Do any speakers image/sound-stage close to walls?

I'm about to spend a huge amount of $$ on full-range speakers, but realise from all the published acoustical data and conventional wisdom, that the laws of physics are absolute. So, in a 17 X 23 X 15ft ceilinged room, when I have to place the speakers no more than 12" from the front (short) wall, 2 ft from the side walls (for WAF and furniture and structural reasons - dont ask,) am I blowing my money? The source, preamp, amps are all superb - but what do I do about finding speakers to match? Sure, I could buy a superb $19K SP Tech Revelation or Zu Definition or Coincident Total Reference, but what about the sound-staging and imaging? Surely I'm not the only person with this dilemma, yet there are so few posts on A'gon regarding this issue, that I wonder whether the problem is exaggerated in my mind or is it just that most A'goners are smarter than I and designed their wives' furniture choices better?:) Room treatments dont help much, or do they? Is there any solution, other than moving the whole sytem to a wifeless room? Please dont ask why these space restrictions apply - believe me, they do, and the interior decorating details are not relevant here.
System: EMM CDSD, DCC2, Sota Cosmos IV, Ear 324 Phono Preamp, Atma-Sphere MP-1, Atma-Sphere MA 2.2, PAD Dominus S/C, etc.
the total victorys shouldn't find these restrictions cumbersome. and you'll get lots of bass with no sub. you may find a classic klipsch kornerhorn won't take up that much space either, and you can pocket some money. tannoy has some nice full range models that work well in corners as well.
Wilson Duette. If you got the scratch.
Toed in sufficiently, the controlled radiation pattern of the SP Techs will avoid significant interference from the sidewalls, so I think they'll give you good soundstage width.

In my experience, good soundstage depth requires the speakers to have at least two or three feet between them and the wall behind them. Absorption and/or diffusion of the first reflection zones on that front wall would probably help. Imagine placing a mirror on the front wall such that, from the listening position, you could see the reflection of the inner edge of the front baffle, at tweeter height. I'd treat the area where that mirror would be. There would be one such area for each speaker.

My compliments on your fine taste in amplification! ;o)

Duke, you truly are a gentleman! I say that because you are always so generous and unstinting in your advice, counseling and helpfulness, even when you talk about competitors' products. Would that be 2-3 ft from the front or rear of the Revelations, as they are 21" deep at the base?
Why don't you get out to listen to some speakers while taking some classes on becoming less afraid of your wife?

The only speakers in my recollection that do as you ask are the Venerable Snell AIII 's if you can find a pair buy them!



PS if you are Yarpie--I am a Kiwi as long as Aust doesn't win the Super 14 I don't care !
Bjesien, how would getting out to listen to some speakers in a dealer's showroom or a warehouse let me know how they will sound in my room? Are you dyslexic or is my English too poor for you to follow? I guess your profession is a marriage counselor? Stick to audio. If you don't have anything positive to contribute to a thread, are you so bored that you feel compelled to be a smartass just to be heard?
Hey Des, Good suggestion. Crusaders by a mile. Sharks second. Aussies nowhere. Where in NZ?
Springbok10, thanks. Good question - I wasn't very specific, and where we measure from makes a difference when the speaker is 21 inches deep! I'd guess that if you can get the front of the speaker 3 feet out from the wall when toed in, that would be great. If you have to live with less, then live with less (and perhaps you can slowly sneak 'em out inch by inch and maybe she won't notice). Okay so that won't be ideal positioning (five or six feet out probably would be), but my analogy would be a grand piano vs a little upright: Sure the grand piano won't reach its full potential unless you put it in a good recital hall, but even in a modest living room it'll still sound better than the upright.

I really like SP Tech speakers. If I wasn't doing my own variation on the theme, I'd be a dealer for them.

Team211, excellent call! It's been over twenty-five years since I heard the Snell Type A, but yup it had genuine depth of soundstage with its back up against the wall. I haven't heard its equal in that regard before or since.

Oo ho-- Carter is out for 6 weeks with sprained Ankle--

Anyway good to talk Audio with a fellow Rugby ite!

I'm from Auckland-- the shaky Blues !

Presently working in Las Vegas--got to CES this year.

Good listening.

