It’s the time of year for saving money!
As an audiophile, I suspect I am one of a brood of enthusiasts who like to tinker with their systems. I find it somewhere between enlightening and confusing that while I find my system glorious today, tomorrow may well be quite a different story. And so, the “experimenting” begins.
There is, perhaps, no greater portion of our audio systems that are repositioned, toed in, toed out, moved around, supplemented with something, and basically casting the perpetual feeling things could be better than speakers. Floor standing or bookshelf, it matters not. It is surprisingly simple to question the system’s sonics because of an indubitable belief that only a few millimeters “this way” will yield dramatic improvements.
When we do more of a deep dive on speaker positioning, it becomes abundantly clear not all audio rooms are the same and these “all encompassing” speaker set up methods are not all they’re cracked up to be. Most will use a mathematical formula of some type to divide and subdivide the room into quadrants where speakers may be placed.
Do an Internet search for “how to set up floorstanding speaker in an audio room.” My search took 0.87 seconds and yielded 4,990,000 results. And guess what? All of them have little chance of being the actual correct position of my speakers. At best, they are a good starting point. A place from which actual fine tuning of the speakers in the room may take place. Basically, a final speaker position requires experimentation to get the sonics locked into an overall enjoyable position. Why?
Because no two room are alike. Because builders do not build rooms with perfect dimensions. Because builders essentially do not build rooms for a two-channel audio system (unless the room is designed as such). Because there is no guarantee walls and ceilings will be consistent in terms of parallel, plumb, straight, and flat. Because no two rooms will be furnished the same – not to mention the deleterious effect furniture, windows and mirrors have on imaging. Because different speaker designs have varying placement methodologies. Because we may not fully understand the physics of how sound is propagated in an enclosed space. Because, because, because…
The list goes on and on.
How do we then get speakers to their optimal position? Simple, we experiment. We tinker. We move a few millimeters one way and when that proves unsatisfactory, we move them a different way. Even if we hire a professional to position our speakers for us, they are employing these same techniques. They are simply charging for their experience, their set up acumen and their history of doing so many times before in all manner of situations. In the end, getting speakers right requires fine tuning. AKA – experimenting.
What of the system itself? While many may feel there is little one can do to an amp, preamp, streaming device, music server or phonostage, I would tell you there are quite a few things that might be tried for better sonics.
One, “experiment” using vibration control products. These products, depending on the type and level of protection, can have a remarkable impact on a system’s sonic greatness. In fact, every piece of equipment in my system, from sources, to amplification to speakers to subs to even cables and interconnects have some type of vibrational control product. While some work better than others individually, the cumulative effect is astounding.
And how do I know this? Because one day, out of sheer curiosity, I removed every single footer, platform, cone, rubber grommet, whatever, and discovered, to my great surprise, just what a remarkable improvement these devices collectively provide. When I heard adverse sonics without, I halted playback and put them all back where they had originally been placed. And all was right in the universe. Tell the truth, it was an enlightening way to spend an afternoon.
That makes the hobby more interesting, right? When I talk with my audiophile buddies, I can tell them what I did and the resultant negative effects, and also how I put everything back. I certainly can’t speak for anyone else, but I like to make the hobby more about the singular practice of listening to a song. I like to investigate; I like to learn. I like to better understand the physics of how sound is propagated in an enclosed space. For me, it is all part of the audiophile hobby.
Not all experiments will be fruitful. Well, that seems obvious. So, it is also important to record where things are and were so if the need to restore a previous position occurs, it will be easy to do so. When I move a speaker, I take measurements to the side and front walls and record them on a sketch of the speakers in the room. Each change is recorded. If I go too far with a speaker placement, I will need to know where it was before so the better sounding position may be restored.
When I find a position that really speaks to me, I record, and keep it along with several other placement schematics in my audio room. And if six months down the road I become convinced the current placement suddenly no longer works, I can recall an earlier position. Maybe I replicate that position, maybe not. At least I’ll know a starting point that previously worked. Because, six months later when I may possibly go through this nonsense again, I’ll do so from a known entity. I do this because at my core, I like to tinker.
Don’t be reluctant to experiment with speaker placement, however radical. They can always be put back where they were. Don’t discount some the more well-established ancillary devices like footers and platforms. And well, why not, if not overtly expensive, give some the more obtuse tweaks a try, if only for fun.
Experimenting with your audio system can be a great way to spend an afternoon. It can yield remarkable improvements or confirm what is already in place. So if the music just “ain’t gettin it” one day, try shaking things up a bit. Who knows, you might like what you hear!