Speakers sound best facing wall????

Should I complain? - After months of tweaking and testing various components, I found my perfect sound. It really sounds beautiful and genuine (I listen only to classical; and authenticity is paramount), and the stereo image is there, when speakers are turned away from me, facing the wall at 135 degrees. I am looking at their backs when listening,

So, I am really happy. Or should I? With that very odd speaker position, something must be very wrong somewhere???

Ever since I took on my old hobby again (it had been in neglect for 30 years), bought 2 different solid state amplifiers (a powerful and very well balanced Sony TA-FA3ES, and a lower quality Technics), 2 different cd players (Arcam and Cyrus), 2 different sets of loudspeakers (Heybrook Heylo and Tannoy Revolution), a Velodyne subwoofer, a power conditioner (Belkin) and 2 sets of shielded IEC power cables and interconnects, I have been battling a problem:

*****an ear-piercing treble*****

No matter how low I would adjust the treble on my amplifier, and no matter the combination of amps, cd players, speakers etc., their position, my armchair's position, that problem was still there... until I turned the speakers away from me.

Room acoustics? - Well, all my equipment is in my living room, which has a normal height, and an odd, asymetrical shape. See plan. The house is made of timber, and the walls are painted plaster panels, with 2 dozens glass covered pictures in wooden frames. The room is carpeted, and slightly emptier than an average living room (3 armchairs, 2 wooden cabinets and audio rack). The wall which the speakers are facing has a curtain. The speakers are 130cm / 4ft away from the wall.

If not the room acoustics, what may be causing the ear-piercing treble when speakers are turned towards me? - Dirty power that the power conditioner cannot cope with? Faulty tweeters (on 2 different sets of speakers???)? Should I worry, since I have my perfect sound with the speakers facing the wall? - Any advice appreciated!
I can't address necessarily what could have been wrong before, but if it's right now, why trouble with it further. Hell, consider yourself lucky that you've found perfection; otherwise; it's just audiophile baiting, heh!

Hard to say... I'm not there to hear what you hear so I can only speculate. Since the speakers are not designed to be used that way, I'd say there is something wrong.

My first reaction would be to blame the room. It may not be practical in your situation (I don't know), but I'd try putting the speakers on the left-hand wall instead. Have your listening seat along the fireplace wall.

I don't know where all those 2-dozen pictures are placed, but if they're concentrated on a particular wall then that could be a big problem too. All that glass is highly reflective.

On top of that, it looks like you're selecting gear with extended treble... Maybe a nice tube amp or preamp would help; or maybe an EQ, or speakers with a treble attenuator.

You've got to be missing some part of the audible frequency range by firing your speakers backwards into a curtain. It's probably akin to listening from a different room, where the highs get tamed down a bit.

I thought I'd take the counterpoint to Mimberman's answer just to offer another angle on it.
Thanks for the input. I did try various positions in this room, and the ear-piercing treble is still there. The room is really average; there is nothing unusual about it. The odd shape should rather break any echo than create problems.

I come to ask myself whether this could possibly be a physiological problem / abnormality with my ears. Indeed, I do have quite an odd spectrum: I can clearly hear ultrasounds, i.e. dog whistles, which no one else can normally hear (except dogs and furseals!). That does not bother me during live acoustic performances (symphony orchestra, chamber music), which I enjoy very much; but I do often perceive too much treble (ear-piercing) on audio systems, including in my car.

In that case, maybe the tube suggestion is a good one. Maybe the ear-piercing treble I am hearing is a type of transistor distortion which is not normally audible to others. Tubes have a different distortion pattern, and that may suit my physiology better.

You're right - I've got to be missing something by firing my speakers at the back wall. Here is a nice excuse to buy a tube amp.
You need to see an ENT. Something could be wrong. It is absolutely NOT NORMAL (as you are aware) to prefer the sound with the speakers turned backwards. Your speakers are fine - you should not have a problem with Tannoy's.

Do you have the same problem with a good pair of headphones? Youu can find online hearing tests too.
Dynamic speakers produce sound waves when the cone moves backwards as well as when it moves forward. So in theory, you could place speakers front facing or back facing. However, speakers are designed and built to control the backwave. As a result, you're supposed to listen to speakers forward facing, or forward with a toe in.

