Sanus Brings Sanity to Surround Speaker Placement
In this case the theory - according to Dolby Laboratories - is that all speakers in a 5.1-channel (or higher) home theater system be carefully placed with regard to seating position. Why? Because, as anyone who has ever studied up on the subject will tell you, "Whether your system is small or state-of-the-art, proper speaker placement is the key to the best home theater sound."
Just in case you've forgotten, the front left and right speakers ideally should be placed along the base of an equilateral triangle with the listener at the apex and the center channel centered between the main speakers. When it comes to the surround speakers, Dolby recommends that the optimal height be "above ear level, as soundtracks are likely to be optimized for that location." (See Dolby's diagram of the ideal setup here.)
Then reality comes barging in.
Walk into any home theater around the country (knock on the front door first, if you please), and chances are you'll find rear speakers in every location except one that's optimal for best sound. Some are placed at uneven heights, while others are lying on the floor or - I shudder at the thought - sitting on top of the front speakers. (You really can't blame people who commit such a technological faux pax, because that's probably where they've seen the rear speakers on Home-Theater-in-a-Box systems at their local mass-merchant store.) Then there are the issues of volume level calibration, whether or not surround sound is selected on the receiver, and is the DVD player set up properly - but that's beyond the scope of our discussion here.
To make it easier to get the optimal surround speaker placement in a home theater, A/V furniture manufacturer Sanus Systems has introduced the Hover Foundations speaker stands which Sanus claims are "the first in the industry that meet the placement guidelines of Dolby Laboratories." The new stands are available in black or silver and come in a package that contains two high-mass base plates and two straight telescoping pillars. The pillars are able to raise the surround speakers from 36 inches to a maximum of 58 inches off the ground, a range that should allow most people to easily place the surround speakers "slightly behind and above ear level facing horizontally (not down at the listener)" as recommended by Dolby.
In a nod toward the reality of life and personal preference, Sanus includes a pair of angled telescoping pillars for listeners who say, "Eat Total Harmonic Distortion, Dolby!" before angling the speakers down at the listening area. ("I take my coffee black, my vodka neat, and my surround channels cranked as loud as possible!")
A total of six different sets of speaker mounts also come with the stands. Sanus says the mounts allow virtually any speaker up to ten pounds to be fastened to the stands and provides an easy - and excellent sounding - alternative to mounting the speakers on a wall or ceiling, not to mention an utterly undesirable location. Assembly can be successfully acomplished with the help of a single Phillips screwdriver. Adjustable carpet spikes or rubber-pad feet can be used on the heavy cast-iron base plates.
The Hover Foundations are available now with a list price of $79.99 a pair.