The Room, not us, determines our speaker choices

A bit cryptic perhaps, but after going through several pairs of expensive speakers, one just clicked with my room in an incredible way. It was like the errors in the speaker complimented the errors in my room so perfectly that the speaker actually sounded better to me than other "better" speakers. Unfortunately, you have to just keep trying until it happens. There's no way to predict which one it's going to be, but when the stars line up, it's a beautiful thing.

I guess if you have a dedicated audio room, where you can place the speakers 6 feet out from the front wall, 5 feet away from the corners and 10 feet from your couch, which is 5 feet from the rear wall, you may have some predictable performance, but how many have that? I would wager that many of us are fighting with clutter, TVs, computer desks,,,

Keep working at it - if you find the speaker that clicks with your room, you'll be a long way towards audio bliss. As a former musician, I always knew that NOTHING affects the sound more than the room. The greatest acoustic guitar played in a POS room sounded like a POS. You just have to find a friendly speaker and you'll know it when you do. It's a worthwhile quest.

I'm not saying your source or amplification components are not important. They make a huge difference once you find the right speaker. It's just without that speaker you're back to the great guitar in the shitty room. Experiment people. A bit of a crazy rant, but my pills are kicking in, so i'm more prolific than ususal. Have at it.
It's true. I spent a lot of time and money to find the right sound for me until I bought the Triangle Altea ESW. They will stay with me for a while...
May I ask about what speakers are you talking about?

Can you post your system here? Anything visual can make your post much more effective in conveying your message don't you think?


i don't agree. i find a less-than-optimal set up of panel speakers preferred over most cone designs.

if i like a speaker, i would rather own it, than a speaker that i don't like that mates well with a room.

as an example, an mg 20.1 in a small room sounds better than any book shelf speaker in a small room, because i don't like box speakers. i can respect some brands , but i can't live with them very long. their faults annoy me.
Never thought I'd write these words, but I agree with Mr. Tennis to some extent on this one!:)

I would prefer to select speakers within my budget that I most like the sound of based on as many auditions as I can do. However, I would only audition speakers that I expect, at least on the face of it (size, measurements, etc.), to be a fit with my room in terms of size and frequency range (this is where I disagree with Mr. Tennis). Having selected the speaker that most appealed to me, I would then work on the room, making feasible changes to get the best room response from the speakers.
as an example, an mg 20.1 in a small room sounds better than any book shelf speaker in a small room, because i don't like box speakers. i can respect some brands , but i can't live with them very long. their faults annoy me.

A close friend tried to integrate 20.1's into a smallish listening room (well, smallish by 20.1 standards). He went through great lengths in everything from room treatment to stands to Xover to biamplification. The end result sounded very impressive, but ultimately restrictive in terms of throwing a realistic soundstage. Personally, I could not live with that huge compromise knowing I was not going to change the room. There are many alternatives that would work much better. Ultimately my friend decided the same and sold the 20.1's. He now uses a very different speaker design in the room which is much better suited to the space an the results are breathtaking in every which way. He'd also tried Quad 988's in the same room which rendered very similar challenges as the Maggies did. As good as both the planar speakers sounded in there I would NEVER be able to live with their faults within that space. At the recent CES I heard a pair of very odd speakers from Gradient called Helsinki. It was designed to alleviate some of the major challenges of integrating the speaker into any room. I don't know how it actually works in practice since I only heard it there, but the theory, which I'm sure can be better stated on their site, seemed like an interesting concept, and, more importantly, their sound was outstanding. I think I've seen them written up in a recent rag too.
horses for courses...agreed
soundstage is over rated. i lived with tympany 1b's for 14 years, with no soundstage width. the speakers did not disappear. it was a wall of sound. the instruments sounded realistic.

i heard the mg 20 when it was first introduced at ces, in the Golden Nugget, downtown Las Vegas. it was set up in a small hotel room. the sound was wonderful.
Chayro, I was just thinking this same thing. You just can't tell. I don't know if it's that the room favors one type of speaker or that you just found the right speaker for your tastes and room. I feel like I'm in the same boat and the only way to really find something like is to just keep trying new speakers. Or should you try new electronics, it's hard to know for sure and expensive to find out.
maybe the thought is off but it seems that if you get the stream of signals from source through to amp working right for one speaker then when you try another speaker that is more to what you want or an improvement over what you have, all the improvements you have made upstream should flow through. Open to any thoughts on this.
The speaker/room interaction is the most critical element in obtaining high quality sound reproduction. You don't have to absolutely nail it as in a professionally designed dedicated room, but any compromises will limit, possibly severely, the quality of your home sound reproduction.

