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views for hobbyists
how come that some people are complaining about a hole in
They better check the functioning of their own audio sets first, and read this page.
WHERE TO START READING ABOUT THE WHY AND HOW
There's no greater joy than to have
well positioned speakers.
DO YOU NEED NEW SPEAKERS?
Every time people talk to me about their intention to buy new components, I always ask them what gave them the idea that made them want to buy a new amplifier, a new set of cables or - in this case - a different pair of loudspeakers. Almost in every case there is a good reason to question their motives.
their motives justify the expenditure of new components? Maybe.
CHECK THE FRONT END FIRST
goes without saying that it is always right to ask about the equipment. It is
important to know how the signal is managed and also how the components and loudspeakers
are placed in the room.
The advice on this page is there to give you some insight and to stress that a less than optimum sound reproduction is not necessarily the speaker's fault.
WHAT ABOUT THE POWER AMPLIFIER?
order to achieve maximum sound quality it is not sufficient to look at the front
end. Also the design of the power amplifier should be considered. In that case
we have to look at Watts, current and stability. And we should consider the phase
pattern if two amplifiers are being used in a bi-amping configuration. Power amplifiers
should have identical phase patterns/characteristics. And a preamplifier should
well match the phase of the power amplifier. If not it is possible that a slight
phase shift will limit the fidelity in the top of the frequency band and thus
will inhibit the slam and the clean detailing of complex sound structures. You
all know from experience that the same preamplifier functions better if connected
to power amplifier X and does perform less well with power amp Y. There are a
few things to consider:
Did you pay enough attention to the interconnects between components? And what about the loudspeaker cables? Do they transmit a well balanced, well extended frequency band? If not, get better cables first.
ROOM: SHAPE, SIZE AND FURNITURE
there is the room you have positioned the speakers in. First
of all we have to take the size of the room into account. It should be large enough
to enable low frequency information to unfold. Then the shape is important. Is
the room long and narrow? Is it a square? Is it a large room? And how is it damped
by furniture, carpets, wallpaper, paintings, shelves with books and records. And
what are the actual positions of the speaker systems?
do you get when the loudspeakers are well positioned: |
SPACE VERSUS HARMONICS
Although there must be only one right position for your loudspeakers in your specific listening room, providing maximum stage, with good transients, it is not always easy to obtain these qualities.
Even professionals can have trouble in getting it right. When the German magazine AUDIO (May 1996) tested Wilson's Grand Slam loudspeaker systems and Mark Goldman from Wilson had positioned the giants as they should be (so he said) and had marked the spots with tape, the AUDIO journalists were not entirely happy with the stereo image's depth and width. After Mr. Goldman had left Germany, the AUDIO staff let the tape where it was but changed the position of the speakers in order to get a better and beautiful sound stage while retaining an impressive reproduction. This of course also illustrated the subjectivity of the listening experience. Many times I have adjusted the speaker position in the listening room of a music lover and many times I had to come back to make the adjustments anew, because the owner had changed the position thinking to improve the sound, but could not get that beautiful image back.
again: Quite a few music lovers do not give the loudspeakers the attention and
care they really deserve - although they think they do!
all loudspeaker systems have the units placed in line, but only high price cabinets
are configured to mirror each other. Take care that the tweeters are always on
the inside. Not doing this will prevent the high frequencies to connect. The delicate
frequencies will be blurred by the longer waves of the mid range units and or
low mid transducers. The sound will become dull and it is difficult to realize
a perfect stereo image. Even at the CES of 2006 in Las Vegas there was at least
one manufacturer who had placed his expensive high end cabinets in such a way
that the row with mid range units was obstructing the sound of the tweeters which
were positioned at the outside.
POSITION OF THE TWEETERS
seen from the front it does not seems to be important to place a-symmetrical enclosures
with the tweeters positioned in the inside. But when looked at the radiation pattern
of the enclosures positioned with the tweeters to the outside, it is clear that
the lobe of the low-mid frequency unit is obstructing the radiation coming from
the tweeters, though it might seem not too severe. Nevertheless the better connection
between left and right gives the best sound stage. The enclosures with the tweeter
in the middle are symmetrical. There the radiation in both the vertical and horizontal
planes are optimal. Although these drawings may seem just looking at the best
placement in a theoretical way, you will see by experimenting that you will find
the best sound stage when the tweeters are positioned inwards. What counts for
the tweeters, also goes for mid range units if they are placed towards the edge
of the baffle.
This article describes the best setup for a pair of stereo speakers in your private listening room. When using monitor speakers in a studio, the positioning of the tweeters as indicated above, does not apply to monitors if these are inclined somewhat. In that case the tweeters should be at the outside.
If the loudspeaker system has one or two woofers in one side panel, be sure to place the cabinets in such a way that the woofers are at the outside of the sound stage. If you do not, the waves of the woofers will deteriorate the sound of mid range units and tweeters.