Hi Duke,
Glad you appreciate the worth of the Snells--they were a magnificent speaker in their time-- and in spite of the Rubber surrounds collapsing!- were ahead of their time in sound quality. I had a pair Bi Amped via the DB crossover with Electro Research A75s Amps--WOW ! I've heard not much to better them in todays market.
I totally endorse all your intuitive replies to posters both here and on the AA you come across as a true gentleman of the Industry-- I hope the members listen and take in your infinite words of wisdom-- Kudos. Twas a pity I did not meet you at CES this year you would have made a valuable contribution to the grand night of excess that was the Bob Crump memorial night at the Alexis with Curl/ Clark/ Mikel/etc

Keep up the great work,

Good listening,
Wilson Duettes. Great speakers, easy placement (close to the wall), not too large and very good overall. Can perform fairly low, into the lower mid 30s as well.

Lots of flexibility with these speakers - multiple sets of cross-over to speaker cables for placement either near the wall or away from the wall and also several sets of resistors are included for tuning the tweeters to the room. I loved mine and can highly recommend them.
I've heard speakers that sound very good right up against or very close to the rear wall. But I've yet to find a way to put speakers directly up against a wall without losing something in regards to sound stage depth, if not imaging. Rear ported speakers generally lose the most against a wall I would say compared to other designs.

I have several pair of speakers in my system. The front ported Ohm Ls are the ones that shine best against the walls, but they inherently do not image or soundstage as well as the others regardless.

My Dynaudios lose much of their luster against a wall.

My small Triangles benefit in the low end but at the cost of soundstage and imaging, though not as much as the Dynaudios.

My Ohm Walsh line speakers work very well against a wall, but also still lose something significant in the imaging/soundstage department.

Of course, corner horns, like Klipschorns, are designed to go into the corners, but these are a different breed of speaker for sure!
Cain & Cain build a speaker design by Gordon Rankin called the Wall-O-Sound. It's designed to worked close to the back wall.
My dealer has wilsons close to the wall like you mention. They were actually placed there by the wilson guy and sound great. I hear he spent all day getting them where he wanted them. I'd vote again for the wilsons.

I think you'll be able to get very high quality sound from any of the speakers you've mentioned even with the space constraints you're facing. Unfortunately, I really doubt you'll be able to hear your system at its best because of those constraints. The difference can be relatively small, but it can make a large subjective difference in bringing the magic of the music into your room. I believe that matching the speaker to the acoustic environment is the most important element in gaining great sound. You're probably not going to be able to do this with any of the speakers you propose. You'll still be able to get quite good sound quality anyway.

It really would help with your series of post if you provided a number of pictures of your room.
I had a similar problem (a small room, not a wife), and settled on North Creek Eskas. They are one of the only speakers I located that are designed for near near wall placement. I suspect they are less speaker than you are looking for, and I think they are no longer available, but I enjoy them hugely, at around 8" from the wall. George at NC is a very nice and helpful guy, and I think it would be worth a call to see if he had ideas. (Also, George works with a cabinet builder, Lee Taylor, who makes gorgeous boxes -- high GFAF and WAF.)

heard tetra 606,s in same config as yours close to rear and side walls they blew me a way with electronics not as fine as mine , looking at purchasing a pair of tetra 606,s or sonus farber amati, but leaning to tetra
Pavpet, just looked them up - great reviews. Is there anything in their design, Duke, that would make them better for proximity to the walls? They are 8 ohm impedance, which is a plus. I'm sure SP Tech would also sound "great" close to walls - but better away from them. Wouldn't the same principle apply to the Tetras? The price isn't listed on the website, Pavpet. Can you let me know, by e-mail, if you prefer. Thanks again for the suggestion.
I'm one that feels speakers sound poorly when too close to side walls. There's no room to get image cues from the outside of the speakers. That's a limiter to me. I realize you can't change the room.

