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Proper Distance From Speakers

Discussion in 'Configuration & Setup' started by Zing, Aug 29, 2010.

  1. Zing

    Zing Retired Admin Famous

    As a preface, I understand two things: First, this is likely subjective and personal preference. Second, speaker manufacturers almost always indicate in their owner's manuals how they'd like you to setup their speakers and/or how they were designed to be setup.

    That said, is there some gauge, some reference, some way to determine where the listening position should ultimately be?

    The two most common rules of thumb are the form an equilateral triangle rule and the 1.5X the distance rule. Assuming you hear a clear difference in sound between the two, how do you know which is right? Or is this simply a matter of preference and there is no "right" sound?

    At Batman's GTG, Pauly and I experimented. He preferred - those speakers in that room - further apart and with some toe-in. In that instance, he was actually closer to the speakers than the speakers were from each other. I, on the other hand, preferred the sound with the speakers closer together and no toe-in. I remember him commenting "all I hear is midrange".

    When Batman was here last weekend, we had a similar experiment. I put two pieces of tape of the floor. The first indicated the equidistance, the second indicated 1.5x the distance. Batman preferred the closer position and I preferred the further. Interestingly though, on one particular recording, I actually preferred an even closer position (Pauly would be proud). So now the brings each recording into the mix and hence my query.

    Sure, if it sounds good to you, that's what matters. But I really think there's a "but this is how it's supposed to sound" out there. Is there?
  2. Towen7

    Towen7 Well-Known Member Staff Member Moderator

    I think we have to break the discussion into multiple pieces; speaker distance, frequency response/accuracy, and boundary reflections. and the compromises that will have to made when dealing with each piece of the puzzle.
    I though that the distance equations have more to do with stereo separation and a sense of space than anything else... that it really doesn't have much to do with frequency response/accuracy.
    You mentioned toeing the speakers toward the listener and that certainly does affect the frequency response.
  3. Zing

    Zing Retired Admin Famous

    You're right, toeing the speakers puts you on axis with the drivers and will seemingly increase their output - most noticeably with the tweeter. And I think that's what Pauly noticed at Bats' house. But what I was getting at was the imaging, soundstage and sense of space.

    I get amazing separation when I sit close. Vocals and drums seem to coming from my center channel and everything else seems to come from the mains. But a drawback I notice is the fact that they're obviously coming from the mains. The music isn't coming from in front of you but rather out that box right over there. Sitting further back, it doesn't seem to be coming from any one particular speaker, just left, leftish, middle, rightish and right.

    So is one more correct that the other? If so, what do you use to determine that? And if not, then this is one of those drag-it-around-the-room-until-it-sounds-good things.
  4. GreatDane

    GreatDane Well-Known Member

    I like my speakers towed-in. The tweeters are 59" apart and my ears are 65" from each tweeter. My ears sit level with the upper edge of the woofer. This is 2 CH.
  5. Yesfan70

    Yesfan70 I'm famous now bitches! vvvvv Famous

    I have to agree with Towen. There's three issues to deal with. For starters, I spaced the speakers out from the back wall and side walls for less bass and more midrange. Then I went the equilateral triangle route. I have my mains toed out just a little bit. In other words, the tweeters are aimed just slightly off each side of the sweet spot.

    I don't have any measurements to show whether those settings are better or worse, but that's what my ears like.
  6. Flint

    Flint "Do you know who I am?" Superstar

    There are several things to consider:

    1) Size of the room - In a large room speakers can be further from the listener than in a small room. This is due the reflected sound being less loud in a large room than in a small room. The goal is to ensure the sound arriving directly from the speakers to the listener is substantially louder than the reflected sound, like 16dB SPL or more louder. This is why I promote the use of early reflection absorption - it makes the room less of an issue.

    2) The design of the speakers (distance) - Most loudspeakers designed for home use are tuned for a listening distance of 8 to 12 feet. At greater distances they may not play loud enough or the response may appear too dull (treble dissipates in the air faster than bass). PA speakers would sound terrible at 8 feet, but at 20 feet they sound pretty darn good.

    3) The design of the speakers (toe-in) - Many modern speakers have tweeters with a piercing top end response which is reduced when the speakers are aimed anywhere other than directly at the listener. One can tune how "bright" a speaker sound by aiming it more at the ears or more away from the ears. However, this approach also changes the midrange and the diffraction characteristics of the sound. I prefer a traditional cone/dome speaker designed to be aimed directly, or near directly, at the listener due to the overall acoustical results (room dispersion, diffraction, power curve, etc.). Horn speakers, however, are almost always harsh and horn-like sounding when they are aimed directly at the listener. This combined with the off-axis dispersion control they provide (reducing room reflections) makes them better suited to aiming straight forward or overly toed-in (my preference).

