Help Speakers trapped on bookshelves

Help! My "bookshelf" speakers are hopelessly trapped on bookshelves, with no hope of graduating to stands, and I need advice on how to minimize the sonic stifling of the bookshelves. The speakers are Totem Rainmakers fed mostly jazz, folk and rock through a Cambridge Audio Azur 640C cdp and a 640A integrated. Interconnects are Analysis Plus Oval One and speaker cables are XLO ER-12. My home office is in a penthouse room measuring 6ft wide by 13 feet long, and the speakers are relegated to sit in a set of built-in shelves on one of the short walls that includes a fold-out secretary desk. Given the small size of the room (it's the only room in our small apartment that my wife would give up), there is simply no room for speaker stands on either side of the desk, where I do most listening (nearfield I guess). Therefore, until we have a bigger place, the speakers must stay on the shelves, and I need advice on positioning, etc. I've heard that packing books all around them helps, and I've tried that with minimal effect. Also, the speakers are ported, making it even harder. Help! Just please don't suggest that I disregard my wife's input and put them on stands anyway: she's currently carrying our first two children (twins), which gives her three votes to my one. One day, the speakers will be free to roam on stands, but for now I need to tap A'gon members' ingenuity and experience to make the best of this temporary incarceration.

I sympathize with you! I placed my Von Schweikert VR-1s in the bookshelves, brought them forward as much as was safe, placed different sized books on either side and placed them slightly above my ear height. I also placed the shelves so that there was no empty space above them. You can experiment with plugging the ports (are they rear ports?) with foam. Other than that, I can't think of any other way to help. Good luck!
That's a pretty small room for cranking up those speakers. Why not consider a really good set of headphones for your critical listening? Trust me when I say that if you're living in an apartment you'll definitely need them after the babies arrive and you're trying to let them take their naps! When you move into a larger space, then you can get the Totems on good stands where they are supposed to be.


I have a similar situation with my 2 channel HT system. For this type of placement, acoustic suspension speakers (like the NHT SB2) or front ported speakers (like the Omega Super 3; Wharefedale Diamond 9.1) will work best. Rear ported speakers, even with plugged ports, will not satisfy you. I learned this the hard way with KEF Q55's and EPOS 11.

In my 2 channel HT system, I have had the best success with Acoustic Research 302; NHT SB2; and Omega Super 3. The following is a description from my 2 channel HT system

... The sound is close to the sound of my main system, but doesn't have decent soundstaging. This is attributed mostly to speaker set-up ... horizontal placement on shelves inside of bookcases, sitting about 5 feet high. The speaker set-up looks like this: [o O] [O o]; with the tweeters on the outside. It works well enough as the speakers are an acoustic suspension design and can handle near wall/shelf placement. The sound has decent clarity and punch to it and is probably where most of my music listening is done.

At some point, I think that you will wind up selling the Rainmakers and pick up something designed to work well on bookshelves and/or close to rear wall placements.

Reagards, Rich
I'm in the same boat as you. I have been relegated to a small room off the kitchen (8' by 10'). I have my rig on a workbench brand desk where the equipment and speakers are on the top shelf, right above my pc monitor. So that right, I'm listening very near field (the Audio Physics philosophy really got to me) as I sit at the desk and listen to the rig. The speakers (bottoms) are 5 inches above my head and about 2 feet away. There are no shelves above the speakers and only one side way nearby.
My rig consists of Epos ESL 3 speakers mounted on Vibrapod units, Pathos Classic MkII integrated amp, Analysis Plus speaker cables, RS silver interconnects and a Arcam cd73T player. I'm very pleased with the sound. Someday I plan to be back in the living room where I once had Mag 3.6r, Spectral preamp, BelCanto Evo2 amp and Meridian cd player.
I wouldn't put books near your speakers. I would experiment with toe-in and vibration control devices to help keep the sound as clean as possible. If you still find the speakers bass response unacceptable then I would consider other speakers that work better in your environment.

good luck on all fronts!
Some very nice small speakers are designed for bookshelves (Soliloquy, Linn, Kef all make some). You may do better with these. I would never use a rear ported speaker on a bookshelf. Front ports may work.
My biggest suggestion if you insist on keeping your speakers is a really nice small sub. This will greatly reduce the air movement and vibration from your speakers. If you can place the sub in the center (under the desk?), you could get away with a higher crossover frequency (200hz?). Otherwise, you can hide a sub almost anywhere, just don't cross it over above 120hz or so.
Move. You will need a bigger place anyway. Your wife won't allow you to listen to headphones either because you are not paying attention to the kids. So the real answer is you S#%T out of luck as far as this hobby goes.
Mechans....nice....real nice.
Thanks for all your responses so far. I really love the Rainmakers in my price range, and I'd rather get a different room set-up than get different speakers at this point. Again, I consider this a temporary arrangement. As Mechans said, we'll need more room for the babies soon anyway! But in the meantime, I have to make the best of it.

I currently do lots of listening with Grado SR-80 headphones, as Goheelz suggested, but there are many times that I'd rather listen untethered.

I'll try plugging the ports (rear, unfortunately) and playing with toe-in. Keep the advice coming... I'm glad to see that some other folks are in the same boat. Makes me feel better.

Roger, why don't you contact Totem for suggestions? They are quite helpful to their customers.
The rear channels of my system are (for reasons you can imagine) relegated to bookshelves in two alcoves, which is worse than an ordinary bookshelf. Furthermore, they are rear-ported Madisound "Odins" (a 7" MTM configuration) and they are horizontal. All in all, couldn't be worse.

