Big systems - Little rooms

I enjoy browsing the Virtual Systems posted online here ( and have posted my own).  I am puzzled , however, by the too common practice of placing large ( and usually expensive) speakers into very tight confines, often less than a foot from the front wall and barely more from the side walls.  Presumably the sitting position is likely against the back wall.  Many of these systems also have significant power and expensive source components.  While I may be as susceptible as most to upgradeitis, I have tried to give some recognition to the size of my listening space in my equipment selection.  Have I overlooked some new approach to managing room acoustics, or are most speakers not as sensitive as some articles describe to position within the room.  It would otherwise seem that these systems might benefit from  a bit of downsizing to achieve superior sound imaging.
Only thing you may have overlooked is the fact that many people have more money than, uh, room.
As one of the individuals with a system such as you describe you make a fair point. But if you a) select speakers that are designed to be used relatively close to the rear wall (e.g. no rear ports), and b) design and treat the room for such use (i.e. bass traps built into the walls etc) then it can work well. I suspect the latter would meet the characteristics of "some new approach to managing room acoustics" that you refer to. 

In particular as it is very easy to treat the wall behind the listener so having the listening seat up against the rear wall should never be an issue.

The opposite -- cavernous spaces with multiple reflecting surfaces, is also very common especially given the trends in US interior design (i.e. open concept) and can be equally if not more problematic

I currently have a pair of Klipsch KLF-30 speakers in my bedroom.  They're almost right up against the wall, only about 5 - 6 feet apart, they are pointed right at my bed, the room has wood paneling and no acoustic treatment. 

They sound terrific!  Do they sound their best?  Not by far. 

I'm trying to sell them and wanted to keep using them until I do.  Once I do, my Canton Vento Reference 9 DC monitors will go back in there.  They are probably "too big" for that room even, but they're better suited for that space.
Yep, it's a pet peeve of mine as well. One JBL super monitor room i saw barely fit the speakers against the wall. In another, hundreds of thousands of dollars of McIntosh gear in absolutely abominable placement.

You can treat a rear wall, but deadening it entirely so you have no ill effect from close placement is very hard to do. Also, I've not seen this. I usually see poor acoustics, massive speakers, and small spaces. Ugh.

I mean,yes, I get the desire for a full sized, 4 tower Infinity Reference Standard, I do, but in a closet? Come on!!
@sjtm The big speaker in a small room is something I am actually striving to do. I currently have an ideal monitor speaker in my small office, 12x11x9 but I am going to put a floor stander in their to join the club. I don't want a sub and I want the missing bass.

I do have the room treated and it sounds rather good even though my head is against a small wall. See pictures on my virtual system.

An additional solution to shoehorn a bigger speaker into a smaller space is DSP but I am not going to do that unless necessary. Luckily I have the ability to do a home demo of a floor stander that is maybe too large for my room without DSP.

In a fairly small room (say a spare bedroom), two main issues arise:

1. The bass response will typically have major peaks and dips largely due to the room modes being few and far apart (an inevitable consequence of the room being small); and

2. The reflections above the bass region will arrive after an unusually short time delay because the reflection paths are quite short, so the result is a lot of energy in early reflections. Early reflections are the ones most likely to be detrimental to timbre and imaging, so in a small room imo it is especially important to take them into account.

There are techniques for addressing these issues, but some of them are highly counter-intuitive. Multiple subwoofers intelligently distributed can ime significantly improve the bass region, and using speakers with good radiation pattern control over most of the rest of the spectrum can improve the room interaction up higher as well.

In this context, imo "good radiation pattern control" implies a radiation pattern narrow enough that it can be aimed to minimize early reflections, and uniform enough within its coverage pattern that the reflections are spectrally similar to the direct sound.

This is a bit different from the typical approach of using "small speakers for small rooms and big speakers for big rooms." It is more like, choosing the acoustic behavior of the speaker system to deliberately address the acoustic challenges presented by the room.



I'm on board with using multiple subs, but in a bedroom? I have one in my bedroom, but never really use it and don't have room for another (or two or three more).

"I'm on board with using multiple subs, but in a bedroom?"

I was thinking of a room that might otherwise have been a bedroom but was being used as a dedicated audio (or perhaps audio/video)room instead.   Sorry I wasn't clear!


I agree with Duke about choosing a speaker with the best acoustic behavior for the particular room.Some large speakers require a minimum amount of space to sound as they were designed to sound.No matter what is done to the room they will never sound right sitting just a few feet away.There's a reason that speaker manufacturers create different styles and sizes:)
@yyzsantabarbara and @sjtm -- why the hesitation on subs? I’d think especially in a small room you’d have a much easier time integrating the bass since you can move them to where the bass sounds best and either use some bass management (i.e. DSpeaker, etc.) or the sub’s own DSP (if it has it) or volume and phase controls to help better integrate it to your room. With big speakers you’re stuck with the woofers having to be in the same spot as the speaker, which may well not be optimal, especially in a smaller room. And, with subs you’ll likely get down to a true 20Hz, which likely will not happen with a standalone speaker. Oh, and buying monitors or smaller floorstanders with two good subs will likely be a lot cheaper than buying big, good speakers. Just sayin’.

Or, if you must buy large speakers I'd definitely use some kind of DSP.  This is just a square peg into round hole situation, and you'll have to go to great lengths and probably great expense to get it to sound decent with room treatments.  It will sound great with DSP and avoid you having to turn your room into something that looks like an adult romper room with all sorts of funny shapes all over the place.  The newer DSP devices (i.e. Lyngdorf, DSpeaker) are very good and not all that expensive. 
@soix I do not have room for subs in my office (I have a big desk in there). I am also not looking for very low bass, just more than what I currently have with my monitors. There are small floor standers with good bass that will fit into a space small as 12x11x9. I found out after room treatments that my room played much bigger. I will try without DSP first but if DSP is needed I will look at something like the following:

Anthem STR preamp

I have heard the Lyngdorf 2170 and liked the preamp section but did not like the amp section. So that unit is not being considered. Another recommended DSP unit, DEQX, seems more effort than I am willing to spend. So I have narrowed it down to the 2 mentioned above (if I need DSP).

I should add that I may wait a bit for Linn to upgrade the rest of their lineup because I need some analog inputs in my preamp | streamer | DAC unit. Linn has this in their older non-modular models. The new modular SELEKT DSM only has 1 analog phono only input.