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Doctor Fine
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Why set it up wrong?

OK like Socrates "The Gadfly" that irritated the occupants of the city state of Athens, I hereby propose an irritating question to those I have observed on this site:  Why do you all insist on installing your megabucks systems the wrong way to properly display a stereo image?

Here's my point:  I went on the overall site looking at the pictures of other's installations and was struck by one point over and over...  Almost without exception everybody plunks their expensive chrome, shiny gear right in between their speakers...right where it is the object to generate a proper stereo image.

If I was a movie projectionist and instead of throwing an image on a flat white screen without impediment I instead put a pile of huge rocks on the stage and projected the image there, what would you expect as an outcome?  That's right. a jagged, pile of rocks would be trying to display your pristine image and faces would be all distorted as the rocks shone back the image.

In this exact phenomenon the home "stereo image' afficiando has been informed that they must plunk the sum total of their investment "the crap" herein referred to...right in between the speakers.  One assumes the point is to impress all those assembled with how expensive your "crap" is.

However from the point of a projectionist what the hell is all that crap doing THERE?

I suppose most stereophile afficiandos have fallen prey to the seductive idea that "short expensive leads" are in order so you all have python sized speaker cables hooked up to your amplifiers.  Or you just don't yet realize that even box speakers project the stereo image to the sides and the rear of their location.  As the sound comes out of a box speaker it pretty much spreads out in ALL directions.  Beliveve it or not. 

And of course a lot of you couldn't possibly place the "junk" such as CD players,amps and the associated crapola anywhere else except "right between the speakers where the leads are short!".

I would argue (and I AM arguing) that you would all be much better served if you moved all your junk out of the display area of the "stereo image" and instead put either some absorbent acoustic tiles there or a nice horn loaded fireplace or something, anything, other than a pile of your precious "stereo gear."

Perhaps you could try longer speaker leads of sufficient quality to allow everything to be shoved over to the side of the room or even better, placed in a separate room completely isolated from turntable vibration and bass feedback loops.  Or you could experiment using balanced plus six DB output leads and remote feed your amps and STILL keep your precious speaker leads short.  At the very least you might accomplish moving your vibration prone turntables out of the line of fire.  Or would that be too logical?

Like in a professional recording studio where they purposely keep all the recording junk away from the performers.  Hmmmm.

Discuss.  Get angry.  Call me an ass.

I'm just asking...

The Doctor.

absolutepitch
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It's important

Set-up is important, I agree.

I once had the luxury to have a room setup where there were no objects between the two speakers, and electronics placed to the right side wall. It sounded good, and imaging was good too. Wall treatments behind the speakers and on the wall between them definitely helped. Moving the speakers in large steps help get to the imaging ballpark. Then moving them in inches gets them very close top the goal. Finally moving them fractions of an inch zeros the imaging in, between the gross hole-in-the-middle, too-wide-apart locations and the collapsed soundstage of too-close-together locations.

jgossman
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I've often thought the same thing

I've recently moved my equipment off to the side and moved my speakers well out in to the room in accordance with the Golden Ratio placement theory as suggested on the Cardas website.  It works very well.  It's a good idea to mark your floor with some tape and only move your speaks out for listening, especially if you have a spouse.

While it really does improve imaging, it really ensures better tonal balance and timbre.

Don't be afraid to experiment.

dbowker
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It's Obvious- and not wrong

We are not talking about light on a screen. Imaging is purely happening in your mind via your ears. Stuff between speakers, assuming they have some breathing room is really not a real issue.

But the obvious reason is to set up a stereo system not between your speakers requires roughly twice as long speaker wire (assuming it's of setup is off to the side). Since most high-end systems already pay pretty penny toward wire, I for one would think hard about doubling that cost.

It also ends up taking up twice the space: speakers taking up most of one wall (if you are trying to keep the space between open), stereo gear taking up a side wall. It's hard enough with WAF, or just having the open space itself, to get a decent triangle setup and a dedicated listening room. Now you are claiming it's far better to be even less efficient with floor space? That's not the real world, even in the already fuzzy world of audiophiles.

Plus- your theory is just that: a musing only, with no proof or evidence to back it up. The variable effecting room acoustics are a subject in itself for sure. But equipment in between speakers is no more or less a problem than any other factor in a given room.

