Speaker placement at dealers

Is it just me...or are dealers...even hi-end shops...less than ideal when auditioning speakers?...they often appear baffled when I move speakers out into the room...and closer together...how do they expect a proper assessment...when speakers are flush against a wall...with ten other models between them?
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Most dealers are pretty clueless when it comes to this sort of thing. We keep only one pair of speakers in any of our listening rooms at a given time. I can't imagine auditioning speakers any other way, so why should I expect my customers to be less discerning?
When you audition speakers in the demo room 1st place yourself to be a dealer and 2nd be kind to ask dealer to move speakers the way you want to listen to them since they're not yours yet have to serve for the other customers for demos.
Dealer don't know how strong and helthy you are to lift the speakers and doesn't want to have problems with his business, insurance and damaged speakers.
All dealers should be like Symphony Sound. Not only is placement critical all those other drivers are prone to resonate with the driven speakers output. Shop some where else.
Yeah that's a very interesting STUDY at the very least! I've worked in 4(count 'em, 4!) high end audio shopes, plus one chain AV store in my time. And even in the ONE store where there was actually any sort of real CARE AND EFFORT in trying to get speakers set up well for soundquality, there still was less than great overall speaker placement, even there! The norm was by far LESS THAN IDEAL SPEAKER PLACMENT in those shops!
Now, here's my main focus..."If so called,industry professionals(or you'd think they should be selling this stuff for a living anyway) can't get speakers(even a pair)set up right, with all the time and experience they SHOULD HAVE, how well do you think the MAJORITY of audio enthusiest are going to get their speakers set up in their homes..WITH LITTLE OR NO EXPERIENCE OR KNOWLEDGE ABOUT HOW TO PROPERLY SET UP SPEAKERS ON THEIR OWN!?!
My experience from going around to LOTS of hi-end stores, EVEN AROUND THE WORLD, is that most set-up's are mainly focused on merchandising, RATHER THAN PROPER SPEAKER PLACMENT FOR SONIC VIRTUE!
I would say the single most missunderstood and grossly under-knowledged aspect of audio is HOW TO PROPERLY SPEAKER SET UP SPEAKERS!...EVEN ONE SPEAKER! The OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of people, even those here on Audiogon, don't know how to set up a speaker properly. And that goes for industry "so-called" professionals by enlarge!!
From a foundational standpoint, most people don't even have flat frequency response, or close, from ANY of their speakers usually!...so they never have a chance to hear accurate properly balanced sound from the get go! That, and with major sonic defficiencies due to all the varriables that are never adressed in the set up/placment process when doing it on their own, ensure hopes of good, great, even world class sonic performance remains illusive at best!
When you consider that GOOD higher end speakers are supposed to be desinged to ACCURATELY measure some semblance of FLAT FREQUENCY RESPONSE(usually with in +/-5db), then they end up with NOWHERE NEAR THAT in most inztallation applications, the result is a NON-ACCURATE sound that will NEVER produce fi-fidelity at the very least!
You can play with all the gear you want, but without a balance frequency response, you'll never here accurate, natural, undistorted sound!
Of course, there's lots of other varriables to getting a speaker to sound right. But without being able to do it right in YOUR ROOM, it really doesn't matter in the end.
Audio enthusiest, I believe, WOULD BE INFINITELY WAY AHEAD OF THE GAME if they focused their efforts on learning how to properly set up speakers and seats in a room!
Learn "flat/balanced frequency response"(corellation of speakers,seats,room mode,boundary interaction), proper width of soundstage, "toe-in" for the proper tonal balance throughout, distance from speakers, "aim/tilt", proper sounstage height(depending on application),crossover integration(depending on system application), suwoofer integration, sub/speaker phase conherence(FOR ALL SPEAKERS), reflection points, room reverb/"Q", etc!
There's more to it to be certain, and lots to learn indeed.
The reality here is that unless you're willing to learn how to adress all these pertinent factors on your own, you're better off paying someone who's skilled and experienced in doing set-up's instead!
Set-up,room acoustics,speaker/seating placment, and tweeking and calibration easily make up 50+%, or more of the sound!..the gear is the other half.
If you can't adress even most of the above issues, or don't care either way, you'll only go so far with this stuff.
Yes sadely, you'll never get the whole story by reading about gear or auditioning it in shops!
