You are undoubtedly familiar with the old saying, 'you get what you pay for.' There is some truth to that, but when it comes to speakers for a home theater system, the old adage could be more accurately changed to 'you get what you pay for if you know what you are doing.' Even the best speakers money can buy will under perform if they are incorrectly positioned. A pair of top-of-the line speakers will not sound appreciably better than a bottom-rung closeout deal from a big box store if you do not take care to set up your speakers optimally.
Speaker set up and positioning is a matter that requires analysis of multiple factors. Three key elements of great set up are distance, height and toe-in. By making sure you take care of these three matters properly, you can get outstanding performance from your speakers.
Distance is a critical matter when it comes to home theater set up. In many cases, the home theater experience affords a great deal of space in which to work and an improper assessment of optimal distance can be a make or break matter when it comes to speakers.
Some speakers will come with manufacturers' recommendations for proper distancing for the speakers. If the makers tell you how far away the speakers should be from the listener, take their advice! If not, you will have to make a determination based largely on trial and error. Station the speakers in one place and take awhile to listen carefully. You might even want to make a few notes as you do this. Then, reposition the speakers at either a greater or a lesser distance. Do the same thing. Repeat the process until you find the right distance for the speakers based upon the volume you plan to use most frequently.
A good rule of thumb that might make your trial and error proceedings move a little quicker is the general tendency of smaller speakers to work better at close distances and larger units to perform optimally at a greater range. This is not a hard and fast rule, but it is a tendency that can make the distancing process a little more efficient.
Optimal speaker height is one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of home theater design. However, it is critical. If you decide to simply place your speakers on the floor or to wall mount them at an arbitrary height based on convenience or aesthetics you are likely to be disappointed by the results.
All speakers have an optimal height for listening. This is sometimes referred to as a vertical listening window. Basically, a listener's head should fall somewhere within that window of optimal performance. The best way to assess appropriate height, again, is the manufacturer's directions. Often, however, speaker producers are silent on the matter and one must again resort to a trial and error technique.
Try the speakers at different heights, assessing the quality of sound at each. At some point, you will discover the point at which your ears are firmly within the listening window. You should position your speakers at that height.
Toe-in refers to speaker direction. Often, speakers are just placed 'dead ahead' by home theater newbies with disappointing results. Many speakers perform much better if they are angled for optimal performance.
Toe-in can be determined by the same two processes used for the other elements covered. Reliance upon manufacturer's instructions or a trial and error system of testing can find the best toe-in settings for your speakers.
Direction is frequently ignored by those setting up systems, but the results of a correct toe-in can make all the difference in the world to a home theater experience. The sound from properly directed speakers will be cleaner and more realistic than a straight-ahead method.
You paid for your speakers-make sure you are not throwing that money away by underutilizing them! By taking care of distance, height and direction, one can install their home theater speakers in a way that really enhances the home theater experience
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