I agree with Mrtennis that soundstage is overrated, but that doesn't mean one should live without it. It's possible to get realistic instrument sound and excellent soundstage reproduction, isn't it?
Unfortunately, you have to just keep trying until it happens.

You can do a lot to fix room problems with a lot greater chance of success than randomly trying speakers in the hope of finding one that is sufficiently bad or uneven in reponse so that it will happen to compensate for the room.
02-05-09: Amandarae
May I ask about what speakers are you talking about?
Can you post your system here? Anything visual can make your post much more effective in conveying your message don't you think?
I don't think it really matters that I post my system, as what works in my room really has no relevance to anyone else - but for some reason, the Opera Callas Monitor just cliked in my room like no other, even some more expensive speakers that I would probably prefer in a good demo room.

Shadhome - it's true that one can often do a lot to treat a room, but not always. When you live in a one-bedroom, you are often relegated to certain choices, such as having the TV between the speakers and having a couch flush up against the rear wall.
Charyo, I think you are on to something here in this discussion. Since this room is usually some reflection our music expectations and living taste, speakers must work well in the room. Our living room is also our audio listening room. I owned and tried in my home over 50 speakers, maybe more. For years I put music reproduction way over how they worked in my room situation. That was a huge mistake that cause me to change speakers wasting a lots of money along the way. A few years ago I selected the best speaker for music reproduction, aesthetics, and budget for our room situation. I'm happy.
I think one must truly know (1). their total budget, and (2). their room, to choose the right speakers.
If you have such a small space to relegate to a stereo system, get great electonics and earphones. You will be much happier.
A great room can't make a poor speaker sound good. You can take a good speaker into a poor room and make the adjustments necessary.
When you go to shows, there are certain speakers brands that consistently sound good. They are not necessarily the best speakers but have the best set up.
I never expected that I'd write a post in agreement with Mrtennis either. BUT- I'm one that could never be happy with boxed speakers as well(except as studio monitors). I too have been using Maggies(a couple of the smaller models, modded, 24" from the front and side walls) in an undersized room for over ten years now. I've actually found the beaminess of the planar to be an advantage with regards to reducing reflections. My only problems were in my enjoyment of realistic SPLs(plugged in and acoustic jazz/blues) and the correct placement of my two transmission line woofers(actively bi-amped). The room overloaded quite easily, and I was forced to keep the TLs between, and lined up with, the planars. Covering my back wall with Auralex and using LENRDs in the corners(no WAF at my house) solved the first problem. Of course æsthetically: The room is a complete embarrassment, BUT- I've always had excellent sound staging(YEAH, I know: That's not supposed to be possible), solid imaging(even with an equipment rack between the speakers), and the timbral accuracy I love. Adding a TACT RCS 2.2X to the mix some years back solved the woofer placement/time domain issue and allowed me to REALLY smooth out my bottom two octaves. Room acoustics CAN be overcome, to a large degree, with the right treatments and equipment. It's all much easier without a wife, but getting rid of her(very expensive process) is why I've got such a pitiful listening room now. At least that exponentially reduced the ambient noise levels. =8^)
I recently picked up Jim Smith's "Get Better Sound" book, and he essentially says that the listening room is the most important "component" in the system.
hi magnumpi:

i have been to ces for 16 years. i have noticed certain speaker systems consistently sound good, in spite of bad rooms. most manufacturer's blame the room, when, often it is the equipment.

"a bum mechanic blames his tools". a poor speaker designer blames the room.

a decent speaker, will always sound "good", even in a bad set up, but mat sound better when a room is treated.

just as it is easy to recognize a great recording on a mediocre stereo system, it is easy to recognize a great speaker in a bad room. make the best of your room, but choose your speakers wisely.

don't be a box speaker fool, panels rule ! LOL
There's no denying that room acoustics are of primary importance when setting up either a recording studio, live music venue or a listening room. I'd generally rather have so-so equipment in an excellent room, than excellent equipment in a so-so room. REALLY what one needs is a basic understanding of what will work easily, and what won't, when making equipment choices. Most don't get to build the room around their chosen equipment. BUT- It's been my experience that no problem is insuperable. Equipment can be modded and rooms treated, to achieve most REASONABLE goals. Of course- Good musicians, recorded well and planar speakers ARE indispensable in the recipe(at least in my cookbook).
Saw a good flick last night called, "Bottle Shock"

There's a great line in that film that comes to mind reading the all too familiar "pass the Grey Poupon" rhetoric I read here often.

