If you don't have a wide sweet spot, are you really an audiophile?


Hi, it’s me, professional audio troll. I’ve been thinking about something as my new home listening room comes together:

The glory of having a wide sweet spot.

We focus far too much on the dentist chair type of listener experience. A sound which is truly superb only in one location. Then we try to optimize everything exactly in that virtual shoebox we keep our heads in. How many of us look for and optimize our listening experience to have a wide sweet spot instead?

I am reminded of listening to the Magico S1 Mk II speakers. While not flawless one thing they do exceptionally well is, in a good room, provide a very good, stable stereo image across almost any reasonable listening location. Revel’s also do this. There’s no sudden feeling of the image clicking when you are exactly equidistant from the two speakers. The image is good and very stable. Even directly in front of one speaker you can still get a sense of what is in the center and opposite sides. You don’t really notice a loss of focus when off axis like you can in so many setups.

Compare and contrast this with the opposite extreme, Sanders' ESL’s, which are OK off axis but when you are sitting in the right spot you suddenly feel like you are wearing headphones. The situation is very binary. You are either in the sweet spot or you are not.

From now on I’m declaring that I’m going all-in on wide-sweet spot listening. Being able to relax on one side of the couch or another, or meander around the house while enjoying great sounding music is a luxury we should all attempt to recreate.
erik_squires
I enjoy 2 optimal listening spots in my 13 feet square listening room (8 1/2 feet high)

One i call near listening my head being at 3 feet between the speakers on my desk 5 feet from the front wall.... Listening here is better than  with any of my 7 headphones....I put them definitively  in a drawer...

Other location being near 8 feet from the speakers, 5 feet behind the back wall then, regular listening position, and here the less detailed sounds are replaced by a more bass more natural event, no more like headphone but resembling a lived event...

I like the 2 positions much,unable to prefer one over the other...

Save for my embeddings mechanical electrical and acoustical controls devices, i attibute this 2 ideal position to the fact that my 2 positions are exactly in my room in the golden ratio: 1.6 or 5 feet from the front wall for the seating chair of my desk or 5 feet from the backwall in my extended chair in regular position....

8 divided by 5=1,6

I must say that for me geometry is music for the deaf......
Even a system that is defined as having a "wide" sweet spot will still sound it's very best in only one location. You can't change physics.

Oz


Even a system that is defined as having a "wide" sweet spot will still sound it’s very best in only one location. You can’t change physics.
Physics is more large than you think....

We can have 2 ideal listening spots in some room geometry....With the appropriate acoustical embeddings controls... I know i have it....

But the wideness of each spot is limited for sure and precisely located....

To create it we must use not only passive material treatment methods but also Helmholtz more refine pressurized engines called Helmholtz bottles to make the room activated and no more only a set of passive reflecting absorbing walls....I use bottles but more tubes and more pipes....This greatly help to vindicate the constraint of my room geometry in the bass domain and in the imaging domain EVEN in nearfield...

When people say that nearfield help to liberate us from the acoustical constraint of the small room it is not true at all in my experience...

Acoustic is more complex than what customers buying bass traps think about....
Well get a pair of Ohm Walsh then and be done with it. No need to fret on endlessly about this one.

Or mbl. Or German Physiks. Those will set you back financially a good bit more though.  
With acoustic controls we can accommodate ANY speakers easily in the appropriate room for sure... Sometimes even in a less appropriate one...

For an acoustician the speakers type is less important than the room geometry and topology and content....

 What we bought is less important than the way we embed it in our room.....
Even a system that is defined as having a "wide" sweet spot will still sound it's very best in only one location. You can't change physics.

I agree, but I'm talking about how rapidly this happens.  With wide sweet spot speakers (wsss) there's no feeling of a detent in exactly that spot.  In fact, it's hard to hear exactly when you are there or not. 

