One speaker observation from the New York Hifi show.


I was just at the New York Hifi show, and perhaps because of the size of the rooms, all speakers were toed in, and most were toed in severely. The result was very little effective imaging.  Most sound appeared to come from one central spot between the speakers.  I realize hotel rooms are not ideal, but even in the larger rooms, noticible toe ins were prevalent  I don’t believe this positioning shows systems off to their best advantage.  To me, speakers pointing straight ahead produces the best imaging.
7c67ab18 c2ce 4b45 9523 fc4a71684ce0rvpiano
If you have positioned your speakers too near the wall behind them, as many folks seem to do (from the system photos I see) I believe your observations  are probably valid, certainly are to you. However, if you bring your speakers well out into the room I believe your observations would change. My speakers are set up close to the 'Cardas' recommendations.  My imaging is spot on in all dimensions and with 'extreme toe in' superior to firing straight ahead. My speakers are 6' out from the wall behind them which is consistent with the Cardas set up however they are closer to the side wall than recommended. It is this sidewall closeness that causes some deterioration in image specificity that is remedied by the toe in. FWIW, my room, my speakers, my ears.
My room is 13.5x19.5x9. My speakers are 6ft from the wall behind them and 2ft from the side walls. The listening chair is set up at the apex of an equilateral triangle.  
How does one compensate for the seating position being slightly closer to the left speaker from the ideal equilateral triangle. That is an amp without balance controls? I have been trying to figure this one for a few days now.

The reason for my predicament is that I have a small system in my new office with 7 computer monitors. Only 2 of these really effect the sound coming from the speakers. Even those 2 are off to the side. My seating position is sideways closer to the left speaker.

If this is off topic I will create a new thread.
My recommendation is, while you are seated at your preferred spot with music playing, to have someone else position and aim the speakers for you. There is likely a position/aim that will nullify the assymetry and work sonically. Don’t forget to close your eyes from time to time while the respositioning is going on; you want your ears to be the deciding and validating referee.
Newbee,

i have my speakers about three feet from the back wall, but, because I have a large room (25x23) I have plenty of room from the side walls. As you say, the major reason for toeing in is to avoid interaction with the side walls.
Toe-in or lack of same is also very often used to tame or heighten the treble. It all depends on the tweeter’s lateral performance and how much output drops off off-axis. To some degree this may outweigh imaging. Also, I think some speakers are specifically designed to be pointed straight ahead, and some designed to be toed-in. Again, this may be related to the designer’s handling of treble output.

P.S. I agree 100% with newbee.  I can't tell you how many speakers I've pulled further out, and how many more I've wanted to (almost every photo I see).  It's really only the Audio Notes, Larsens, and speakers specifically in that camp that are exceptions...
Twoleftears,

You could well be right about distancing the speakers further from the wall, but it’s not feasible in my situation.
Meanwhile, I’m experiencing really good imaging the way it is.

Almost without exception, if you pull the speakers further out, you'll get a greater depth of soundstage.

(And for me that's important--I like speakers where the front plane of the soundstage is at or even a little behind the drivers, and where the soundstage extends well to their rear--you can actually get it appearing to be deeper than the wall behind them.)

I can actually arrest that you’re right.  A friend of mine who has the same speakers, but places them  further from the back wall definitely has more front to back imaging than I do. I was wondering why.  You’ve answered my question.Thank you.
Ironically, though, his side to side imaging is not as good.  He has only a slight toe in.  
 if I want to keep my current marital status, though,  it may not be possible for me to move them.
GoldenEar’s speaker positioning recommendation is “8 inches or more from the wall behind the speaker” for balanced bass.
No mention is made concerning front to back imaging.
Strange.
rvpiano, Not necessarily for your benefit, but FWIW as it does relate to others, re 'side to side' imaging, it is important when evaluating this to remember the 'stereo' construct does not provide for any 'in phase' stereo image to appear outside of the boundary of the speakers themselves, i.e. between the boxes (?) on the plane of the speakers. 

