Placement of Stereo Speakers

Introduction

The placement and position of stereo speakers are central elements in overall speaker sound and performance. Speaker placement is critical in interpreting sound accurately because it greatly affects tonic accuracy, sound stage and imaging, leading to realism in sound reproduction. Although each speaker system and listening room is dissimilar, setting up your stereo speakers for their best musical interpretation is achievable.

Rooms

This is usually out of your control since room dimensions, and designs are elements that you have little or no control over. If there are options, consider the following.

  • Stay away from rooms with dimensions that are mathematical products, i.e., 6′ x 12′ x 18′, since those types of rooms multiply standing waves. Standing waves are created when the sound waves reflected off walls or other surfaces, and bump into sound waves coming from the speaker. This phenomenon affects wave amplitude (volume), which leads to dips and peaks in certain frequency ranges.
  • The next room element is reflective surfaces. These surfaces are windows and hardwood floors; they add a fake “brightness” to the sound, reducing clarity.
  • Non-reflective surfaces: Thick carpet, upholstered furniture, and other absorptive materials diminish sound reflection, diluting music spaciousness. Consequently, a proportional mixture of absorbent and reflective surfaces will result in a fuller, rich sound that’s smooth and balanced.

Placing and positioning the speakers

After deciding which your room to use, it’s time to decide speaker placement. First, the tweeters must be at ear level. The natural tendency might be to place the speakers up against the facing wall (wall behind the speakers), which is a bad idea. Facing-wall speaker placement might complement the lower bass response, but there is a high possibility that the midrange and mid-bass will sound muddy. Bringing the speakers out from the facing wall by a foot or more (see manufacturer’s recommendation) will produce a more accuracy and detail sound overall—adjust to your sound preference.

Avoid placing your chair or couch up against the rear wall. Since the rear wall reflects sound back to your ears, placing your seating, there will diminish the sound field, produce poor imaging and boomy bass. Moving your listening position forward into the room can improve midrange and mid-bass detail,while adding smoothness and balance to the overall sound stage. If your couch or favorite chair has to be against the back wall, adding some decorative-acoustic materials such as cushions behind your head may perhaps improve the sound field.

Listening sweet spot

Both speakers should be the same distance from where you’re seated. Angling the speakers instead of aiming them straight at the rear wall can dramatically improve the sound stage and image by reducing reflections off side walls. Ideally, your stereo speakers should form somewhat of an equilateral triangle to your preferred listening position (sweet spot), as shown below

To make adjustments, sit in your listening position and have a friend or two turn the speakers slightly toward you until a strong center image appears audibly. Listen for a wide sound stage with a good focus, where the bass is smooth and treble is detailed—not overly bright.” There are no strict guidelines for how much inward tilt is required since that depends on the speakers—just use your ears. You’ll know it’s right when you hear it.

To download the PDF of this article, fill in the fields below and click the Submit button.

Fields marked with an * are required

Place the result of the math problem in the box before clicking "Submit"