So initially all things depend on the designer of the loudspeaker system. Did he in his concept give bloom to violoncelli and violins, and enough weight to tubas and trombones? What about the possibility to provide a sharp and fast drum? And what are the dynamic capabilities of the lower mid section? After all the most important part is the region of 200 to 400 Hz. where the entire weight and the most power of the whole orchestra or jazz band comes into action. No designer in his right mind would neglect this fact.
what about the rendition of the lower frequencies under 100 Hz. In that region
most designs for the average consumer do badly connect with the room.
reflex systems have the advantage of being fast (and do not need powerful magnets),
but the bigger designs often have a bass that is not easily controlled in every
listening room. Fortunately nowadays many small 2-way bassreflex systems have
an early roll-off and are at the same time quite dynamic.
In certain cases it can be beneficial to add panels to the baffle if the distance to the back wall is too long. This improves the midband and makes the instruments more tangible.
If you are not happy with your speakers I won't keep you from going to the shop and inquiring about the model that you read about in the review. But if the reason for the change is that you cannot get the sound right with the speakers you actually own, then you should read on before you go shopping.
Bear in mind that there is a chance that you will not easily get the full benefit from a new pair of speakers if you have not exercised and tried your old speaker's potential to the full. It therefore is advised that you give your current speakers the attention they deserve.
My record collection
is growing and growing. Once in a while I have to put extra shelves along one
of the walls of my listening room. Of late the growth factor has been rather high.
The result is that I became more and more unhappy with the sound that my speakers
were producing. The
extra record storage had changed the position of my speakers without moving them.
speaking changes also can be brought about by a plant that is growing out of control
or by adding a large painting or two to your collection on a wall. (Do never ever
put plants in between the speakers or right behind one or both if you want the
maximum of stage.) A new piece of furniture or a slight rearrangement of chairs
also suffices to disrupt - although slightly - the familiarity of the acoustics.
Even a little table in front of your listening chair does impair the stereo image
and the correct flow of the sound.
the space as open as possible. Finally an unfamiliar sounding could be brought
about by the fact that one or both speakers were slightly moved when the room
was cleaned. Even
worse is of course a smaller or larger table reflkecting and redirecting the soundwaves.
Or a plant distorting the image. And do not forget that the components placed
in between speakers also have their benificial and most of the time detrimental
is of the utmost importance to take the shape of the room into account.
smaller rooms - like mine for instance which measures in centimeters the well
appreciated 360 (W) x 610 (L) x 255 (H), a shoe box so to say - small speakers
can attain an extremely high performance not only as far as the extension of the
low end of the frequency band is concerned. By trying to regulate the best position
it is possible to create a realistic sound balance.
TWO VERSUS THREE SPEAKER CABINETS
Super Audio Digital Disc and the new formats which are being developed to give
a more precise high resolution audio, make it possible to have a center channel
as was originally recorded by the
Mercury Living Presence
team and proposed by C. Robert Fine. These recordings were also monitored on three
loudspeaker systems. The insertion of a center channel and a center speaker may
ask for a somewhat wider positioning of the left and right loudspeakers. In that
case a narrow room does not allow the speakers to be positioned along the shortest
wall. With three speakers the placement should be along the longest wall of the
room. And there are two possibilities. One very straightforward as will be explained
later, And the other the old fashioned way of angling the speakers so that the
drivers are angled towards the listener(s) ears. See also
the physical properties of the cabinet (if it is a modern item), complaints are
often heard that they do not sound at all what the reviewer was raving about or
the manufacturer's brochure so eloquently promised. Sometimes loudspeaker systems
are demonstrated in a shop while standing in a row with many other speakers. And
of course the sound is completely different from what it should be.
count a few strongly high-end oriented audiophiles as my friends. They modified
a commercial model by shortening the vertical distance between the tweeter and
woofer by more or less eliminating the baffle and without redesigning the filter.
As an extra they placed the small enclosures far away from walls and corners.
I often ask a prospective buyer who asks for advice to make a drawing of his listening room and let him indicate furniture, equipment, loudspeakers, etc. and I discuss with him the layout. It can be necessary to add some damping on the walls in the form of panels, a few square feet of carpet halfway the room and a piece on the back wall, and probably in one far corner as well. Nowadays the fashion is to put just a few pieces of furniture in the room as if it were a museum of modern art. Such a room will behave badly.
drawings that accompany this article show some solutions that can give you
an idea of how the frequency characteristics of the room and of the speakers can
be compensated for by adding damping panels (dp) to the left and right of the
loudspeakers and in the corner to the left of the listening chair where the front
end is located (record player, CD player and pre amplifier). The power amplifier
is placed between the loudspeakers as is the custom nowadays.
