Q. How should I place my speakers for the best performance?

Most speakers sound best if they are placed well away from all walls. Such placement optimizes spatial imaging and depth, and musical timbres are reproduced with the least coloration. The reason for this is that such placement allows the initial sound coming from the speaker to be distinctly separated in time from the secondary sound of wall reflections. If reflections are heard too quickly after the primary sound (fig. 1) your brain tends to interpret them as part of the initial sound, causing the perceived timbre to be altered and the spatial characteristics to be confused.

Ideally, the reflected sound would not arrive at the listener until 10 milli-seconds (mS) after the direct sound. 10 mS is enough time for your brain to completely analyze the characteristics of the primary sound without being confused by the early reflections (fig. 2). Since the velocity of sound is (very approximately) 1 foot per mS, the speakers would have to be about five feet from the nearest wall to achieve the ideal 10 mS delay (5 mS to the wall and 5 more to return). However, delays of less than 10 mS will still give good results as long as the delay is at least 4 mS. With this in mind, THIEL speakers (and most others) will sound their best if placed at least one foot from a rear wall and three feet from a side wall, and will improve even more as they are moved further away. Ideally, we like to see the speakers three feet from the rear wall and five feet from the side wall. If you experiment, you will notice a major improvement in openness when the speakers are even two feet from the rear wall instead of one. Also, it is not desirable for large objects to be placed near or between the speakers since these will also be a source of unwanted early reflections that reduce imaging accuracy.

Figure 1. Early reflection problems caused by speakers placed too close to side walls.
Figure 2. Optimum placement for reducing reflection problems.

We usually prefer the imaging obtained when the speakers are pointed straight ahead. This placement produces the largest, most natural soundstage. However, toeing the speakers in somewhat may produce more specific placements of instruments. Also, if it is not possible to get the speakers far enough away from the side walls, a toed-in position can be helpful to reduce the strength of wall reflections. A further possible benefit of toeing in the speakers is that it widens the listening area for good imaging. This occurs because a listener off to one side of center will then be hearing the far speaker more on-axis (and therefore more strongly) and the near speaker more off-axis (and therefore more weakly).

Another aspect of speaker performance affected by placement is bass response. In general, when a speaker is close to a wall the bass response is stronger. Placing a speaker in a corner will make it even more so. To achieve properly balanced bass, it is necessary for the speaker to be used in the environment for which it was designed. Some speakers are designed to be placed against a wall or in a corner and these should give the best bass balance in these locations. However, we believe these designs are inherently limited in their ability to produce accurate timbre and spatial information because of early wall reflections. THIEL speakers are designed to provide accurate bass when positioned away from all walls--the same position that provides the best imaging.

Because of their very wide, even dispersion of energy at all frequencies, THIEL speakers should usually be placed farther apart than most. The position of the speakers should form roughly an equilateral triangle with the listener although this will depend on the width of the room--a narrow room will require closer placement. If the room is wide enough, ideal spacing is usually about ten feet apart.

All aspects of speaker placement are dependent on the particular room. Since every room is different, no hard rules can be given, and experimentation is necessary to achieve the best results.

Some people have severe restraints on the placement of their speakers. This should not discourage them from investing in THIEL speakers. It is our opinion that, due to their unipolar, point source radiating pattern and their very even, wide dispersion, our speakers fare better than most under difficult circumstances.

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