speaker recommendations for a 12 x 12 room?


I'm trying to convert a spare bedroom into a 2 channel listening room. Unfortunately, the room is 12 x 12, with 10 foot ceilings. Pulling the speakers well out into the room isn't really an option.

Any recommendations would be appreciated.
Small room setups can be great.

What is your speaker budget?
Do you have the electronic components?
The electronics will be the BAT integrated amplifier and BAT CD player. The speaker budget will be approximately 8k, after the first of the year.

I like to listen to classic rock, blues and some jazz.

Thanks for your recommendations!
Forgot to add that my preference is used speakers. It seems like the initial depreciation on this stuff is very high.
One problem of small rooms - especially small, square rooms - is the resulting large peaks and dips in the bass region due to speaker/room interaction.

If you can place the speakers with some assymmetry in the horizontal plane, relative to the room walls, that would probably be somewhat beneficial in the bass region. For example, instead of having your speaker-listener-speaker triangle nice and symmetrical within your 12-by-12 square, try rotating it either clockwise or counter-clockwise (as seen from above) by about 20 degrees. This will make the distances of each woofer to its nearby room boundaries different in both the lengthwise and widthwise dimensions. The purpose of this is to stagger each woofer's room-interaction peak-and-dip patterns in the bass region as much as is practical, as the resulting average (which is what your ears hear in the bass region) will be smoother.

The other problem presented by a small room is the relatively early onset of reflections. In general, reflections arriving earlier than 10 milliseconds after the first-arrival sound (corresponding to a path length difference of about 11 feet) are likely to be detrimental. Ten milliseconds isn't a hard cut-off threshold; it's more like the center of a fuzzy transition zone. Anyway, in my opinion fairly directional speakers may be your best bet in speaker type for this application, or at least speakers with a fairly smooth power response. Ideally, the speakers could be aimed such that the early sidewall reflection is off the opposite wall instead of the wall near the speaker (I can go into some detail about this if you'd like). Such directionality calls for large drivers, which means mini-monitors won't be ideal in this respect. In the interest of minimizing the audible effects of early reflections you might want to place diffusion or absorption in the early reflection zones, but in my opinion don't overdo the absorption or you'll end up with a lifeless-sounding room.

I have a room slightly smaller than yours, and have run through many speakers, and I can confirm that the big challenge is (in Duke's words) "large peaks and dips in the bass region due to speaker/room interaction." In the end, I found that sealed-box speakers work better than ported speakers. Ports, whether on the front or back of the speaker (but especially on the back), tend to excite bass resonances that muddy the sound. Your budget is in a realm that I haven't explored (kids in college, you know), but one speaker I've owned that you might consider is the Harbeth HL-P3ES-2. It's a small sealed box monitor. I used the Harbeths with a REL sub, dialed way down so as not to overwhelm the small room, but still adding a nice sense of weight and ambiance.
Merlin TSM's may be an option. Since they are sealed they may be a easier to integrate into your room than a ported design. If you can get the backs of the speakers 18" off the back wall and 2' off the side walls AND if you can put your seating position at least 9' back, they should work.
I tried Duke's suggestion this morning . . .

I have a spare bedroom with about those dimensions (actually 12x13x8) that I had set up a spare system in, just as an afterthought when my son moved out. Components are all spares not even close to your budget - I'm using a TAD60 amp, Von Schweikert VR3 speakers and a Marantz cd changer. I had it set up square originally and found it ok, but unremarkable. Moving the speakers out into the room didn't materially improve performance.

After rearranging per Duke's advice there's a huge improvement in imaging and bass performance. Thanks Duke! I have the speakers set up at about a 20% angle and they're pretty well hugging the walls right now, though I will be playing some with placement in the next day or 2.

The results now are good enough to entice me to put my spare turntable back up there and do some more tweaks - particularly on furnishing. I may even invest on some equipment upgrades.

Thanks for the thread, and thanks again Duke!
Totem might be a good option for your room. I have a pair of Model 1s in my 11-wide room and, with some room treatment, have wonderful sound and deep, deep imaging. I have mine mated with a Totem sub and a Creek amp.

I've dedided that a monitor-type speaker (on stands) sounds much better than a floorstander in my narrow and wide room.
You should check out Robert Harley's review of the Sunfire CRM-2 ribbon speakers with SubRosa subwoofer in Issue 183 (August 2008) of the The Absolue Sound. The ribbons are small and not as sensitive to boundry effects as a regular cone driver speaker. This would solve some of the problem and the subwoofer would allow placement of it in the best sounding location possibly solving the rest of the problem. If you can believe what Robert says this is one nice sounding system. I can't confirm it though since I haven't had a chance to search out a dealer with these.
Monitor speakers will work best, plus a separate sub that is front firing. The monitor's must be front ported. Look at some models in the ProAc line that have that feature.
Here's another vote for monitor (by design, not necessarily by name or model) speakers intended for near field listening. This should help overcome your limited maximum boundary dimension. You have several options from Spendor, Harbeth, ProAc, Totem, etc. My first choice would be to look for one of the LS3/5a designs (used). For a room this size, I would not be concerned with adding a subwoofer -- you could easily create more problems than you solve.