The good news is that when I bought a Behringer DEQ2496 Equalizer/Analyser for the front channels I tried it out on the rears. The analyser immediatly showed me the wacko frequency response, and equalization worked wonders. I immediately went out and bought another DEQ2496 for the rears.

So, I suggest you try a DEQ2496. This will set you back only about $300, including microphone.

There is always the $200 or so solution. Try a pair of basic Orb Speakers or the Nucleus Micro Speakers from Gallo. These little cubes were made for set-ups like yours and their design actually compensates for the associated room anomalies. If the cubes are not to your liking, try a pair of NHT SB-1's which can be had for under $200 if you shop around. They are acoustic suspension design and can be placed on shelves; near rear walls and perform beautifully. The SB-2's are the only speaker that I have been pleased with in a similar bedroom set-up. Then you can save the Totems for when you can use them as you would like.

Regards, Rich
Thanks again. Per Newton's recommendation, I removed the books that were packed all around the speakers and played with the toe-in. A bit better. But then I read Eldartford's EQ suggestion and a few other threads about equalization and decided to play with the tone controls on my amp (until now I thought it was a sign of weakness to even have tone controls on an amp, and maybe it is...). But I got a major improvement. In this case, it seems as though two wrongs (putting bookshelf speakers on bookshelves and not bypassing the tone controls) have made a right (or at least a not-so-wrong). Don't worry, though, I'm not going to run out and buy an equalizer, and I will bypass the tone controls once again as soon as I get the speakers out of the shelves.

Another question: would it make sense to make miniature "traps" for the corners of the bookshelves behind the speakers? The speakers are, after all, sitting in little 16x16x12 inch "rooms".
Rogercmd...Tone controls are useful to modify particular recordings to suit your ear, but they cannot duplicate the function of an equalizer. The DEQ2496 has 31 boost/cut bands vs two boost/cut filters for tone controls. If you heard any improvement with tone controls I am even more convinced that an equalizer would help. I recommend the DEQ2496 because in addition to sounding good (and not breaking the bank) it has an automatic room equalization function.
Why don't you mount them on the ceiling?
First of all, congratulations on your twins! I have a set that will soon be four and raising them and our 5 year old has been an adventure to say the least ... and extremely rewarding! I will say that the first three months of your twins lives will be the most challenging you have ever faced. Not to worry though, it gets easier from there. Feel free to email me anytime if you want to discuss twins.

As far as the bookshelf situation, the Sound Quest ISOL-Pads isolation pads may help:
I have not used them for speakers on a bookshelf. I have used them under speakers on various stands and noted improved sound in situations where the speaker and or stand were not well damped. I also used them between the sat and sub modules of my VR-4jr speakers.

Lowfidelity - thanks for keeping this all in perspective with the twin comments. I agree that they are much more important than speaker placement!

Eldragon - can't mount them on the ceiling: the bookshelves go all the way to the ceiling and the room is too small to hang them in front of the shelves (they'd end up directly above the listening position).

Eldartford - still dubious about equalization despite the effects of tone control, mostly because of the extreme skepticism or outright resistance displayed by most A'gon members in other forums. Perhaps no true audiophile would put their speakers in a position that would require equalization. But I'd rather play with other aspects for now and not add more components to a system that will someday soon be in a better space. Nonetheless, there is often wisdom in heresy, and you may be the Galileo amongst us. Thank you for your input, and if nothing else works, I'll add more hardware (it does sound like a neat toy!).

Keep the tips coming.


Well ... sometimes audiophiles (assuming that I am one) do go into speaker set-up knowing that there are major compromises to be made. The speakers in my bedroom system are on top of a bookcase that is 70 inches high. So, I would need to stand on the bed to reach the sweet spot (there is a beaut of a pun somewhere in that sentence). Without the use of tone controls (lower the bass by 2 clicks), the sound would be noticeably off to my ears. If I didn't place the speakers there, I would be reduced to a nightstand radio.

A few years back, I had one high flying cat and so placing speakers high and out of harm's way was the only way to protect the speakers. (She was impressive to watch though) My guess is when the twins are old enough to topple things over, you may need to "child-proof" the house and may consider floorstanders or keep speakers on shelves at that time.

Best of luck.

Regards, Rich
My Rainmakers are on my boookshelves and are on vibrapods - excellent!
I emailed the folks at Totem and they suggested isolation cones. Now I have to collect opinions on good isolation devices, such as the vibrapods that Ghunter recommended. Any thoughts? One would think they're all pretty much equivalent, but I know that's never the case in this world!
Try a bunch of them, as they'll each have a different effect based on your system, shelves, and room. They're not all cheap, though :)
Rogercmd...As the saying goes..."you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink".
Eldartford - Well put. Thanks for leading this stubborn horse to the water. I'll let you know if I'm still thirsty after various other tweaks.
Rogercmd...I may now be "floging a dead horse", but here is another idea. As you proceed with your room tuning and other tweeks you really need a spectrum analyser to understand what your problems are, and to evaluate the effect of your efforts. The DEQ2496 fills that need, and is a good deal if only for use as a spectrum analyser. Buy it for that reason (as I did) and let the EQ features be an unexpected bonus.
Eldartford - that sounds too easy. For now I'll use the spectrum analysers on the sides of my head - much lower-tech and no user's manual, but that's what makes this fun, right? Dead horse flogged.