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SKZA
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Easy Room Placement?

Are there any particular qualities of a speaker that will make them any easier or harder to situate in a room for optimal sound? I ask because I'm upgrading my stereo but I will probably be moving around a couple times over the next few years so I can't gurantee ideal placement. In general I'll probably be in small apartments, so the speakers will probably rest pretty close to walls.

Any specific models in the ~$1000 range that can sound good anywhere (within reason)? From what I've read it seems like Totems and Dynaudio are both fairly sensitive to room placement. Is that correct?

JoeE SP9
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placement

No!

Doctor Fine
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Rear ports on loudspeakers

In general speakers with rear port holes will sound boomy and muddy if you have to put them against a wall.  All that bass energy going out the rear hole will get magnified by the nearby wall and you wind up listening to bass notes that play at the wrong volume and pretty much cover up the interesting details of the rest of the performance. 

Front ports are better for general purposes of a more flexible installation.  Also small electrostats like Martin-Logan hybrid designs also sound nice against a wall in a smallish apartment if you will pay attention to putting a blanket on the wall behind the panel to soak up some excess rear vibrations.   Unfortunatlely you won't find them at your price point unless bought used on Ebay.  And you might hate having to use acoustic treatments as you were trying to do things the easy way.

Unported "sealed box" speakers can be considered the ideal for placement close to a rear wall.  However a sealed box only makes bass coming off the front of the driver.  No extra "free" bass can be used from the rearward motion of the cone as there is no hole to let that sound come out of the box.  What bass you get is pretty tight and accurate but unless the design is pretty large you might not be happy with how deep the bass sounds.  For this reason there just aren't that many sealed box designs out there these days. 

All these comments of mine are pretty wide generalities to try to help you get in the rough ball park of finding a flexible kind of speaker that you can use in a wide variety of small apartment rooms without going crazy lookking for the perfect "sweet spot."  The truth is just the opposite.  The truth is that tuning a speaker into a room by testing where it sounds best is a process that may take four or five years to get right.  If you want every last drop of performance that you can get.

In my over 50 years of experience I can tell you that nearly every design of speaker will have only one perfect "best" placement spot in any given room.  I will grant that some speakers will sound more OK just because they are a little friendlier to work with.  But every speaker has a spot where it provides clearest, most realistic vocals, best deep clean bass, clearest soundstaging and a perfect delivery of sound to your listening chair.

Be patient.  This hobby has great immediate rewards but the harder you work at it the better things  sound!  Be happy if you are thrilled the first week you set up your speakers.  Be satisfied if after five years of screwing around with them there is no one in the world getting them to sound better than YOU are.

barefoot
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No free lunch
Doctor Fine wrote:

...

Unported "sealed box" speakers can be considered the ideal for placement close to a rear wall. However a sealed box only makes bass coming off the front of the driver. No extra "free" bass can be used from the rearward motion of the cone as there is no hole to let that sound come out of the box. What bass you get is pretty tight and accurate but unless the design is pretty large you might not be happy with how deep the bass sounds. For this reason there just aren't that many sealed box designs out there these days.

....

I agree with most everything you posted.   But I think your “free bass” characterization of ported speakers is a common misconception.   As with all things in life, nothing is free.   And ports are no exception.   Rather than thinking of a ported speaker as simply a method of utilizing the rear side of the woofer, here’s more accurate description:  

A ported speaker is a method of extending bass response by coupling the woofer to a low frequency resonator.  

Think of how a long neck beer bottle resonates when you blow across the lip.   This works because the air inside the neck acts a mass and air inside the bottle acts as a spring.   The mass and spring system have a natural resonant frequency.   Well, a ported speaker works just the same.  The port is the neck and the box is the bottle.   At higher frequencies the woofer behaves like a sealed box speaker.   It has a flat response in the pass band, then the output starts to decrease at lower frequencies.    But here is where the resonator comes into play.  

The port/box resonance is tuned to a frequency below the natural drop off of the woofer.  The resonance peaks a certain frequency, but it has a bell curve shape.   The  port/box can also resonate at higher and lower frequencies, but less and less  as you move away from the resonance.    So if you tune the system right, you can make it so the woofer begins to excite the upper tail of the port/box resonance just as the woofer’s response begins to drop.   The woofer output is lower, but the port output begins to make for it.  As frequency decreases, the woofer response decreases.     But now you’re getting closer to the port/box resonance.  So the port puts out more energy with less input from the woofer.  And so on. 

This allows the speaker to reach lower frequencies with greater efficiency.   But this does come at a price.  Resonators work by storing energy and releasing it over time.   So a ported speaker naturally smears out the input signal in time.   This is main price you pay.   There are other issues such as pipe organ resonances in the port itself.   But the main tradeoff od a ported speaker is that it trades off transient speed for lower response and efficiency.  

Hope this made sense!

Thomas

Thomas Barefoot, President/CTO, Barefoot Sound (manufacturer)

Sperandeo
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It makes total sense. A

It makes total sense. A ported sub would be looser because it's  not sealed in an airtight box. So basically the sealed sub can put on the brakes and change motion a lot faster than a ported sub flapping away. (no literally, but I'm sure you get my drift).

jgossman
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Doc beat me to it..

With a caveat.

Having lived with 2 sets of near full range ported floorstanders, Paradigm Phantom, Def Tech BP-8, a set of front ported JM Lab monitors, sealed Sony SS-M3 monitors, and now a set of B&W Matrix 3's (man that's a lot of speaks for 15 years of the audio bug!) I would go for a front ported or sealed monitor.  The exception would be an extensively braced front ported floorstanders.  To a degree, every side of nearly every speaker is a passive radiator.  Even my little JM Labs were best well off the wall, 3' or better in a large room with tall ceilings, horsehair plaster, and multiple openings 7' 6" openings.

Your milage may vary.  Your room is the most difficult part of your system to master.

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