Try putting the speakers forward facing with a cloth or some sort of semi-permeable film in front of the tweeter. See what that does.

I know a few psychologists who would enjoy having you as an experimental subject. Anybody whose perceptual abilities diviate from the population norm are interesting people to study.
Markphd wrote: *****Try putting the speakers forward facing with a cloth or some sort of semi-permeable film in front of the tweeter.***** I had tried that, and I had even placed pillows. The treble attenuation and general result is not as good as turning the speakers to the wall.

Markphd wrote: *****I know a few psychologists who would enjoy having you as an experimental subject.***** No problem with me, I am happy to be a guinea pig... but I live in New Zealand (Auckland).

Shadorne, thanks for the links to the hearing tests. I will try them but, since it seems I clearly hear ultrasounds at much higher pitch than what amps and speakers are designed to reproduce, it may not be significant. Will report on that nevertheless, once I figure out how to get them to work.
Well, I'm sure there are psychologists at New Zealand's fine universities. However, avoid the ones who would want to implant electrodes in your brain. Leave that for the real guinea pigs.

From what you say, I'd say that your hearing is unusual. I have a friend who has the same kind of ultra-sonic hearing. He hears high-frequency sounds on certain of my CD's that drive him crazy. He asks me if I hear it too, and quite honestly I can't... not even a hint of what's bothering him. So I know this is possible.

I think trying a tube amp may help you a lot, and beyond that, either a good equalizer (preferably analogue) or maybe using a preamp (or speaker) with a treble level control could provide a further tapered treble reduction that you could dial in to your taste.

Good luck to you!
The older Quad preamps had some very good tone controls, variable slopes at chosen frequencies , etc. The 44 is the last one I had and it was quite good at controlling bad rooms. I have not used the new ones but would suggest you investigate them. The 44 itself is not a bad preamp and I would prefer it to any of the equalizers I have heard in a remotely similar price range. If you can find a used 44 you could probably purchase it and resell it if it did not help without taking much of a loss. Only problem is that it requires DIN adapters. The Quads were famous for giving excellent sound for their cost and were aimed at music lovers rather than hi-fi enthusiasts per se. What I mean is that they thought it perfectly normal that the listener might need to adjust the sound for room or recording while the purest audiophile regards tone controls as invention of the devil. There are several pairs of their new amps and preamps on audiogon ; you might investigate them. They would definitely be softer than what you are now using.
Do you most notice the piercing treble pain only on upper register flute, violin and piano bits? That's the sound of preamp distortion. When I had that problem an old Threshold FET ten hl made it vanish. I'd imagine any other top quality preamp would do the same.
Note that many top pre's have di-pole designs or at least rear firing tweeters.Just thought I'd toss that in.Your speakers are probably to blame interacting with room.Treatments or a DSP might be what's in order to preserve what you like and get rid of what you don't.If you Thiel was your speaker I'd know problem.I sold Krell a while back and was blown away how bad one customers Thiels matched with Krell in a hard room sounded.But that's taste.
" Should I worry, since I have my perfect sound with the speakers facing the wall? "

No, if it sounds perfect to you, why on Earh would you mess with it? Sit back and enjoy!

Did Omar Bose suggest turning the speakers around? :)
I've been an advocate of 'reversing' speakers for years, but only with horns, and I use my single cone speakers that way. I know one other person that has been using this 'reverse' style for more than 10 years with great results. I prefer the sound that way, but only ever tried it with horns.
It's Amar, not Omar, Bose.
I've been an advocate of 'reversing' speakers for years, but only with horns

Is this Freudian? If it is - you Devil you!

Mr Tennis - where are you when needed?
Amar is the speakerbuilder, Omar's the tentmaker.
and Imam is the spiritual speaker...
And Obama is the President.

One night, a Boeing 747 was flying above Glasgow. On board were five people: the pilot, Amar, Omar, the Imam, and a rather high (in several ways, after just winning the US election) Obama. Suddenly, a loud explosion was heard from the luggage compartment, and the passenger cabin began to fill with smoke. The cockpit door opened, and the pilot burst into the compartment.

"Gentlemen," he began, "I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that we're about to crash in Edinburgh. The good news is that there are four parachutes, and I have one of them!" With that, the pilot threw open the door and jumped from the plane.

