Do you have a specific method for optimizing speaker placement or do you guess and fiddle?

Stereophile's picture
Do you feel you have developed skills for placing speakers in a room, or do you plunk them down, shuffle them around, and hope for the best?
Do you have a specific method for optimizing speaker placement or do you guess and fiddle?
I've got it down to a science
13% (10 votes)
I've got a general approach
62% (48 votes)
I have a tip or two
9% (7 votes)
I just guess
13% (10 votes)
I don't care about speaker placement
3% (2 votes)
I only use headphones or my computer speakers
1% (1 vote)
Total votes: 78
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Comments
audio-sleuth's picture

After 36 years of setting up systems in people's homes, these are the steps I take in order of importance: 1) Get them away from side walls; 2) If there is a TV between the speakers, cover it with a quilt or comforter when listening to music; 3) If there is a cabinet between speakers, push it back so it doesn't protrude past the speakers; 4) Get them out from the front wall to where the bass is even with the mids and highs; 5) LE-DE, which is live end-dead end—as much as possible, set up the room dead at the speakers and more reflective on your end; 6) Watch out for reflectve surfaces between you and the speakers—floors or coffee tables, etc.

G.C.  Van Winkle's picture

bought the house with separate video room and hi-fi friendly living room in mind. set up the video room with the help of some useful test CD's and DVD's - time to get to work on the (much more expensive) hi-fi system.

Al Earz's picture

First off, I use the rule of the triangle in setting measurement to sweet spot. Then I use a laser to align the tweeter to fire at the head position. Then I sit down and am glad I bought speakers that image and stage well.

Allen's picture

I start with generally accepted guidelines and then move them around a little to get them perfect. I have found fiddling with the listening position to be just as important. Of course, it must be kept within the limitations of the room and what my wife thinks is or is not ugly!

Paul Stiles, Mtn.  View, CA's picture

I don't have it down to a science, I have it down to what sounds best to me (in the case of my own system) or what sounds best to the owner of the system (friends or whatever) I am helping to set up. Although I am an EE, I know that musical reproduction is at least as much art as it is science. Beauty is in the ear of the beholder.

KRB's picture

Start with an isoceles triangle. Listen and adjust as necessary.

Mike Z's picture

Measure first based on the manufacturer's recommendations, and then experiment an inch or two at a time from there. It's easy, just time consuming.

Colin Robertson's picture

Tip: READ THE MANUAL! If you bought speakers from a quality manufacturer, they probably had some sound advice to placing them in your room. But I approach this by placing the speakers in roughly an eqilateral triangle to start with, then pulling the speakers out from the walls as far as possible to minimise second order reflections from the back wall to improve imaging. If there is no sub in the system, you have to comprimise between imaging and deep bass by moving the speakers closer to the back wall. I also consult a few other sources, such as the "Master Handbook to Acoustics". Room dimensions and acoustic treatments are very important to speaker placement as well, but thats a whole other article or five. In the end, experimentation based on some solid theorys is the key, then tweaking the best setup for the best overall sound.

Dennis's picture

Inner Sound 'Stats require very specific and precise placement. The mag lite on the head works for me!

T.O.  Driskel's picture

I always have a tip or two no matter the room or speakers!

G.S.  White's picture

I position the speakers in various patterns listening to each set up. After experimenting with different set ups, certian variables (like back wall distance) become eliminated. Eventually, through trial and error and listening, the speakers find their home.

Rob Gold's picture

Lots of reading, experimentation, an open mind and open ears. It all adds up. Strange how many people will spend big bucks on cables and such when moving your speakers a couple of inches makes a world more difference.

T's picture

I move them out from the wall and stop when my wife says stop. Am I the only married guy here who has to compromise?

Tim Bishop's picture

I keep the general dimensions in mind, then I move them a little to and fro till the sound gets good!

Paul I's picture

I start with a spectrum analyzer to find the exact peak axis for tweeter sound. Then I adjust by ear.

Mike Parenteau's picture

The Linn Tune Dem. If the bass, she is a slappin' and the singer's he's a rappin' and it gets your toe to tappin' and your fingers are a snappin'... then your speakers are set up right. It's easier than you think.

Carlos Villarreal's picture

I combine the diffrent apraches, Cardas, 3ds,&5th,s. ect..and try to be open to my specific situation.

TUNA's picture

I rely on what I've been told, what I've read and my own experiences. When you add it all up, I do an OK job of set-up. I THINK??

David L.  Wyatt jr.'s picture

When I'm buying speakers, I always get up and walk around, to see how they'll sound when I'm outside of the "sweet spot." My system isn't about one lamp, one chair, one glass of wine. It's about music in my life as I live it, it's about showing my friends the virtues of two-channel home theater. Really great audio needn't be overly finicky.

Brankin's picture

Fiddle all about, fiddle about...

