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Nov 13, 2009

Loudspeaker Positioning

Posted by The Advanced Audiophile

The Leaning Tower of Paradigm

With stand-mounted speakers, is there a difference in where the speakers are on the stand? Well, this is advanced audio. Of course there's a difference! Most people would center the speaker on the stand, because that's what makes sense to them. There are indeed some interesting things about the center of objects. But we're not talking about an object, when we're talking loudspeakers. We're talking about a pair of objects. Different thing, different rules. Here, the center of the object is the midway point between the two speakers. I keep forgetting the rule, so I'm writing this article basically as a reference to myself when I forget: the left speaker goes as far back on the left stand as you can get it, without fear of it tipping over (yes, even if its partially on the stand).  The right speaker goes as far front on the right stand as you can get it, without fear of it tipping over.

Since I discovered it, I realize that no one else is going to tell you this. Not the least for which it contradicts every bit of conventional wisdom and theories of acoustic principles. But what can I say, this positioning scheme helps to reduce tension.  I would not want it to be so either, as it mucks up aesthetics. Not that conventional theory is necessarily wrong, but as always, there are many things occuring here. "Conventionalists" might argue that imaging will be off, with one speaker further away than another. They are undoubtedly correct. But while some things might degrade, others will improve. And the parts of the sound that improve under this method are the components that keep you more engaged with the music. So, again, there's a choice to be made: do you want better imaging, or less boring and more involving sound?  I will always choose the latter. And if this appeals to you, why not take it even further?

Yes, move the entire left speaker (and stand) back, whilst you move the right one forward. How far to go with this is up to you and your ears alone. (But don't let the speaker cables touch the rear wall).

Depending on your set-up, this moving one speaker back can certainly produce a somewhat unbalanced sound, if one speakers is closer to the wall. Not to mention the thing about the imaging. But positioned carefully, it could mean the difference between balanced and boring sound you don't feel to listen to for longer than two minutes, and lively engaging sound with great definition, that you find you can't tear yourself away from. As it was in my case. If you stop listening to bass, mids and treble, and just get swept up by the music... then you know you've got it right. If its a little bassier on one side, or the imaging has shifted... you may not even notice that, because the sound is otherwise coherent and involving.

You can even kick it up a notch further, by moving the left speaker so its left side is flush with the left side of the stand's top plate, and the right speaker so its right side is flush with the right side of the stand's top plate. (So much for centers!). Or, you can go "super combo extreme with special sauce extra cheese", by pushing the left speaker toward the rear right corner, just before it is ready to fall off (so it is no longer flush with the left side of the top plate). Likewise, you then push the right speaker toward the front left corner, before it is ready to fall off.

In my case, what I end up with is a left bookshelf speaker on a stand that is reminiscent of the leaning tower of Pisa. And a right speaker that is so far forward than the left, it looks like it has plans to go somewhere. This does not a pretty set up make. And theoretically, this should really mess up things. But instead, the sound was glorious. "Icier", I would describe it, but in a refreshing way. It had much more presence, much firmer and deeper bass, glossy mids and detailed highs without being aggressive, much better timbre and definition (that is, a real increase in information and not just FR shifts), and most importantly, more musical. My first test after setting it up this way, was to put on some Aaron Neville. And he sounded much more like he was in the room, and the instruments were really playing in the room. This was with live YouTube as the source! My test for "musical" is to put on music I don't like. That inevitably means something by "Yanni". Well, for the first time, I listened to the Yanni track all the way through!

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