Speaker placement really matters

The dust is settling on my new place, and now I can get down to getting that whizzing bullets past me, and all the surround ambience I had in the old place, and reproducing that in my new and larger den.
After a period of setting up and calibrating and speaker movement, I would to share some points.

Firstly, ceiling speakers are an aesthetic compromise. They are fine if you just want some ambience, and effects. But if you want that bullet to fly from the rear backs to the surrounds to the fronts, or that fly past to really go from the back to the side and then to the front and back, you will need to adhere to the suggested placements of those rears.

Simply put and summarised from the various websites, the surrounds need to be about 80 to 100cm above you, and slightly to the rear or close to your seated position for a 7.1 or more setup, and behind you in a 5.1 setup. The rear backs are lower, about 50-80cm above you and directed towards your seat.

As for those attempting Audyssey styled 9.1 or 11 speaker setups, the Wides need to be around the same level as the fronts, at about 60 degrees to your listening position, whilst the Heights are about 45 degrees above your seat, slightly wider than the fronts, directed towards your seat.

Do the Wides and Heights play a vital role? Well it's a resounding NO. BUT... they add air, ambience and for a larger listening space, they do add a little more. The emphasis is "little" and if you don't want to spend or don't have the space, it's ok.

As for the perennial question on what to do if your listening position is against the back wall? Well that has been answered countless times.

To put it simply, you have chosen the aesthetic route first and will need to compromise on sound and the HT experience. There is getting around proper speaker placement, even with the best auto-EQ technology, be it Audyssey, MACC, ARC, YPAO etc.

We live with our choices....

As for my own experience, I am still in the process of tweaking, but essentially, I realised that I had to lower the rear speakers, so they were about 60cm higher than my ears, pointing towards me, and I may also need to lower my surrounds to about 1.8m to have really seamless sound transition between the rears and side speakers.

Sure Audyssey and the like can measure the distance and do some magic, but if the speakers are much higher than the suggested ear level or up to 2 feet above the ears in the sitting position, then they can't help in the 'transition' of sound.

I.e. when there is a bullet whizzing past, it seems higher than what the director intended. And the front to back, and vice versa effects will also sound funny. This can be partly compensated by tilted the speakers down, but it's still inferior to having them at the recommended height whenever possible.
And that's the basic thing - whenever possible.

My own side surrounds are mounted about 1.9m above ground as the wall below that level isn't strong enough to take the weight. I placed my rear backs on bookshelves, and they are slightly lower than the sides. The sides use diploes to spread it out a bit and this certainly helps.

Take a movie like Band of Brothers, and play episode two, the assault on the 88mm guns. You get fantastic whizzing of bullets across from left to right, back to front and if your speakers are well placed, you will be right in the thick of action.

I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.


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