Obama was on his feet in a flash. "Gentlemen," he said, "I am the President of the world's greatest country. The world needs great President's. I think the world's greatest President should have a parachute!" With these words, he grabbed one of the remaining parachutes, and hurtled through the door and into the night.

Dr. Amar Bose rose and said, "Gentlemen, I am the world's smartest man. I design amazing speakers. The world needs smart men. I think the world's smartest man should have a parachute, too." He grabbed one, and out he jumped. The Imam and the Omar looked at one another. Finally, the Imam spoke. "My son," he said, "I have lived a satisfying life and have known the bliss of True Enlightenment. You have your life ahead of you; you take a parachute, and I will go down with the plane."

Omar smiled slowly and said, "Hey man, don't worry. The world's smartest man just jumped out with my tent pack."
Take my wife.

Very funny, Shadorne. And, it even gets better as it looks like we'll soon be rid of Bose speakers.
Shadorne- there is a speaker that is about 40+ years old, that is ripe for reversing in my book and would sound heart achingly good that way, the top is far from harsh and looks good, the mid range is very well rounded, meaty and firm, the 'bottom end' is to die for. They also do not need to be governed! The name of this unique speaker is called the 'SLHP', only 1 ever made, extremely rare and very sought after when viewed. I think they are US made also, Idaho I believe.
Dreaming of an Alaskan adventure cruise are you?
Sorry, I'm a pretty bad typist.
Dlr, "Sorry, I'm a pretty bad typist."

Maybe, but you sure turned this into a humorous thread. So, no need to apologize for that. In fact, stand up and take a bow.

I think the fact is that most speakers I have heard would sound better turned away from the listener. Many systems actually sound best when they are turned off. A disclaimer here. I am a dealer and have heard lots of systems..
Does anyone else do this? My ears are also strange-the last sytem that didn,t sound way to bright was in the seventies with a Grado cartridge and Advents.

Tubes help. So does single ended.....
You could try a pair of original (not newer mk2 or series 3) Ohm Walsh 2s. These pseudo-omni's roll off at ~ 17Khz, have a very unoffensive top end and have a more omnidimensional dispersion pattern as well that might be less finicky to place for good results your room than conventional box designs.

These can be had for a couple hundred or less regularly on Ebay.

If these worked, as an upgrade Ohm might be able to custom tweak the more extended top end on a newer pair as an upgrade (they regularly tweak their speakers to customers specific needs as I understand it).

Just an idea for something inexpensive that might work.
Trelja Thanks I actually heard that from a salesman for B&O in Scottsdale a few weeks ago. He said Amar cupped his hands over his mouth and asked Paul Klipsch how he was doing and Paul turned toward the wall and said he was doing ok.. Good story but not sure it was true.
He said Amar cupped his hands over his mouth and asked Paul Klipsch how he was doing and Paul turned toward the wall and said he was doing ok.. Good story but not sure it was true.

It is hardly surprising that Paul turned round fast when Amar cupped his hands to his cheeks! However, the way I heard the story it ended differently - I was told that this was the day that the "slap" room echo test was invented.

Well, I solved the problem. It was really easy. I just had to connect a second integrated amplifier that only powers the tweeters. Then, reduce the tweeters' sound by 30-40%. Now, my speakers can face at me again and all sounds very normal and authentic.

But why why why? - Here is what I have been through in the meantime, and I am still puzzled:

1) I bought myself an ultrasonic dog whistle with adjustable pitch. When I adjust it to the highest pitch, I can not only still hear it, but it is so loud that it is ear-piercing. Others either don't hear it at all, or hear it as a very soft sound.

2) I consulted an audiologist and he confirmed that my hearing is excellent... in fact, beyond his equipment measuring capabilities. My audiogram is almost flat, with a small peak at 2,000Hz. BTW the audiologist could not hear the dog whistle either...

3) I bought myself a calibration CD. Now, that was really interesting when it came to the various frequencies samples:

a) With the default settings (whether using my Sony solid state, or a tube amp) I can hear all frequencies between 22Hz (earthquake) and 10,000Hz (not quite as high pitch as the dog whistle), and I hear them all at the same volume. Below and beyond that, I do not hear anything at all.

b) With my preferred settings (with tweeters' sound reduced by 30-40%), I can hear all frequencies between 22Hz and 8,000Hz, and I hear them all at the same volume. Below and beyond that, I do not hear anything at all.

