sounded bad previously.


This isn't to say that all recording sound great, clearly some are better than others. But, I do feel that once you get things right, a far larger portion of my music sounds pleasant, musical, and has the presence that only the best recording had previously.


The great recordings, of course, now sound heavenly! :-)



Shunyata Power -> 2011 Mac Mini -> OYAIDE NEO d+ FireWire -> Weiss DAC 202 -> Dual Mono McIntosh 2102 -> 2x Double Shotgun Clear Day Cables -> B&W 803D

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Great find.


Why is it that Pink Floyd has such complete control over sound on their recordings?


They're amazing.


P.S. HAL is one thing, but the thunder is pretty crazy as well! :-)



Shunyata Power -> 2011 Mac Mini -> OYAIDE NEO d+ FireWire -> Weiss DAC 202 -> Dual Mono McIntosh 2102 -> 2x Double Shotgun Clear Day Cables -> B&W 803D

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Quoting wgscott on Mon, 09/12/2011 - 22:33:

“...Due to the Q-sound, the voice of Hal saying "Stop, Dave, my mind is going" is off 90° to the left of the sound-stage ... It even works with the compressed $1 iTunes version of the song...”


This is absolutely wild! Very cool! (Q-Sound is also demonstrated on the track “Amused to Death”.)


I had never heard of “Q-Sound” until now. I read the explanation on Wikipedia. I have a curiosity question: Both iTunes samples “just” throw the image way the heck off to the left. For the album overall, does Q-Sound actually build a credible sound stage to the left and right of your speakers, or is it just a cute parlor trick used occasionally?


Quoting tmornini on Wed, 09/14/2011 - 02:49:

"...P.S. HAL is one thing, but the thunder is pretty crazy as well!..."


Where is the thunder?


Peachtree Audio DAC-iT, Dynaco Stereo 70 Amp w/ Curcio triode cascode conversion, MCM Systems .7 Monitors

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  • 2 years later...

After reading Chris's post today about this and speaker phase, I tested it on my main system, and there is no sound effect. I can hear it quite distinctly on my Zeppelin and a few other lesser systems around the house.


I guess I have some speaker wires reversed or something else bad happened since I posted this in 2011. Uh oh. OTOH, I guess it means it is a good diagnostic.

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