Infinity_IRS
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I would agree; stuff between speakers interfers with radiation

 The stuff between the speakers interfers with sound radiation by creating a hindrance or obstacle; thus reducing overall imaging.

Just my opinion. 

dbowker
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Yes and No

Again- having just blank space won't be better either. You'd need to have something there to absorb reflections too. My take is some randomness in the room is a good thing to break up larger refractions etc.

If the speakers are very close to the equipment and you have a big boxy cabinet you may run into trouble- just like having speakers near side walls.. But often racks are quite open so that's not going to be a big deal. Remember again most of the imaging takes place where you are sitting: it's the left and right sound waves mixing and hitting your ears. The "imaging" as you perceive it isn't actually happening up the speaker/gear end of the room. That's just an illusion your brain is tricked into thinking.

Real imaging at a live concert is of course happening at the point of each instrument. Stereos are merely trying to make you think that's happening in your room. 

Mercury
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Reflection not "projection"

I resently did this, everything but the poweramp is now hanging on a solid wall, sitting on welldamped shelwes. This includes ofcourse turntable, riaa, preamp and powersupply. Then driwing my poweramp balanced. the amp on damping podium sitting on the floor. The effect is rather dramatic. First i had to alter the oading of my cartridge to get more natural timbre, but then the magic happend, the soundstage is now truly 3-dimensional and som kind of "fidly-fudly-grumpy" "gray/brown" noise has left the builiding and now i have a much more transparent image, better dynamics and a better allower midrange.

 

The problem i think is not what the treadstarter is trying to explain projection, but reflection from the items standing betwen loudspeakers and the sound itself producing vibration in the items, vibrations that manufacturers try to avoid.

 

best regards Asger from Copenhagen.

Doctor Fine
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It's not in my mind---it's in the room

dbowker says:

"We are not talking about light on a screen. Imaging is purely happening in your mind via your ears. Stuff between speakers, assuming they have some breathing room is really not a real issue."

Actually I have argued that stuff between speakers has an unbelievable effect on imaging.  Everything from your nose forward...  And even that door you left open to the next room, haha.

The problem is you have to move everything out of the line of fire FIRST (except as noted, perhaps a few wall mounted sound absorption/diffuser treatments) BEFORE you will be able to hear that even that small sub near the front speakers is messing with the TREBLE soundfield because it is a box reflecting stuff in the soundfield.

In one room that had a fireplace, simply putting the mesh fire screen over the opening ruined the imaging.  And believe it or not changing the toe in of the power amplifiers sitting on the floor changed the midrange and treble being reflected to the listening position.  Because they were part of the soundfield.

These effects were tracked by using ears---which even  visiting  non-audiophiles agreed it was obvious.  Professional room tuners like Bob Katz, mastering engineer, do it by checking the room response using fast fourier analysis and other tools.  Experience shows that improvements by paying attention to room reflection from everything in front of your nose---can pay off more than switching between different grades of power amplifiers, or different speaker wires.  Way more than you get out of simply spending money, in other words.

Bob Katz actually wrote the book on what mastering engineers do so that they can hear whether or not a record is "finished" properly.  He is the go-to guy for audiophile recordings and has a world-wide reputation for being par excellent at room knowledge.  His own room HAS to have equipment in it but he put it on rollers at the side and keeps a few things at foot level so that nothing is in front except the mid field speakers he uses. 

In addition to reading books seen in the pages of Stereophile like "Get Better Sound" by Jim Smith, I wonder why more attention is not paid to the mastering room designers.  These guys are US but armed with making things work...  Or they don't get PAID, haha.

And what Bob Katz has to say all jibed with my own experience selling and installing high end equipment.  Until I went to look at the systems pictured up here on Stereophile.

So I just HAD to be a jerk and ask the question:  Why do the guys on Stereophile set it up WRONG.

Thank you for the comments.  ALL of them.  I can see some folks have actually experimented along these lines already, but not everybody is a believer in---the room comes first...  And get that JUNK out of here, it is in the way, haha.

dbowker
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Maybe

"Thank you for the comments.  ALL of them.  I can see some folks have actually experimented along these lines already, but not everybody is a believer in---the room comes first...  And get that JUNK out of here, it is in the way, haha."

I think it's not that we don't "believe"that the room comes first, but very few people have the space, first and foremost, nor the means, or the desire to set up what would basically be a listening studio. But who wants to hang out in a studio? Not me!