TonyE's picture

It depends on how much I plan to drink when I listen. The sober and one drink set up must be fastidious and it always leads to frustration and audiophile neurosis. The two to five drink set up is far easier and most rewarding, sorta like the instruments float in air so long as the speakers are more or less There... Now, the six or more drink setup us is uncommonly easy because when the world is going around in circles only one speaker is required to give you surround sound.

Gerald Clifton's picture

The general approach is to get the speakers away from the walls. I know, some speakers are designed for placement in corners and/or against the rear wall, but I haven't owned any of those since I sold my Klipschorns in the '70's (good riddance, I might add...like a needle through your brain). I used to think 3 or 4 feet away from the rear wall was sufficient, just to quiet the bass boom, but now I am convinced that most speakers "disappear" best when placed 7 to 8 feet out into the room. The improvement in the front-to-back depth of the soundstage can be breathtaking, IF you are trying to recreate the sense of space and freedom you experience at a live concert. This isn't for everyone, as many folks like an exaggerated bass and a somewhat clangy upper midrange. Who am I to argue? Distance from the side walls seems to be more dependent on the speaker design, toe-in, and sound-absorbing stuff on the walls. In a "normal" room (12'-15' wide), about 3'from each side wall has worked best for me. I think each room has its individual "boom" zones, where bass standing waves hang out, and individual speakers have to be fiddled with in this respect: sometimes you want more bass, sometimes less. I can't imagine any room/speaker combination that isn't subject to trial-and-error and a lot of fussing, once you get the general areas mapped out. Speakers AND rooms are so individual in their interactions that a lot of listening and moving around are required. Of course, about 1/3 of your software will have too much bass equalized into the music, and about 1/3 will sound bass-shy, no matter WHERE you put the speakers, but life is full of compromises and there is usually one small area where everything gets optimized.

Robin Banks's picture

I have a general approach, but it's all based on the room I am trying to set the speakers up in. More than likely, I will place them where they sound the best, but there are times where you can't do that. (Think in a bedroom.) In that case, I had to place them where they "looked" the best. LOL!

Jim on GI's picture

Unless I'm trying to squeeze that extra bit of "oomph" from a woofer, I much prefer to give my speakers lots of room to breathe. 2 to 3 feet from each side wall and 3 to 5 feet from the wall behind the speakers.... about 6 to 8 feet between the speakers. Stereo imaging, soundstage width and soundstage depth are usually enhanced with that kind of placement. But lets not forget tow in and seat placement.... experiment with these for optimum sound staging and voice/instrument placement. Speakers from Magneplanar and Newform Research require this sort of arrangement, but I've found that it works well will all speaker designs.

mfc's picture

I've found advice from Audio Physic's website and various articles from Stereophile, etc to be of help. Once I find the best placement, I tend to forget about it. I generally find the room to be the limiting factor in the end.

Tim Bailey's picture

Only AFTER after you've got. i) spkr height listening height angles sorted. and ii) the integration distance of the single spkr this is usually, for 8inch (or <) 2-ways, quite close, it also depends on baffle area. iii) then I use unequal distances from the woofer to floor to side wall to rear wall. Start with 1: 1.5: 2.25. I only try to apply the Wilson 'neutral zone' test about half way into the process, to confirm - with a moving person, sitting on the floor in an old office chair (rollers) and standing - that we are working in a 'neutral zone'. Surprisingly, with most enclosure types the golden ratio approach as per Cardas's site will be very close. Then you start to work. My spherical speakers on dished columns are aimable in both azimuth and elevation, so that it would be easy to get lost. OTOH an aimable spkr is easier to get to add in phase at yr ears around the crossover point. Which relates to i) above. Precision matters.

Joe Evans's picture

I have owned panels of one type or another since 1976. In that time I have developed a sense of where to position them. In my current house (listening room) I knocked down an internal wall to create one large room from my dining and living room. The sole reason for doing this was to position my ES panels properly. As I am divorced I have no one to answer to about speaker positioning. My sweet spot may be small but it is certainly worth the labor invloved in removing an interior wall. I also have books, LP's and various types of reflective absortive and dispersive materials on the walls floors and ceilings. I have tried to make the area as neutral as possible. Once proper speaker placement is accomplished room treatments can take you to that next step.

Mark Gdovin's picture

I have several very distinct starting points for speaker placement, however, one does have to just "plunk 'em down and shuffle around" in the long run. In other words, starting from a general place, even moving speakers mere inches apart or together, tiny changes in toe-in, these things can have fairly profound effects and are so different from one speaker to the next and from one room to the next that one does end up doing a lot of experimenting (shuffling around). Setting up speakers is a very frustrating but also very rewarding experience. There is no "science" to it—only acoustic and scientific "factors" that play into it.

Chris S.'s picture

The old Sheffield/XLO Test & Burn-In CD is a great tool to have around. Not only does the "In Phase/ Out of Phase" track make speaker placement a relatively easy process, but the CD also has tracks that burns-in new components and demagnetizes your whole system.

sgb's picture

Anyone who believes you can set up a pair of speakers optimally by following some formula needs his head examined.

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