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Tips on Speaker Placement

Jagat

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Speaker Placement Guide

Speaker Placement Guide

There could be undreamed of performance lurking within your system, just waiting to be tapped! What's that you say, better sound than I have now? Most likely, yes. While some of you have been fastidious in your approach to speaker placement, the plain truth is that most of us do not know how (or do not take the time) to properly position our loudspeakers. I hope to help alleviate this situation with the information that follows.

To preface, let me say that an article on "correct" speaker placement may be impossible to write. That is because every situation (and, to a certain extent, every speaker) requires a different approach to optimization. Further, ones personal preference may suggest departure from the norm. Fortunately, there are some helpful guidelines that we can use to aid us in our quest for perfect sound.

The home environment presents a multitude of problems/considerations in choosing a location for our speakers. Room layout, furniture, aesthetics, accessibility by children and pets and, not to mention our sometimes contrary domestic cohabitant(s)! The Wife Appeal Factor (WAF) has become a most important gauge in making a decision. To keep things simple, we will concentrate upon the ideal, and assume you have unlimited freedom. Please alter the suggestions to conform to your situation.

To better understand the terminology and the reasoning behind the recommendations, let us first explore a few basics of acoustic theory.

A room affects the sound of a speaker by the reflections it causes. Some frequencies will be reinforced, others suppressed, thus altering the character of the sound. If we were to listen to our speakers outdoors (or inside an anechoic chamber), much of the coloration we’ve been used to hearing would disappear. This is a major reason loudspeaker designers test their creations in such an environment, not wanting their design decisions to be influenced by the colorations of any given room. The real world, however, requires that our speakers co-occupy our living quarters, therefore we must deal with the room as a significant contributing factor.

In any listening environment, what we hear is a result of a mixture of both the direct and reflected sounds. Direct sound travels straight to our ears from the speaker diaphragms. Reflected sounds are many, bouncing off most any hard surface and reaching our ears after the direct sound. In general, the direct sound from the speakers are primarily responsible for the image, while the reflected sounds contribute most to the tonality of the speaker (richness, leanness etc). Any boundary surface (back wall, side wall, floor) can cause a reflection, and all need to be considered during placement. The trick is to place the speaker (and/or treat the room) in a location that will take of advantage of the desirable reflections while diminishing the unwanted reflections.

Distance to side wall and back wall. There are two acoustic characteristics we're dealing with here: bass and soundstage. It's well known that the closer a speaker is to a boundary (wall, floor, ceiling) the more bass reinforcement . Changing the location in relation to these surfaces will dramatically affect both the quality and quantity of the bass. Note: moving the listening position can have as much affect on bass as moving the speaker. The speakers excite room modes which create low frequency standing waves. Because of their long wavelengths, these waves are present regardless of where the speakers are located. Moving the listening position however, determines whether that point is with relation to areas of additive or subtractive bass pressure. If you have the option, try moving the listening chair a foot or two in each direction to find the optimal position.

With regards to soundstaging, you'll find that depth is dramatically influenced by rear wall proximity. Increasing the distance from the speaker to the wall behind will increase soundstage depth. However, pulling the speaker too far out may degrade focus. In most cases, room layout dictate a maximum distance the speakers will be allowed to intrude into the space, but experiment to as a great degree as possible.

Most speakers need to be a minimum of a foot or two away from the side and back walls to reduce early reflections (early reflections reach the listener out of step with the direct sounds, causing image degradation). Distance to reflective surfaces, speaker radiation pattern and toe-in all contribute to the amount and intensity of early reflections.

Differences among speakers can also influence positioning. A planar, for instance (which radiates sound both front and back with null points to the sides - a figure-of-eight pattern), may be less critical of a nearby side wall, but very critical of the distance to the back-wall. Just the reverse is true for many dynamic designs whose propagation pattern is mainly to the front, with some to the sides and little to the rear (cardiod pattern).

You'll find that the side wall distance will affect both soundstaging and tonal balance. In general, proximity to the sidewall will more influence midrange balance while the distance to the back wall will have more impact on bass.

It is most important to insure that the distance to the back and side walls are unequal. Do not place the speaker, say, 20" from both back and side walls. That said, be sure both speakers are set the same; symmetry is very important. By that we mean if the left speaker is 20" from the back-wall and 30" from the side-wall, try to place the right speaker in the same way. This may not be possible in all situations, but do your best to give each speaker a similar acoustic environment.

