Find a way to keep the proper setup (jewelry is usually an effecive bribe)! That's the way it should be!
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Once you've followed the Vandersteen guide, get a copy of the XLO reference disk (available at Amazon.com) to fine tune steup. It uses in-phase and out-of-phase signals and and the refinement of just a few inches to compensate for room acoustice can make a dramatic difference. I've been tweaking my setup for years while trying to accomodate room aesthetics, like you, and the Vandersteen - XLO combination brought me much greater satisfaction than Cardas and other formulas.
If you are in a 15"X18" room set up on the long wall you need room treatment. Is that your chair backed up to the windows? Talk your wife into some heavy window treatment and leave the opposite wall (behind the speakers) alive. If the listening seat is backed up to a wall get some commercial room treatment. I use ASC Tube Traps. They are not cheap, but they are the best.
Long wall and short wall set ups have different sounds and different presentations. The long wall gives more width and less depth. The short wall gives more depth and less width. You will have better midbass on the long wall and better deep bass on the short wall.
Once you understand your room you know what to expect from your system.
You really have no need to be concerned with side walls. With your situation you should have plenty of distance from side walls.
With the proper room treatment and furniture arrangement you may end up with a compromise that works for everyone.
Sorry. You're screwed. Room is a huge factor. Strike one. WAF is bigger- strikes, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight and nine. Side retired. You're out.
All joking aside- you may want to have a look at what Rives Audio can do for your room. Not only will they tailor it for sound, but they have some very nice designs which can substantially affect the WAF. It can get pricey, but it pales in comparison to what you've spent on your components. I do agree- when I set up per the Cardas instructions, imaging and soundstaging got much better. But space was lost for sure. My room is a disaster. Drumkit in the corner, built in bookcases, odd dimensions, high ceilings, angled walls- just a nightmare. It was suggested to toss a large blanket over the drumkit when not in use. I'm sure that will look positively stunning. You have to appease the WAF. Rives may help. You must keep that command center in place! Do not surrender! Does she not appreciate the sound? My wife at first demanded that I "get all this crap out of my living room!" When I moved to my den, I upgraded components significantly, and now she states that it's a "waste to have something that sounds this good in a place where WE (yes, WE) can't listen to it more often." Go figure.
Yeah, well, she actually volunteered to see if we could figure out how to make this setup work, but seeing as how there would only be my chair in the sweet spot, she'd be a second class listener shunted off to the side for sure. Plus I'd have to move the TV and cable, patch the holes in the wall and I'd still have to wedge the sofa back in there. While I love the way it sounds, I think I'm going to have to suck in up and put it back.
As mentioned by others, the room is everything. If you have not read Floyd Toole's book 'Sound reproduction' please do so. It will help you 'see' what your are hearing and offer some solutions. Also, take some measurements using some of the free soft ware that can be down loaded from the web. Putting an 'echo buster' behind your listening position would be a good first step. Sometimes the WAF can be accommodated by using room treatments only when you are actually listening. Look into the Acoustic Revive/Furutech stuff. As always, the 'final solution' is to get a dedicated listening room that can be solely engineered to best sound.
Ahh, so she acceded to your idea. Well, that IS a different story, especially if your room has so many issues. Can't fault her there. Room treatments, as mentioned by others here, may be the way to a great compromise. Rives Audio will do an entire design set up for you. I haven't used them yet, but I likely will check them out in the near future. They've really done some neat stuff, you can see it on their website, and some people have had them do work in their virtual systems that are posted on AudiogoN. Have a look!
You can read books to give yourself a basic knowledge, but there is nothing like trial and error.
Also, with all of the recommendations for room treatment remember furniture and window treatments are room treatment too.
If you need to buy a commercial room treatment keep in mind ASC ( Acoustic Sciences Corp) makes the best products for Recording Studios, High End Audio, Home Theater, Soundproofing, Church Acoustics, Classroom Acoustics and the list goes on. I think they know what they are doing.
I have been using their products for years and I am thoroughly satisfied.
Thanks for starting this thread and thanks to all those who replied. Very helpful info. My speakers (Totem Forests) are also on a long wall (~32" from front plane to wall behind them) in an alcove with dimensions similar to your listening space. I've worked a ton w/speaker placement, listening position and have DIY room treatments in place. I've got excellent stage width and imaging but stage depth - no so much. I hear hints of it from time to time but not as 3D as I can imagine. Could be room limitations as many have noted. Never the less, I would appreciate recommendations of CURRENTLY available CD or SACD recordings that display good stage depth. (I did note with interest the recordings you mentioned). My thanks in advance to any who take time to read this and provide some ideas about music w/good stage depth.