There are speakers that are designed to be placed against the walls - deliberately. Audio Note. Guru. Older Linn designs.
They are a bit dated but the NHT 3.3 are designed to be placed against the front wall. I believe there is a pair on this site to check out.
Springbok10, there are tradeoffs both ways but overall a dipole would not be my choice for your speaker placement. You'd have a strong early-arriving reflection off the wall behind the speaker, and that tends to be detrimental to clarity (as well as to imaging and timbre). These detrimental effects are psychoacoustic functions of how our ear/brain system processes sound, so they aren't really affected by speaker quality. I'd be willing to bet those dipole Tetras would sound significantly better pulled out into the room several feet farther, to a more psychoacoustically-friendly location for a dipole.

If a dipole has to be placed close to the front wall, I recommend either diffusing or absorbing the backwave (which works best depends on the room's acoustics).

Check out the new J.M. Reynaud EMP.
Built specifically with this in mind.
You don't necessarily have to follow all of the rules. I have a pair of Aerial 10Ts ...they are not supposed to be close to the back wall or side walls.

Due to circumstances which I'd imagine are much like yours, the rear of my Aerials are just 12" from the back wall. The left speaker is 3' from a side wall and the right speaker is 12' from a side wall. Between the speakers is a large wall unit, which the speakers are very close to.

Because of the layout of the room I am forced to listen in the near field (speakers 8' apart and I am 8' back).

The sound is wonderful. There is good depth, there is pinpoint imaging, there is a good sense of space, the bass is tight and deep, there are layers upon layers of character and detail.

Could it sound better? Of course. Does it sound good enough? You bet.

This is not a plug for Aerials, just a suggestion that when you go listen to speakers, have them put in a situation that as closely approximates yours as possible.

Good luck.
We have successfully installed many pairs of the Vandersteen
Quatros and 5As within inches of the front wall.
they both offer a built in room compensation feature that has working placement even 4 inches out with excellent measured in room response.
I work at a Vandersteen dealer as well.
Best John
I'm surprised at the respones saying you'll be fine. Fact is all speakers (exceptions Klispch korner horn)will do better at least 30" from the front wall and sides or corners.
I readily admit my Aerials "will do better" further away from the wall. But, the fact is, they sound great close to the wall.

A speaker does not have to be specifically designed to work close to a wall in order to do so. Some speakers are simply less affected by close boundaries than others, regardless of their design intent.

K-horns certainly work great in corners ...but what if you are not a fan of horns?

There are lots of options and all it takes is experimentation.
Should distance of speaker from wall behind be measured as distance from back of speakers (more relevant for rear ported designs??) or front of speakers (for front ported or sealed designs??)?
Great advice here from Duke - I'd also suggest dispersive acoustic panels on side walls at first reflection points if they are bare - you can have some made to suit whatever the wife wants - from family photos to artwork to even being creative, such as small 3" deep display shelves of different lengths to hold knick knacks. It doesn't have to be an ugly RPG skyline professional panel to make an improvement...just remember to keep edges broken up - no solid single unbroken harsh corner edges and the more variety the better. The idea is to reduce the energy of the first reflection to 10 db lower than the primary signal - this will really improve imaging at the listening position.

Wood products can be made to look nice - Wood diffuser/absorber
>Should distance of speaker from wall behind be measured as distance from back of speakers (more relevant for rear ported designs??) or front of speakers (for front ported or sealed designs??)?

The front.

An 11' long 100Hz wave coming from a conventional speaker is omni-directional and going to bounce off the front wall regardless of the direction you have it pointed in. Even the lower midrange is getting sprayed all over it.

Your goal is to move those reflections out in time (sound travels about 13 inches per second, 10ms or 11' would be ideal) and/or cut their amplitude (10dB would be ideal) with space to the front wall (and any other hard surfaces) doing both (sound intensity drops with the square of distance; so if you have 8' between you and a speaker, and 4' between it and the front wall, the reflected sound travels twice as far as the direct sound making it 6dB quieter).

This lets your brain perceive the sound as "ambiance" instead of "direct sound," so you're not picking up frequency response perturbations from the reflections or interpreting them as imaging cues.
You want wave guides/horns, light weight speakers you can move into the room for serious listening (this generally conflicts with the need to be stiff; I like the fifteen pound Linkwitz Plutos which avoid the problem with cylindrical (sewer pipe) enclosures), or on/in-wall designs that would let you get more spacing to the side walls and be designed to the bass boost they'll get.

You can't change physics.