Speakers: Where Do I Put Them? Page 2

• Compact speakers are often referred to as bookshelf models, but that designation is misleading. Most serious bookshelf speakers aren’t designed to be used in a bookshelf at all. Instead, they work best when you place them upright on good (extra-cost) stands and place them a couple of feet or more away from any nearby walls, including the wall behind them.

• Set up the speakers so that their drivers are aligned vertically. This will provide the smoothest off-axis response. Horizontal center speakers are an exception, but this arrangement can compromise the performance. The horizontal driver configuration in most center speakers is driven by aesthetic and marketing considerations, not the best sonic performance.

• Many audiophiles like to set up their two-channel systems with the left and right speakers aimed straight ahead. Some (but not all) two-channel setups sound better this way. This is fine for a single listener, but it can be a disaster for several people watching a movie. If you’re seated in front of the left speaker, it will fire right at you. On the other hand, you’ll be so far off axis of the right speaker that you’ll rarely be aware of it. For a more uniformly distributed soundstage, try to aim the left and right speakers directly at a centrally located listening seat, or even at a point in space a couple of feet in front of it. You won’t achieve perfect performance everywhere, but your family and friends will thank you anyway.

• If there’s a deep, big-screen TV between the left and right front speakers, try to move the speakers out far enough so that their front baffles are further forward than the plane of the TV screen. This shouldn’t be difficult if you follow the recommendations above in regards to keeping the speakers away from the walls. If you keep the speakers as far away as possible from a TV, this will minimize acoustic reflections from the screen.

• If you’re using a CRT TV, make sure your front speakers are magnetically shielded. For a modern digital television, such shielding is irrelevant.

Surround Speakers
• Make sure you put your surrounds along the side or rear of your room. In particular, if you have a small HTIB system, don’t be tempted to forget the surrounds. The ambience and sense of space that properly positioned surrounds can provide can be even more impressive in an otherwise modest speaker setup than in a state-of-the-art system.

• Place dipole surrounds directly to the sides of the main listening seats. For other types of surrounds, 110 to 120 degrees back from the front is recommended as the best location for a 5.1-channel system. But don’t be bound by convention. If your room is fairly narrow, you may find that side or near-side mounting makes the surrounds too prominent. Try moving them further back.

Subwoofers
• I could fill an entire book with advice on subwoofer placement. Suffice it to say, you can’t just plunk a subwoofer down anywhere and expect to get the best from it. Experiment. Try different locations and live with each of them for a while. Listen for smooth, uniform response and good low-frequency extension without boom or one-note bass. Some rooms will resist a good result more than others, but after a time, you should be able to arrive at a satisfactory setup in nearly any room.

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