One of my local stereo shops made it real easy for me...I was asking questions about a pair of Monitor Audio speakers while the dealer was trying to figure out how to get the gear wired so it would play (this was the third time I have been in that store, and every time I ask to hear whatever they have in their listening room, it's never wired) I questioned what these particualar pair of speakers compared to in Paradigm's line. He laughed at me and said Paradigm was sh*t. Yes, I own the Studio 100s. Funny thing was, he couldn't tell me what model Paradigm he heard to say that the entire line was sh*t. I told him he was certainly entitled to his opinion, thanked him for his time and said I would return when they got organized...I thought third time would be a charm. Guess not. So now, I only have 1 shop in town I visit.
This is exactly why you have to take what people say with a BIG grain of salt when they place a review or give a report on hearing a given speaker or whatever based on hearing it at a dealer. I have always said you are wasting your time with high dollar speakers if you can't set them up correctly. Being one who loves Vandersteen's (one of the hardest speakers to get set up correctly), I see post after post of people who say they're laid back, dull, lifeless, rolled off and etc. I just have to laugh about it.
Dealers want to sell. Yes, they're a few dedicated dealers but a lot of dealers use sales staff that don't have a clue. Also, they might have a certain product they want to push so they set other stuff up wrong to grab an advantage. A louder speaker ALWAYS sounds better than one compared at a lower volume. How many dealers match levels for you? Just because you have the lingo doesn't mean you know squat. It takes a LONG time to learn stereo just like any other trade or job.
Then they're some who just don't get it. Like the ones who think you have to spend mega bucks to get good sound. A dealers BEST friend!
It is hard enough when we do not have an absolute standard for accurate sound. It's even worse when dealers sell you "Perfect sound" on an absolute basis!
I find it amazing that even owners with very good equipment have speakers buried in a corner with "lamp cord" wire as an interconnect...I am by no means an expert...but if you went into 9 out of 10 homes...90% of the households would have speakers set up incorrectly...I applaud Symphony for SOund for having the integrity and insight to do it "right"...most owners emulate how their speakers were positioned in a shop...assuming the shop knows best...this is a disservice to the buying public...i should know...I had my first sytem set up incorrectly...unitl an audio buddy showed me "what was up"...that alone improved sonics by 50%...before you upgrade...try experimenting with placement...
I think this hits a nerve with a lot of folks. Along with the other comments, I have also found that stores will also showcase their best speakers far into the room, well beyond the aesthetic limits that most people can live with. An example of this was with some Proac Speakers that sounded exellent away from the walls, but sounded perfectly awful at distances comfortable in our home. Dunlavys on the other hand was much less affected by the same distance reductions.
If the dealers were honest they'd ask where you are able to place them at home before letting you listen to ANYTHING. If you answered that the speakers have to be placed against a wall then an honest dealer would have to recommend that you save your money and buy some midfi, because the money is wasted if speakers are not properly placed (IMHO).
Since very few people are prepared to live with speakers way out into the room I think this would completely kill whatever bits of the hi-end business still exist.
Would have to agree with both Bigtree ..in regards to Vandersteen...few dealers let alone owners know how to intergrate these into a room...a buddy of mine who knows his stuff went Maggies...but swears by Vandersteen if you dont want a sub...I auditioned them on several occassions...
but due to space limitations went with a monitor...some have said they dont require much room "to breath"...but my experience has been the opposite...they "throw out" so much sound...I was concerned about wall interactions...I do have to admit...their soundstage is HUGE...some have complained about 1st order "lobing"(small sweet spot)...they sounded pretty good to me when set up correctly...the only downside...and this is being honest...they do lack speed...especially in the bass department...however...the bass is very clean...no speaker is perfect...at least you are getting some low frequency...too many speakers today sound bright and thin...Vandies dont...
By far, the greatest "tweak" I've found in audioland is SPEAKER PLACEMENT! And it's free, though it will cost you a fair amount of time.

