There are many ways to upgrade an audio system from buying a new turntable or tonearm to installing different cables or an outboard DAC. In most cases, we are speaking about an expensive upgrade. Nonetheless, if we want to make the greatest improvement in our home reproductive system, in many cases, it just means proper speaker placement. Proper placement can make huge differences and it will cost us nothing, except a little time and experimentation.
Notice in the photo above the loudspeakers have been moved out into the room and angled in slightly. Unless the speakers are considered just a piece of furniture that should not be moved, this is easy to do. Moving the speakers out will change the bass characteristics of the speakers, usually for the better. The bass will be lest pronounced but its overall quality is often greatly improved. There is less chances of standing waves which cancel-out or reinforce certain bass frequencies, according to the dimensions of the listening room.
Bookshelf speakers need to be placed on stands so that they can be moved out into the room.
If they are monitor speakers such as the AudioEngine A2+’s, they are not designed to interact so much with the room boundaries, but are designed to stand an open air environment. (Even though they are marketed as desktop computer speakers they are far more than that. They are truly monitor speakers. (See Setting up the AudioEngine A2+’s.) The stands I use are the ones pictured above. They allow for adjustment in height which is critical to aligning the speakers to ear level.
However, small speakers, including the A2+’s, cannot escape an undesired rolloff in the bass region. This is where the use of a subwoofer is useful. The subwoofer or subwoofers will allow a great deal of flexibility because they can remain nearer wall boundaries and still be tuned to the overall bass response.
We are not just looking for a better position of our speakers. We are looking for the ideal placement of our speakers. Experimentation is the order of the day. However, there are some underlying mathematical considerations that do seem to apply in order to avoid the standing wave phenomenon. Let us consider a rectangular shaped listening room for example.
If we wish to place the speakers along the short wall, then Diagram A will be helpful.
The distance from the rear wall to the speakers is .447 times the room width. Each of the speakers is located from the side walls .276 times the length of the room width. Why so?
Active nodes are the main concern when placing speakers in a rectangular room. A node, or the frequency where speakers and parallel walls interact, is proportional to the speaker to the wall distance. When you use this formula to set your room up, the speakers are placed so the three nodes progress or differ from one another which eliminates any unison or near unison resonance in the nodes.
It follows a Fibonacci progression. See the table below:
|Speaker to side wall: RW x||5|
|Speaker to rear wall: RW x||8|
|Speaker to opposite side wall: RW x||13|
|Speaker to speaker: RW x||8|
The above is all theory, but it seems to work, at least as a starting point. Please note that dipole speakers such as Magnepan do not propagate from the side. Thus, the distances from the side walls to the speakers are not as critical. Experimentation is the order of the day for all type of speakers.
Do not be discouraged if your room accommodations prevent you from following these ratios exactly. You can still find the best speaker placement arrangement in your room to achieve optimum music reproduction. Take your time and enjoy your music in the process. Your ears will hear the difference and you will be pleasantly surprised.
Now let us look at some practicalities. We probably understand that how much we separate our two speakers has an effect on their overall sound. The broaden the sound stage by separating the speakers laterally. However, if we go too far we will end up with a hole in the middle and lose stereo imaging. We want the two sources of sound to blend together in such a way that we will be able to hear the separation of musical instruments while at the same time have a good sound stage which involves not only the breadth of the reproduced musical performance but also its depth. Breath and depth need to be balance.
What we are looking for is a holographic like virtual image of the musical performance. When done right we lose a sense of right and left, front and back, but gain a sense that we have been transported to the performance. If we are considering a small ensemble or vocal recording we gain a sense that the performers are in our room. We want the performers to be suspended in space. Not every loudspeaker system is capable of this type of illusion. (The AudioEngine A2+’s are up to the task.)
The critical placement of speakers can be a matter of inches. Towing the speakers slightly inward can make a big difference. This varies with speaker design, however. Some designs have already compensated for tweeter dispersion and are optimized for facing straight forward.
Should the best sitting position be out into the room? Maybe. This position will reduce the effects of standing waves. However, the placement of furniture, rugs, and wall hangings will do much to eliminate standing waves. Sitting near a wall can also be effective. in this sitting position you will be sitting behind the standing waves for the most part.
Proper placement may take time. Do not be discouraged. Every listening room is different. Each room has an ideal placement and you will eventually find it. Once that placement is achieved, magic happens. The speakers are going to sound at their absolute best. Yes, there will be a sweet spot for optimum sitting listening. But the overall improvement of the sound of the speakers will be readily apparent to anyone who just walks into the listening room. My wife walked in and said: “What did you do to your speakers? They sound amazing.” I can assure that it is not often that she considers me a genius.
The little AudioEngine speakers keep amazing me. I knew they were good, but I had no idea that they were that good.