So what does that mean???

My speakers (I tested Heybrook and Tannoy), and the rest of my equipment (whether solid state or tube), are supposed to reproduce sounds up to 20,000Hz... but that is definitely not true, since the highest I can hear from them is 10,000Hz (and that is still a lower pitch than my dog whistle, which is ear-piercing to me).

So, if my equipment does not reproduce enough treble, I should hear not enough treble, right? - Wrong! - I hear too much of it, and I have to turn it down!

Anybody understands that mystery?

It is something to do with my audio system (or rather, with audio systems in general), since listening to live classical music never poses me any problems.
Ever thought about donating your ears to medical science?

BTW, I am still listening to my single cone BLH facing the wall with good results to my ears anyway.
Vive Le Difference!
Waryn, I find your observations very interesting . . . I am wondering . . .

- Have you had similar experiences with headphones; that is, do you find most of them harsh and bright?

- How do others find the sound of your system, now that you've reduced the treble to your liking? Do they find it overly warm and dull?

- What impressions did you have about the Tannoys and Heybrooks when you bought them? Did they not seem bright at first?
- Have you had similar experiences with headphones; that is, do you find most of them harsh and bright?

I will need to get a pair, as I never use them.

- How do others find the sound of your system, now that you've reduced the treble to your liking? Do they find it overly warm and dull?

Hmmm... there is only my wife here, and she is not into music at all, but she also seems to prefer the sound with the treble reduced.

- What impressions did you have about the Tannoys and Heybrooks when you bought them? Did they not seem bright at first?

Heybrooks were excellent from the start. Tannoys (at least my model, the Revolution) don't have an equally well balanced sound. I also have a pair of older and smaller Bang & Olufsen S45. All these speakers sounded too bright from the beginning (tested with different amps, cables and CD players), and the brightness becomes unbearable after a few days of listening to one particular speaker.
Hi Waryn . . . what I'm trying to get an idea of is if your perception is based on some combination of the following:

- sensitivity to an ultrasonic peak or diaphragm resonance in the speakers' tweeters - in this case I'd expect a soft-dome tweeter to sound better to you than a metal dome, or metal horn diaphragm

- the relationship between the frequency of sound and the directivity of the tweeter - here, I'd expect you not to have the same issues with headphones

- early room reflections . . . again, headphones would eliminate this

Anyway, your case is an interesting one. At least you're finding some solutions . . .

This is really scary. An audiophile who has good hearing!.. This could be unique.

One answer could be that you are hearing distortion which even at a low volume can really make you crazy.
What you want to do here is turn your listening position around to face the wall behind you, and then everything will equalise out. Inserting my own LOL here so I wont receive 100 flame replies.--Mrmitch
Mrmitch, do you have first hand experience about facing the wall from your school days? Was a corner also involved? lol.
Gawdbless, Yes, I seem to recall spending a little time in the corner facing the wall in my younger school days. As far as i can remember, this position made the teacher's voice (a woman) much deeper but a little bit boomy-with some basstraps it might have been different. Maybe this explains why I took up the electric bass in my teen years! LMAO-Mrmitch
Waryn...You are in the Southern hemisphere. Isn't everything backwards down there?
Merry Christmas! & Happy New Year!

Thanks for mention my CD.

I think your hearing is normal and you can hear not the dog whistle fundamental frequency but a sub-harmonic.

I would feed the whistle sound to a spectrum analyzer using a professional condenser microphone to check how clean the sound is.

My ex sounds best when she's facing the other direction too. When the sound is bad, the less the better I guess.
You dug up a 3+ year old thread to belittle your ex-wife? Sad man, real sad!!!!
Sorry, but when I was checking out some old but excellent posts I came across this and couldn't resist. It may be a three year old post but my ex still comes over to torment me after 15 years. She's been a close friend of my currant better half since they were 11.
Marrying an ex's best friend shows signs of a Masochistic tendency.
Sorry, I call em' as I see em'.
Yeah but you haven't seen her.
Then you accept the good with the bad.
Then of course, I have neither so what do I know:)
Yes good and bad, but it's been mostly good, and my audio purchases and passion for music continue unencumbered.