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4 Biggest Loudspeaker Placement Mistakes

Installing speakers over bed and improper distancing to form sweet spot are common errors.


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Speakers should be placed the same distance apart from each other as they are from the listener sitting in the “sweet spot.”

There are a few old rules about loudspeaker placement that veteran CE pros and new technicians should never forget.

Here are the four biggest mistakes to avoid.

Installing in-wall speakers on side walls - When you face the speakers toward each other, you cancel out most of mid-range. The speakers will sound like they were placed in a metal trash can.

Not considering "Sweet Spot" when distancing speakers - The left and right speakers should form an equilateral triangle with a "sweet spot," which is the area where you sit the most. Speakers should be the same distance apart from each other as they are from your listening area.

By not placing the stereo speakers apart by equal distance, you will not get true stereo imaging. The listener's ears will not be able to vector where the true sound is emitting. The worst case is when you place a speaker in one corner and the other in the opposite corner. The result is that you have left and right, but not stereo.

Installing loudspeakers over bed - When installing speakers in a bedroom, do not install over the bed. This will result in the loss of stereo imaging. They should be installed at the foot of the bed area.

Placing subs in rear next to furniture - If you place the sub too close to the listening area, the listener will feel like he or she is being pounded with a pillow. Place the subwoofer on the same plane as the stereo speakers in the front. By placing it in a corner area, it will give you added bass.




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Article Topics

News · Audio · Speakers · Installation · Current Audio · All topics

About the Author

Rich Apgar
Rich Apgar is CTO of Current Audio, a loudspeaker manufacturer based in El Cajon, Calif.

21 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by John  on  05/27  at  10:43 AM

Sorry Rich but the sub info is wrong. The corner is usally the WORST place to put a sub. You are exciting every room mode by doing this, it only sounds like you are adding bass. You are mudding certain frequencies with abnormal boost and cancelling others. This will also change depending on where you sit in the room dramatically by having the sub in the corner.
Putting the sub in a corner is a noob mistake, take some acoustic 101 classes.

Posted by AVRescue  on  05/27  at  05:24 PM

“Place the subwoofer on the same plane as the stereo speakers in the front” They show the Sub between the front Left/Right. The only thing he said about the corner is it will give you added bass. He did not say “better”. As in corner loading, +6db or so difference. Though I agree with your opinion that it’s not the best place for a sub.

Posted by Rich Apgar  on  05/28  at  10:16 AM

John in a perfect world you are correct.
But in the real world of most integrators you do not have a choice on the locations. The woman usually rule the aesthetics and will not allow placement in the areas you suggest.
We are team. You do not have to be so crass in you remarks. I value any constructive comments.

Posted by Robert Archer  on  05/28  at  10:25 AM

Those room modes are also dependent on the shape and size of the room too, but John is essentially correct. You will get a bump in low-frequencies as high as about 18dB with corner placement.

Posted by John Dorsey at SOUNDSCAPE  on  05/28  at  10:28 AM

Speakers over the bed:
  How is this any different that sitting facing a pair of vertical speakers?

Surround on the side walls:
  How does “most of the midrange” get canceled? except possible at one spot exactly equidistant from the two speakers where no ear is likely to be?

Posted by Rich Apgar  on  05/28  at  10:39 AM

John, I would not exactly consider myself a noob. Speakers are in my blood.
The inventor of the paper cone speaker as we know it today was my Great Uncle, Charles Emory Apgar. In his footsteps I have many patents and patent pending designs that help our industry.
http://www.apgarfamily.com/afanote_charles.php

Posted by Dave Stevens  on  05/28  at  11:25 AM

@ Robert Archer: Outside of the trash, where is the best place to put a Bose Acoustimass woofer?

Sorry Bob, couldn’t resist- Hope all is well!

BTW: Your post is right on the bose, I mean nose. grin

Posted by Rich Apgar  on  05/28  at  11:39 AM

Mr Dorsey, By placing the Speakers overhead above the bed you lose spatial depth of field compared to having formed a sweetspot where your ears are pointing. Also your ears become off axis.  Try standing directly under a ceiling speaker then move 2 steps away from the spot. This should help in my explanation.

By aiming the speakers at each other the side walls the wave forms will crash into each other. In smaller rooms this becomes significant

Posted by Dave Stevens  on  05/28  at  12:21 PM

Rich,
Regarding over head standard 2-way in-ceiling speakers you are correct. However, there are many new designs that allow you to pivot the tweeters and have/offer a much wider dispersion than older designs. Personally, I would not do it either.