What does happen, which suggests to folks that sounds appearing on the outside of the speakers is inherent in the speakers/stereo signals is that these sounds are the result of 'out of phase' signals (reverse one set of speaker cables connections and watch the stage expand, become amorphous,  and loose center image altogether) on the disc or a speaker placement too close to a side wall. Such placement can not only enhance the sense of brightness which can be reduced by wall treatment or toe in the latter of which I believe is more effective. To not deal effectively with the close side wall reflections can definitely give a sense of increased stage width, but it can also increase the sense of brightness and, due to the too early merging of the direct signal from the speaker and the side wall reflection, reduce the resolution in the main soundfield.

Perhaps, just perhaps now, your friends system is properly set up and the reduced sense of stage width is as it should be.

IMHO, anyway.


rvpiano, Re GE, I find it not so strange (other than 8" does sound a bit close to me).  Bass is, to many, the reason that distance of placement of the speaker from the front  wall is important. That is a common problem we all share. But, the importance of depth of image is illusive for many simply because they have never heard it. You won't find it at Shows and rarely in dealer's showrooms. Aesthetics commonly prevent many folks from undertaking the job of developing depth of image so why should they try in the first place. They are pleased with what they have, more power to them. This hobby can drive you crazy. 
I’m very happy you brought this topic up. I never would have known why I was missing that component.  Now I have to figure out a way to not let that knowledge drive me crazy!

@twoleftears wrote: "Almost without exception, if you pull the speakers further out, you’ll get a greater depth of soundstage."

Yup!

As a rough first approximation, I have found that the apparent soundstage depth is often about twice the distance from the front of the speakers to the wall behind them. I believe it has to do with how the ear/brain system uses reflection times to estimate room size. I’m not saying that distance out from the wall is always a reliable predictor of soundstage depth, but I believe there is a correlation.

I’ve played around a bit with techniques for tricking the ear/brain system into thinking the room is bigger than it really is, which among other things increases soundstage depth.

@newbee wrote: "To not deal effectively with the close side wall reflections can definitely give a sense of increased stage width, but it can also increase the sense of brightness and, due to the too early merging of the direct signal from the speaker and the side wall reflection, reduce the resolution in the main soundfield."

Very well said.

(I suspect the seeming over-abundance of toed-in speakers rvpiano observed at the New York HiFi Show was due to exhibitors making tradeoffs involving coloration and imaging, necessitated by room acoustics. What we don’t know is, how much worse these rooms may have sounded without the toe-in.)

There seems to be disagreement over the desirability of early sidewall reflections.  One group of researchers reports a listener preference for the "image broadening" effect of early sidewall reflections.

Other researchers claim that early reflections are generally detrimental to imaging and clarity, while late reflections are generally beneficial with no degradation of imaging or clarity.

I subscribe to the latter view, so managing the arrival times of reflections as much as is feasible makes sense to me.

My preference is for minimizing the early sidewall reflections via good radiation pattern control and strong toe-in, spacing the speakers wide enough to get good soundstage width. If the room is sufficiently wide then the toe-in isn’t as important for the central sweet spot, but imo the radiation pattern control still matters (assuming we aren’t listening nearfield) because the reflections should sound have nearly the same tonal balance as the first-arrival sound. When they don’t, we can get anomalies like that sense of brightness you mentioned.

Rvpiano wrote: “You could well be right about distancing the speakers further from the wall, but it’s not feasible in my situation.”

And a little later, “I’m very happy you brought this topic up. I never would have known why I was missing that component. Now I have to figure out a way to not let that knowledge drive me crazy!”

@rvpiano, I believe it is possible to improve the soundstage depth without having to pull the speakers out further into the room. If you would like to know details, shoot me a message or an e-mail. Just so you know, it involves something that I have a commercial interest in.

