B&W DM302 loudspeaker Setting Up the 302s

Sidebar 2: Setting Up the 302s

The B&W DM302 is a pure high-end product in that attention to detail is essential if you're going to get the most out of it. This is true of any loudspeaker, of course, but the 302 pays a higher dividend than most modestly priced kit. First, you must put the speakers on good speaker stands—the more rigid, the better. The bad news is that you can pay as much for the stands as you did for the speakers. But don't skimp—scour the want ads and the used department of your local hi-fi shop until you can get really good ones. Mounted on such rigid stands as the British Cliff Stone Foundations, the 302s sounded more open, more detailed, and fuller-bodied than when mounted on a shelf or rickety stand.

I used a 24" stand because I found the tweeter somewhat relentless when I used 30" stands. With my ear above the tweeter, however, everything blended together better. Perhaps the woofer just did a better job of coupling to the floor at the lower height.

Always level your speakers when setting them up. In the past, I used a simple carpenter's bubble-level to check that the speaker was "on the level," side to side and front to back. You'd be amazed at the difference in clarity and focus that just a smidge of adjustment makes.

Lately, I've been using an even cooler tool: a laser-level, which is simply a bubble level with a projecting laser built in. Once I've used the bubble level to check that the speaker is true, I place the level on the inner wall of the speaker cabinet and aim it at my sweet spot. (Before I do all this, I set up my tripod behind my listening chair, using a piece of masking tape to mark the height of my ears while seated.)

I use the masking tape as a target and adjust each speaker until the laser beam hits the same spot. This is only my starting place. If I need to, I can focus the speakers considerably in front of or behind my usual seated position. Naturally, the laser level doesn't take the place of careful listening and adjustment, but I've found it helps speed the process along.

As always, you must measure the path lengths carefully, making certain that they're equal. And no, you don't have to have a laser level—string works just fine and is a lot cheaper. When I first saw Ken Kreisel use a laser level, they cost over $300—even I couldn't justify the expenditure. But Tom Norton, John Atkinson, and I picked ours up when the Damark catalog featured them at $80 each—still not exactly cheap, but too tempting for us to pass up.—Wes Phillips

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