Speaker shootout question -- do you position the same or differently, depending?

If you're comparing two speakers at home, do you position each the same or do you position each as (roughly) optimal for that speaker in your room?

I'm comparing a tower and a bookshelf now, and their design is different. It would seem that the best way to compare would be to figure out what is optimal for each and then compare them in (likely) different positions. 

What kind of process do you use for comparing two differently designed speakers?


It would seem that the best way to compare would be to figure out what is optimal for each and then compare them in (likely) different positions

the sweet spot for each speaker might not be the same spot.

i don't share the enthusiasm on the above statements.

The room dictates the best position not the given speaker.

The only fair way is live with both pair of speakers in the best spot with total removal of the other speakers. They are working as sponges against the speaker you are considering and spoiling their capabilities.

Its like taking 2 girls/boys out on a date at the same time probably also not a great idea.

  Best JohnnyR

Dispersion pattern will be a major consideration regarding speaker placement. 

Why wouldn't you want to hear each speaker to full potential in your room? Absolutely, move to preferred location for each speaker. Per above, dispersion patterns different for different speakers.

I agree with finding the optimal position. I agree that any one pair should be removed to get out of the other pair's way. 

Johnny, not sure what you mean by "The room dictates the best position not the given speaker" since it would be room-AND-speaker, right?

Generally, the room will dictate where the speakers will be placed within the room, to deal with peaks, nulls, modes, etc.  Once they're in those positions, then speaker toe and rake angles can be experimented with to dial in each given speaker pairs soundstage, focus, etc.

Ideally the speakers should be compared in their optimal sounding position assuming this is a position you are willing to live with. 

In my case, the system/speakers reside within the main living space and therefore have to sound good in the space allocated to them. Fortunately, I can place them at least 3’ out from the front wall and at least 6’ from a side wall. So far, this location has worked pretty well for 2 different floorstanders and 2 different bookshelves. 

Tower vs Bookshelf. The baffle width is the biggest thing, so bass is one issue. Second normally a narrow baffle no matter the design of the wider baffles has the ability to collect less distortion on the baffle face and driver face. Narrow is better and phase plugs help even more on a cone speaker.

Bass reinforcement with a decent stand mount is pretty easy. Beard the stand. Simple heavy cardboard will add a lot of bass. From the bottom of the speaker to the floor, the wider the beard the more bass it collects..

Position the speakers every where, I do.. I like  speakers pretty far apart compared to most and I like the long wall as the back wall, usually. Nothing but speaker typed is written in stone for me.. Small planars and ribbons for the monitors.


I agree with finding the optimal position. I agree that any one pair should be removed to get out of the other pair's way. 

i dont think that this is your first time dealing with new speakers?   yes , you are dealing with 2 different speakers, but it seems you are putting way to much into this.               

 choose one pair to take the time and setup correctly and it wont be done in 5 minutes and might take you a few days and then when you do find the correct position for them, use blue tape to mark their location.       listen to them and take notes of what you like and dont like.     after you have had enough listening time with those speakers, move them out of the way and   then move on to the next pair and do the same thing again.

if you need to do some last minute comparison tests then you will have your blue tape on the floor to where the speakers go

@riley804 No, it's not my first time. Far from it. But I did two sweeps with REW with the speakers in exactly the same position and the differences between them was very interesting. I recognize that finding the optimal position is, well, optimal. But for folks who may have another way of testing both their room and the speaker, e.g., when there is a lack of flexibility in the placement, I thought I'd open it up. Maybe it was too dumb a question to do a thread on!

That’s not a cut and dry question ,a MBL for example is a great Omni directional ,

maggi ,marten Logan both have some rear radiating sonics 

under normal traditional speakers I have the front baffle the same distance .away from the seating area.

as others have said, it depends greatly on radiation pattern of speaker and whether boundary reinforcement of bass is desirable for proper tonal balance

that said, degrees of freedom are finite... my seating position doesn’t vary much at all and i am trying to get the speakers wide apart for best stereo imaging (but away from side and front walls), toe in (or lack thereof) is last major adjustment

some speakers with odd treble driver heights (tall or short) and shapes may benefit from some rake (rear tilt) adjustment too

The easiest and least expensive way is to walk through your room talking, where your voice sounds the most pleasing to you is a starting place. Front to back and side to side. 