Duke

dealer/manufacturer

General rule with ported speakers:
Closer to wall--better or more prominent bass. Further away, better dimensionality, esp depth.
The trick is placing the speakers in a location which provides the best balance of bass and dimensionality. 
1st, Do not buy ported speakers. Buy line source speakers.
2nd, "IF", your stuck with ported speakers? Purchase a good, servo controlled, subwoofer.
3rd There always seems to be a "sweet spot", just off axis in all "point source" speakers. So "Toe In", to your hearts content!
And since I read a little above about the distancing, I have a question. What about an infinite baffle system? Are there drawbacks to such a design? Your still dealing with refraction and such from five planes. But not that pesky sixth that is behind the transducers forward wave, "And wave diodes on four", especially if cylindrical in nature.
  Thoughts??
I think the "Periodic Baffle" utilizing charged, non-congruent planes will solve most of our "Audiophile distress syndrome" in the near future.
    Hee hee, Imagine transients at lightspeed! Delta-Y! Here we come!
In my experience it is impossible to hear anything at an audio show due to the non-stop yacking by all the patrons. I go for the tchotchkes.
If you have a small or small-medium room like me, i suggest using a sealed speaker. I am new to hifi. Discovering a nht superone 2.1 and zero 2.1 are aweone. I can place these a few inch away from wall and get amazing sound with very good bass from superone.
I have electrostatic highbred speakers (Martin-Logan Summitt X) - any  thoughts on distance from The wall behind the speakers or the side walls? And toe in?
Different speakers require different placements.  Speakers that radiate front and back differ from box speakers.

There is no universal “Best”, it all relates to the speaker type and room.

within the world of Maggies there is always debate about tweeters inside or outside placement.
Sit in your listening position and move the speakers around until it sounds good.  If moving them around is not an option, just put them where they have to go and deal with it.

Think about your room before you buy speakers.  If you are really into imaging, buy smaller speakers.  The main problems will be with the longer frequencies (bass) coupling with the walls (and anything else in the room).  I don't think it matters much whether the speaker is ported or not, those low frequencies are going to couple with the walls in all directions.  The further way from the walls, the less energy will be presented to the reflective surfaces, thus the bass will be better tamed.  If you must have your speakers near a wall, DSP may well be a good option.  Room treatments work well, but they can get expensive (and if you are forced to put the speakers next to the wall, there is a high likelihood that bass traps and acoustic panels will also be forbidden).
 I attended the NY hifi show and felt it was a shame the size of the rooms would not allow most of the systems to do justice to their potential. So much time and effort from the exhibitors with costly equipment and other than the Martin Logan monoliths in the cavernous conference room, all the other rooms made me feel clostraphobic.  I chose to sit or stand in the very back of most rooms just not to be in the face of  the speakers. 
Gotta give credit to the exhibitors , probably spent several hours positioning trying to make the most with what they were dealt.
i just wonder if the show was held say..in the Javitz Center or someplace in seacaucus with room to spare ...... nah,never mind.  I just appreciate the opportunity to see a wide range of equipment in one place.
Newbee and AudioKenisis between them have it right, in my opinion.  I've been married twice and a bachelor twice as a result, so I've had many, many chances to experiment with different rooms and setups.

If you have a dedicated listening room, understand the physical properties of sound reproduction, and have access to sound conditioning materials, it is almost always possible to gain "three dimensional" imaging.  And it is spectacular when so achieved.  But it is also "false" since we do not hear that type of imaging when listening to a concert ... whether pop, jazz, chamber, or orchestral.

Just recently I tested that again by attending a concert by the Emerson String Quartet at the smaller auditorium at Tanglewood.  We had seats in the seventh row, front an center, an ideal spot for such music but hardly an equilateral triangle from the violinist to the cellist (I'd guess the spread was about 45 degrees).  I particularly wanted to focus on separation ..... so in addition to immensely enjoying the concert, with my eyes closed I focused on whether I could isolate the instruments.  I could not .... at this distance these four folks mesh so well that all you could hear was a broadly dispersed string sound, top to bottom.

I also attend jazz sessions every other week in the area, often at a club with excellent acoustics.  I usually try to get there early and sit with friends at a table second from the front.  This is still not an equilateral triangle, but is closer (about a 75 degree spread).  Again, I listen usually with my eyes closed, as I do at home.  Here I clearly could hear some separation between the pianist on the left, the bass and horn player in the center, and the drums on the right.  Separation, a bit, but certainly NOT holographic imaging. 

In neither of these cases do I hear anything much different at home.

So while I agree that the technical aspects of being a hobbyist audiophile are often challenging and fun, it is useful to remember that if the goal is wanting superior sound reproduction of the music we hear live, a perfect listening setup is not neccesary.  The reproduction quality of the equipment, however, is.  For those of us having to do double duty with a living quarter and spouse, a "perfect space' is usually not possible.
Harrylavo,

Really excellent post. You’re entirely right.
But it’s fun trying to achieve that “holographic” imaging, even though it’s tortuous.
If you have a dedicated listening room, understand the physical properties of sound reproduction, and have access to sound conditioning materials, it is almost always possible to gain "three dimensional" imaging. And it is spectacular when so achieved. But it is also "false" since we do not hear that type of imaging when listening to a concert ... whether pop, jazz, chamber, or orchestral.


