Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Speaker Placement for Best Sound Quality


Most people when placing new speakers, simply choose the most convenient spot or wherever they look the best aesthetically. If you're more concerned about sound quality and fidelity there are some guidelines to follow to ensure the sound hitting your ears is a true representation of what is coming out of your speakers.

First up is to determine how far apart they should be. This is assuming you have a standard 2.0 or 2.1 stereo setup with two main speakers. In this configuration, sound that is identical in both speakers creates a phantom center, basically the sound that seems to come from directly in front of you. The sound that is different in each speaker creates the stereo field, or the sound that seem to come from either side and all around you. The distance between the speakers will affect the balance between the phantom center and the stereo field. Too close together and they'll sound mono, with no stereo component. But too far away and the center will be too quiet and lose impact.

A good rule of thumb here is to place the speakers the same distance apart as the distance between each speaker and your ears. In other words the two speakers and your listening position should form a perfect equilateral triangle. If you usually sit 3 feet away from your speakers, the speakers should be 3 feet apart. You can also angle them inwards (called toe-in) so that they're pointing at you. Experiment to find the best angle between pointing straight out and straight at you. In terms of speaker height, you should try to align the tweeters with your ear height.

Now where in the room should they be placed? Reflections from your room make up a large portion of the sound you hear, and waves bouncing back off of walls and your ceiling and floor can combine with the direct signal and cause cancellation. Ideally you'd be listening in a treated studio with sound absorbing panels placed at strategic spots. However there are some things you can do in terms of speaker placement that can help reduce these reflections. If your room is rectangle shaped, try to point the speakers at the wall furthest away. You want your sound travelling lengthwise, as this gives it the most distance to travel before it reflects off a wall. The speakers themselves should be away from the wall as well. If possible keep them a foot away to minimize reflections that bounce off the back wall and recombine with the direct signal.

Another big thing to watch out for is corners. Keep your speakers away from those nasty corners! Bass has a habit of building up where walls meet and this causes a very muddy signal. Try turning up your stereo and standing in a corner. You'll hear a lot of bass reflections which will reduce clarity and turn your sound to mush. In pro studios they have specially made panels for the corners called bass traps which attempt to minimize this effect.

Vibrations don't just travel through the air, they can also travel through surfaces. If you have speakers sitting on a table for instance, vibrations can travel through the speaker enclosure and into the surface of the table. The material and density of the surface will affect which frequencies will be affected. You can minimize this by decoupling the speakers from the surface with foam pads (there are a few companies on the market making specialty products for this purpose) or some other material that absorbs vibrations. Also consider moving them to a different surface to see if the sound quality improves.

As with all things in the audio world, the ideal setup requires a lot of experimenting. Hopefully these guidelines will give you a place to start and prevent you from making some of the big mistakes. If you remedy some of these problems in your listening environment you could hear a significant improvement and start noticing things you had never picked up before in your favorite music and movies.

32 comments:

  1. always good to know proper speaker placement, can really make you or break you in a mixing down situation.

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  2. Great write up of an aspect of speakers that people often don't think about.

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  3. I got a 5.1 set of speaker and I spread all the mini speaker around the room. Is it ok ?

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  4. thanks for this info! will be good to know when i get my new setup

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  5. thanks a lot for your swift response.

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  6. I always stick my sub woofer in the corner of the room

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  7. If I stick my head inside of my sub, could I get hurt?

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  8. I need speaker as that photo to listen the music hahaha
    nice post :P

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  9. I haven't even thought of that before. Really interesting post.

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  10. Man, I've wanted to know this for so long time!!

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  11. I had my subwoofer up against a wall once... NEVER AGAIN.

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  12. Solid reccomendations here! Thanks for the post :D

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  13. Good thing I wear headphones all the time. :D Don't gotta worry about speaker placement. Except for the R and L. Bwahaha!

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  14. I don't really bother, I only listen to music with headphones. Still, this stuff is pretty helpful to know.

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  15. Did not know this. Thanks for the info, I'll have to adjust my speakers now.

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  16. Great tips!! I always want the best sound quality

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  17. Good post, I already knew a fair amount of that, but a lot was new info, which will really help if I set up a home stereo system.

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  18. Thanks for the posts! My girlfriend and I where resently trying to figure out where to put our speakers we had them in an okay spot but now having read your post I know how to make it better!

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  19. Love this blog post! A really interesting read! Followed!

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  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  21. Good tips, never knew this. I need to replace my speakers also.

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  22. I need to buy new speakers, so this will come in handy for when I do o;

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  23. Im always looking for best sound quality thanks for the tips! "] +followed

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  24. well, really nice post... i always ignored this kind of things, but now i realize how wrong I was

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  25. nice tips! too bad i cant experiment too much in my room with my 5.1 speakers because of limited space and cable length. Sometimes i move them in the living room to watch a movie in blueray and we try to set them up correctly :)

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  26. Could always sit on a speaker, make your woman do that scene form the Howard Stern movie.

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  27. I've never really paid attention to the placement of the speakers; I also have a 5.1 set so I just randomly put them through my room. It sounds good though.

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  28. So you mean under my couch isn't where I should have put my speakers?

    I have so much to learn.

    Great tips!

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  29. Great tips will come in handy for a neighbour friend of mine who just moved in and organising a party soon ;)

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