Tuesday, December 4, 2012

(Re) Discovering the Importance of Loudspeaker Placement

Being in business for 10 years does not make one immune to rookie errors on occasion  Case in point:  I was heading out of town for a much needed break from everyday life, when a potential customer called a few hours before my scheduled trip and asked to hear a pair of Vivid loudspeakers I did not have set up in my showroom. I agreed to have him come over and listen, and hastily set up the loudspeakers, not following a single rule of loudspeaker placement.  The customer came over, listened very briefly, and politely left. His comments were "they sounded awfully bright", and you know what, he was absolutely right. I sat myself down in the listening spot, and it was awful. Unfocused, out of balance and with a tilted up mid-treble region. I had listened to these speakers 100 times before and never heard this. I blamed the cables, the upstream components, tweaks, everything but the obvious.

I came back from my trip rested, but still perplexed at why the system did not sound good at all. I had no desire to listen to it.  Then my friend Mike came over for a listen and his first question to me was "did you set up the speakers properly?" "Holy crap, I didn't even think about it!", I replied. We then took the time to place the speakers properly, which took about 20 minutes. We used a laser tape measure to get the speakers equidistant from the listening position with the proper ratio between the speakers and listener (we used a ratio of .83 distance between speakers to 1.0 distance from speakers to listeners. Wilson's setup method used a ratio of  approximately .87, your mileage may vary, but these numbers tend to work more often than not.

Results
When we finished setting up the distance and proper toe-in of the speakers, it sounded like a completely different system. The focus was back, the wide, deep soundstage, and the beautiful tonality the speakers were known for returned.