How to position your speakers perfectly

Follow our guide to speaker placement if you want to get the very best from every beat of music you listen to.

Some of you might have the luxury of being able to buy speakers so good they'd be worth passing down to your grandson. Others among you make do with what came packed with your stereo. Either way, there's one method of improving the sound of any speaker: it's all about placement.

Musicians and producers pour months of effort into creating their work. So this guide is intended for any self-respecting music fan worth their iTunes collection, who wants every beat to sound as good as the artist intended.

The following makes the assumption that you sit in front of your speakers at a desk and have plenty of room to play with. If not, you'll still pick up some sound knowledge.

Speaker angles

1. Room length

If your room is a rectangle, the speakers will ideally face the length of the room, so place your desk by the shortest wall.

2.Think in thirds

Imagine dividing the length of your room by three. Your speakers will sit within the first third of the room and more than 1m from the side walls. We did say you needed some room...

3. Speaker angles

Music is generally released in stereo, which means the sound is spread between the left and right speakers. Positioning the speakers at a 60-degree angle gives you the best 'stereo image' of these sounds. Dust off your old protractor and position the speakers 60 degrees apart. It can help to place a small marker at your listening position and work it out from there.

Speaker space from wall

4. Space from wall

If you really do have a huge room to work with, pull the speakers away from the wall. There's a zone between 1m and 2.2m that ideally you want to avoid. If you have a smaller room, try to leave as much space as you can between the wall and the speaker -- up to 1m -- and do not place them too close to the wall either as the bass doesn't play well.

5. Sub woofers

Got a sub? Put it at least 30cm from a corner; don't place it in the dead centre of a wall.

Speaker height

6. Speaker height

If you have speaker stands, adjust the height so the speaker is level with your head and above 1.2m. Notice the smaller speaker cone, called a tweeter -- this is where the shiny bright parts of the music come out. The highest sounds emanate from the tweeter in a really straight line, so point this at your ears if you want your music to shimmer.

7. Desktop speakers

If your speakers are on a desk, rest them on some foam, if you have any. This stops your desk becoming a huge bass speaker itself, which seems like a grand idea but really isn't.

Surround sound speaker positioning

8. Surround sound

If you have surround sound speakers, place the centre channel exactly in front of you and place the side speakers at a 110-degree angle to the sides, following the same rules as described above. Each speaker should be the same distance from your listening position, forming a circle, as shown in the diagram (right). If you get that right, those overhead helicopters in films will finally sound like they're flying in a straight line.

Conclusion

It's not always easy to implement every step, but the basic rules -- like keeping speakers away from corners -- will go a long way to making your music and movies sound better.

If you successfully followed this guide, let us know how it went in the comments or over on our Facebook page.

Image credit: Genelec Oy

Tags:
Speakers
About the author

    Tom Davenport spent several years flirting with music production before admitting he preferred writing about technology online. He once performed in a Superbowl commercial, but you'll never find it online. Tom is a freelance writer and is not an employee of CNET.

     

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