Get narrow directivity speakers you can get a wider sweet spot than with wide directivity speakers. My sweet spot is my couch doesn't matter where I sit.
https://ohmspeaker.com/technology/#coherent-line-source-driver

Check out the dispersion pattern on the CLS driver. Huge sweet area!  Can also fit in most any room even close to walls. 
I am reminded of listening to the Magico S1 Mk II speakers. While not flawless one thing they do exceptionally well is, in a good room, provide a very good, stable stereo image across almost any reasonable listening location.
I just learn that my low cost 50 dollars used Mission Cyrus 781 give me something like Magico in my room...

😁😊😎😎


Like the OP i think a wide large sweet spot is more relaxing indeed....Even if any "large" spot is anyway limited by acoustic laws...


No need to fret on endlessly about this one.


That is the entire point of a discussion forum. :-)

It largely depends on how rigorously one defines the sweet spot.  The position where the center image is perfectly centered and everything else is ideal is almost always very small. 

The few occasions where I thought two people could sit side by side and still get a reasonably decent image involved gigantic systems.  One was in a dedicated listening room that was over 1,000 square feet and the speakers were enormous horn systems.  The other was a set up in a conference room with three of the large Wilson speakers (I believe Alexandria) form the front channels and two small Wilson speakers provided the back channels.  

In other very large rooms, omni-directional speakers, such as the MBL and German Physics speakers also delivered a wide acceptable listening area, but, even with these systems, there is a smaller, ideal sweet spot.
I have found Thiel, Revel and Kef to have wide sweet spots. B&W to be one of the worst offenders for box speakers and Wilsons (Sophia 3, original Sasha) to sit somewhere in the B&W and Revels.
Martin Logans has the smallest sweet spot of all.
The only down side of wide dispersion is room interactions are stronger and the room becomes more important.

interestingly while the sweet spot is very small on B&W 800 line I feel like they had the deepest sound stage I have ever heard and seem to disappear for me better than anything else. I could not live with some of the other issues though and moved on. 
The only down side of wide dispersion is room interactions are stronger and the room becomes more important.

Yes, indeed, though the Ohm Walsh crowd seems to be OK with this.  Maybe because some were only omni's up to a point?
The thing with wide directivity speakers is the off axis intensity of each front speaker interferes with the other throwing the timing off to get a good even sweet spot. A narrow directivity speaker will have less off axis intensity if you cross them in front of your listening area the timing from the speakers will be more even giving a larger sweet spot has to do with time intensity trading.
Hope not. I'll cancel anyone who tries to call me the A word. Regarding rooms, I only have space for one listener...the Sanders Method works to perfection. Carry on...
My sweet spot is 6 foot wide because i am a real high end guy.
This is the ultimate reason for exploring Omnis such as Shahinian, Duevel and a few others. The ‘head in a vize’ approach is never going to be right. Like real music, good reproduction depends on the right mix of direct and indirect sound waves. This btw is also an argument against large baffles with speakers strewn all over them; a point source (Tannoy, Shindo, Duevel, Fostex) creates much better integration of direct and indirect sound as well as a larger sweet spot
Just to poke fun, I'll say you're merely a casual listener if your sweet spot is any wider than your head.  :-)

I hear ya, Erik.  Unfussy is a virtue.  But I totally don't mind sitting just where it's best to sit for the best sound experience I can cultivate.  
A real audiophile never has a wide sweet spot! :-) IME it's not so hard to get a wide(r) sweet spot by simply crossing the axis of your speakers well ahead of the sitting position(s). But what you might lose in doing so is the optimum depth of image you get in the small sweet spot.  For years my focus in set up was on 'depth of image',  to the point of distraction from enjoying the recording/music. I finally gave up on this obsession - moved my chair about 8 inches to the right. Optimum depth of issue was no longer and issue (for me) and now I just enjoy the recording. I also turned in my 'audiophile credentials. FWIW.


Anyway most speakers at any price are so bad without a controlled room that most dont even know what they miss from their own speakers...They called audiophile experience something which is costly.... 😁

Acoustic is so powerful and virtually absent of audio threads compared to electronic.... Save for bass traps or some passive material treatments at best .... And described falsely as non necessary in near listening...Total ignorance of acoustic here... The sound waves cross my 13 feet room near 80 times for 1 second...The air’s room is like a rigid tense set of strings for the ears....I can change and i had changed the S.Q. of my room with the few inches shortening of an ordinary straw... This is how subtle and powerful room acoustic is....

