Speaker Placement: Stereo Positioning
An often overlooked aspect of making a sound system sound good/maximized is the placement of speakers. Believe it or not, where speakers are placed within a room can have tremendous effects on the overall sound; for better or worst. Most often, people will place their speakers in areas where they look the best, compliment the room, or are out of the way and justifiably so. There are probably only a few of us out there that would place a speaker in an optimum position even if it, let’s say, blocks the entrance. However, room aesthetics need not be sacrificed for ‘better’ speaker placements. In many cases, the slightest angle movement can have huge performance effects.
At Center Point Audio, we will always tell you to adjust your system to sound good to you. But there are always a few tricks to perhaps squeeze out a little extra sonic goodness from you system. In regards to speaker placement, a few moves and maybe a little room re-arranging can unleash some of your systems hidden potential. It is like decorating a room/area but the decoration is mostly unseen yet greatly heard; except for the actual speakers themselves.
Speaker placement has no favorites. All speakers’ sonic performance is affected by their placement no matter how big or small they are. In this article, we are mainly referring to speakers that are separate from the amplifier/output source. If you have a boom box, or the equivalent thereof, you are going to be fairly limited because of the unit’s permanent design; i.e. the speakers are in a fixed location at all times. But if you have speakers that you can move around independently, you are in luck. Let’s begin with stereo optimum placement.
Do you remember what an equilateral triangle is? It is a triangle that has 3 sides of equal length. This handy, dandy bit of geometry is great in helping you align your speakers for an optimum stereo positioning. Please review the image on the right:
By making the distance between the speakers and each speaker to you (the center listening point) the same, you have made an equilateral triangle. This stereo set up ensures that the sound from each speaker has the exact same distance to travel to reach you. So any balancing differences heard is a product of what you are listening to and not a physical byproduct from a misaligned set up. Getting the distances between you and the speakers the same is a great start but you can still elaborate the details to squeeze out more goodness.
Now that we have our equilateral triangle happening we have one more aspect to review: speaker angles. To complete our sweet stereo positioning we need to make all of the angles between each piece the same. Pictures convey so many words. Please review the image below:
As you can see, the listener and the speakers all share the same face angle. Although this is the optimum listening and speaker positioning for stereo listening, not everyone is comfortable locking themselves down to one specific listening point. The center listening point is the ‘optimum’ point but it is not the only spot that your system can sound good. If you move, the sound isn’t going to disappear.
Lastly, let’s talk about speaker height in relation to the listener. Speakers should be placed or suspended at the ear level of the listener to begin with. With large speakers, or large distances from listener to speakers, placement should be around +/- 1 foot from ear level. Please note that some speakers are design to face you at certain angles or to be mounted at certain heights in relation to the listening level. Typically, the manufacture of the product will specify or recommend the preferred facing angle if there is one. The reason for this is so that you get the full blending of all reproduced frequencies coming off the speaker; many speakers have more than one driver that produces frequencies within a set range. In the event that you need to place your speakers higher/lower than ear level, if possible, angle the speakers so that their face is “looking” at you. Although not ideal, this technic will provide better blending results versus having their faces parallel to the wall.
These tips should get you going and give you a project to have fun with.