    4) Design of the speaker (bass output) - Some speakers are designed to be flat in an anechoic chamber, which makes them boomy when placed close to a wall. Others are designed specifically to be placed close to walls and sound thin an weak when pulled away from the wall. Since there is a plethora of acoustical issues associated with placing a speaker close to a wall, I prefer speakers designed to be out in the room. Horns or proper inwall speakers are the exception to that preference.

    5) Stereo Image - Nearly all speakers provide nearly identical stereo imaging when in the same room, placed in the same spot, and aimed the same way. I've heard too many audiophile claim that one speaker needs to be further apart than another to get the best imaging, but I refuse to accept that - assuming the speakers are of similar basic design. Over decades of experimenting, controlled listening tests, and working with hundreds of home theater enthusiasts, I believe the most ideal placement for traditional cone/dome speakers is an equalateral triangle between the listener and the two stereo speakers. There is a tad bit of play in the distance between the speakers which is acceptable, especially when room conditions are being addressed, but in general the equalateral approach is best. If a virtual center channel sound (like the voice track of most recordings) doesn't appear solid, distict, and palpable, then the speakers could be too far apart in that room. If the center sound is very solid but the edge or "virtual surround" beyond the left and right sides of the speakers is too weak, then they could be too close together for that room. Ultimately, a sound that comes from the left, center, and right sound remain identical sounding to the ear, as if there the recorded sound were really directly in front of the listener at each position. That typically is the target.

    That's the most I can think of right now, but there are dozens more considerations to this art.
  7. GreatDane

    GreatDane Well-Known Member

    Great info Flint. I must have my speakers close to optimal because I get a very solid virtual center channel sound while still having an often 3D effect. After I added the Auralex Studiofoam, I noticed an improvement which was expected.

    Even though I have entry-level speakers, they deliver impressive detail comparing them to high-end headphones.
  8. Aaron German

    Aaron German Active Member

    I have a pair of the Klipsch Heresy, and they are really toed-in. I mean they are almost pointed right at each other. I think they sound best this way.
  9. Flint

    Flint "Do you know who I am?" Superstar

    In fact, that is my prefered method for Klipsch Heritage horns. Paul Klipsch used to give the general advice that his horns should be aim inward so that the direct on-axis output crossover about 1 to 2 feet in front of the listener. This was to take into account the on-axis harshness AND to get the best room echo characterics.
  10. malsackj

    malsackj Well-Known Member

    I dont want to seem to hijack a thread but would like to also consider source material when evaluating. Our man Flint, and Altec did a great test on the forum in SaV in comparing digital and analog recordings. I feel the recordings are part of the question and answer to be added into the discusion. If you dont have a good recording to start with you will not be happy with the outcome. Identifying good material and using this with a knowdge of what to look for helps.
  11. Flint

    Flint "Do you know who I am?" Superstar

    I have several recordings I use to determine excellent stereo imaging, many are on my infamous auditioning CD. But, my absolute most favorite stereo test CD is "Amused to Death" by Roger Waters. The recording is excellent to start with, but they employed a special effect on much of the recording which actually gives a full 3D effect for certain sounds. As such, if the mono-center portions is clear and well defined, and the instruments are naturally placed, and the ambience sounds are enveloping, and even the 3D sounds appear to be coming from all around you - then you know you have it perfect.
  12. topper

    topper Well-Known Member


    I use pretty much the same configuration as Yesfan.
    My towers are about 9.5 ft. apart, with moderate toe in, and my listening spot is 10 ft. away.

    The right combination varies from room to room, and, of course, subjective to the sound most pleasing to you. Take the time to experiment and find the arrangement that sounds the very best to you. It's well worth it . . .

    Beware of early reflection spots.
  13. Alien

    Alien Active Member

    You're IG aren't you!
  14. Flint

    Flint "Do you know who I am?" Superstar

    it depends on who I am speaking to.

    Who are you?
  15. Alien

    Alien Active Member

    It's MJL777...or mike. I now prefer Alien.
  16. PaulyT

    PaulyT Behind the Curtain Staff Member Administrator Moderator Superstar

    Ah, hey Mike! Good to see you. Didn't realize it was you...
  17. Flint

    Flint "Do you know who I am?" Superstar

    Ah! Good to see you.
  18. soundhound

    soundhound Well-Known Member

    I'm sure you realize that, from your own listening experience to my horns, that the above statement is not always true, nor does it need to be always true.
  19. Flint

    Flint "Do you know who I am?" Superstar

    Yep! That's why I used the phrase "almost always". Aside from probably three or four samples which are not as I describe (your's being one of them), my statement has been true for the hundreds of other horns I've ever heard.

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