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Speaker Choice and Positioning for Best Sound

Factors which affect speaker performance in a domestic environment include:-

1. Physical size of the speaker relative to the space they need to fill.
2. Room furnishings and level of reflectivity of the surfaces, i.e. carpet , heavy curtains, ceramic tiles, wood floor, etc.­
3. Proximity of the speakers to room boundaries, especially corners.
4. Interface between the speakers and the surface it rests on, i.e. floor, speaker stand, shelf, wall-brackets, etc.
5. Type of floor, either concrete or suspended floorboards.

So what does this mean to your room and what can you do about it?

1. Speaker size

As a general rule, the larger the room the larger the speaker. This is to ensure the speaker can drive the air volume in the room without running out of steam and sounding distorted or compressed in the treble.
A larger room will also produce bass notes better due to the lower wavelength which the room will allow to be reproduced.
A smaller room will usually sound tighter and faster in the bass and in this case smaller speakers can work well.
For the sake of domestic harmony it is sometimes necessary to use smaller speakers in a large room.
This is not a problem if you can fit in the secret weapon of a hi-fi system, a subwoofer. However, that is a different story which we can cover in a future newsletter.

2. Isolation – How to Isolate

– Concrete floors tend to be less problematic as they act as a non-resonant base for your stands or floor standing speakers.
With a suspended floor your speakers stand on a sound board and this is not ideal.
The key to good sound here is to isolate the speaker from its surroundings, regardless of the your speaker cabinet.

Polipods

– The most effective way we have found to achieve this is to use four Polipods. These are high performance vibration absorbing supports which can be placed under each corner of your speakers. They can also be used to support speaker stands if required. The result is a cleaner and more controlled sound.

It is important to fill any speakers stands if possible. Use steel chips, lead shot or kiln–dried sand. We do not recommend beach sand and this will result in corrosion.

Placing floor-standing speakers on a suspended floor takes a bit more effort but this will be worthwhile. Where sound quality is paramount, the best method we have found is to use two pieces of stone, marble, granite or flagstone to suit which are 40-60mm thick and cut roughly 50mm larger than the speaker base in both dimensions. Fit one under each speaker and then use Polipods or the larger Foculpods, under heavy speakers. These Foculpods are mildly self adhesive and will stick to the stone and the speaker underside making the whole arrangement pretty stable. The approach of added mass with the stone and isolation via pads will give the chance for good speakers to work at their best.

3.Boundaries

The closer a speaker is to a room boundary, or more importantly a corner, the more the sound balance moves towards the bass end. Thus the sound can be adjusted to your taste to some degree by positioning. The downside of this is that the bass can become overpowering and out of balance when the speaker is too close to a wall, so careful listening and personal taste come into play.
Choose smoother or even fairly mellow sounding speakers to fit a hard surface room, especially a tiled floor !
The opposite applies with lively or bright speakers sounding better in a soft furnished room.
The sound balancing act is also very dependent on the rest of the equipment used and the character of the sound this feeds to the speaker.
As a general rule, it is easier to get better sound in a soft-furnished room especially when carpeted.