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Mid-Room Speaker Placement

Mid-Room Speaker Placement
Mid-Room Speaker Placement

If we think of the room in terms of where acoustic pressure is greatest (let's call these points "pressure zones") the primary pressure zones will be the corners. Secondary pressure zones are the mid-points of each wall. In our approach we want to acoustically treat and reduce pressure in the primary pressure zones - the corners - and use the secondary pressure zones - each mid-wall - to reinforce the music. So in our approach we will place the speakers at the mid-walls in these secondary pressure zones, and also sit in one of these secondary pressure zones. You can view this in our Diagram #1. This leaves one more mid-wall position unused, and this position, behind and between the speakers, can also be an important location for acoustic treatment. (More on this later.)

This idea of using the secondary pressure zones to reinforce the music system may run contrary to approaches you have considered in the past. Back in the early 1990's our Ultra Systems affiliate was the world wide distributor for Michael Green's RoomTune acoustic products. Michael, and the head of our German distribution partner, Joachim Gerhard, of Audio Physics (and now owner/designer of the new line of speakers called "Sonics",) had come upon this idea as an alternative to the popular "rule of thirds" popularized by Harry Pearson at the absolute sound magazine, or the "live end, dead end" concepts derived from recording studios.  The unique power of this mid-room placement concept is that you are working with the room, rather than trying to beat it into submission by throwing massive amounts of damping and diffusion at it. This concept of working with the room acoustically will lead to a much more open and lively concert hall type acoustic, as compared to a dead-ish and dry-ish studio acoustic which would result from the other approaches. For a "you are there" virtual reality sonic recreation of the original musical event, our mid-wall approach has proven far superior in room after room.

This approach has sometimes been called "near field listening" (although this can also have other meanings) because the listener may be closer to the speakers compared to other approaches. Interestingly as you move your speakers closer to the middle of the room, and therefore closer to the listening position, in fact the sound of the speakers will recede further back into the open space behind the speakers and away from the listening position. This may seem counterintuitive, but is a direct result of the speaker, positioned in this secondary pressure zone, coupling better with the room, becoming part of the room, or the room becoming an extension of the speaker.

Another advantage of this mid-room speaker placement approach, which may also seem counterintuitive, is how much more efficiently it makes use of the available living space in the room. Remember that the speakers are to be placed in the middle of that side wall pressure zone. This means that the speakers should be quite close to the side walls (and toed in considerably to achieve focus in the center of the sound stage). With the listening position quite near the rear wall, almost the entire room is open space!

If you have a dedicated listening room this side benefit may be unimportant, but here is an extreme example of how useful this can be in a multi-use environment. For a 15 month period a few years ago, because of renovations to much of my house, my entire family of four had to substantially live in my listening room. A multi-use room requires many speaker placement compromises, yes?

No.

In fact, because my electronics were near my listening position near the rear wall, I did not need to move even a single component to accommodate the family! From a use of space perspective everything is out of the way.

Here is a related tip: in the mid-room speaker placement approach the half of the room which is behind the speakers is not supercritical with respect to the placement of furnishings. So in multi-use rooms if one end of the room (the end with the listening position) can be primarily for audio use, the other end can be fairly happy used for other things. In my example above, in the open space behind the speakers we needed to install a temporary kitchen, dining area, a bed, a sofa, and a TV. I am not saying that this had no effect on the room acoustics, but it wasn't too bad.

A related benefit for rooms with irregular shapes or L's: if you can position the system with the irregularity behind the speakers this will minimize the acoustic impact of the irregularity.  You can see this in Diagram 3 below.

The best thing you can do for your system costs no money. Just try moving your speakers approximately half way into the room, quite near the side walls, with plenty of toe in.

 

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