Another option to Duke's suggestion would be to set up your listening triangle across one corner of the room so the two speakers stand in front of adjacent walls. This may help reduce standing waves and increase benefits from reduced sidewall reflections, plus by maintaining symmetry you may improve imaging - if that is important to you.

In any case, experimentation should help find your best answer among the suggestions posted here.
Oops, I meant "my narrow and deep" room.
My room is the same size as yours .
Along the same lines as Duke stated I have my positioning setup as Pryso suggests , the listening position is diagonally opposite from the speaker position . Sort of kitty corner or opposing corners . My ears are about 6 ft. from the front of the speakers . The speakers are about 6 ft. apart as well . While my soundstage is not the best that I have heard the rest of the factors are good . No base problems or dullness . I do have some room treatments in the corners and at the ceiling junctions as suggested by 8th Nerve .

Another thing that has not been addressed here is the fact that you will be in a nearfield listening situation . This will require some thought in equipment selection as well .
You will need a fairly resolving system that does well at low sound levels .

I find my Reference 3a Di Capo i's to work quite nicely for this situation with a tube amplifier .

Good luck .
My system's in a room of similar dimensions. I have tried several speakers, but I've settled on Harbeth Compact 7ES-3's. These work very well in small rooms. I don't really miss the extreme low end, although I haven't tried a sub yet.
Bdgregory, glad to hear it worked for you!

Pryso, I've found diagonal setups like you describe to often work well with planars, like Maggies and Quads. Now a dipole does have a bit smoother in-room bass than a monopole, according to an AES paper by James M. Kates, so the symmetry of a true diagonal setup is probably okay. But with a monopole speaker, my suggestion would be to not go all the way to a true diagonal but somewhere in between, to get the low frequency sources asymmetrical (with respect to the walls) in the horizontal plane.

That's my theory, anyway.

I recommend trying to stick with sealed boxed, medium sized book-shelf designs if you can, which blend easier in small rooms. Try to mate the speakers to the size of the space. Getting large speakers isn't a good fit, with too much boomy, bloaty bass energy YOU CAN'T get rid of! You can EQ it out a bit though. Nonetheless, I strongly recommend you get a Rives Audio "PARC" for your room,(you'll 100% DEFINITELY need one) to fix all your inevitable bass modes you won't be able to get away without having otherwise. In a "closed in" room, I also suggest some cooler running solid state gear.
If your'e trying to put your speakers right up against a wall, you'll be having some acoustical issues, that ported speakers designs don't really glean towards. A better blend with near wall speakers is acoustic suspension, sealed. If you are into some classical, instrumental, vocals, and some occasional rock pop, you can get into some panel or electro static speakers, if that's your cup. But, I say stay with medium sealed speakers, personally. If you go ported, consider putting em out in the room a tad more than perhaps you like (regardless of where the port is on the speaker)
What kind of music do you listen to however, and how loud(er, what's your life-style like?)? Do you plan any acoustic treatments? Cause if not, you should consider certain designs over others.
So, a few things to consider. But, with the 10 foot ceiling in that room, you can at least get 28-30" stands to work well, and have no problem at all with ceiling reflections- which often mandates more controlled dispersion designs, without acoustics on the ceiling. So your options of speaker design are wide open, otherwise -which is good.
So go listen to speakers you like, and maybe get em to let you bring em home!
BTW, what have you liked in the past?...
Personally, I don't like the idea of bigger woofers in that small room! It's like trying to fit a Mack truck into a small garage! Basically, there's gunna be problems.(mainly too much extra bass engergy to get rid of, without radical room treatments/construction - not practical.).
Trying to control the dispersion of your speakers by using larger woofers (that are likely focusing the sound in their respective regions more) I think is the wrong way of going about dealing with acoustical issues in your small space. There are certainly better ways to hear more "direct sound" than reflected than that. But, if you can't get the speakers out from the walls, and you have to have your listening chair towards the back, then consider something to break up the sound on the sidewalls then. (toe-in for tonality, not for reasons of side-wall reflections)
If you have to have your speakers up near the front wall, you can also move your chair out towards the speakers, which would help. However, you need to consider whatever position ends up getting flat response from your speakers - where ever that ends up in relation to your chair, and vice-versa.
I say find the speakers you want first, then worry about setup and acoustics
Iplaynaked, I realize that using large-diameter woofers in a small room is counter-intuitive. But then much of audio is counter-intuitive. For example, my suggestion to rotate the speakers-plus-listener triangle by about 20 degrees (resulting in asymmetry relative to the room's walls) is counter-intuitive, but Bdgregory found it to be beneficial.