I’m always amazed by people who say live music doesn’t image. I have completely the opposite experience.
Like any good audiophile, I’ve been obsessed with live vs reproduced sound forever. I’m AWAYS comparing. Whether it was jazz in a nightclub, at the symphony, happening upon a street musician, playing my own music, or listening to friends and family play instruments, etc, I very often close my eyes and take note of the experience - tone, dynamics, imaging etc.

And I find live acoustic sources certainly image and "soundstage!"Now, of course, that depends on a variety of details. We aren’t talking about amplified rock or pop, and if the jazz musicians are amplified, then that’s not what we’d be talking about I presume.


But unamplified? Hell yes I get good imaging and localization!

At the symphony I’ve sat in many different seats, distant, mid, close.In all seats I get imaging commensurate with what one would expect from the distance. Even the more distant seats, while imaging is not as acute as close up, I can easily point to whatever instrument or section is playing "on the soundstage" with eyes closed. And distantly mic’d symphonic recordings can soundstage in a very similar fashion on my system.
I have always preferred close seats to the symphony because I love hearing the really distinct details of voices and instruments, and I get very strong localized imaging for the instruments.

A few days ago stopped in front of some street performers - sax, drums, bass. Closed eyes - wickedly dense imaging.

Even just now I had my son speak from about 8 - 10 feet away from me, my eyes closed - and the "image" of his voice was pretty much precisely what I get from my system with a good vocal recording.
This aspect of live sound is actually one reason why I gravitated to my current speakers (Thiel) which are particularly good and "lining up" the sound for really specific imaging. It re-creates the type of image density I enjoy from real life sounds, vs the more ghostly or diffuse swaths of sound from a system that doesn’t image that way.

Also, in many cases real acoustic sounds have a 3-dimensionality that surpasses most audio systems. In many audio systems the sound often seems to start at the plane of the voice or instrument, and move towards you from there. So you get all the conditionality "from the front of the sound source onward." But in live sounds, there is often (due to room acoustics) a more 3 dimensional character, like I can hear "all around" the object, a sense of "behind" the object as well, which gives that 3D aspect. In this case, my MBL omnis do much better at re-creating this aspect of live imaging than any other speaker I’ve owned. (They also image in a more precise way than many give credit to omnis).

Now, can the imaging in many recordings depart from reality? Sure. Of course. In many artificial recordings you can hear placement with precision that wouldn’t mimic if everyone were playing in a room in front of you. Often the soundstage can be squeezed smaller too.

But in general terms, from my own experience, I utterly reject this trope that "live music doesn’t image with precision" and that imaging/soundstaging from a good high end system is a departure from live sound. For me, good, precise, tonally dense imaging...even if not always a precise recreation of the event....nonetheless mimics an aspect of live sound.

That is, after all, why imaging/soundstaging tends to make things sound "more real" to us, than just a flat sound blasted from dorm-room speakers up against a wall, or whatever.

"I have electrostatic highbred speakers (Martin-Logan Summitt X) - any thoughts on distance from The wall behind the speakers or the side walls?"

Put them as far as esthetically possible from the wall behind them. You’ll get a much deeper soundstage. As for the side wall, in my experience they don’t need to be very far, a foot or two is more than enough. The panels don’t seem to interact much with the side walls but the woofers do a little.

rbodner wrote: "I have electrostatic highbred speakers (Martin-Logan Summitt X) - any thoughts on distance from The wall behind the speakers or the side walls? And toe in?"

The distance to the wall behind the speakers is ime what makes the biggest difference with dipoles. Basically, the more the merrier. If the bounce off the wall arrives too early, it can degrade clarity. Ime five feet out from the wall works well - you get a nice deep soundstage and great clarity, along with rich timbre. If you have to place them any closer than three feet from the wall, then you might try aggressively absorbing the backwave because it may be doing more harm than good. Back when I was a SoundLab dealer I had them out about seven feet, and I also liked to put a bushy plant (ficus tree) in the first reflection zone behind each speaker, to diffuse the backwave.

