Mind the gap!

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While there are hundreds of tweaks one can do to one’s system, I am gradually realising that the most impactful change/setting for a system is the gap between the speakers and the front wall. Don’t trust the one foot prescribed by the speaker manufacturer - they also prescribe 40W amp while we know that a higher powered/current amp makes the same speakers sound far better.

As I keep pulling my speakers away from the front wall, I am astounded at the increasing openness, clarity and ease in sound with which they keep responding. I’ve been doing this progressively over the past month or two. Today I pulled them from 90cm (gap) to 95cm (gap). That might seem a small (just 5%) increase, but the improvement is still very palpable. I wonder if they’d sound even better if I increase to 1 m gap!

And that advice that rear-ported speakers need wall reinforcement for the bass to sound is debatable. Yes, you need a wall behind the port, but not necessarily as close as 1 ft. Even with almost 1 m gap I am not missing any bass that the speakers is capable of producing. On the contrary, the bass I am hearing now is more resolved, faster and more enjoyable.

Of course these results/numbers would depend on the specific speaker and the room characteristics. And this might not be applicable at all to certain kinds of speakers. But I am now thinking that almost everyone who places their speakers close to the front wall by default or due to constraint should try progressively pulling them out to check how the sound is changing. I see that especially those with smaller/budget speakers like mine and non-dedicated listening room end up settling with a smaller separation from front wall too quickly. I shall suggest don’t settle without experimenting. Almost every costlier system/ demo room one sees in person or on YouTube has a large gap between them and the front wall. There must be something to it, no?

P.S. Further discussion with a fellow FM brought out the fact that as the other impacting factors (eg vibration, resonance, contacts etc) are addressed, one is more likely to hear the difference/improvement in sound with a placement alteration.

Also, if you find that the sound is turning pale/thin when you pull out the speakers, check if the cables and interconnects you’ve added are acting as filters for certain frequencies.
 
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prem

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There’s nothing surprising in this. As you pull out the speakers, it allows the bass to breathe which helps the mids and highs to open up more and both micro and macro dynamics improve. In one of the threads I have spoken about using the quarter wave principle to set up the speakers. This principle takes into account what should be the ideal gap between the speakers and front wall, keeping in mind how deep down your speaker can go. Normally it’s not recommended to have the speakers between 1 m and 2.2 m from the front wall since the reflections will affect the vocals.
 
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There’s nothing surprising in this. As you pull out the speakers, it allows the bass to breathe which helps the mids and highs to open up more and both micro and macro dynamics improve. In one of the threads I have spoken about using the quarter wave principle to set up the speakers. This principle takes into account what should be the ideal gap between the speakers and front wall, keeping in mind how deep down your speaker can go. Normally it’s not recommended to have the speakers between 1 m and 2.2 m from the front wall since the reflections will affect the vocals.
Prem, agree. I am only sharing a personal experience of what might be common knowledge hoping it could help someone. I see many of us with budget systems settle too early with a close to wall placement. I did that for a long time (over three years) before summoning the will to pull them out substantially. Also, thanks for the warning on the avoidable zone where vocals would get impacted. I am assuming it is speaker independent and (more to do with sound wavelengths).
 

oldmonk

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While there are hundreds of tweaks one can do to one’s system, I am gradually realising that the most impactful change/setting for a system is the gap between the speakers and the front wall. Don’t trust the one foot prescribed by the speaker manufacturer - they also prescribe 40W amp while we know that a higher powered/current amp makes the same speakers sound far better.

As I keep pulling my speakers away from the front wall, I am astounded at the increasing openness, clarity and ease in sound with which they keep responding. I’ve been doing this progressively over the past month or two. Today I pulled them from 90cm (gap) to 95cm (gap). That might seem a small (just 5%) increase, but the improvement is still very palpable. I wonder if they’d sound even better if I increase to 1 m gap!

And that advice that rear-ported speakers need wall reinforcement for the bass to sound is debatable. Yes, you need a wall behind the port, but not necessarily as close as 1 ft. Even with almost 1 m gap I am not missing any bass that the speakers is capable of producing. On the contrary, the bass I am hearing now is more resolved, faster and more enjoyable.

Of course these results/numbers would depend on the specific speaker and the room characteristics. And this might not be applicable at all to certain kinds of speakers. But I am now thinking that almost everyone who places their speakers close to the front wall by default or due to constraint should try progressively pulling them out to check how the sound is changing. I see that especially those with smaller/budget speakers like mine and non-dedicated listening room end up settling with a smaller separation from front wall too quickly. I shall suggest don’t settle without experimenting. Almost every costlier system/ demo room one sees in person or on YouTube has a large gap between them and the front wall. There must be something to it, no?

P.S. Further discussion with a fellow FM brought out the fact that as the other impacting factors (eg vibration, resonance, contacts etc) are addressed, one is more likely to hear the difference/improvement in sound with a placement alteration.

one tip - the distance from the center of the woofer to the ground should be unequal to distance of the center of the woofer to the wall behind the speaker or side wall

Try to keep the 3 distances unequal

There is a limit to how much the speaker can be brought forward as well - at some point the speaker will break out of the wall support it has and become a free standing speaker - some like it that way - some don't..