It is amazing....I learned that by experiments....Nothing prepare me for this, reading audio reviews for years...I dont read them at all now...Upgrading being a ridiculous obsession of the past for me...

Then wide spot or not, it is more relaxing listening a real musical natural instrumental timbre....Imaging without good timbre is like making love at best with condom or at worst clothed....


I think i just stir the pot a bit here..... Truth is a hard stick for stirring any pot anyway and better than half truth....

Then never mind the characteristic of the speakers, you must think with the room synergy with them... The speakers give almost NO sound from itself alone, almost all is coming from the walls and pressured interacting zones of the room and this is true for all types of speakers diffusion.... Even in near listening...Helmholtz science...

I never read that in audio thread why?

Consumer market electronic design conditioning.....

It is not acoustician that wrote about audio it is electronic engineers mostly... Alas! If it has been otherwise i would not have lost money and years in upgrading electronics or dreaming to do it... 😂😁😊

I will never upgrade my 500 bucks system thanks to Helmholtz....Why? The piano fill my room with his natural timbre....And no it does not come from my specific very good branded name speakers, dac or amplifier choices mostly .... It comes from my controls over workings embeddings dimensions, acoustic first and last....



I've always liked great soundstaging and a wide sweet spot in terms of tonality, so virtually all my speakers have had that feature (including of course the MBLs I owned until recently - and the Waveform Mach MC monitors I just sold were insanely good for not seeming to have a sweet spot tonally, and for imaging).


My current Thiel 2.7s with their concentric drivers and my Joseph Perspectives (steep crossover) both sound very even out of the sweet spot.


When the tone of a speaker changes obviously when I shift at all it bugs me somewhat.  It reminds me of LCD tvs and rear projection tvs, especially earlier ones, where the image shifted in contrast and color if you moved out from a central viewing point.  Hated that.  (Which is why I went plasma in the early flat screen days).


Still, I think I'm actually less dogmatic about demanding a wide sweet spot at this point.  Mainly because no matter how wide and even the dispersion, there's still only a narrow spot...really only one....where everything locks in and that's the one I'm going to sit in anyway.


I do have friends and guests who like to listen to the system when they come over, but I give them the sweet spot.

When I was using Electrostatics I had a very narrow sweet spot so when I had a buddy over ,he would get the sweet spot and I would be seated behind him.This was not an ideal situation for several reasons and I was determined to correct it. The first step was to move away from the Electrostatic speakers. It has taken me quite a bit of time and more than a few dollars to accomplish my goal of having a sweet spot where me and my buddy could sit side by side and get a balanced stereo image but it was more than worth it. Maybe in the strictest definition my setup is more a balanced stereo presentation than what some may call the sweet spot but it works for me and my guests.
There is another, somewhat unorthodox technique for getting a wide sweet spot, which works well with controlled-pattern speakers.

By way of background: The ear localizes sound by two mechanisms: Arrival time, and intensity. If the arrival times from both speakers are identical, the image will be shifted towards whichever speaker is loudest. And if the intensities are identical, the image will be shifted towards whichever speaker’s output arrives first. With conventional speakers, as you move off to either side of the centerline, the near speakers "wins" BOTH arrival time and intensity, thus the image shifts towards the near speaker, often dramatically so.

What I’m going to suggest is sometimes called "time-intensity trading", as the off-centerline listening locations which have a later arrival from one speaker compensate by having greater intensity (loudness) from that speaker.

Briefly, start with speakers which have a very uniform radiation pattern of perhaps 90 degrees wide (-6 dB at 45 degrees off-axis to either side) over most of the spectrum. Then toe them in severely, such that their axes actually criss-cross in front of the centeral "sweet spot".

For an off-centerline listener, the NEAR speaker naturally "wins" arrival time, BUT because of the aggressive toe-in and relatively narrow radiation pattern width, the FAR speaker "wins" INTENSITY!

