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Speaker Position for Best Sound

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

1.     The type of floor, either concrete or suspended  floorboards

2.      The interface between the speakers and the surface it rests on, ie  floor, speaker stand, shelf  etc.

3.      The proximity of the speakers to room boundaries, especially corners

4.      The room furnishings and level of reflectivity of the surfaces, ie carpet , heavy curtains, ceramic tiles, wood  floor etc.

5.      The physical size of the speaker relative to the space is has to fill.

 

More details here of what this means in your room and what you can do about it.

1.       If you have a concrete floor you have a  easy life, relativity speaking,   as it is a  non resonant base for your stands or “stand mount” speakers.  With a suspended floor you have basically a huge sound board to sit your speakers on.

Try putting a  tuning fork on a granite worktop and then on a cupboard door, the sounds will be very different.

 2.      The key to good sound here is to isolate the speaker from its surroundings, no matter what type of cabinet you are using.

How to Isolate

a) The most effective way  we have found to achieve this inexpensively is to use polipods, four under the speakers on the floor, worktop or shelf.

The effect of these excellent devices, interestingly, is to channel the speaker cabinet vibration into themselves and turn it into small amounts of heat.

Critically it does not let the vibration into the surroundings and thus they do not “sing  along”  with the music, the results are cleaner and tighter sound.

As an experiment you can try on stand mounted speakers, play a fairly loud, bassy track and place your fingertips lightly on the lower floor plate of the stand  and feel the   level of vibration. Repeat the same music after replacing the blu-tac, spikes or other interface  with  polipods, one in each corner of the top plate.

The difference in vibration levels to your finger tips should be very much less.

From this it can be deduced that the vibration is absorbed by the polipods and the stand is not vibrating along with the music and then feeding the signal  into the floor.

In all comparisons done this way we heard a cleaner and more controlled sound.

It is important to fill any speakers stands if they  allow it.

Use steel chips, lead shot if you can afford it or kiln–dries sand   if you are on a budget.

 

DO  NOT  use beach sand as domestic trauma will result amongst the parents, family or servants because the bottom of the stands corrode  and dump the contents on the carpet, which can happen within  a few months in some cases. 

b) Floor Stand Mounting

Mounting floor standers on a suspended floor takes a bit more effort but is again very worthwhile.

For those wishing to get the very best sound quality from their system, the most cost effective and practical method we have found is to use two pieces of stone, marble, granite, flagstone to suite which are 40-60mm thick and cut 50mm approx. larger  than the speaker base in both dimensions.

Fit one under each speaker and then use our old friend, polipods or the large version foculpods, under heavy speakers.

These pods are mildly self adhesive  and will stick to the stone and the speaker underside  making the whole arrangement pretty stable.

They can be removed if required by gently peeling off from the edge.

The two pronged approach of added mass with the stone and isolation via pads will give the best chance for good speakers to work at their best without breaking the bank.

3.   Boundaries

This is a fairly straightforward effect to get to grips with and applies to almost all speakers of any design.

The closer a speaker is pushed  towards 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 pushed close to a wall, so careful listening and personal taste comes into play. It is useful to know you can change the sound to suit your ears to a degree.

This is easy if you have the luxury of designing your room around the hi fi/home cinema system.

But back in the real world  it is more  a  matter of choosing  the correct speakers to fit your room.

Choose smoother or even fairly dull sounding to fit  a hard surface room, especially a tiled floor ! Dull does not mean low quality in this context but more bass emphasis.

The opposite generally applies with the lively 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 carpeted.

4.   Size

The 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 the sounding clipped and 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 base and thus smaller speakers can work best.

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 the hifi system, the subwoofer.

But that is a whole other story. We can cover that in a future issue. But let us leave on the note that most music has real notes below 40 hz and most speakers have fading volume around that frequency. And many sounds have components of sound at low frequencies, like deep vocals and large wind instruments.

So subwoofers really bring music to life more.