Regarding in-wall speakers facing each other in opposing walls, it’s highly doubtful you would create a standing wave since most in-wall speakers only use 5”-6” woofers, and other than a jail cell, the walls would be at least 8’-10’ apart in a typical room. Thus, I agree with your point that the smaller the room the more likely the chance of creating a standing/noise cancellation wave. Yet, highly doubtful in most usual applications using typical in-wall speakers.

Posted by Eddie  on  05/28  at  12:24 PM

This all sounds good and scientific, but: each of my customers hear in different ways, I myself have partial hearing loss on my right side. I have tuned Theaters with expensive equipment, and I have done it by ear. In all cases, my customers are the final judge since they will be listening to it.
Are all these suggestions based upon the science of sound? I think it should be bassed upon the listeners ears, and speaker placement adjusted accordingly with Volume levels and EQ. Rich ?

Posted by Robert Archer  on  05/28  at  12:48 PM

Thanks for reading Dave, you can place your speakers anywhere you like if you pay for them.

Addressing Eddie’s comment. You really can’t tune to ear. You should be calibrating to THX spec even if it isn’t a THX system for basic setup.

If your customers want more advanced calibration you should be looking into some parametric EQs and an RTA type of device so you can smoothen out any dips or peaks.

Many A/V receivers and pre/pros also offer auto room EQs and those systems work great too. I’ve tried the ARC system from Anthem, the Audyssey technologies, as well as the proprietary solutions from Cary, Halcro, Yamaha, Pioneer, etc., and these are nice solutions that don’t add a lot of equipment costs onto a bid.

Audio is no different than video—-you need to perform standard calibration.

Right now there’s even a movement in the music industry to adopt some movie/HT practices.

Check out these videos TC Electronic (a top-of-the-line studio, guitar and bass equipment manufacturer TC is also in the same family as Tannoy and Dynaudio BTW).

In these videos TC videos the engineer Bob Katz talks about compression and later the adoption of certain movie audio techniques.

These points show how important standard audio calibration is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EgamkLkXW8&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97bJ5J_mY14&feature=related

Posted by Rich Apgar  on  05/28  at  01:49 PM

Eddie, My original post was done as general rules not optimal. There is no perfect room for audio unless it also was designed.
Most installers are not professional audio engineers but do provide a great service to the average home buyer.
You did make a great point “Believe Your Ears”.
I had a customer years ago who made the comment to me that he was hard of hearing and good audio sound did not matter much to him- my response was then do a good design with quality speakers if not for you then for you guests.
He said “well you got me-put in the good stuff”. He has never been sorry, and he has thanked me many times over the years.

Remember every installation is an expansion of your showroom. So do the best job with in your budget, it will pay off.

My opinion on EQ is not a good one. I feel EQ only takes away from the original sound.

We need some feedback from from the average integrators

Posted by Dave Stevens  on  05/28  at  02:27 PM

@ Eddie: You are 100% correct.

The bottom line to all of this is only 1 thing: Any audio or video system only has to please the listener/viewer/purchaser. That’s why TV’s have a, “vivid,” mode, and most receivers & pre-amps offer you, (for lack of better words),  bass & treble knobs.

Is it our job to properly calibrate their systems? Absolutely! However, if the purchaser does not like his/her audio system set on, “flat,” or prefers his/her TV in the overly bright & colored, “vivid,” mode, so be it. Who cares? Is anyone forcing you to watch it or listen to it? Why would, and how could you argue to any client that because you’ve used the most advanced calibration tools and this is the way the system is supposed to sound or look that they’re stupid because they don’t like it?

All of you, do yourselves a favor when it comes to calibration… Make sure their money is green, and you can hear the, “ching-ching,” in the register. Just give the client what they ask for no matter what your or any other subjective opinion is.

Posted by Robert Archer  on  05/28  at  03:18 PM

It goes without saying that a treated room is the best way to handle acoustical issues, but that is prohibitive for many people and that’s where EQ can play a role.

As far as calibration, the client may have the final say, but as the installer it’s important to emphasize why calibration is importantly and secondly mixes are done based on those specs when you are talking about home video releases.

It may be one thing to compromise on a screen size or speaker placement, but calibration is very important and shouldn’t be tampered with.