For example, the first photo at this link is taken from a listening position which is well off to one side. As you can see, at this location you are on-axis of the far speaker but well off-axis of the near speaker. So the far speaker is actually LOUDER at the frequencies which matter most for image localization!

https://parttimeaudiophile.com/2019/06/17/new-gear-from-audiokinesis-and-resonessence-labs-t-h-e-sho...

With this configuration (and speaker type), these two localization mechanisms - arrival time and intensity - approximately offset one another, and you get an enjoyable spread of the instruments even well off the centerline like where that first photo was taken from. It’s not perfect of course, but it’s arguably about as good as far off-centerline listening is likely to get without advanced signal processing (like the Beolab 90).

The KEY to this technique working well is, the output of the near speaker must fall off SMOOTHLY and RAPIDLY as we move off-axis. In other words, this technique will not work well with most loudspeakers.

Of course the imaging will be best up and down the centerline, but elsewhere in the room the soundstage will hold up considerably better than normal. Spacing the speakers a bit wider apart than normal helps maintain soundstage width. A welcome side-effect of the speakers’ well-behaved radiation pattern is that the tonal balance holds up unusually well throughout the listening area, though a good omni will probably do better in this respect.

Here is a link to an article on the subject, I don’t know who the author is:

http://www.libinst.com/PublicArticles/Setup%20of%20WG%20Speakers.pdf  

Duke
That's a rather personal question.  I won't be discussing my "sweet spot" on an internet forum.
^^ here's a video showing how time intensity trading works.

https://youtu.be/fMwWYIESOk4
Way back in the 1970's or early  1980's, Leslie (the organ speaker people) came out with a home speaker system that had a narrow dispersion, but uniform frequency response on and off axis, and the drivers positioned so that the response axis crossed well in front of the listener even when the boxes were pointed straight forward.  The Leslie speaker is doing exactly what is shown in the video for trading volume intensity and the timing of arrival.  I thought the trick sort of worked, but, the speaker did not sound that great.  

I've tried the extreme crossing angle myself, and I did not really like what it did to other aspects of imaging, such as the sense of depth and the sense of sound enveloping the listener.  Still, it is a "free" upgrade if it works, and a reversible one if it does not.
Yes, indeed, though the Ohm Walsh crowd seems to be OK with this. Maybe because some were only omni’s up to a point?

Technology | Ohm Speakers | Custom Audiophile Speakers for Music & Home Theater


Regarding room interactions, you look at the Relative Power #s at the various frequencies on/off axis in the diagram at the bottom of the page linked to above, you will see the Ohm Walsh’s are specifically designed to address that, unlike full omni speakers.

You will find they can go closer to walls than many others for that reason, and definitely closer than full omnis like GP or mbl. Very easy to set up and get very good results though fine tuning as always will still yield improvements.


a point source (Tannoy, Shindo, Duevel, Fostex) creates much better integration of direct and indirect sound as well as a larger sweet spot

The other speakers I own and enjoy besides my two pair of Ohm Walsh are KEF ls50 (originals and metas). The Metas in particular have very good off axis dispersion and a decent sweet zone, especially for a more "conventional", though technically advanced, box design.
There are some real curmudgeons out there.   Do they even have a sweet spot?
Nice thread!  My favorite speakers so far are MBL and they sounded awesome all over the room.  I’ve never tried Ohms but should have; just hard to come by preowned where I am.  I agree with Mapman about the LS50’s.  Those and the R100’s I had, had awesome off axis response.

"...meander around the house while enjoying great sounding music is a luxury we should all attempt to recreate..."

That's what jukeboxes are for....  
Your most exacting speakers are going to be for a small sweet spot when you try to optimize for a large area something always gets lost in the translation for sure. The lost focus and diffuse sound rob dynamics, focus, and tonality.
MBL 101 are great speakers ,if you have electronics that are powerful ,yet 
refined ,you also will need $100 k to start . From great monitors with subs 
that image better then most Big speakers ,
or big Electrostat panels that may not be realistic in instrument size but 
create a very good wall of sound , everyone has their favorite audio
parameters that keep them sitting for hours enjoying their music .
It’s  far from just the speakers though ,from  specific brand audio cables ,to power cords and electronics Everything counts ,and by changing one item 
sometimes can make or break the synergy .thats why when you get it where 
Its close to ideal just be thankful for it .
The lost focus and diffuse sound rob dynamics, focus, and tonality.