It is not what you have got, but what you do with it,
Many years ago Farad Azima of Mission Electronics came to our country to introduce his Mission products for the first time. He set up a demonstration for an audience of over a hundred audio dealers. The Dutch importer had positioned the new Mission speakers on tables placed many feet apart so that the entire audience could see and hear the loudspeakers. Without hesitation Farad Azima took the two 770 speakers and put them right down on the floor, the distance between the speakers being not more than about six feet. The 770's sounded like music: harmonious, with remarkable transient response and extended frequency band. (I must add that the 770's had quite a remarkable and generous low end which was of great help of course.) Everyone was amazed. In order to let over one hundred audio dealers hear the music, most people had thought that it would be necessary to put the speakers on stands that were high enough to overlook the room and that they should be positioned at a great distance from each other in order to create a large stereo image. That proved to be a misconception. Many music lovers place their speakers much too far apart.
care that the fronts of the speakers are exactly on the same imaginary line, a
line which is perpendicular to the walls (refer to the drawing at left). The distances
to the walls on the left and the right should be about the same.
FIXED FREQUENCY CHARACTERISTIC
The starting point is a complete loudspeakersystem having a crossover with fixed frequency settings, calculated slopes and levels. Both the dynamics and the frequency curve of such a system are determined during manufacture. Once the best placement is found, no further change by shifting the cabinets even half an inch is not necessary, unless the speakers were new and needed a burn in by feeding the systems with balanced music and from time to time administurning high current. When a friend of mine bought a new car he was very claever in driving it in the first weeks. It was advised not to drive the car beyond the advised speed limit. But the friend took the liberty to exeed that limit from time to time for only short periods. Thus the engine of the car did not become lazy. The same method can be advised for a loudspeaker system. Listen to all sorts of music and at reasonable levels. But do exceed the normal level of say 84 dB once in a while. After the speakers have been burned it it could be necessary to readjust the distance but by only a few milimeters of the distance to the back wall and side walls. Or maybe not.
SPEAKERS WITH ADJUSTABLE LEVELS FOR MID RANGE AND HIGH FREQUENCY UNITS
Placement can be less easy if you own loudspeaker systems with adjustable levels of mid and high frequency units, systems like Infinity, JBL and to a lesser extent Yamaha NS 1000 and the like. It all depends on the number of dBs and on the overall sound characteristic of the design. In thas case the well functioning depends specifically on the level of the mid range units. Every time after hangng these levels it may be necessary to increase or decrease the distance between the speakers in order to get the best sound stage with the best width and depth.
said, the ideal listening room has the shape of the best concert halls in the
world: the shoebox.
you have determined a basic position for the speakers, you can start by slightly
increasing the distance between the speakers and place them also closer to the
you are a newcomer to the art of adjustment you will learn that the ideal position
is not reached in a few minutes or half an hour. Even if you think that it is
right you may find the next day (ears relaxed) that it does not sound right. So
take your time. It may take several days.
the speakers farther from all walls gives a leaner bass. If you want more support
from the lower frequencies from the side walls and will put the speakers closer
to these walls, then you have to put them also closer to the back wall at the
same time. In practice this means that there is a line at 45 degrees (refer to
drawing) along which the speaker can be moved to and fro.
LP & CD
people think that CD is superior in establishing a real to life sound stage with
height and depth. Due to the troubled manufacturing process of analogue Lp's with
tape copies, matrix production and great numbers of Lp's being pressed from one
matrix, this is often true. Many music lovers think that Lp's are not able to
deliver the same quality of stereo image and depth. But there are a lot of Lp's
that do and that is why they are so much in demand.
author probably did not have his speakers well adjusted and blamed the Contemporary
and Atlantic technicians and producers for the misalignment of his boxes.
If you still
do not get the sound picture in your living room right, then it is likely that
you have overlooked a very important aspect of how to bring the stereo image to
life. You may have overlooked the nature of the vertical aperture of your loudspeaker
systems. It all depends on the dispersion characteristics. A 2 way system with
a tweeter beneath the low midrange driver may have a loop that is directed upward.
Short loudspeaker stands can be used. A d'Appolito-design has a loop that is pointing
straight at you. In hat case your ears should be at the tweeters' height. For
big loudspeaker systems the same is not always true. If you have placed the speakers
and your listening chair at the correct height, then you should take care that
the tops are perpendicular to the back wall. You can check this with a spirit
will never get the right image if the speakers are not facing you exactly in the
same way. Adjusting the spikes of the stands will help you in leveling the cabinets.
order to see if the height is correct you can adjust the angle of the speaker
by putting a piece of wood underneath the cabinet at the back and listen again
to know if the sound stage is improving. You can determine if you should change
the height of the stands and to what extend.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
general rule is not to place the speakers too far from each other. Always connect
the mid band acoustically, no matter what size and shape of room you have. That
is the most important issue. From there you can gradually adjust the distances,
in very small increments. By adjusting the positions, you will learn about the
nature of the loudspeaker system, about the positive and negative effects of you
listening room. After some time you will discover the best position. That is the
position which gives space, depth, which will improve focus. You will discover
the acoustics of the hall or studio where the recording was made. You will also
discover that mono recordings have a stage as well and that the sound is positioned
in the center.
© Rudolf A. Bruil - Page first published on the www in August 2001, and updated since.
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