Placement,Treatments,Extreme Science Experiments ?

Speaker Placement Room Treatment and Extremely Odd Science Experiments!! Maximum System Performance Desperately Desired!

(Note please look at “my system” when advising)

For my tender age of 24 I am extremely thankful for the system I have assembled. Like most audiophiles I still have the desire to upgrade. I could definitely use a better turntable and phono stage! I have also toyed with the idea of upgrading my interconnects and speaker wire to Nordost Blue Heaven or the likes.

Currently I have reached a point where I simply will not let myself upgrade any of my equipment before I come to terms with and address several of my other concerns. Firstly money! I simply do not want to invest any more into my system nor do I have the funds to do so right now.

Secondly, speaker placement and room treatment. I just can’t get it right!? I have read all the available forums, read Robert Harley’s book, my speaker manual and I have moved my speakers time after time.

I live in a two floor apt with two other housemates. Luckily we have a decent sized living room that has bump out in it for a kitchen and a dining room on one end. The room is a long rectangle. One wall is very long the other wall is more broken up due to the kitchen a bathroom door and a stairwell going downstairs. The ceiling is a tad lower than the standard ceiling. I don’t have any exact measurements but I could take them if someone felt it would benefit their analysis.

All mesurments are very rough here.My speakers are placed 3/4 down the long wall. The right speaker is about 5ft from the corner of the room and there is a bookshelf against the long wall in that corner. The closest corner to the left speaker is at least 10 feet away. The speakers Nautilus 805's are on the B&W 805 stands and are sand filled. They are about 5 feet apart toed in a bit and equidistant (5ft) from my sweet spot. (a couch in the middle of the room). Speakers have been 1 ft to 2 1/2 feet out from the wall. The wall behind the listening position is about 7-8 feet away from my listening position. My couch cannot really be moved back much farther due to the banister along the stairwell. There are pictures on the walls two couches and carpet over a wood floor.

Tonally I guess I am satisfied, things seem balanced. I think I am looking for more focus and detail to come through. I know it’s there!!

My Experiments: Besides hopelessly moving my speakers around I have tried other things. I tried hanging a thick tapestry on the wall behind my listening position. With the help of my housemates (who thought I was nuts!) I did some blind testing and could tell no difference.

THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE! Last night while doing some listening and tweeking I heard ‘it’. It was the detail I was looking for. What did I do to achieve this? Call me crazy… I simply cupped my hands and put them behind my ears. WOWEE! I started experimenting with cupping, uncupping, flattening my hands, and pushing out my earlobes.

Keep in mind that I am young and I know for a fact that I have perfect hearing. What I heard? Detail and Focus like I have never ever ever heard from my system before. Each vocal track hung in its place and presented itself with great detail and emotion. Musically the sense of space and sound stage was mind blowing. Songs I have listened to for my whole life took on new meaning. Simply pushing my earlobes out from behind as little as an inch was better than any upgrade or tweak I have done in this last few years. Why is this? I have a general idea of why this would be the case…. I am simply catching more sound waves more info etc?

I could market a device to wear while doing serious listening. Don’t know if this would be considered cheating or not, or if anyone would be interested? (Disclaimer: Don’t steal my idea!) The truth of the matter is this experiment didn’t solve my problem, just created a new one. I have heard what my system is capable of and now I am not willing to settle for less! As I expressed I fail to properly place my speakers, don’t know where the hell to start with room treatment,(foam on the wall behind my speakers?) and I don’t want to spend too much $ but I am into DIY. Helppp! I don't think I will be happy until I achieve what I heard last night!

A related question...which is (are) the best sterophile test cd’s (out of the different volumes they sell which is the best to buy?)Would these help?


Note! The room IS wider behind the listening area due to the stairwell/out cove. BUT both speakers face the deeper portion of the wall. I don't think reflections from the left speaker and the closer portion of the back wall are the problem. I tired to type out a diagram but it wouldn’t save correctly.
Isn't this a great hobby?

Re: ear flaps---someone came out and marketed a set of white leather ear flaps to wear when listening to hifi a number of years ago, probably 15-18 yrs ago. I had a set and they definitely improved the fidelity. They have long since been stored or misplaced or, unfortunately, tossed out. I haven't seen them in years, but I've moved 4 or 5 times during this period and they may still be in some unpacked box in my basement. They were quite effective. They attached to each ear. Made you look like a silly version of Mickey Mouse. But they worked.

Also Sam Tellig in Stereophile commented on them several times in his column. He wrote that his daughter borrowed them when she went off to college to help her hear the lecture in one of those massive lecture halls that colleges like to submit frosh to in order to introduce them to the joys of college life. I wonder what her classmates thought about her when they glanced over and saw her wearing these odd flaps on her ears? She must have been to talk of the class!

I hope this doesn't stick a needle into your bubble and cause any deflation of it, cuz you're definitely enjoying your system and the experiments. And, hey, maybe the time is right for you to come out with an "improved" ear flap extender---a pair that doesn't make the wearer look like an escapee from the Star Trek editing/cutting room floor! Keep at it!!!!!

Good listening to you.

By no means am I claiming I discovered something. I was kind of kidding about selling the flaps.