It is imperative that the distance from your listening position to each speaker be absolutely identical. Physically measure the distance to insure accuracy. Difference of less than ¼" will be audible in better systems to careful listeners. Accurate measurements here are critical in determining the image quality of the speaker system. Note: After you have established accurate distance with a tape measure, try using a string (with one end taped to middle of the back of listening chair) to check distance from the listening position to a specific point on each speaker, say the tweeter.

Distance between the speakers will be determined by the distance to your listening position, the particular speaker you own and, to a great measure, your own personal preference. I generally prefer to start with an equilateral triangle, the apex of which is located at the listening position, with the two speakers forming the base line (here, speakers placed 6' apart would suggest a listening position 6' away), and experiment to produce the best soundstage. Note: Some manufacturers recommend a specific measure for speaker separation. Use this measurement, if available and your room permits, but remember that any recommendation is only a starting point. You'll find that increasing the distance between the speakers will widen the soundstage (until, at some point the center image falls apart), decreasing the width will narrow the stage and increase center focus. As mentioned previously, this is partly subjective. I listen to a lot of female voice and a strong center focus is really important to me. You may concentrate of orchestral works and prefer a wider stage while willing to sacrifice some specificity of image. Select recordings with which you are very familiar. My personal preference is toward simple recordings with good, even spread across the stage and a strongly focused center image.

As discussed previously, the distance to the side walls affects (mainly midrange) tonal balance. As we move the speakers closer or further apart, the relationship to the side walls change. Further, the proximity of one speaker to the other has influence on tonality as well.

Toe-in depends on three factors: the particular speaker you have chosen, the room and your personal preference. Some speakers sound best with little or no toe-in, others may require a great deal to perform properly. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations or, lacking those, start with no toe-in and begin turning the speaker inward (pointing more toward the listener) until the right amount of center-fill is obtained, without sacrificing soundstage width. Note: Toe-in and distance between the speakers are often interrelated. You may find that it will be necessary to revisit the distance between your speakers after you have experimented with toe-in.

Tilt, (both fore and aft and left to right) also can be very important in influencing the sound of a speaker. Although most speakers today should be level, some designs recommend specific tilt (generally rearward) for proper imaging. I recommend starting level, and experimenting from there, if necessary. Use a carpenters level for accuracy, and remember to check both front to back and side to side.

Listening Height. Every speaker has been designed with a specific listening height in mind. Generally speaking, your ears should be on a line with a point midway between the tweeter and woofer (two-way) or tweeter and midrange (3 way). Again, consult the manual for specific recommendations.

Summation

  • Experimentation is the key to optimum results. Trial and error will tell you a great deal about how the speaker reacts in your environment and help you to better balance strengths and weaknesses of each position you try.
  • The goal in determining the position in the room is to excite as few of the standing waves as possible. A number of sources have suggested formulas to find rough placement. Here a couple I’ve seen. Where x is the distance from the side wall to the center of the speaker and y is the distance from the back wall to the center of the woofer. 1) x = (0.277) x (room width), y = (0.450) x (room width). If this puts the speakers too far out into the listening room use x = (0.277) x room width, y = (0.353) x room width. 2) x = (0.276) x (room width), y = (0.618) x (ceiling height).
  • Once you have found a rough position, place two pieces of masking tape on the floor, one marking distance to back wall, another noting positing from the side wall. Mark the tape in one-inch increments. This will allow you to move each speaker exactly the same amount, without having to re-measure each time.
  • Exact distances are critical! Always use a tape measure, half an inch can make all the difference in the world.
  • Bear in mind that the best location for creating a spacious soundstage, may not be the ideal location for bass. We are searching for a balance, a compromise of parameters that comes closest to our personal definition of ideal.
  • When setting up new speakers, don’t rush through the process. Take your time and slowly find the ideal location over a few weeks of listening. Pressing to find the right position can be very frustrating. Also note that the sound of the speakers will change during break-in. Play the speakers for at least 100 hours before fine tuning placement.
  • If you’ve already placed your speakers, but did not put much effort into the process, spend some time tweaking your speaker set-up. I think you’ll be very pleased with the results.