YouÂ’re a snob, and it limits you

Put a pair of great speakers in a small, floor-to-ceiling-tiled room and they will most certainly not sound "good", and few, if any, would want to spend any time listening to music in that room. To a lesser extreme a room can certainly obscure the attributes of any speaker, some more than others. Compare ten pairs of speakers in the bathroom setting I describe and I doubt very much whether anyone could tell that much about how each speaker distinguishes itself from the others as when set up in a more ideal environment that suited the specific speaker. Sure, you'll be able to glean some useful information from the comparison, but I don't think I would want to make a decision based solely on the information I came away with. Broadly comparing the rooms at CES with those at RMAF I personally thought that there were far more rooms sounding better at CES than at RMAF and I do believe the difference in the rooms being contended with had something to do with that. To some extent I'd agree though, that the differences are not so extreme in practice as to really obscure being able to discern important qualities of a speaker's performance. There are consistencies in performance that come to mind from one show to the other (Roger Sanders for instance - though I felt his speakers sounded great in both cases, I thought at T.H.E. show recently, they were actually more compromised by (?) than at RMAF so go figure). I would not, however, dismiss the room so almost seems like a contrarian fishing expedition to me. I don't see it as a mechanic blaming poor tools. A mechanic working to tune a Ferarri in a well-lit, comfortably heated, well equipped garage vs the same mechanic, same tools, tuning the same car in a cold vibrating room with dim lighting. Same tools, same mechanic, different environment = likely different results.
I totally aggree. In college I bought some Canton higher end speakers though they sounded great in the showroom when I go thtem home they still sounded good and flat in the midrange but I loss base soundstage and something else. I even called Canton thought something was wrong with the speakers. Several years later I moved to a bigger room they had some air around them and wow what a difference! The speakers where simply to big for the room, probably a good pair of bookshlves woudl of been better.

Now I have vandersteen 5a and same thing I had them in a decent room but just never really worked I moved to a new house about a year ago with a dedicated 23 x 23 HT, Much better my soundstage just opened up. Can't waite till I get some treatments in I have a base hump.
One other thing that people are swareing buy is these sound eq like audssey (sp) that balance your speakers to a room. These hit the HT market in processors a couple of years ago and wow what a difference. They now make some high end ones for 2 channel most audiofiles frown at them, I understand, but most people I know that tried them will never go back. I am a firm belever you need to not only match the speakers to the room but also in some cases balance them to a room. Heck Vandersteen has been doing this for years he balances to the room and the preamp with little pots on the backs of the speakers and crossovers. When is the last time you installed any speaker in to a totally equaly sounding room on both sides. Also once the speakers sound the same the sound stage appears and gets big and the speakers disappear.

What size room did you have the 5As in before?
The room was 12' x 18' but had some wierd stuff going on and had a L shaped dining room attached. The only way they would work is with the R speaker close to the wall between the TV and wall and the other speaker was almost out in the open. The tuning was fun one speaker had almost no bass the other was cranked. My new room is about 22x23 with 9' celings seems about perfect for the 5a's.
A good room can make a bose cube sound like a line array to some people!!! (sarcasm)

Biggest mistake many make, and I have myself so I am not pointing fingers is jamming a huge floorstander in a far less than adequate sized area... Side walls are a huge issue with throwing a real soundstage, and allowing the sound to integrate at your listening position... The further away the better from my experience, or go with some decent bookshelfs and a sub.

I feel anything under about 14 feet wide is VERY limited, and normally will not allow you to use those big boys everybody wants, from Wilson to Kharma, to 7 foot tall lines.. This is because I have had rooms of 12.5 feet wide. 13 feet wide, and until having 15 plus wide never heard a room even with great room treatments anything as good as simply having the "Space"...

If your on smallish side room, or odd shape, or against all audio world grain with several obstructions and shared space type rooms not being dedicated, don't waste money on I say anything above 1500 to 2000 used, and thats even pushing it if you want your moneys worth. These are my own rules now, but believe me they apply pretty universally, however do you think a speaker company trying to make big bucks off you will really drive this home and kill a sale on thier big ticket item? They would be out of business!

Another reason so many unreasonable accusations are made of several speakers at these "Audio shows" in hotel rooms, mostly they are very limited in space, and are made to fit a king sized bed, not a speaker that belongs in an area trying to recreate a concert sized setting.