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Saturday, 1 March 2008

Why Surround Sound Speaker Placement is so important

We've already mentioned that a room's size can have a fundamental impact on the size and type of loudspeaker you should buy now. We'll explain why surround sound speaker placement is so important.
The moving parts in a speaker are called drive units, because they work to ‘drive’ the air in your room. The larger the loudspeaker and the larger its drive units, or in some cases the more drive units it employs, then the more air it can move. This is relevant to speaker placement, because the larger your room, the more air your speakers will be asked to move and as a result the harder they'll have to work. To use the most extreme example, the tiny drive units fitted to most desktop speaker systems would sound lost in a large concert hall. By the same token, a massive pair of floorstanders will excite too much air in a small space, sounding both sonically and to a surprisingly real extent, physically intimidating.
For that reason, choosing speakers of an appropriate size to fit your available space is a significant step towards better surround sound. That means being realistic not only about the room you have available, but also about where you can actually position your surround speakers within that space. If you have to place your speakers close to a wall, or a corner, you might find your buying choices are more limited than you'd first hoped.
Why? Every loudspeaker will interact with its environment and especially with nearby walls. Place your speakers close up to a back wall and you'll find the level of bass on offer increases, but this can be at the expense of openness, stereo imaging and 'speed'. Bigger speakers will simply worsen this effect, sounding bigger and more bass heavy than ever. Conversely, place small speakers too far out into the room, and they can sound lost, again because they're being asked to drive too much air. For that reason it’s vital you plan where you intend to put your speakers before you buy, taking account of the specific space requirements of each model relative to your room. The exact science of positioning can vary from speaker to speaker, often being influenced by cabinet design, but most manufacturers and dealers will be able to give you guidelines. One hard-and-fast rule almost everyone will agree on is that corners are a definite no-no, as they cause significant amounts of boom that no amount of high-quality amplification and source kit can overcome.
The acoustics of your room can also influence sound in other ways. Place your speakers on a hard, polished floor, and you'll find the sound takes on a significantly different character to the results you'd get from a warmer, softer, carpeted room. This is caused by sound reflections, a minimalist modern room is more acoustically live than one awash with soft furnishings. It is immensely difficult for your dealer to compensate in for this effect in a typical demonstration area, but its worth mentioning the particular properties of your living room to him just the same, he may be able to recommend kit that can compensate for its acoustics.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

How to Buy Surround Sound Speaker

Buying Surround Sound

Surround Sound Basics
The two main ingredients you need for surround sound are a multichannel speaker system, typically with five or six speakers, and a digital surround (A/V) receiver. You can’t get surround sound without both of these anymore than you can play tennis without both a racket and a net. (We’ll assume you already have an HDTV and a DVD player.)

You might think there are just too many speaker systems and receivers to choose from. But the buying process isn’t as complicated as it seems once you narrow down the choices to what best fits your needs. You can start by answering these questions:

• What’s your budget? If you’re working with a grand or less, you’re obviously going to have far fewer choices than if you have a bigger bankroll. Either way, you should set aside at least a few hundred dollars for the receiver and maybe twice as much for the speakers, since they pretty much define the system’s sound. Cheap home-theater-in-a-box packages are, well, cheap, so they have to make compromises — especially in the speakers — to achieve those prices. You can forget about high-performance sound. It also doesn’t make sense to spend beaucoup bucks on gargantuan speakers and then try to drive them with a low-power receiver — or to buy a megawatt receiver to drive a set of minispeakers.

• How big is your room? You need a system that can produce enough sound to fill your room. So if you have a large room — say, 20 x 30 feet — don’t try to get away with little cube speakers. And if you have a small room, it doesn’t make sense to have space-hogging tower speakers.

• Do you like it loud? Room size isn’t the only thing that determines maximum volume. If one of your goals in life is to experience the Star Wars Trilogy at Death Star-splitting volume in your cavernous den, you’ll need bigger speakers and a more powerful receiver than those of us with more reserved tastes and smaller rooms.

• How much gear do you have? Make sure the receiver has enough inputs for all of your audio/video source components. As receivers go up in price, the number of inputs and outputs you get increases. A small bedroom system with just a cable box, DVD player, and TV won’t need a receiver with as many connections as an all-out installation with a DVD player, high-def cable box, TiVo hard-disk recorder, game system, VCR, and so on.

If you are looking for surround sound speaker placement advice, browse the rest of my blog. There is tons of useful information and tips. You'll have the best sounding surround sound placement today!

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Surround Sound Speaker placement for a tricky room

Time for a test

As you can see, the L-shaped couch is backed against a wall on one side, which makes it impossible to place a Surround Left speaker there unless it is mounted on the wall. That should be doable, but not without problems. Specifically:

- the speaker will be in FRONT of the prime listening position, not behind or even level with it

- the farther it's pushed back, the closer it would be to the center listening position; if level with the listener, it would be only inches removed from his face

This is a classic example of the problems which placing the TV in the corner of the room creates. I personally would place the TV against a flat wall (on right) and thus make the prime listening position on one side of couch. Or move the couch. If you are serious about surround sound speaker placement quality, your couch needs to move.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

More on placement

This is a great resource for Home Theater Design. This talks about speaker placement for the very advanced person. So if you are really serious about converting a swimming pool or converting your children's room (who are now in college of course.) You should look at this resource

Speaker Placement according to Dolby

Throughout this blog I've been feeding your hunger for information on Surround Sound Speaker Placement. I've already given you the basics in previous posts (you can scroll down to see these), covering the placement of center, front and rear speakers.

Dolby has a very neat interactive diagram which goes into more detail on the subject. In summary it goes like this:

1. First find your seating position, ideally, this should be directly in front of the TV
2. The front right and left speakers should be on the side of the TV, but angled to face you, and this angle should be between 22 and 30 degrees. (Stay with me...)
3. The rear right and left speakers should be either directly to the side of you, or slightly behind, creating an angle of 90 degrees (directly to your side) to 110 degrees (a bit behind you).

So, and there you have surround sound speaker placement according to the bosses themselves, Dolby.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Diagrams on speaker placement

Here is a diagram from a website on speaker placement.

It's perfect, other than the fact that the subwoofer should really be in the corner for best results. You'll be surprised how much 'thump' you lose by not placing the subwoofer in the corner (any corner) of the room. Even regular speakers produce more lower frequencies when placed in corners of rooms.

You can view the website on surround sound speaker placement here.