Not true. You just have to hear it done correctly and well. 

You still might not like it. It’s different and different strokes......



Hi Erik,
Have you heard of the Sumiko speaker setup method? I’ve been reading/hearing great things on the web. Apparently it drastically expands the sweetspot and stabilizes the image over a wider space. I’ll be trying to execute it in the next few days.
Bruno
I know about the dentist chair scenario... experienced it with a Wilson Chronosonic/ D'Agostino / & room DSP'd.
At the listening spot everything was razor sharp at the exact dead center in the sweetest spot. After a while I wanted to relax, and slouched a little in the chair. That few inches drop in height was already enough to yank me out from the sweet 3D spot, even though I was still dead centered between 2 speakers. Also, move head 1 inch to either side, and the 3d and EQ balance just both collapsed in a major way. Those unfortunate suckers in the rest of the room suffered the same. (After a few minutes, I gave up my seat and joined the suffering team... after all, we are all suckers in audio ; )
Now, that was a super narrow and tight dentist chair! Long live DSP (preferably limited to the car industry and appliances...)Indeed, a big part of being an audiophile is to get together with your buddies and listen to the music together, and talk stories. With that type of scenario you get a bad feeling in the mouth, excluding everyone from the fun but one.My speakers are omni, I can enjoy an uplifting experience that fills the room at the sofa, the floor, in front of one speaker, anywhere.
I love to stretch out on the carpet, and watch a movie from there. From that vantage point the screen fills up the entire field of vision.. :)  I have my "home theater" running from the 2 ch stereo. With the omni speakers it gives a much more coherent immersive experience than any gazillion speaker variant I heard.In general, when the speakers on axis and off axis response are super close, then the sweet spot will be wide. The bigger the on/off axis discrepancy, the  narrower the sweet spot

To me the 'audiophile' tag has more to do with the synergy of your gear inclusive of the room delivering certain nuances that appeal to you. If you can get that plus a wide sweet spot then you've achieved audio nirvana.  I certainly get that from my Ohms.
size of sweetspot in room is just one of numerous tradeoffs made in speaker selection, setup and system building
Magico or Paradigm or anything of that ilk, as my pal Bob said, spreads the image like mayonnaise. I'm less kind and call it a bucket of mush.  I want the image to be as I recorded and mixed it. If I have that, then I have a good representation of what anyone else also recorded and mixed. No one ever recorded or mixed a singer or hi-hat with a 10 foot wide image. 

Anyone who comes to listen sits in the sweet spot while I drive from outside the sound field.

If you want a wide spread, listen in mono.
Personality, i think the self imposed title of "audiophile" is a narcissistic badge of fools. How about the enjoyment of the music?  In one of my systems I have a single seating position for me to enjoy. Eventually I plan on having the ultimate headphones....either a pair of Duntech Sovereigns or Dunlevy SC-Vs. Do I care if anyone considers me an Audiophile, HAHAHA hell no. Unless they are paying the bills I couldn't care less what they think.
I'm another Ohm Walsh fan.   