With our customers, I frequently go over speaker placement with them. They should not only hear them well positioned in our store, but a good dealer will EDUCATE them how to do it in their homes as well.

Often, I'll deliver equipment right to the customer's home. They may just be buying cables or accessories, but I'll take the time to reposition their speakers for them within their home livability range (ie, not tripping over cables in their living room, etc.). I do it while they are watching, and tell them what to listen for when I move them.

By the time I leave, their system easily takes a big jump in performance...much more so than the new amp or other piece of equipment they bought would do on its on, without placing the speakers right.

And yes...an amazing amount of people I know that THINK they are audiophiles have no clue about positioning. It's really laughable how little they care about it when their system costs about $10-20k. Sometimes, they'll even move them back to their poor positioning when I return...and it's not as if I stuck them 1/3 of the way out into the room either.

Jeff Delman
Value Audio
A shop here in Chicago that has come and gone long ago used to ask you what gear you wanted to hear and / or what price range you were looking in and then configure a system of your desire. If this meant wiring up something other than what they currently had configured, so be it. When you decided what speakers you wanted to hear, they would bring them into the room and set them up as best possible. As such, the only speakers in the room would be those that you were auditioning. If you wanted to hear the speakers with a different amp, no problem. While one could drop by and do an audition in this manner if they were not busy, they typically prefered to do things via appointment. As you can tell from the very customer oriented service and attention to detail, they did not want to be rushed nor did they want you to walk away with the wrong impression of the gear. One never left the store with the typical "here it is, listen to it and then pay me" type of attitude and experience that one normally finds in a "high end" shop. Nor were you talked down to as if you were an imbecile if you liked other brands that they did not carry or asked "dumb" questions.

For the record, that store was Victor's Stereo. Victor spent a LOT of time with me on the phone when i was only about 12 - 13 years old. While he truly was a patient and sincerely good guy, i think he got a kick out of talking to a "kid" that wanted to discuss and understood slew rate, rise time, power bandwidth, etc... While he did carry some "fast" gear ( AGI, Spectral, etc.. ) and believed that spec's could tell you some specific things about the product, he always stressed that it was the sound and system synergy that counted in the end. As such, he used to recommend some out of the ordinary combo's ( fast preamps with turtle-like amps, buying two amps and then only running one channel per amp, etc.. ) that truly did sound good. By the time i was 15 ( 1979 ), i ended up buying a couple of phono cartridges and a preamp from Victor. When i was 18, i was taking some of the "older" people that i worked with to his shop to listen to gear. Many of these people were looking at "rack systems" and did not understand the meaning of "quality over quantity". After auditioning modest systems with Victor's guidance, they found it quite easy to differentiate between various components, speakers, etc... Needless to say, those people were amazed to learn that they too had "golden ears" once they opened them and paid attention.

Having said that, i miss that shop and the attitude that went with it. I'm sure that you can understand why. There aren't many brick and mortar dealers that will go that distance, let alone spend time nurturing young audiophiles. If you can find a shop that offers this type of service, PLEASE do your part to keep them in business. It is this type of dealer that keeps the hi-end business and "audiophilia" alive. Sean

PS... Sorry for the rant, but the basis of this thread brought back a lot of memories.
For what ever it's worth I've never been to Symphony Sound. My post followed one where Symphony Sound claimed to do speaker auditons with one pair in the room at a time. That post has mysteriously disapppeared. I did buy my speakers from Inovative Audio where (except for their lowest priced speakers) are auditoned one set in the room at a time. Remember this is in NYC where real estate prices are at a premium. Kudos to those dealers that do it right. I too have heard the Vandersteens sound dreadful at some dealers and wonderful at others.
I spent months trying to get my set-up right, but was well worth the time and effort (electrostatics are finicky beasts). You should be able to try any component you're serious about buying in your home set up. And once it meets your needs, keep them and PAY THE DEALER FOR THEM, he's earned it. Try them in your home courtesy of your dealer, love them, then return them to your dealer and look for a "deal" on the 'net or a competing dealer? You're lower than whale s***t. Dealers who provide home auditions and valuable set up service are entitled to my hard earned dough (and a reasonable profit). As for the rest of the bricks & mortar guys who think you're doing them a favor, time they found a new vocation.
Jeff, looks like we were typing and posting at the same time. Funny how we came up with the same basic thoughts after reading the same thread miles and miles apart. I guess some things remain somewhat consistent with the love of music / music reproduction no matter where you are : ) Sean