I want to live in my house, and live comfortably. When I listen, as often as not I'm reading, having a drink, or have some friends over. The last thing I want is to have to have this perfectly "open", acoustically treated lab space to hear my "perfect" sound. And I tend to like a kind of Zen look too!

If a stereo can't sound pretty damn great after you spent $10-15k (or even a lot less) on it in any average room, then you have wasted your money. Sure, you can have an especially bad setup, and I've seen plenty. But if you know you have a certain space to deal with: build your system to work with it. If you can pull a few things out and re-arrange, by all means do so.

But I don't buy that one has to go to extraordinary means to have a well thought out audio system sound great. Anything that takes that much effort and I think you may be in danger of having lost the point: to enjoy the music, not just marvel at the sound.

Doctor Fine
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Space, means and desire?

OK dbowker WHY don't guys have the desire?  You say it all would look like a recording studio and mess up the looks of the room.  I say things might even look prettier in those rooms if they would take my suggestion and try moving out all the clutter of amps and stuff and go hide it. 

Everybody obviously already has the space.  Go look at the pictures of everybodies rooms.  They are setting things up and taking up space already.  I just say it is the WRONG space.  So I respect your opinion but I don't buy it. 

So it comes down to means and this is the part that drives me nuts.  Guys will spend a half million on a Ferrari and NOT learn how to drive it.  So it sits in the garage.  Guys will spend twenty or thirty thousand (or MUCH more) on their prized stereo and NOT learn how to set it up.  So the stereo sounds simply awful.  Believe me I sold this stuff for forty five years and my rich customers were all the WORST about setting things up and their sets all sounded like do-do.

And it drives me nuts because the stuff is amazing when a master set up guy gets through fixing all the obvious problems with how it is placed in the room.  And if some guys are unable to find (or afford) a set up guy to pay for his skills they can all ways learn to do it themselves.  For starters you could try the Sumiko Method of speaker placement (go look on audio asylum for details).

Getting your speakers to achieve "room lock" takes a little sweat but probably won't be much different from where they already are if you at least have them in an equilateral triangle in the first place.  And if you don't how on earth are you listening to stereo records.

For illustration I also build and race motorcycles and the best investment I have made at age 64 is more driving lessons.  I am so glad that the track racing pros will share their knowledge of high performance driving techniques as it makes me way more capable on the street, much less at high speeds on the track.

So please forgive me for not agreeing with your reply.  At least you were interested enough in the question to argue that it is not possible to actually fix your stereo.  I can respect that.

I just don't believe it.

dbowker
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One more point.

You're assumption, probably true in some cases, is that if the setup looks bad to you, it must sound bad to everyone else. Not always so my friend. Often not so actually!

In any case, my setup sounds great, and the few issues I have with it are almost entirely due to the room being a few feet two small in each direction for full-range speakers. This is not even evident in most of what I listen too, just certain albums really. So for all intents and purposes: no problem, despite the fact I have verything set up between the speakers, etc.

In the end, if the owner isn't complaining, there is no problem; not really. If the setup looks just plain bad, or boring, or ugly on an easthetic plane, then personally I'd say that is as bad or worse than a slightly less than optimal acoustic configuration. To me, why spend all that money to get great sound and have the room look pathetic? And there are plenty in the Galleries, sad to say. But if it looks nice, is comfortable and sounds good to the owner (and circle of friends and family) then I can't see the isssue here.

geoffkait
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Messy rooms

You go in and help clean up and organize the room and slowly but surely the sound improves. It can be very satisfying, the effort involved notwithstanding.  But sure as the sun sets in the West, come back a couple weeks later and the room is a mess again and the sound is back to the same old generic, unlistenable state.  I learned my lesson, I don't do that anymore.  :-)

Glotz
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Every room is different, and so is every listener.

What is okay for one person in terms of listening enjoyment and ergonomics, may not be okay for another. 

Yes, I have always agreed that equipment between the speaker planes is not a good idea, but with treatments and/or some distance, some rooms there is not much of a detriment (with equipment between).  A great way (for ME) to check is to assemble equipment on a short, wide low-boy to experiment.  I've had friends drape cloth wall hangings over their tv when strictly listening to music, etc. 

It all depends on the room and the need of the owner.  There are no hard, fast rules.  Every environment is utterly different.  Tools are there to tweak results in your favor (unless you believe its all bullshit- then NOTHING works best).

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