I haven't seen this mentioned in this thread, but when I go to live music performances, I rarely sit in the same spot. One gets a slightly different perspective when in different areas of the venue. That is one thing I really like about my Ohms -- as I move to different spots in the room, the perspective changes, but it does so naturally. Unlike speakers with a very tight sweet spot where the sound quality suffers radically when you move out of the "dentist's chair", I find the Ohms give me an enjoyable -- and natural -- listening experience no matter where I am sitting, standing, or even moving around as I listen.  It has become one of the favorite traits of my current system.
Your choice of audio gear plus your speakers and their placement in your room determine the size of the sweet spot. But even a wide sweet spot has a sweeter spot within it. A sweet spot so narrow that the listener is afraid to move an inch is not my cup of tea, but to each his own. A wide-dispersion set-up can be problematic as well, especially as pertains to imaging. As has been said, "Variety is the spice of life."
Erik, your description is spot accurate...I'm not familiar with Magico's but 
my Revels 206's or M20's do exactly as you've described. The reason might be because Revel works so hard at off-axis response accuracy, reasonable to me, but don't know for sure. I only know images stay fixed and focused across the soundstage sitting anywhere from speaker to speaker.
Duke / @audiokinesis Does a very good job above of summarizing the reasons why, @tazz2
I listen by myself! No one else even cares in this household...they think I’m nuts! Any how, all I need is my one and only sweet spot on my comfy sectional leather couch with many many throws and toss pillows etc. I’m fine with this. Its the same spot I sit in when watching a movie in surround sound. Everyone knows my spot! 👍
The wife, however, has stolen (I mean claimed) the recliner section of the sectional nearest my hifi. That’s where I sit to listen to headphones...😡...well, I guess I can't be in two spots at same time...but she is seemingly always there when I want to listen to my headphones...🥺
As I type I am in my chair to the left side of my family room. My college age daughter is to the right doing school work. We are both in the sweet space. The Ohms are doing their thing. She requested some Michael Jackson. I queued some up on the Squeezebox Touch. “Dad is that Enya?” “Yup”. Nice! Wouldn’t trade it for anything. She listens with me like this all the time to all kinds of music and knows it all from Eminem to Ellington. Stravinsky queued up earlier. She recognized that piece from high school orchestra.
Nice when enjoying music need not be a solo act.
" I drink alone, yeah
With nobody else
Yeah, you know when I drink alone
I prefer to be by myself...."

...and that's the sweet spot issue...;) Thanks, George.....*G*

I'd characterize the Walsh as having a 'sweet line', midway between the drivers at a right angle.  Somewhat similar as that of dipoles...
Main perceived response seems to be 'arrival times' and room reflections, which one can vary to taste with placement, furnishings, and treatments..and where one stands along that line...

Like the revered or reviled 901's, there is a point where sheer volume level can drown any sweet anything into a moot point, unless the room is very large...which I suspect few of us have to play in....but that's an atypical extreme example.

My personal issue with Ohm speakers is the CLS driver which, at the end of the day is just a dome tweeter.  Ohm suggests 'toe-in' of their L~R units, something that nudges them out of being a 'full omni' like a MBL...or a plasma driver...*S*  One has an astounding entry price with 'needs' to match, the second with its' own unique issues...

I like my dipoles for sheer 'accuracy', but the Walsh have 'stage' they really can't match.  But they are a little 'fussy', in their own ways.

Anyway...my 2 centsless....;)
J


A small sweet spot would indicate that the speaker is beaming! This is why in your example of the Sanders ESL’s...which are known to beam, that the sweet spot is small. If you listen to a speaker that is a point source, you will typically get a wider and more accurate sound stage, IME. OTOH, a large dipole flat panel, which is anything but a point source, will typically either beam information...or will scatter information from the front and the back...and again have possibly a more diffuse image. ( Plus one that is typically quite wide!)
Having owned both panels and point source speakers, depending on your room acoustics, both can be very satisfactory. Remember, when we go to a live event, we typically sit or stand in one place...and if one listens to the placement of instruments at that event, the sound source will in fact vary slightly as one moves around the venue, it will also be fairly encompassing as to the sound field ( not in any way pinpoint!) -- IME.
the widest sweet spot i've ever heard was with the bose SR-1 cinemate system. whatever you may think of that firm or its speakers, this system let me sit or stand anywhere in the room and hear basically the same stereo image. didn't have a lot of depth, though. 
On the basis that there is rarely a free lunch, it seems to me that if you arrange your speakers and room to obtain a wide sweet spot, it will be less 'sweet' than if you arrange for the one listener optimum.

Indeed the loss may well be of depth, as @emrof, above, suggests.

Compromise always involves sacrifice.