Do they have to be placed according to serial number the way smaller models do to put tweeters on inside? I guess you would have already read that in setting them up but it was the first thing I thought of.
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To set up your speakers properly you need a sources with which you are totally familar. When your system reproduces these recordings properly you're done (although you can always revisit set up for fine tuning).
Recordings which don't sound right after this set up are just giving you what the engineer did with the recording. One of the benefits (and sometimes downside) of a highly revealing, well set up, system is you hear all the information upstream, which can include some warts. Panels can be difficult to set up properly but the things you are noticing aren't consistent with set up. They sound like recording artifacts to me.
I agree with Newbee. MOST recordings out there are not recorded correctly when it comes to timbre, dynamics, and imaging among other things. I Have 3.5's and deal with this on a regular basis. Lucky for us fellow drummers and maggie lovers, there are a lot of recordings that are good in most respects.
Newbee is spot-on with his advice. As an addendum, there are many test CD's out there that will aid you with your setup and in troubleshooting basic issues. Stereophile makes a whole series of such test CD's with very clear explanations of how to use them. You can order them through the magazine, through the site, borrow them from a friend, or watch for used ones here on the Gon'.
I agree that it sounds more like a recording issue in the case of your description, than it does a placement issue. That is not to say that you can get more out of careful speaker placement as well as adjusting your listening position.
You don't need super high-end speakers to hear the atrocities perpetrated by some recording engineers (or insisted upon by ignorant musicians). The piano keyboard as wide as a symphony orchestra, the timpani covering the entire back wall, a single flute overpowering an orchestral tutti - these are all well known phenomena even on good labels, and are readily audible on "mid-fi" equipment. They just sound worse when you upgrade.
Nsgarch - my room is 19' by 18' with a valuted ceiling and no room treatments yet. The speakers have been 3' to 8' from the back wall and 3' to 6' from the side walls at various times. Right now they are 3' from back and side. The tweeters are 11 feet apart and my sitting position is 8' from the tweeter.
Your current listening triangle by conventional standards is overly broad (speakers, or at least tweeters, 11' apart, you only 8' away from a tweeter, which means you're even closer to the hypotenuse). This will tend to work against natural perspective and imaging. I would experiment with a layout that describes an equilateral triangle at most, or even more typically with your listening position being a bit farther away from the imaginary line connecting the speakers than the speakers are spread apart from each other. If you can manage it, I would also try to place the speakers along the wall at the low end of the vaulted ceiling, so the ceiling slopes upward in the direction of your seating position. (Plus what Mthieme said about placing the tweeters to the inside if you aren't.)
Somewhere in the archives, i've posted several times on how to optimally place any speaker in any room. This is not to say that all speakers are suited for all rooms, but this approach will allow them to work as best possible given the specific conditions that you're working with. You do have to have a mono setting on your preamp though. I'm not that thrilled with Agon's search engines, but those posts are in there somewhere.
Other than that, you don't want the speakers the same distance from the rear wall as they are from the side walls. In terms of the imaging that you're achieving, Newbee was right on the money. You're hearing the imaging effects introduced into the recording via a recording engineer, not poor speaker performance. Sean
The Stereophile test CD 2 is my personal favorite because the booklet that accompanies it has pictures of the performers on location, as viewed by the microphones. This way you can listen and compare with the pictures to see if your imaging is indeed good. They used minimal mics so that you don't have to account for mixing and they tell you about the room so you know how much reverb to expect. Really cool. Arthur
Sean: Is the speaker placement rule about maintaining different spacing from sidewalls and frontwall (and floor for that matter) really very relevent to line-source dipoles, which radiate at a range of distances from the floor and have nulls to the sides? To me the most important things with Maggies is giving them some room to breathe to the rear and making sure they are toed-in perpendicular to the listening axes.
Zaikesman -- thanks for your comments. I started with a listening position that was 2X the distance between the speakers. The closer I got, the better the imaging. I had a problem with the right side being dominant and when I move back, that problem comes back. I'll try the equal distance traingle. I've tried having the tweeters on the inside and on the outside. The outside is to be best for this room. From the postings here, most Maggie owners place them on the outside except in smaller rooms.
Tweeters to the inside might be indicated if the speakers are relatively far apart, if the imaging seems too wide to you. In any case, sitting twice as far away as the speakers are far apart from each other will result in the opposite problem, not enough stereo separation, plus maybe too high a proportion of reflected to direct sound depending on just how far that was, both of which are factors that will downplay the 'imaging' sensation. It sounds as if you basically went from being too far away to too up close with your setup. Make sure that every time you change the distance of your listening position or the speakers, you reorient their toe-in angle to maintain perpendicularity of the panels to the listening axes aimed at your ears (or if you don't prefer 90-degrees, than to maintain whatever angle you've established). If one side tends to predominate in your room you can fine-tune that if your preamp has a balance control.