If possible try to address the ceiling 1st reflection points with inexpensive treatment material which is light enough to be stuck on the ceiling.

Look around and you will find it.

have fun !
 

Analogous

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There’s nothing surprising in this. As you pull out the speakers, it allows the bass to breathe which helps the mids and highs to open up more and both micro and macro dynamics improve. In one of the threads I have spoken about using the quarter wave principle to set up the speakers. This principle takes into account what should be the ideal gap between the speakers and front wall, keeping in mind how deep down your speaker can go. Normally it’s not recommended to have the speakers between 1 m and 2.2 m from the front wall since the reflections will affect the vocals.
Hi @prem,
Could you confirm it’s not recommended to place speakers between 1m and 2.2m from the front wall as they affect vocals sounds negatively? Is this measured from the front baffles or rear of the speakers?
in my case there is no possibility of moving my speakers beyond 2.2m away, .....so that leaves me only with less than 1m placement choices. (Somewhat disturbing prospect).

I would love to read your suggestions in the thread on the quarter wave principle. Please share this if possible.
 

prem

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Just type quarter wave in the search option. It will show up in one of the threads. I don’t know in which thread I mentioned it.

Between 1 and 2.2 m the quarter wave reflection happens in the 60-120hz. Reflections in this range normally ride on the vocals reducing the clarity thereby. And that’s something you don’t want. If you have to be in that range you may want to add some absorbers which will be effective in the 60-120 hz.

And these measurements are from the front baffle to the front wall.
 
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one tip - the distance from the center of the woofer to the ground should be unequal to distance of the center of the woofer to the wall behind the speaker or side wall
Thanks. I imagine it’s to avoid the same bass frequency to reflect from both the floor as well as the front/side wall/s - that’d amplify it exponentially and mask other frequencies.
 

prem

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Before following the quarter wave principle, pl always check what the speaker manufacturer says. It’s possible the speaker might require placement close to front wall to augment certain frequencies. In such a design, pulling the speakers out is not advisable as it will thin out. Also the quarter wave principle is the most basic starting point when designing a sound studio. Then depending on space available, you figure out how much room treatment is necessary.
 

Bloom@83

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Prem, agree. I am only sharing a personal experience of what might be common knowledge hoping it could help someone. I see many of us with budget systems settle too early with a close to wall placement. I did that for a long time (over three years) before summoning the will to pull them out substantially. Also, thanks for the warning on the avoidable zone where vocals would get impacted. I am assuming it is speaker independent and (more to do with sound wavelengths).

From day one I pulled my Elacs 3 feet from front wall as advised by speaker designer Andrew Jones. Also using exact length of speaker stands prescribed by him.
Cant be happier with the sound.
Only change I will bring is adding tubes in the chain. Separate discussion
 
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From day one I pulled my Elacs 3 feet from front wall as advised by speaker designer Andrew Jones.
I admire a designer who specifies exact distance to get the best sound from his speakers. Most designers/manufacturers are either mum/tentative on it with statements like ‘minimum 6 inches/1 foot’ - probably not wanting to lose on buyers who aren’t sure of being able to provide the optimum distance.
 

prem

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Guys like Andrew Jones who design speakers for studios too, will always know optimum distance from front wall at which their speakers sound best. I agree Sachin that it’s sad to see most speaker manufacturers not recommending how to optimally place their speakers in a room.
 

oldmonk

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niche hand made speaker manufacturers with one can have a personal rapport are very few these days...

very few are those who take time to communicate and make the customer understand the funda behind their design and how their design needs to be used and with what equipment.

@SachinChavan try the suggestion - it is works it works - if it doesnt - the sun comes up tomorrow same time :) - same for you @Goldenears
 

Analogous

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niche hand made speaker manufacturers with one can have a personal rapport are very few these days...

very few are those who take time to communicate and make the customer understand the funda behind their design and how their design needs to be used and with what equipment.

@SachinChavan try the suggestion - it is works it works - if it doesnt - the sun comes up tomorrow same time :) - same for you @Goldenears
@oldmonk i will try it as you suggest.
The manufacturer of my speakers recommends at least 40cm from the rear wall in the speaker placement guidance (2pages of this!) The speakers are Adam Audio Pencil Mk3 towers.
The sun will rise and hopefully will feel the same tomorrow, but with climate change who knows?o_O
 

Passive_audio_enthusiast

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Hugely variable with speakers, rooms, furniture in your room as your listening position. What you achieved on your particular set of speakers in your room may not work in another room with another listening position. Good that it worked for you. :)
 
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Hugely variable with speakers, rooms, furniture in your room as your listening position. What you achieved on your particular set of speakers in your room may not work in another room with another listening position. Good that it worked for you. :)
I’ve said that myself:
Of course these results/numbers would depend on the specific speaker and the room characteristics. And this might not be applicable at all to certain kinds of speakers.
 

jls001

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42 inches (+/- a few mm) front baffle to front wall works best in my room. This figure was arrived at after lots and lots of trials. Less than this and the room doesn't "lock". More than this doesn't bring audible gains.

Side wall to center of woofer/tweeter is one-fifth of the room width.

Pillows hung on the first reflection points of side wall focuses the sound. Without the pillows the sound degrades.
 
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