Better Placement, Better Sound: Speaker Placement Guide

November 06, 2019


Updated November 2019

Speaker placement is a complex topic that often falls by the wayside with new hi-fi enthusiasts eager to throw their system together and get the tunes pumping. But the truth is, unless you take the time to dial in the positioning of your speakers, your journey to Audio Nirvana is going to be short lived, and it won’t be the equipment’s fault.

Thankfully (or frustratingly), there are a number of resources across the web to help you place your 2-channel, surround sound and desktop speaker systems just right. Keep in mind that these are best practices, but your room and equipment plays a significant role in the ultimate sound. Use these as baselines to start, then fine-tune for yourself.

As I am going through the trials and tribulations of trying to dial in my new listening room for speakers after having been listening primarily to headphones for the majoring of my time as an audiophile (audiofool), these are the resources I have found most helpful:

Cardas

Cardas is an elite name in the hi-fi world, and George Cardas has taken the time to put together his Room Setup & Speaker Placement Guide to help you get the best performance out of your system. This guide includes room setup designs, speaker placement calculators and other resources for rectangular rooms, square rooms, near-field listening positions and more.

See the Cardas Guide.

No Audiophile

Noaudiophile.com has put together a speaker placement calculator for some of the most recommended speaker set-ups, including Cardas' golden ratio. Plug in the measurements of your listening room, and Noaudiophile.com's calculator will map out where to place your speakers, giving you measurements for multiple configurations to try in your space.

Try out the speaker calculator.

Sumiko

According to Sumiko, “The most important component in any audio or theater system is the proper placement and positioning of the speakers into the listening environment. Putting the speakers where they truly belong, so they don't fight each other, so they work in total unison not only with each other but also with the room, is the end all be all for proper music reproduction in the home.” Becoming a true "master" of this process requires training from Sumiko, but there are several write-ups and forum threads that rave about the results. You can try this "light" methodology to start (allow plenty of time for experimenting with this). This approach suggests toeing-in the "anchor" speaker right from the start. Another approach is to not toe-in the speakers at all until both speakers are set and fine-tuning is honed in during the final steps. Here is a free video with much of the concept discussed.

Galen Carol Audio

"An article on 'correct' speaker placement may be impossible to write." I couldn't agree more with this statement from Galen Carol, which is in part why I like their article. It is a straightforward explanation of speaker placement concepts that will help you as you experiment in your listening environment.

Read Galen Carol Audio's speaker placement article.

Wilson Audio

Wilson Audio is renowned for their high-end speakers, so, their set-up process should be top notch. The Wilson Audio Set-Up Procedure (aka WASP) is similar to other methods, but does offer a more room-specific approach by recommending an acoustic zone is identified and then the speaker is dialed in within this zone.

Read TNT Audio's simple write-up about the WASP. The Audio Beat's "Optimizing Speaker Placement" offers another WASP approach, along with additional toe-in and rake details.

Dolby

For the home theater and surround sound music enthusiasts, dialing in the positioning of your 5.1, 7.1, and 9.1-channel systems is absolutely essential. Dolby’s guide will get you started with basic placement information, room considerations, and other tips.


THX

According to THX, “Sound is fifty percent of the entertainment experience…. And speaker placement is essential to experiencing the true impact of movies, music and games.” In their guide THX offers speaker positioning tips for 7.1, 5.1 and desktop speaker systems.

See the THX Guide.

Another resource for speaker placement guidelines is your speakers’ owner’s manual. Several brands design their speakers to be placed in very specific positions. If this is the case, the owner’s manual or the brand’s website should have the guidelines published. Audio Physic has a nice guide as well.

Obviously, those of us without dedicated listening rooms or small listening spaces may have limitations for positioning. My suggestion is to use these guides and simply do the best you can and continue to tweak until you find the placement that sounds best to you.

Got a Subwoofer?

If you’re running a subwoofer in your music room or home theater, be sure to check out this video from Audioholics (also see their in-depth write-up on speaker placement):




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1 comments

  1. I totally agree with you! Speakers positioning is as important as speakers themselves, in the sense that you cannot really enjoy music if your speakers are not set in the right way, although they are good ones! Choosing a good loudspeaker is essential, but this is not enough! And this article explains in an excellent way this idea!

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