It’s a worthwhile discussion because it should address level matching and IF ya cant get the inactive pair out of the room at least short the inputs. 

Good that you have REW as level matching at 1k is a joke…. 

Have fun…but also imagine a floorstander with 11 bands of EQ below 120 hz, so ya can put it where it images best..and then adjust the bass….

Auditioning speakers at home can be the most revealing and relaxing method of comparison and well worth the effort involved. 

I've found using the golden thirds location a solid place to start while using something to catch the first sidewall reflection that can be easily moved. A mobil office chair for the listening position was also helpful for me.

A speaker change is a huge deal, good luck with it.

I set my speakers equal distance from the rear and side walks, then fine tune adjustment with a set-up CD. 

To manage room effects, several methods of speaker placement (such as Cardas) depend almost entirely on the room geometry, without necessarily taking into account a speaker's characteristics.  However,  chances are, a near-flat frequency response isn't your only speaker placement goal. I've used a formula that has been referred to as the "Allison Rule", which also can take into account your speakers' bass response characteristics. 

The rule states that the distances from the woofer (or woofer midpoints) to the floor, woofer to the side wall, and woofer to the front wall should be as different as possible (in order to minimize room effects). To accomplish this, apply the following equation:

Middle distance squared = shortest distance multiplied by longest distance.

The woofer height (H) is fixed (in my case, at about 22 inches). For the distance from the front wall (F) , I choose a distance that that seems to optimize bass response of my speakers, consistent with furniture placement and good imaging/soundstage. So I set F at about 36".  The formula then derives the optimal distance from the side walls (S):  36^2 = 1296;  1296 / 22 = 59".   So my speakers are about 36" in from the front wall and 59" in from the side walls. 

This approach works with your room geometry, but allows you to choose one of the 3 dimensions for good bass response (or for whatever else you're trying to satisfy, such as your spouse's furniture placement preferences).  But the optimal distances for bass response vs. imaging etc. are likely to vary (maybe a lot) from speaker to speaker.  


The OP forgot to mention 1 critical thing in his opening statement that make a big difference and the brought it up later: “But for folks who may have another way of testing both their room and the speaker, e.g., when there is a lack of flexibility in the placement”.

If your speakers have a specific spot that they have to reside in because of lack of space or WAF, then that changes everything and if this is the case for this install, why not bring this up initially? Why would the OP state positioning the speakers optimally if you can’t?


There's no point in positioning the speakers in "roughly" their optimal position - actually, that's an oxymoron. Unless the speakers are radically different in their design, their optimum position might only vary slightly from speaker to speaker since, the major factors of dispersion and bass response apart all the other acoustic variables are remaining the same. I second Riley804's post - position each accurately using tape and listen carefully - with only one pair of speakers in the room at a time.

Put each where they sound best to fairly evaluate and remember that where they fall in your room will be one factor in deciding which to purchase.

FWIW, "roughly" optimal position is not an oxymoron. We can call it "nearly optimal" if you prefer. The point is that if one is using REW for SPL and Impulse, there are various levels of precision one can get -- within 8 db, at this or that frequency, or this level of smearing reflections above -20 db. If you have not used REW, you don’t know what I mean, but when one is trying to make sure "most of the notes" are there -- and not too "peaky" AND one is trying to avoid a level of reflection which would damage the accuracy of sound stage imaging, there are any number of compromises and different degrees of accuracy one could accept in order to go back to listening. It’s an iterative process - listen, measure, listen again.

So, you can see that I’m not in the "walking around the room, clapping" camp, nor am I in the "optimal is simply one thing" camp. This is a complicated, iterative, measuring-and-listening process -- even for one speaker -- so adding a second speaker in, of a different kind (tower not stand mount) makes it even more complicated.

And please don’t tell me I’m over-complicating it. You can say, "That’s too complicated for me" if you wish. But I hear the results of this process and they exceed by a large margin trial and error.


rbstenho -- I can position things in many places. My WAF is that she wants me do what I want. But I'm curious what others do when the are bound by a more constrictive arrangement, just in case I decide to move to a room that has more limitations.

((((I set my speakers equal distance from the rear and side wall )))


 This advice is taboo in most well written speaker manuals

 never do equal front and side walls.

 The room nodes will ring like a tuning fork or a cow mooing.