The cupping did allow me to hear information and sound that my system is producing but I have been unable to hear. The question before and now is ..What do I need to do to allow my speakers/room/etc sing to it's full potential? After the 'cupping' I have proof that there is much more sound and detail being produced from my system that I am just not hearing right now.
Squid: One of the most important factors in what we hear is the shape of our outer ears (and, no surprise, everyone is different). Your experiments are, in effect, altering that shape. You are not suddenly "hearing more from your system." You are hearing through different ears. In some cases, as when you cup your hands behind your ears, you are hearing less--specifically, you are blocking reflections from behind (and possibly beside) you. It may appear that you're hearing more detail because you are increasing the ratio of direct to reflected sound you hear.

Now, what have you learned? You've learned that reflections are VERY important. In fact, they are much more important than most of the components in your system. So keep working on that, and recognize that room changes are going to be much more subtle than your earflaps. Work on all the first reflection points--floor, walls, even ceiling. (You said you had a lowish ceiling. That's a factor.)

Also, keep in mind that reflections are normal, and even good. If you sit in the middle of Carnegie Hall with your eyes closed, it can be hard to tell where the music is coming from.
Hi Squiddy; w/your speakers only 5 ft. apart and your listening position at only 5 ft. from the speakers you are essentially doing "nearfield" listening. I don't know if the B&W 805s were designed for that or not, but it's my guess that you are sitting well forward of the "sweet spot" and when you cup your hands around your ears, you are "capturing" sound/music well forward of where the stereo image is at its strongest.

I hope that makes sense. So, my suggestion is to move the speakers 7-8 feet (or more) apart, and move your listening position back to say-- 8-12 ft. After trying that sort of placement, experiement to fine tune for the best location for the 805s. If you must listen in the "nearfield", experiment w/ toe-in/toe-out for the detail you are looking for.

I have a set of PSB Stratus Minis (about the size of the 805s) in a 2nd system that are about 8 ft. apart and my listening position is at near 14 ft. They image well and sound very good w/good detail.

Re: speaker distance from the wall behind the speakers, I use the Vandersteen formula (I also have Vand. speakers). Measure the length of the room in inches and start w/ the speakers at "odd order" placement lines, ie 1/3, 1/5, 1/7, 1/9 of the distance into the room-- these are good starting points. My Vandersteen 5s sound excellent on the 1/5 line-- this puts them about 54" from the wall behind in a 22 ft. long room (speakers are on the short wall). Good Luck and Cheers. Craig
I should have added that my Vand. 5s are about 8.5 ft. apart and my listening position is at 9-10 ft. It's also important to have your ear height at the height of the speaker's tweeter. Most good speakers have a fairly narrow "sweet spot", and I suspect this is true of the 805s too.

In the "nearfield" try toe-in from few degrees up to 45 degrees (45 deg. is extreme, and probably way to much-- but as long as you're experimenting have fun!).

You have a really nice looking system, and I think you just need to get on top of speaker placement. BTW, what are your room dimensions? Craig
I agree that your triangle is too small, reducing your sweet-spot to a requirement that your head be locked in a vise. Initially I'd say that cupping increased the frequency response, compared to YOUR ear's normal reference, a LOT in the lower treble, where human hearing has evolved to greatest sensitivity to hear predators and crying babies, etc.
Taking into account that the N803 I demoed in an 8' triangle NEVER cohered correctly (as predicted by a couple of Brit reviewers a while back), I'd suggest that you need to open up the geometry because the crossover is set at a highish 4k. That means that the midrange is getting "beamy" in its upper passband, with the tweeter "flare" (which is HUGE with that siren-mounted hot tweet of B&W's) overpowering it, ESPECIALLY with sidewall contributants!
By cupping your ears you are eliminating the extra top octave energy from the hot tweeter and allowing more low-treble direct energy from the narrow-radiating midrange to be prominent. An exaggerated analogy would be cupping your hands in an environment with high ambient noise (whirring fans or splashing water), and cupping your ears to hear someone speaking a distance away.....Certainly I would suggest using a BIT more of the room, while still preserving a nearfield perspective, or as a last resort get monitors that cohere better in the nearfield, or at least have better off-axis radiation patterns. A quick bandaid might be sidewall absorption (pillows atop sofas), or a warmer set of cables to tame that bright tweeter, giving the mirange's top end a bit more perceived response.
Good luck. I could NOT get Nautiluses to sound good in my room, yet several others sound utterly superb. Hope this helps.
Im in a similair situation. Try toeing in the speakers so the sweet spot is a few inches in front of you. Speaker height is very important as the tweeters are what put out the majority of the detail youre missing. The problem with nearfield listening is seating position is critical. An inch left or right throws everything off. When you get it right its awesome, but its hard to get it perfect. The soundstage width and imaging is great. Make sure your speakers have a little room to breathe by keeping them a few feet away from any boundaries in all directions. One more thing that can help is turning your system on an hour before you start listening to let the components warm up. It makes am audible difference, it does to me anyway. Listening to music I notice that after about 30 mins to an hour of listening the music starts sounding better, so now I turn my system on for about an hour to warm it up.
Thank you!

All of your help has been extreemly valuable so far!

Let us know what changes youve made and what effect theyve had.