Additional resources:

Audio Physics Method -- from the IMMEDIA
The Audio Physics Method
speaker placement made easy



Source: http://www.gcaudio.com/resources/howtos/speakerplacement.html
 
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ravin

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Dec 14, 2009
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Bangkok, TH
Hi everyone,
came across this link which gives simple & straightforward tips on speaker placement which can be a good place to start before going in for room treatments, if required.
It would be interesting & educative if members could pose their experience.
Cardas Audio
Very useful for beginners. There is another site, www.crutchfield.com if I remember correctly, that has information on setting up speakers etc.
 

navinmra

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May 26, 2009
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In my personal experimentation, I have found that moving the speakers away from the sidewalls and the wall behind it and closer to the listener generally improves the mids at the cost of bass. After a couple of hours of listening in this position, you are detoxed of 'over driven' bass and start appreciating the clarity. But get a friend in and he'll quickly point out the thin bass and there you go again adjusting the speakers!And once you push those speakers back you start enjoying the fuller bass but only for a while!

Therefore, honestly, it does boil down to personal preferences. I've liked the speakers pulled in when watching a movie with dialogs and pushed back when converting the room into a temporary dance floor for thumping music (You also get the space to shake a leg!)
 

sreejithsreedharan

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Nov 28, 2012
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Tripunithura
Dear All,

I have gone through all the inputs, but my greatest worry is that i dont have a dedicated listening space and i am using my bedroom for listening purpose; which is again a small room (3*3 meters).

I am using NAD Power and pre along with Mission FS..

So shud I continue with current setup or I have another pair of pioneer vinatge speakers (CS 303), so better sound stage which shud i use..

Kindly suggest.

Thanks,

Sreejith
 
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naj

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Joined
Jan 28, 2011
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99
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Location
The Mid West
Re: Tips on Speaker Placement- Media Room Size

Hi ,
Please need some inputs .
Have researched on the internet about the ideal L to B ratio for a Home media Rm .
One source mentions -
Room width should be 1.6 times the height and the length should be 2.6 times the room height.
WEB Source at - Building a Home Theater - Room Dimensions | Room Shape and Size

Have a room size of 11x 11 available in the basement for this -

Please guide on a few points -
- If a 11 x 11 media room with 5.1 can be set up to provide satisfactory experience . Floor plan below . The room is labeled as Exercise Room .
-Will there be some echo , sound refection or muddy noise.
If so can they be reduced or prevented by Audio pads and treatments .
- Would speaker and sub sizes matter .
-Am thinking of a 60" to 65" 4K ultra HD TV . Projector will not be suitable due to the lesser throw dist and close up viewing distance IMHO.
The room height is 8 ft .
- The basement is unfinished so can run the wiring , connectors .
-Am thinking of upgrading the current speakers . Will these upgrade speakers be an over kill - Tekton Design Pendragon
These are high efficiency ones so will need less amp wattage
- Sub woofers- had read small room may require 2 subs .

Hope to start the project in June .

Thanks,
NAJ
 

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saikatbiswas82

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Re: Tips on Speaker Placement- Media Room Size

Hi ,
Please need some inputs .
Have researched on the internet about the ideal L to B ratio for a Home media Rm .
One source mentions -

WEB Source at - Building a Home Theater - Room Dimensions | Room Shape and Size

Have a room size of 11x 11 available in the basement for this -

Please guide on a few points -
- If a 11 x 11 media room with 5.1 can be set up to provide satisfactory experience . Floor plan below . The room is labeled as Exercise Room .
-Will there be some echo , sound refection or muddy noise.
If so can they be reduced or prevented by Audio pads and treatments .
- Would speaker and sub sizes matter .
-Am thinking of a 60" to 65" 4K ultra HD TV . Projector will not be suitable due to the lesser throw dist and close up viewing distance IMHO.
The room height is 8 ft .
- The basement is unfinished so can run the wiring , connectors .
-Am thinking of upgrading the current speakers . Will these upgrade speakers be an over kill - Tekton Design Pendragon
These are high efficiency ones so will need less amp wattage
- Sub woofers- had read small room may require 2 subs .

Hope to start the project in June .

Thanks,
NAJ
I thought to add my views here.

I think, 11x11x8 room would be just fine. Stop worrying about the recommendation and all and let's get going with what we already have.