I have a dealer just like that. Met him when I was 12 years old. Patient, caring....29 years later he's still in business and I still frequent his store. Damn him, I got hooked cuz of him! I don't know whether to love him or hate him.
Miles and miles, ain't that right. I live in Montreal, you're in Chicago. Right now, I'm in San Jose and hoping to get home tomorrow (typhoon hitting the left coast shortly). I'll be in Chicago in January, love to hear your rig!
recently i went to the local hi-end room--they have all the top majors because the shop was set up by a recording engineer. two owners later, most of the salesmen are selling names in sealed boxes for list price.
i had just came back from selling my speakers for cash--thousands of dollars in my pockets and the gold card and platnum cards raring to go. i was the preverbial sucker ready to be closed.
-i walked in the door to hear thiel 6's. if i could get demo's or negociate a discout, i wanted the thiels in my house that night.
- i made an appointment& came back an hour later. please set them up w/ levinson because it sounds closest to my big pass amps.
-i come back and there is the revel studios set up w/ proceed amps. OK--i'd love to hear them
-the studios are regularly discussed on AA--concerning there tweeter adjustments. i had previously heard them and read all the AA discussions about tow-in and the tweeters[2].
-the initial demo is w/ an audiophile cd which a number of prof'l reviewers use. the piano doesn't sound like a piano and the is upper mid/trebble: distortion/glare. the volumn is so high that it is uncomfortable to listen.
-i make the salesman turn down the volume and ask if we can adjust the speakers. why he asks????? the upper mid /lower trebble doesn't sound right. duke ellington's piano doesn't sound like a piano. THESE SPEAKERS ARE PERFECTLY NEUTRAL.
BUT COULD WE TRY TO ADJUST THE SOUND OR THE TOW-IN?? i've been to the revel factory and this sound is perfectly neutral!!!!!!!!. we chage cd's to a steve hoffman re-mix of bill evens. please don't keep the volumn so hi/
-now comes the lecture about how these speakers can only be used a concert levels. PLEASE CAN YOU SHOW ME HOW TO ADJUST THE FRONT AND REAR TWEETERS????? they are perfect.
-to make a long story short, the salesman insulted me. he had a demo special on the studios w/in my price range. after 30 minutes he kicked me out. i never heard the thiel 6's which i wanted to buy. i would have purchased the revel at the special price --lower than the thiels.
BESIDES BEING WITHOUT A CLUE OF HOW THE EQUIPMENT OPERATES, RUDE AND OFFENSIVE, this man finally convinced me the most bricks and mortor dealers deserve to fail in the market place. if the companies they rep ever realized the way their products are being handled, they might try direct marketing. it is such a shame. i don't mind paying higher prices for the dealer's time and service because it help's me make a better buying decision. i always try to use the local dealers because it is important that they survive so that we can actually hear new equipment and learn from them.

WHAT TO DO????????? manufactures need to spot check their dealers and not permit ignorant & rude sales people to rep their products. the manufacturers of high end eqipment must care about their end users & customers else they will be shooting themselves in the foot in the long run.
Sean - I know of Victor's. He was down here in our part of town actually. We do the same thing basically. We piece together a system on the spot for a customer, being careful not to move those items that need to be warmed up, but keeping only one pair of speakers in the room etc. I actually saw this technique most recently at Holm Audio in Woodridge and was very impressed by it. Didn't think anybody was doing that anymore. Gave me a little bit of hope for the retail end of our industry, which is otherwise in a sad state of affairs.
It seems we all agree many people don't take the time needed to realy enjoy there favorite hobby.It took me years to open my mind and got lucky trusting a small " Home Shop" owner ,which tottaly changed me. The person took the time to explain and show me the difference,while offering any changes I would like to try while I was there. I tend to think "most" High End shops can't or won't afford this type of time unless there is a guaranteed sale behind it. Just my 2 cents
Jeff .. that's nice to hear. I think I would be a disastrous HiFi salesman, because I believe that you don't have to spend very much ($5K) but you have to spend it on the right things, and then pay great care to setup. BTW I'm in Fremont, not so far away. It makes me laugh that a bit of rain and wind is a STORM !!!!! in California. The weather people on the TV are going nuts over a bit of rain ... they must lead really dull lives.
Will each person on this thread please list his last musical,live , experience? Just looking for your references. Not trying to be an axxxxxe.
Unsound: I saw your original post and have to wonder how / why it disappeared ??? I know that you were simply responding to Hackmaster's comments and that you weren't in here "shilling" for business. What's up with that ???

Hackmaster: Victor's was located up near Rush street originally and later opened another store not that far from there. Unfortunatly, Victor was better at being a "nice guy" than he was a businessman and he ended up closing the store. Audio Consulants ended up moving into that location. I thought that you were located in Hyde Park or within that general vicinity ?

As to your comments about Holm Audio, they try to do that approach but have so much gear that it ends up getting crowded in some specific rooms. I basically liked that place a lot but there was a specific salesman there that was absolutely the opposite of what this thread is about. This salesman was obnoxious, over-bearing, insulting, argumentative and just plain rude. He even stated that he knew more about audio gear and design than John Curl, Victor Khomenko, etc...

On one occasion, i went into Holm audio with several thousand dollars in my pocket. I went there intending to buy a very specific component from them. I left with nothing other than the urge to beat the piss out of that salesman. The funny thing is that "idiot" ( for lack of wanting to say my real thoughts ) probably thinks that he did nothing wrong and that his conduct is "appropriate".