"Optimally," one would position each speaker at its "optimal" location (quotation marks because optimality will always be a compromise of one sort or another), and have only that speaker in the room. Then live with that speaker for a week or more before switching. BUT: this precludes any rapid A/B or A/B/X testing.

What I've done (and I've done this a lot; it's fun!) is to position two sets speakers of similar type (and so, similar placement needs) next to one another, and switch back and forth by switching the cables; if I could do this with a remote from the sweet spot, I would. This gives me a sense of which speaker I prefer. THEN I set that speaker up "optimally" for a longer listen. If I'm still uncertain of my preference, I do the same with the competitor.

this is a really good thread to have alive and running on this board

should be one going all the time, as many if not most relative newbies come here focusing too much on the equipment, rather than how the equipment interacts with their room

So true, one need to have considered all aspects of the room when purchasing equipment. Selection of room drives selection of speakers, which drive selection of amplification,  .....




In my experience different speakers with behave quite differently depending on placement to boundaries and distance to listing position (reflection points, nodes, etc.)  The position of the drivers in the cabinet will give a wildly different presentation, as will the width and depth of the cabinets. 

If you don't have a symmetrical space -5, if  you don't have the ability to move the speakers around -3, add a great amp to this not optimal set +2, new expensive cables +1, etc. Obviously this isn't a scientific rating but without the first two, the (everything matters) approach with be skewed as well. Amps and cables matter more if you have the first two.

Do the best you can and have fun +10. 

I have had the opportunity to hire and observe real sound engineers to work the acoustics in my rooms and I have learned a few things from them. It does not matter how good your ears are, mine a pretty good around19Hz and 21kHz in my last hearing test, if you just place your speakers by ear you are missing a lot. Your ear will take you 60-70% there depending how difficult your room is, but to do it right you need to use some application like REW and decent calibrated microphones to get past that 70%.

Maybe some of you know how I am working and doing the work in the living room of my house in the USA, and I am nothing short of amazed of how easy is to use REW and a microphone and the results are not only audible but measurable.

I would suggest the OP that he does 2-4 measurements after ear placement and @tk21 method, and gets each pair a fair and level opportunity, after all this is the time to decide which pair he will buy and live with.

I know that what I am going to say is subjective, but using my ears and REW, the transformation of the sound was/is nothing short incredible.

As an illustration, here is one of the measurements/parameters in my living-room "before/after" but still a lot of work to do. This system is all analog so there is so much I can do. Some here might argue that I can add more bass volume but at this point this is how I liked the sound best. The smoother the better.

Have a lot of fun selecting your speakers!

@snilf @snilf Good suggestions. I have a backup Adcom amp with A & B speaker sets. I could quick switch with those. Of course, the speakers would be coming through the Adcom rather than my tube amps, and couldn’t use my better speaker cables, but at least both speakers would have the same cables and the same power amp.

@jjss49 @djones51 @jjss49 @djones51 Thanks for saying so. The back and forth between listening and measuring strikes some as over the top but this is exactly how many hobbyists do it, and of course speaker companies, too (such as Harman). It’s not just measuring but an iterative process. Paul McGowan talks about this all the time — design, measure, listen, design, measure, listen.

These topics seem so simple to some (who have likely just done things the same way forever) but once the suggestions start coming in, it’s clear that the complexity of both acoustics and how people decide to test their own perception makes the experimental procedures involved quite varied, indeed.

@bjesien @bjesien

"In my experience different speakers with behave quite differently depending on placement to boundaries and distance to listing position (reflection points, nodes, etc.) The position of the drivers in the cabinet will give a wildly different presentation, as will the width and depth of the cabinets."

This is so true. In fact, just playing with the height of my seating position the other day, I realized how much different the new speakers were with a 2" lower seating position -- a change which did not affect the older pair at all.

Also +1 about the comment regarding the need for a "symmetrical space." While my room IS a rectangle with (somewhat different kinds of bookshelves on both sides), one is easily fooled into thinking that it is symmetrical. This is where REW is so helpful. Do a sweep with just left and just right and the differences are *immediately* apparent.

@astolfor @astolfor
"Your ear will take you 60-70% there depending how difficult your room is, but to do it right you need to use some application like REW and decent calibrated microphones to get past that 70%….I know that what I am going to say is subjective, but using my ears and REW, the transformation of the sound was/is nothing short incredible."

