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So you have your new speakers and amplifier and now you must set them up within your room. Where do they go? You first have to decide where you are going to place them. Will you choose the space for them that is convenient for the room usage or will you choose the position where they will work the best acoustically? There is a big difference in both of those choices and it all boils down to how serious you are about getting the best sound out of your room and system and what type of musical presentation you desire.

Speaker Placement For An Optimum Listening Position

You must have a chair to sit in, so you need to treat the speakers and listening position as single units. These three units, assuming you are using two channels, form the 3 apexes of an equilateral “sound triangle”. The left channel and right channel are the bottom apexes and the listening position represents the top of the triangle.

This “sound triangle” must be positioned correctly within your room to minimize room acoustic distortions and maximize the frequency response of both your system and the room. Now, to complicate matters even further, you must realize that there is no one position that is correct. The “correct” position depends on what type of listening you are doing. Lets look at the three methods you can use to find the correct speaker placement listening positions.

Three Methods

There are three methods, you can use to find positions within your room for your “sound triangle”: room response, rule of thirds, and critical distance. The room response is a computer measured analysis of where the sound triangle needs to be positioned within your room to achieve the smoothest frequency response curve.

The computer is told the room dimensions and low frequency driver number and diameter and then goes to work finding the smoothest balance positions between the low frequency pressure within the room and the room dimensions and volume. The rule of thirds involves dividing your room into thirds and placing your speakers and listening position on the room third dividing lines. The critical distance is the balancing position where the direct sound from your speakers and the reflections from the room boundary surfaces are equal.

Watch the following video I made for a more detailed explanation of these three methods on finding the speaker placement listening positions.

Room Usage

Finding the correct position for your room and sound triangle depends on the usage of your room. What are you trying to achieve with your system? Are you a critical listener and want to hear every detail of the music sources? If so, you will find your spot somewhere within the rule of thirds and measured response.

It might be right on the measured response location. If you are a more casual listener and want a larger musical presentation, then you will find your spot somewhere around the critical distance area. Only you can find the correct position for your sound triangle. Your speaker placement listening positions depend on you and your music.

No One Way

Do not let people tell you that there is one and only one position for your speakers and listening position. You must decide what type of listening you are going to use and how you will seek the enjoyment your system has to offer. If you are an engineer and hearing everything at the listening or monitoring is critical to your work, then you will have a different approach to use than someone who wants a large sound stage for orchestral presentation.

If you are an audiophile, then you want a balance between room sound and direct sound to breath more realism and life into the music. You can find the correct position for your sound triangle, if you know what type of musical presentation you desire for work or pleasure.

I hope this explanation helps. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to call on me as I am always available to help.

Thanks and speak soon

Dennis Foley

I am an acoustic engineer with over 30 years’ experience in the business. My technology has been used in Electric Lady Land Studios, Sony Music of New York, Cello Music and Films founded by Mark Levinson, and Saltmines Studios in Mesa, Arizona, along with hundreds of others.


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