Some of the acoustic challenges presented by a small room can be addressed through good radiation pattern control without over-emphasizing the bass region; in fact, those are two different issues. Some speakers systems with good radiation pattern control would have too much bass for a small room, and some would not.

In my opinion two issues need to be addressed in the bass region. One is the room-induced peak-and-dip pattern, and the other is room gain. I mentioned introducing some asymmetry to help smooth out the peak-and-dip pattern; to address room gain, you do not want a "flat" speaker; you want one with a gently downward-sloping frequency response. Typically, a sealed box will do a better job of giving you such a gently downward-sloping response curve than a vented box will. But... not always. "Typical" room gain is a 3 dB per octave rise below 100 Hz or so. If properly designed and tuned, a vented box can have a response that is essentially the inverse of that 3 dB per octave rise - and this can rival or surpass a sealed box as far as natural-sounding bass goes (a 3 dB per octave downward slope is impractical if not impossible for a sealed box). I personally favor bass systems that are somewhat user-adjustable, as the low frequency acoustic environment varies enormously not only from room to room, but from place to place within a room.

If designed to do so, a rear-ported box can give unusually extended, natural-sounding bass even when placed in or near a corner. Audio Note designs their rear-ported speakers for corner placement, and while I do think their specs are somewhat optimistic their speakers sound quite good in the bass region when set up as recommended. It's a matter of designing and tuning the speaker for its anticipated environment.

"But then much of audio is counter-intuitive"
Er, what specifically do you feel are "hard and fast rules" that are counter-intuitive, as you say? I believe everyone here would like to know, actually. I would

"Typical" room gain is a 3 dB per octave rise below 100 Hz or so.

Room gain is going to add bass boost to frequencies that are bellow the frequency,who's 1/2 wavelength is larger than the longest distance in a room (diagonal). This is going to be frequencies bellow 40hz in this room. Again, this is a better blend for smaller speakers with smaller woofers, not larger woofered (and most always lower extending speakers). Basically, larger frequencies aren't going to be properly represented in such small rooms.
I think most every acoustical engineer is going to concur, that in a small 12x12 room, smaller speakers (with most likely smaller woofers), that don't play super deep, will do better in a small space balancing in the room, basically. That's my input.
Also, since he is likely hinting at putting speaker nearer to walls than possibly ideal, I think 6db per boundary gain will make larger woofered and deeper responding speakers too boomy, indeed.
But he'll have to let us know how that works out for him...

"rotate the speakers-plus-listener triangle by about 20 degrees..."

Moving things towards a corner placement could indeed work out in a single seatting 2 channel setup, yes. But the speakers and response needs to measure pretty equal, and have an overall flat response curve to work. If that does, you're good! (as long as you deal with reflections, and normal aocustical treatment issues.(basically,all that's needed to build good sound in the setup.)
However,one of the main issues here would likely be that moving speakers and seats in this fashion, from an ideal standpoint, is that you'll most likely end up not being able to get similar response from speaker to speaker from the listening position. That's one of the main setup fundamentals that needs to be addressed. And that would be a main concern in any setup!
Simply stating that "moving speakers "20degrees", one way or another is NOT a hard and fast rule to properly setting up speakers!- I assure you. Yes, you could end up with good results, if your lucky.
But like with anything, it all ends up mattering what works and sounds good.
Still, you need to make sure that any setup offers flat response, from the overall system resonse. If not, you'll be up and down on the volume when things get too loud and boomy!...hearing too much boost at certain frequencies, and have an unbalanced sound. (I garantee no studio or well setup commercial cinema is far off of flat response for maximum accuracy and dynamic range - no matter what any audio witch doctor says)
In a 2 channel setup however, in an asymetrical room, there are benefits to getting your seat out of the middle of the boundaries, maybe off center. In this case, yes, your approach could end up working out. As long as the measured response is fairly even between both speakers, and they don't en up in "holes" or abnormally large bass peaks, and in relation to one another.
Overall whatever he can set up in his room, and attain BALANCED (yes, relatively flat response) sound, a properly distributed soundstage, overall sharp, detailed, dynamic sound with good sound-staging, then, he'll be good.
I still belive if he sticks with reasonable sized speakers, he's better off. But, if he goes larger, he'll have to adress the boomy bass, too slow sounding thick bass energy in the room, and, of course, bass modes and peaks and such.
Actually, integrating a sub with an EQ is always an option (that way you can tune the output of the sub, and EQ it to blend pretty descent.
Full range speakers don't give you this option so much.
Yeah, whatever works for yaz.....
Oh, as for the ported speakers working better than sealed speakers in his setup, I highly doubt that! most ported speakers are going to have a bass bump just above where they fall off like a rock in the response. Yes, sealed gently extends, and goes deeper, all things equal. Putting that bass boost near a wall in a room that already offers some bass gain (if it plays low enough anyway..which why I said he should stay with smaller speaker designs, wiht likely smaller woofers, yes), and then having it drop off, will be more likely to offer a peaky response curve, at best.
BUT, again, whatever ends up working for ya. The end results will speak for themselves, to be true.
That's what's fun about audio, is that it's not all science, but some witch doctor'y as well
Hey, he should post this question to guys like Richard Rives Byrd and Robert Harley, and see what they recommend from their thousands of systems worth of setups. I'd be interested in their input, and what speakers and setup they recommend
Iplaynaked asked:

"Er, what specifically do you feel are "hard and fast rules" that are counter-intuitive, as you say? I believe everyone here would like to know, actually. I would."

Well, that's not really what I said. I said that much of audio is counter-intuitive.

Okay, I don't know if these facts are so widely accepted as to be considered "hard and fast rules", but I think they are counter-intuitive:

1. Total harmonic distortion figures fail to reliably predict subjective preference.

2. The perceived tonal balance of a loudspeaker can change with loudness level even if the measured frequency response curve stays the same (Fletcher-Munsen curve; this one might qualify as a "hard-and-fast rule").

3. The on-axis anechoic frequency response curve is not a reliable predictor of perceived sound quality or tonal balance.

4. The ear largely ignores reflections arriving later than .68 milliseconds after the first-arrival sound as far as directional cues goes, but takes into account these same reflections as far as tonal balance and loudness goes.

5. Semi-random distribution of multiple low frequency sources in a room results in smoother bass, both measured and perceived, than careful placement of a single low frequency source.

6. The ear perceives sound quality very differently from the way the eye judges a frequency response curve; narrow-band peaks and dips that leap out to the eye are often inaudible to the ear.

7. The ear has a characteristic called "masking" that tends to ignore a low-level signal in the presence of a louder signal if they are close in frequency. This principle is applied in audio data-compression algorithms.

8. This principle of masking works in the frequency domain but not in the time domain, so that if the low-level signal is a distortion that arrives later in time, perhaps because of a path lenth difference (as with diffraction), then it is much more likely to be audible.

9. Speaking of diffraction, this is a type of distortion that our ears have a level-dependent sensitivity to; that is, we don't hear it at low volume levels but we do at high volume levels (as a harshness) - and this is one of those distortions that is not revealed by a frequency response curve.

10. The ear is relatively insentitive to the preservation, or lack thereof, of the phase relationships in a music signal. I'm not saying it's undetectable, but certainly not as readily detectible by the ear as by a microphone.

I could go on, but ten seems like a reasonable number to stop at.

By the way, I am not advocating 20 degrees of rotation of the speaker/listener triangle as a "hard and fast rule". It is an application of a principle to a specific situation. I trust that a re-reading of my posts in this thread will reveal what that priciple is. Being able to apply principles is more useful than memorizing rules, because the "rule" may not be practical to apply in the next person's room, but perhaps the principle can be applied in another way.

Regarding what size drivers and what type of box a speaker should have in a small room, I think you are arguing based on generalities that apply to most speakers, and I'm saying that if done right the specifics of a more nearly ideal solution in this case are different from what an overview of generalities would predict.

hahahhahahha! Right on Audiokinesis! I must admit, that was one of the best, most informed, responses/come-backs I've ever read on this site! -if highly edjumacated sounding (lol)
At least we know you've gathered with some audio info, over the years.
This guy will have to keep up informed as to what he ends up with. Then we can have him pop in some test discs, maybe move things a bit, and give us his impressions - OR NOT! ~!!
At the very least, maybe we should ablige him and offer him suggestions as to what speakers he might chose?! I'm sure he'd like that.
BTW, what do you think of the US political scene at the moment, and the foreseeable world economic forecast? You seem to have the right answer - lol!
Touche!...very good audiokinesis.
Thank you very much, naked... but between you and me, I just talk a good game.


ok then 'Kinesis, tell me you didn't plagerize all those comment points you made earlier?! - LOL!!!
Azkeith, I too am using a similar sized room.
In this room, I have excellent results with SF Guarneri
Hommage speakers. One of the best things I have tried is to place large objects into the corners of the room behind the speakers for diffraction and to bring the speakers out as far as possible into the room with considerable toe-in.
I want to be on axis with my seating position with the speakers and at the same time I want to have the speakers as far apart as possible but with room to either side to minimize side reflections.
IMHO, the equilateral triangle set up works best and with a live end/dead end set up of the room.
Since your room happens to be 12' X 12'(and the reviewer's is also): You may find some useful info in this article: (http://www.avguide.com/products/product-3455/) Read the full review.