The importance of correct loudspeaker placement
If you want to optimally enjoy your music, it is important that your stereo image is displayed in a correct way. When you own a decent hifi or high-end audio setup you will hear width, depth and height as if you were present during the recording itself. To achieve this it is important to place your loudspeakers correctly.
With most loudspeakers it is also important that you are sitting in the “sweet spot”. This is the location where your stereo image is displayed perfectly.
In this article I will explain you how you can correctly position your loudspeakers in an easy & fast way.
And I will also tell you how to determine the exact sweet spot.
What is the sweet spot?
The sweet spot is the place where you listen to music and where the stereo image is reproduced completely accurate. The sweet spot is located at the listener’s position, in proportion to the exact center between both loudspeakers.
The ideal position for your loudspeakers in proportion to the sweet spot is an equilateral triangle.
The image below illustrates this for you:
In some cases it is better not to use a triangle where all sizes are equal. When this is the case, you can experiment with shorter and longer distances between the loudspeakers and your listening position.
An easy and fast way to place your loudspeakers correctly is with the help of a laser rangefinder.
This is a device that can measure distance in a very fast & precise way.
It allows you to for instance to measure the exact distance between your loudspeakers and the walls of your listening space, so you’re always sure both loudspeakers are set up correctly, without too much hassle.
Laster rangefinders are usually used in the construction sector. But they can provide audiophiles a huge service, and save a lot of time when you want to exactly position your loudspeakers.
Step 1: loudspeakers distance from back wall
This drawing illustrates how you can position your loudspeakers in proportion to your back wall. Take the exact same distance for both left & right loudspeaker.
Use the same place on both loudspeakers to position your laser rangefinder. (be aware: you have to mirror that position for the second loudspeaker)
It is best practice to position your laser rangefinder in an angle of 90 degrees, so you can measure precisely.
Step 2: loudspeaker distance from side walls
This drawing illustrates how you can position your loudspeakers in proportion to the side walls.
You apply the same techniques as you did for the back wall:
Use the same distance for both left & right loudspeaker.
Use the same place on both loudspeakers to position your laser rangefinder. (be aware you have to mirror that position for the second loudspeaker)
Also here, it will be best practice to position your laser rangefinder in an angle of 90 degrees, so you can measure precisely.
Step 3: your listening position in proportion to the loudspeakers
After you have determined the correct distance from the back wall and the side walls, it is now time to setup your listening position.
You can also use a laser rangefinder to do so.
I will give you two different ways to exactly determine your listening position:
1. Two parallel lines
The first way to find your listening position is to draw two lines:
- The line of your loudspeakers
- The line of your listening position
To help you draw these lines you can use a piece of rope, or a tape measure.
You place your listening position (for instance a couch) parallel to your loudspeakers.
The distance between both lines should be the same everywhere. You can also measure this with your laser rangefinder.
Your sweet spot will be in the exact middle of your listening position.
2. Distance between yourself and both loudspeakers
A second way to determine the sweet spot, is to measure the distance between yourself and the loudspeaker. This distance should be the same for both loudspeakers.
You can for instance aim from your face to the tweeter of both loudspeakers. The easiest way to measure this, is to use a laser rangefinder on a stand, such as a tripod.
When you have correctly followed these guidelines, the distance should be the same for both loudspeakers.
Step 4: listening
“The proof is in the pudding”.
When you have measured everything, and when the speakers are correctly positioned, it is time to listen.
Most audiophiles use a song of which they know how the stereo image was recorded. For instance a song where the singer is recorded right in the middle between both loudspeakers.
You should be aware that not every recording has the voice recorded exactly in the middle. And the center position is only one of the positions you should measure for stereo imaging.
A better way to test your stereo image is to use test files for stereo imaging.
Here is a convenient source for such test files:
Some considerations when placing loudspeakers
1. Not every room is symmetrical
Not every room has exact symmetrical walls. In fact this could be a good thing.
An exact square from an acoustical perspective is far from ideal. You will have much more reflections and standing waves in a listening room that is an exact square when compared to a room that is rectangular, or a room where the walls are not symmetrical.
You should in fact consider yourself lucky when your walls are crooked. Your room has the potential to sound better than when you would have an exact square room. 🙂
2. A small deviation is no big deal
Laser rangefinders can measure very accurately. Depending on your room it could happen that there is a small deviation in distance between your right loudspeaker and your left loudspeaker. This can for instance happen when your walls are not exactly straight.
It is true that some loudspeakers are more sensitive to exact placement than others.
But in most cases a small deviation is no big deal.
3. Never place your loudspeakers on the same distance from side wall and back wall
Be careful when you are going to measure the distance between your loudspeakers and the walls of your listening room.
It is not advised to place your loudspeakers on the same distance from the side wall and the back wall. Because this could potentially cause more acoustical problems.
It might be better to place the loudspeakers for instance at a smaller distance from your side wall, and at a larger distance from your back wall.
4. Use walls to prevent early reflections
Not all sound coming from your loudspeaker will reach your ear at the same time. Apart from direct sound coming from your loudspeaker and going directly into your ear, part of the sound will disperse, and will first reflect before it reaches you.
This is called “reflection”.
The first place where reflections can arise, are the side walls (first order reflections).
The drawing below illustrates this principle:
This reflected sound will take longer before it reaches your ear when compared to the sound coming directly from your loudspeakers.
This is one of the causes of acoustical problems.
A trick to minimize these side wall reflections, is to place the loudspeakers closer to the side walls. When you do this, the difference in time between the direct sound and the reflected sound will be shorter.
5. Standing free
Some loudspeakers are more sensitive to placing them near walls. They might perform better when they are standing free, away from the walls.
Consider experimentation when needed.
6. Manufacturer advice
Some loudspeaker manufacturers also provide a manual with detailed description on how to place their model loudspeaker in your listening room.
The drawing below illustrates the complete process to accurately place your loudspeakers in your listening room:
Of course, different loudspeakers can have different characteristics. And no listening room is the same.
Experimentation will be required to achieve optimal results.
I wish you good luck!
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