I totally agree — after positioning things in places they "sound good," I measure and adjust and then listen again. What the anti-measure people don’t realize is that when there are big dips in a curve, they could be missing even an octave of notes but because they brain tends to create a "gestalt" they don’t notice anything is missing, often. But once those dips are removed, one can perceive additional notes — manifesting, often, as voices or instruments playing those parts — and realize they were missing important parts of the music.

Here’s the curve I achieved using REW *after* listening:


And here is the impulse graph, above -20db, where things start to get smeared. I went from a forest of reflections to a few scattered trees, and the definition on images throughout the soundstage got startlingly firm. 


What speaker is that measurement of? If I had something measured like that I wouldn’t bother with it but to each their own. Is it a high efficiency for low watt amp speaker?

@djones51 That’s a measurement of an Ascend Sierra Tower with RAAL tweeter along with 2 Rythmic subs and a REL 328 sub, in well treated room. The speaker measured much differently in a different position and without subs or treatment.

Can you say what you don’t like about the graph? Here’s how it measured before subs and treatment (initial tone was 80 dB):


The latest red plot Betweeen 1500hz and 10,000hz is a 10db drop then a 10db rise to 20,000hz. I prefer a smooth fall of 5db from 1000hz to 20,000hz. I would get rid of the rise from 10k to 20k.

The blue first plot I would slope it from 4k to 20k by a few db or flatten it. I also don’t like that much bass boost.

Of course this is my preference not yours but it look pretty hot in the upper frequencies.

Looking at their website those speakers have a pretty flat response what to you get at about 3 feet from each speaker? 

As noted earlier in this thread, your ROOM is the most important variable in ANY sound system.

Why do large venues hire audio experts to help design the room for them?

@djones51  I agree with your comments about both red and blue plots. I think the blue plot represents a great improvement over the red one, but I'd like to try to get it to where you describe and then take a listen. I have not measured at 3 feet. I'll try that.

Agon should have a thread for measurements and commentary, as well as one for rooms and treatment. 

@richopp Right, the room is important. Got it. Also, the ROOM is important. ;-)

Here is a response both speakers averaged from a bookshelf KEF R3 at LP in an untreated room with no filters applied. There is only normal living room furiture and a rug. This is a good response from a properly designed speaker IMO which only needs a correction at about 35hz or use a sub crossed around 100hz.



Edit: these are not my speakers just an example of what can be done in usual rooms where treatments can only be minimal or none. 

Just want to add that if people are overwhelmed with a large room, it's sometimes easier (and maybe even preferable in sound quality) to section the space and be closer to the speakers. I've heard many setups where I preferred my at home closer, more direct interaction with my speakers to larger, even well treated spaces. Lots can happen for better or worse in that space between your speakers and your ears. There's nothing wrong with being a bit closer if the dispersion works. I've yet to see an 18X40 mixing room. 


For some reason the pictures are not showing again!

IMHO one should start with absolutely no room treatment, get the best sound the room can give you, and then treat those deficits, because if you start with room treatment then you will end up treating the effects of the room treatment you already have and might not be necessary.

Lets try again...

here is where i stated for decay and stored energy


This is were I ended with absolutely no room treatment. 

Thanks for posting graphs. Very interesting and great improvements!

@djones51 Nice graph! Any DSP?

Agree about starting without treatments and building up. 

Nice graph! Any DSP?

No, that's without filters. With Dirac it helped the bass smooth out.  Can't remember if  it was Floyd Toole who said below 500hz it's the room in control above it's the speaker. I try to do very little above 500hz maybe a house curve if the top end goes up. Right now with my Dutch and Dutch 8c I'm using no filters and no curve, nice smooth plot from 24hz to 20khz one small room mode at 60hz. I have two absorption panels 2'x4' in a 20' x 14' living room. I'm hoping to do some measurements this weekend again see if I want to change anything.  IMO some people overdo treatments and overthink their gear. I understand how tweaking and a lot of different components could be fun to play around with but for me simplicity is the goal.

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 IMO some people overdo treatments and overthink their gear.

This is exactly what happened to me. I was gifted a variety of different treatments (corner traps, bass traps, diffusers) and also bought some Real Traps. In order to see how they could affect my room, I tried them all, then started to remove them. Overdamping was my problem.

I realize now that the goal is to find the minimum needed.