Speaker positioning games. Where can I go from here?


Last Thursday night I was messing with my speaker positioning. I’m nwver happy with the bass but I am barely into building my endgame system so I think some of that will worked out.

anyway, I moved my speakers (Focal 907v on stands) from 13” (back of cab to front wall) out to 22”. Bass is lessened but it’s most noticeable in bass attack. But there’s a fullness I didn’t expect.

I then toed them in which really made the vocals pop into that center position and all around imaging is much improved. The left speaker is 40” from a wall of windows and the right has nothing next to it for 13’. For the toe in I left the outside corner of the cabinet at 22” from the wall but rotated so the inside rear corner is now 21.5” from front wall. I think this improved imaging by lessening reflection on the left side.

I sit on a couch with a table between it and the back wall. My ear is ~18” from the back wall (drywall). The drivers are 91” apart and 98” to my ear. I think lessening early reflections and some combing has made things sound better.

My system build is glacially slow. So far I have the power amp I want and that’s it. All other pieces will be swapped out and sold as I replace them. My plan for this calendar year is to replace the Project DC with 2M Blue with a SL1200GR with possibly a Nag MP200. Next year, maybe around March replace the current line stage (Schiit Sys-temporary) with an Odyssey Candela (tubed line stage) and Buchardt S400 speakers in the summer. My feeling is that these first 2 pieces alone will really bolster my bass I response.

But in the meantime. What other positioning tweaks can I try? My room is basically a horizontal rectangle with the living room/listening spot on the left half with the rig on the long wall.


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Okay you want positioning tweaks? We got positioning tweaks!

Start by tweaking the speakers to precisely the same distance and angle. Precisely means within 1/16". This is easiest with a range-finding laser-level. Aim the inside of each speaker to a point a few inches to the outside of each ear. Otherwise, old-school line and tape and framing square works fine too. The way you measured the sides to the wall is fine, just do that across to the other speaker to make sure both are aimed the same and perfectly symmetrical.

While you're at it make sure they are perfectly square/vertical. Its easy especially with carpet and spikes to have them leaning a bit. So even if you get the distance right the dispersion will be off.

Now once you've established this have a listen. Even a small tweak should have improved imaging. Now try tweaking toe-in just a bit. Pointed right at each ear imaging will be incredible. Toe'd out a little won't lose much solidity but will tend to improve a sense of space. Toe out too much and the sound will be wide but diffuse. Tweak small amounts and listen.

Now you have the challenge of a wall on one side, open space on the other. There's this thing with humans, sounds that arrive within about 6 milliseconds tend to be perceived the same. Sound travels roughly 1 ft per millisecond. So your goal is to have the first reflection sound path at least 6 feet longer than the direct path measured to the speaker. You can measure to be sure but at 40" I think your left speaker is a little too close. Experiment a little. You may find it works better to shift both speakers just a few degrees to the right. Either sideways, or rotating to the right (as seen from the sweet spot). Experiment! Nothing, but nothing, beats tweaking speaker placement in terms of cost/benefit.

From there you might want to try moving them a little closer. Maintaining the same angles this will bring them further from the front wall and the left one further from the problematic window. Should improve imaging even more.

Won't take much of this to develop a pretty good sense of what works for imaging. With a feel for that you can then work on getting the best tradeoff between imaging and frequency response. Sitting so close to the back wall is an even bigger factor than speaker placement. You may notice moving even a few inches closer or further from the wall changes bass response a lot.

There's no right answer, its all trade-offs, but you got to put in the work to get a feel for what those trade-offs are. Its never perfect but you may be surprised just how much better it can be with a little work. 

@millercarbon   Thanks. Amazing!
 I’m going to try every one of those ideas. Good call on leveling which I didnt do.

You mentioned moving the speakers closer to, if I understand correctly, the sitting position which seems like it would subtract bass but then maybe not if that puts the sitting position closer/into the pressurized area between by the speakers. Given the length of my speaker cables, I can go another 6-8” more so I will try that.

As for toeing in, I believe the documentation with the Focals mentioned aiming the drivers right at the ears or just in front of the listeners head. I recall not digging that but I will definitely try that again.

it seems generally, that speakers being further apart expands the soundtage, but is there a limit to that? 
I suspect most audiophiles believe that generally the soundstage will be better when the speakers are wider apart and perhaps toed in to some degree. I’d like to disabuse them of that old wives tale. You can never find the absolute best locations by using the move a little, listen a little method. That’s like trying to solve N simultaneous equations in N+x unknowns. Oh, you might find locations you like, that are better than where you started. But they won’t be the best locations. Furthermore, as you add room treatments or tweaks, the ideal speaker locations change.
If the speakers are too far apart you will begin to hear a "hole" in the middle of the stage and most of the sound will now be directional from each separate speaker. The key is to go far enough apart to retain the center fill while maximizing the width of stage. Just right and there should be a point where the speakers sonically disappear. Get the distance to your ears equally positioned and the image will be stable and in focus.
@geoffkait  I have always read and believed it but never challenged it.  Going to now haha.

