Loudspeaker Set up Guide

Tuesday, January 2, 2024


Loudspeaker Setup

The following instructions are to form a guideline for setup in the listening room. There are many factors that will determine how a speaker works in a particular space. There seems to be many different ways and manuals, they are worded differently but generally achieve the same results, fine setup should take about hour and the following tools can make this a lot easier:

Tape measures

Spirit level

Laser level

Adjustable spanner

The Room

The aim is to create a soundstage with the two speakers in the room forming the corners of a triangle with the listener at the apex. All rooms vary but if this basic setup criteria is used it will at least offer good performance. Ideally the speakers should be equal distance apart from the centre of the wall and the distance to the listener between 1 and 2 times their distance apart. This may guide if the speakers are to be placed at the long end of the room or firing across the short distance.

Secondly if they are equal distance from the side wall, even better

Lastly there is always the room that is not quite right or other factors mean the ideal setup is just not possible. However if you use this guide you'll get it the best you can.

Start positioning-Bass

With the speaker sited quickly, level them as much as possible, this will be fine tuned later.

For bass positioning it is good to pick a track with mixed types of bass on it (for example acoustic bass, electric bass and church organ would cover just about all terrain but clearly not all together). Try and use simple pieces of music that will let you hear the room and how the speaker works in it.

Some examples;

Royals Lorde
Ricky Lee Jones Easy Money
Stevie Ray Vaughan Tin Pan Alley

Start with the speaker close to the wall and listen, paying attention to clarity of bass, bass volume and precision of bass. What you want is clarity and extension but no boom. You want the bass notes to not blur into each other but to start and stop precisely. The closer the speakers are to the back wall will mean more bass but more bass isn't always the best. So listen and then bring the speakers out.  Work in fairly large increments. You should hear the bass become more defined as the speaker moves into the room, until it starts to fade. There will be a sweet spot depending on the cabinet and whether it is front/rear ported or infinite baffle. Once you've found that point then do a little listening and then move the speaker back slowly. By a process of elimination you should find the best balance in the base. That is to say the right amount of bass with the best definition and roll off.

Second positioning-Mid & Treble

The distance the speakers are apart is often guided by the distance you are from them. Again try and get your speakers into a listening triangle where you are slight further from them than they are from each other.

This matters because we are trying to reproduce a stereo image or an illusion of musicians performing for you.

1. Is there an empty space in the middle of the sound?
2. Do the instruments seem to overlap and blend together?

If you answered yes to either of these, then there’s a good chance you can improve the stereo image by adjusting the toe-in or location of your speakers.

To do this I find vocal tracks and single instruments best. A piano for example or a violin. Again, experiment with moving them apart and together until you find the stereo image is well defined. The instrument should be between the speakers and "hanging" as if the instrument is actually there.

Final Positioning Setup

This is where the toe in can now be adjusted, again it will change the soundstage and experimenting with the angle will give results based on the room. Start with a small degree of toe in (15%) and ask yourself if the image and depth is improved. If it is then try a slightly larger toe in. Take your time and go back and forth to ensure you're hearing an improvement.  In our listening room we almost always use a small amount of toe in.

Once you've done all of these things you've found the best position for your speakers. Generally we find it will be between 8 and 18" from the back wall and with a slight toe in.

Now what you need to do is to make some precision adjustments and these will make the most of your positioning and get the best out of your speakers.
Use a tape measure to ensure your speakers are the exact same difference from the back wall. Use a laser pointed to ensure the toe in means that the speakers are "pointing" to where you sit on the sofa. Ensure the adjustment for one speaker is the same as on the other. You can do this visually but a laser pointer is a little more precise.

After head adjustment do a listening test to ensure you're happy with the results.

Finally make sure the speakers are rigid, level and then lock the spikes or feet up so that there is no wobble and no vibration.

Wooden floors can be difficult here. When we struggle to get the speakers rigid we've sometimes use Philips headed screws. We drop them into the spike holes, tighten them  down flush and then sit the spike heads in the cross. Micro adjustments can be made as normal.

Ongoing maintenance.

Check the speakers are level every year and that the speakers remain rigid as these things can settle. Also plug and unplug the 4mm speaker connections. This will clean any oxide off them and renew the connection.

Finally, check that your drive units are tight in the cabinets. We find they do loosen to time and vibration. It needn't be a lot and don't go at it like a bull at a gate (you can cause damage). Often a quarter turn is enough. You'll hear the difference.

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