Dipoles can go very close to the sidewalls because they have a null to the side. Mere inches is okay.

Use whatever amount of toe-in gives you the best imaging over however wide a sweet spot you want to optimize for. The Martin Logans have a narrow enough pattern that even a little bit of toe-in avoids a strong same-side-wall reflections.

EDIT - oops, I didn’t see Kalali’s post; I shoulda refreshed the page. I agree with everything he says.

Duke


prof - well, at least we agree on the Thiels.  I'm a twenty-five plus year user of same, and their coherence and attention to diffraction elimination do pay imaging dividends, for sure.

I also agree that the Thiels, in a decent acoustic environment successfully admit a bit of "roundness" to the sound .... call it "body" if you will.  But I stand by my guns in saying you simply don't hear much roundness when listening to live music from a normal venue seating position, nor can you pinpoint directionality.that precisely.  In an orchestral recording you can generally sense the cellos and bass on the right, and the first violins on the left, but that is about it.  Brassy horns will have a semblance of directionality as will percussion, but not pinpoint definition.  As I said before, I can create it in a dedicated listening room ... it is a matter of placement and sound treatment, one way or the other, but unless you prefer sitting in the conductors chair, or on the edge of the stage, the "hologram" effect we audiophiles strive for is just not realistic.  But more importantly, IMO it is far less important than realistic dynamics and tonal accuracy in conveying the musical import.
Again, I agree with harrylavo. At live concerts, of which I attend many, I generally sit close up where one may hear the most directionality (certainly in the middle to rear of the auditorium, you hear very little.) But even in that position I don’t hear precise directionality, and still less front to back imaging.  Indeed, perhaps because of microphone placement, I get more exact imaging listening to good recordings than I do  sitting at my seat in the auditorium.
Even though my system images an orchestra better than live, it still doesn’t have that holographic effect some strive for (and some achieve.) That’s a “magic trick” brought about microphone placement.  No one sits where those microphones are placed in an orchestra.  Even in night clubs the mikes are placed in a position where almost no one sits.
One doesn’t get it sitting in the audience at a live orchestral performance.  What one does get is a more generalized sound which good stereos can reproduce.  Imaging is secondary to the overall effect.

rvpiano - Thanks.  We obviously hear things the same way.  But I also agree with your earlier post ..... it is fun to create the holography, conditions permitting.  
Regarding the wall behind the speakers. Regardless of the type of speakers the wall is a reflective surface. There will be a time delay between sound from the speakers and that from the wall. This is Distortion. If you want refined,delicate,nuanced sound,at all volumes, this distortion Must be avoided. ie keep speakers away from that wall. I like a minimum of 40 inches; and use diffusion as well to make the reflected sound-noise- as diffuse as possible. 
Re “Toe in”. Take a look at any data on speaker measurements - Stereophiles are good- and you’ll find curves showing how high frequency sound diminishes at 10/15 degrees off centre, and goes down from there. It’s in the nature of the all drivers,other than the rare omnidirectional efforts. So if you don’t toe-in, you’re missing high frequency sounds that are part of the music. People do adjust for taste; like food preferences. Speaker manufacturers primary frequency specification is for measurements made directly in front of the speaker. There’s the facts. Cheers
ptss
Regarding the wall behind the speakers. Regardless of the type of speakers the wall is a reflective surface. There will be a time delay between sound from the speakers and that from the wall. This is Distortion.
It’s really only distortion if the speaker system was designed to play in an anechoic chamber.
If you want refined,delicate,nuanced sound,at all volumes, this distortion Must be avoided.
How would you do that, short of an anechoic chamber? Or using headphones?

... keep speakers away from that wall. I like a minimum of 40 inches
Even at 40 inches, you’re still getting reflections off that back wall. I think the more important question is: How did the speaker designer intend for the speakers to be placed? Typically, dipoles are intended to be used away from the back wall. But many other speakers are designed for closer placement to the wall.

“Speaker manufacturers primary frequency specification is for measurements made directly in front of the speaker”

True statement but they also take those measurements in mono and only one speaker. They don’t and can’t consider more subjective elements like soundstaging and image specificity in any measurements. Optimum speaker placement is where all these elements are optimized as a whole and not one at a time.