Excerpted and adapted from Robert Harley's new book,Introductory Guide to High-Performance Audio Systems. © 2007 by Robert Harley. Reprinted with permission.
Correctly positioning your loudspeakers is the single most important thing you can do to improve your system's sound. It's free, and can make the difference between mediocre and spectacular sound with the same electronics and loudspeakers. Before spending money on upgrading components or acoustic treatments, be sure you've realized your system's potential with correct loudspeaker placement.
To hear the full magic of a high-quality audio system, you'll need to arrange your listening room in a way that allows the system to perform at its best. All the effort you've put into choosing a system (along with the money you spent on it) can be wasted without a correct fundamental setup. Positioning the speakers in roughly a triangle with the listener (more on this later) will get you in the ballpark and give your system a chance of being fine-tuned for optimum performance. At the next level, small loudspeaker movements within this fundamentally correct placement zone allow you to precisely dial-in the system.
Loudspeaker placement affects tonal balance, the quantity and quality of bass, soundstage width and depth, midrange clarity, articulation, and imaging. As you make large changes in loudspeaker placement, then fine-tune placement with smaller and smaller adjustments, you'll hear a newfound musical rightness and seamless harmonic integration to the sound. When you get it right, your system will come alive. Best of all, it costs no more than your time.
Let's look at the six fundamental factors that affect how a loudspeaker's sound will change with placement. (Note that you should wait until after you've completed the entire loudspeaker placement procedure to install the loudspeaker's floor-coupling spikes.)