For a proper home theater like experience, acoustic treatment is a must. It will cost you serious money. But it's worth the investment. Upgrading your other equipments with top of the line Audio gears won't benefit much unless the room is property treated acoustically.

Speaker size and the sub size does not relate to each other. You have to get proper amps for all the speakers to deliver matching sound pressure (I.e. decibel)

I watch my 40" TV from 4-5 ft away. I find it very small. From your perspective, you could look into 65" TVs. Like - Benq 1080ST is a short throw projector if you are at all keen to get PJs only.

Concealed wiring looks better than bare wire IMHO.

Which amp do you have in mind exactly with low wattage?

2 small subs are always better than 1 bigger sub. Try to choose a driver size with 10" or bigger.

Last but not the least.
I haven't heard too many speakers so far. I generally don't like American speakers (except JBL) IMHO. Most of my friends and me of course like British speakers. For you, I'd like to suggest you to listen to various speakers first before selecting one. Don't go by the specs.

Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk
 
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naj

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Thanks Saikatbiswat82,

Have found dome affordable room treatment at eBay -
24 Pack Acoustic Wedge Studio Soundproofing Foam Wall Tiles 12" x 12" x 1" | eBay

Will proceed with the 11x 11 room .
Have 2 mono blocks of 1000 w rms for L and R .
Also have 5 more channels of 200 w rms for surround .
With the above audio damping foam hope to have some echo damping .

Am quite encouraged with your guidance .
Thanks -
Will post pic of the room tomorrow .
 
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saikatbiswas82

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Kolkata
Thanks Saikatbiswat82,

Have found dome affordable room treatment at eBay -
24 Pack Acoustic Wedge Studio Soundproofing Foam Wall Tiles 12" x 12" x 1" | eBay

Will proceed with the 11x 11 room .
Have 2 mono blocks of 1000 w rms for L and R .
Also have 5 more channels of 200 w rms for surround .
With the above audio damping foam hope to have some echo damping .

Am quite encouraged with your guidance .
Thanks -
Will post pic of the room tomorrow .
That's great.
I am really surprised to know how properly placed speakers can change the sound dramatically. I am thankful to FM Koushik for that. He always insisted on placement but I never listened. When he visited my place and did his tricks with placement, it was like - I just upgraded my speakers.
If the speakers are sensitive enough (I.e. more than 90db), a mere 10w per channel amp will way more than enough. Believe me - I drive my 90db bookshelves with a 5w/channel amp and they can drive my speakers until a point my neighbours can complain. You definitely don't need that much monstrous power IMHO.

Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk
 

Nags

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Aug 7, 2013
Messages
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Location
Bangalore
Re: Speaker Placement Guide

I am using Epson tw6600 PJ in a room of 10.5 *11 , and screen size of 106 "...you can think of this...

Sent from my Lenovo P1a42 using Tapatalk
 

saikatbiswas82

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Kolkata
Re: Speaker Placement Guide

I am using Epson tw6600 PJ in a room of 10.5 *11 , and screen size of 106 "...you can think of this...

Sent from my Lenovo P1a42 using Tapatalk
Right... That would be huge! Congratulations!

Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk
 

naj

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Jan 28, 2011
Messages
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The Mid West
Thanks Saikat , Nags,

Update - Unfortunately have checked the building codes and the 11x11 room cannot be made for living as the window is small. The Rooms to have big windows for easy egress and according to the building regulation size.
The space remaining is the bigger basement space - size - 41.20 x 13.7 .More expense for finishing ,wiring , carpeting etc .
Photo attached.

Thanks,
 

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sound_cycle

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Re: Speaker Placement Guide

Speaker Placement Guide
Toe-in depends on three factors: the particular speaker you have

The ultra friendly cocker spaniel that visits us every day has picked a position rather close to my RHS speaker and pushed it ever so slightly out of position. Now that is marked so no issue, but on a whim decided to redo the toe in.

Recollect having read long back that you could pink noise (played in mono) to get a sharp centre image and then widen it a bit. Did that starting from no toe in with dirac off and fb2k playing mono. Was a much quicker and easier process than my older method which relied on a spoken word track from itunes (Napoleon Hill Lectures). Ended up with something less than my marked position, and a nicer arc with the LEDR over "cockroaches"

Did not have the time and energy to recalibrate DIRAC and am running the old filters. Have to redo that too ofc.

ciao
gr
 
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