@stevecham  that makes total sense. I will make sure to listen for that.
You have got to start with the speakers relatively close together, then move them slowly apart. Otherwise you’ll miss the best location. Hint: start at 4 feet apart and move them slowly wider apart. You might be surprised. As has been discussed ad nauseum use the XLO Test CD speaker location track or similar disc. You have got to have a methodology.
You know maybe Floor Standers, more of a full range speakers might be worth a try  in your space. 

Just a thought.

Room acoustics first.

Contact GIK.

Good room treatment can make your speaker's bass sound bigger and tighter.
@dougsat I’ll be downsizing starting next year and within 5 years be in studio apartments. I’m sticking with bookshelf’s for flexibility.

@erik_squires will do
Jim Smith's book Get Better Sound is excellent.
Incorporate his suggestions for your situation.
Get your speakers and listening position dialed-in.
Do room treatment if you can.
Enjoy your much-improved sound.
So finally time to mess around. Speakers are now 26” (outside) and 25.25” (inside) from the wall. All music now sounds like it’s being transmitted from the tv screen (centered between speakers). 

So the bass....it’s less full but with some volume it has a good thump from the bass drum at my seared position. The sound is clear but if I could more weight to it?
I’im thinking I’m maybe asking more than my system can deliver at present. My goal is to do a new turntable later this summer but now I wonder if the linestage (Odyssey Candela) I want would be a better investment first?
Um, cover your TV, and toe out more.

If your imaging / positioning laterally is poor, it means you need more room treatment to the sides.
@erik_squires it certainly snapped in as my spot now is square in the sweet spot. Music now sounds like its emanating from the tv. The tv is 18” back from the speakers, could it still be reflecting?

the sound is brighter. I have enough speaker cable to take the speakers another 2-3” forward so I’ll try that. I don’t think it will put them close enough to land the listening position in the pressurized area but seems to be taking more and more of the room out of the sound (for better or worse)
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So long as you are happy. But music should not just sound centered. It should sound as if it effortlessly encompasses the entire range from L to R and sometimes beyond. If you only hear it as coming from the center, you aren’t there yet.

Another kind of "not there yet" situation is you hear a L, C and R image, but nothing in between. That is, there appear to be 3 speakers in front of you, and you can localize the 3. That’s’ not done yet either.
@elizabeth i did try the rule if 5ths and 7ths but I want to ask you, for you is it more about the imaging or the bass?

@erik_squires vocals come from the tv but I do get some left and right. I will pull back on the toe and see what it does.

as for the bass, I think my room is killing it and there really isn’t much I can do about the system placement as the one spot that makes the most sense is floor to ceiling windows and I don’t want to advertise what I have (though it’s not too impressive compared to others here)
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So after some tweaking, I’d i sit in my normal listening position (ear 11” from rear wall) the mids mellow and I get some of the deep bass (my speaks roll off at 50hz).

if I slide forward (ears 24” from rear wall) the bass mellows but everything else sounds good.  

Not sure next move
To add. The imaging seems better sitting forward as does the mid bass. The sound is engaging and energetic but missing those lower bass frequencies.

I think this because I’m close to the edge of the pressurized area in front of the speakers. I can move them a couple inches closer but that’s it (unless I move them close in towards the amp)

im guessing that if I had speakers that went into the 30’s I would get more sub bass in the forward position (system limitation in its current form)?
I believe it was Nick Mason of Pink Floyd that said....(now use your best British accent here)........."speakers ought to be big enough to put your granny in." That's all the advice you need!
Ha, ha ha, Just had o mention that. I have tried to live by that credo but understand it doesn't work for everyone.
Since I seem to be moving the listening position into the pressurized space between the speakers, I wanted to ask.

Does that high pressure area expand when I increase the volume? Does toe in affect that area as well?
Some years ago, including on this forum, there was a discussion about the Sumiko Masterset speaker setup procedure (http://www.hifi.ir/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/master-set.pdf) I’ve found it very useful for starting speaker setup with two different speakers in three different rooms though it’s not so useful for boundary designs.
There are several systematic methods of tuning by listening that work, more or less, to get the set up close enough for purposes of experimenting with optimal placement.  The Sumiko method optimizes placement for best bass reproduction and balance.  The other useful method is the Wilson method, which places emphasis on midrange clarity and naturalness.  Regardless of the method employed, there will be room for tweaking.  You mentioned experimenting with toe-in, that is good because proper toe-in is crucial.  You should also experiment with rake angle (how much the speaker tilts back).

Room treatments can be useful, and if one cannot do this for aesthetic reasons, the treatments can be nothing more than a few tapestries or other decorative items on the wall.  Book cases and other objects along the wall also tend to add reflections that improve the sound.  Big expanses of empty walls is usually not ideal.  I would certainly try something on the wall behind the listening position.  Carpets or rugs are very helpful for breaking up the back and forth reflection between the ceiling and the floor.  If you don't have a carpet, put a rug down between the speakers and your listening position.  The table between your speakers and your listening position can also be a source of undesirable reflections; you can check that out by temporarily moving it.  If it is a problem, but must stay, you can ameliorate problems it causes by putting things on the table to break up the reflection (books, etc.).  

Most of the rooms I've helped with setups were improved by having large plants in them, either real or artificial.  At big shows, like CES, many exhibitors buy large potted plants to put into their rooms (to help the sound, more than for improving the looks); after the show, they trash them.
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