The thing that REALLY set me off was when the "salesman" literally said "here's a dollar, go buy a clue" !!! If it were not for my brother pulling me out of the store by my arm saying "it's not worth it, don't do it", i'm pretty sure that they would have hauled that guy out of there in little pieces. I'm sure there are other locals here that can relate to my story and know exactly what salesperson i'm referring to. Sean
My last "live" outings were to see Guns N Roses, Peter Gabriel and Hugh Masekela. Sean
My last few Alabama,Charlie Daniels,George Straight.Some oldies Jonathan Edwards,Frank Sinatra,Roy Orbison ( one of his last ) The Kingsmen,Sam the Sham and others I can't remember,due to my age.....
I dont bother with live music...it usually sounds like crap,the drinks are overpriced,and the place is full of twenty something gap models...the exception...I will go out to Orchestra Hall...
Are dealers not allowed to answer threads? I assume this is why Symphony for Sounds' comments were retracted...is this the case?
i wish hifi farm had a branch where i live. how close is hifi farm to the DC airport where SW Air lands. i'll spend a cheapy weekend to properly demo speakers with a good knowledgable dealer. does hififarm have any left over piega p-10's. i'll come up if a can demo intellegently and purchase a little over what the left overs are selling for on audiogon!!!
recent live music: string quartets---ahah, acoustic jazz in a club
w/ a poor sound system, live flamenco--small intimate and great sound
Sean I've seen and heard some pretty arrogant, snobby sales people in NYC, but, your story is the most bizarre I've ever heard. I'm aghast!
Phasecorrect: Unsound's comments were pulled yet he has no affiliaton with Symphony Sound. Unsound was simply responding to and applauding Hackmaster's comments. For those that did not know, Hackmaster operates Symphony Sound here in Chicago. Sean
Hackmaster and Sean...I live and work not too far from Mike Holm's place and they do try hard. I don't know who the salesman was who gave you a heard time, Sean, but I've never had a run-in with anyone. Mike can be a little opinionated at times, but he'll do virtually anything you ask. Was there last night to take some things home for audition.

Their place is a little small, but the rooms (esp. the vinyl room) are set up pretty well. Last time I bought speakers there, they would only allow one set in at a time. Good for them!

Hackmaster, next time I'm in the city visiting my Linn guy, I'll have to come to Symphony Sound!
Cp: The "salesman" that i spoke of is no longer employed by Mike of Holm Audio as far as i know. If you've been there more than a few times, you should know of which individual that i speak of. Sean
I just got back from Best Buy. I went in to buy a DVD player, but I ended up buying a few adaptors and cables, which actually ended up to be $114 with tax, which is more than an entry level DVD player. These adaptors allows me to connect my X-Box to my NAD DD receiver via optical means. Now I can watch movies thru my X-box with digital surround.

Anyways, my point is the sales people there were more than enthusiastic that I got what I wanted and tought me how the connections work. I was amazed that they actually were knowledgeable about different region codings and were able to contrast the different quality and functions of S-video and optical vs. coaxial. I never got this kind of service from the snobby hifi/home theater stores/shacks that I've been to. When I asked dummy questions (things I already knew but just to test them), they've always tried to steer me towards something that is more profitable.

Anyhow, just to stretch this post even longer, I was a pretty successful salesperson when I was working in a home theater shack in the early 90s. I was cocky enough to claim a room to myself and fix the room up for whoever my client of the week was. A lot of the times, my clients got off the sofa chair and started moving the speakers and connected the cables with me. There really was no salesperson/client relationship going on.

On a side note, when I sold my brother in law a few used equipment, I helped him set it up in his living room, and he just sat on the sofa... relatives.. can do with out haha.
Dedication is all it takes in a dealer and I have been astounded in what I have found , or ...havent found .. Dedication in listening to a clients needs and dedication in making sure systems are properly mated and set up is very important indeed . Example. I wanted the new Aerial 20 ts. I have owned Aerial for a long time now. Mike Kelly is a passionate craftsman and is in command of his vision. When the long awaited 20 s hit the market I went to a nationally recognized dealer in Raleigh NC to make my decision. Good salespeople in general and a very nice store but set-up was terrible. Cramped in a room that had a obvious bass suck out issue that rendered the 20 s lacking in punch . Air and transparency as well as imaging and soundstage was outrageous however. I had 2 sw=12 subs so I thought I would be fine. I heard a company called A_V in Columbia SC had a pair and went there for an audition and nearly fell out! Everything the Raleigh store had , they had in spades along with an incredible depth that was completely missing before. I mean completely. I was stunned. The guys at A_V were incredible in their appreciation of my enthusiasm and spent tons of time working with me. Its dealers with dedicated employees that make the difference. Speakers like the 20 s just cant be thrown into a room and cranked up. Knowledge of room acoustics and their interaction with the equiptment is a big part of the equation. The lesson is simple. Find an intelligent , caring independent audio dealer and stick by them. I did.