Posted by Dave Stevens  on  05/29  at  04:27 AM

Robert,
I agree with you, but I think you’re missing the point…

My company does over 200 installations a year… some very large, some very small. However, let me give you a few different scenarios that I’m sure all custom dealers have run into. Let me preface the scenarios by stating that no matter what the size of the install, (and even if we didn’t sell the client the TV or audio system), we will always offer the client to, “tweak,” their systems if we see or hear something that is out of whack. Example: If we are called into a new clients home just to add a pair of outdoor speakers, we will still look at all systems in that home to see if:
A: Something needs to be calibrated.
B: More importantly, since we have our foot in the door, what else can we sell them? Maybe a new universal RF remote, a Blu Ray player to replace their 5 year old DVD, a new LED TV instead of their 12 year old CRT rear projection TV, etc..
With that said, here are some perfect examples of what we run into in the field;

1. We have installed and entire home theater system a few months prior, (which at the time we ISF calibrated the TV, and used whatever audio calibration system that was either built into the receiver, processor, etc.), and now we are called back in because the client, (as an example), switched from cable to Fios or DirecTV and needs their remotes reprogrammed.

We enter the home and see the TV is now in the, “vivid or dynamic,” mode, the subwoofers’ volume control is cranked, and the surround parameter is now off of, “auto,” and is either in the 5 channel stereo or, “concert hall,” mode.

When we inform the client that the original settings, (that we took great care to properly calibrate), have been changed, here are some of the responses:

A: The TV looked too dark in the, “Pro,” mode, (which the ISF calibration was performed in), and the, “Sports, Vivid, or Dynamic,” setting looked a lot better to us.

B: I love bass that rattles the windows so I cranked up the sub to the, “neighbor hater,” setting.

C: We were only hearing the rear channels some of the time while watching movies, but in 5 channel stereo mode we now hear them on all of the time.

Naturally, we explain again why all of the above factors occur, (as we did originally
when we installed it), but they simply don’t care! They like their settings instead of the proper ones. So once again I say, “The system only has to please the listener/viewer/purchaser. It does NOT have to please us!

My only concern with this, (since we are a referral only business), is that when a guest goes to their home who knows what they’re doing asks, “Who the hell set this up?,” I’d prefer not to have my name mentioned.

As an example, we recently completed a $300K+ job which involved 2 independent HTS, 15 zones of central music, and 9 other video zones. In our original 12 page proposal, the client had only 1 problem… He refused to spend $3K each for 3 Middle Atlantic custom racks. I explained to him a 100 times that the equipment needed proper ventilation, a wire management system, castors so we could easily install or service the components, bla, bla, bla… Out of every other item in the proposal, (which included Pioneer Elite TV’s, B&K central amps & video switchers, Furman & APC power conditioners, B&W diamond series speakers, JL subs, etc.), he could not justify the cost of the racks even though cost was no object to him on anything else.

He finally went on line and purchased 3 $700.00 racks himself and we did what we were told to do… “Install the equipment into these suckers. I don’t care what it looks like because no one is ever going into the utility room anyway.”

When the job was done, his high-end interior designer was going to have pictures taken of every room to be published in, “Architectural Digest.” The client called me all excited about the news and said, “You did such a beautiful job, we’re going to give you free press in the magazine, and they’re going to interview you about how you designed & installed it.”

My response was simply this, “Dan, I appreciate the offer, but I don’t want to put my name on that job in any publication. The racks look like crap, components are bulging out over the backs and the many trunks of wire are just coiled & wired tied along side of it. Any other professional who looks at it will immediately think that this is the type of work we do, and I’ll get hammered for shoddy work. Granted, all the finished rooms came out perfect, but people in our business want to see equipment main system components and they look like sh*t. Thanks, but no thanks.”

Sure enough, “AD,” shows up and takes pictures of every room. When he got to the utility room, he said, “Who the hell did this?”  Mind you, this was coming from only a photographer and not another A/V guy!

I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but it just goes to prove my point that no matter what we think as dealers & installers, it only has to make the client happy. I hate the saying, “The customer is always right,” because in this business they’re not. However, if the client is happy in the end, that’s all that matters! Our opinions and skills as professionals should always be implemented from day one, but, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

We have another saying within our company, “I can’t hear it or see it from my home, so who gives a sh*t.”

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