May 13, 2020 4 Comments
By John DiMaggio, Dale Pro Audio
This question has been has been asked thousands of times since stereo became how most music is listened to. More often, in horizontal two-way studio speaker design, manufacturers will design a left and right version of a speaker model. What you will find is the left speaker having the high frequency (tweeter) driver on the left and the right speaker having the tweeter on the right. (Tweeters out)
This is all well and good until 3 or 4 manufacturers come along and do the reverse. (Tweeters in) Respectable speaker designers (ADAM, HEDD and others) make an argument for the opposite tweeter and woofer placement. They state woofers should be on the outside and the tweeters should be on the inside.
Let’s talk about the speaker designers’ reason for doing what they do. First the more common tweeters out scenario. The "tweeters out" argument is:
1. By placing the tweeters to the outside you will get a wider stereo image. Reason, the higher the frequency the more directional it is. So panning left will sound all the way left and panning right will wound all the way right.
2. Having the woofers on the inside makes sense because the lower the frequency, the more omnidirectional sound becomes. So since lows are going to reach everywhere (including your neighbor’s house) keep them more to the center. Direction is less of an issue with low frequencies.
This kind of makes sense. Now let’s discuss tweeters in.
The "tweeters in" argument is:
1. By placing the tweeters to the inside, you will develop a stronger center image. So keeping tweeters in will help things in the vocal range from hopping from left to right when panned.
2. Since low frequencies are omni directional, lets not place them center where they can gang up and create a muddy low frequency area in the center. Push them to the sides to get as much direction out of them as possible.
This also could make sense.
So, I look at it this way: there is no right answer. A friend of mine once said, ”everything affects everything”. So true. No room is perfect. No speaker placement is perfect. No speaker is perfect. Every aspect of what you do in your setup affects everything else in your setup, which affects the way things sound. My advice is, experiment, live with it for some time, and then experiment some more. You might not have the technical chops to know why one thing is better than another, but you will know that a certain thing works for you.
Now the reason people agonize about this speaker location thing is that the speaker is just playing back your work, and that’s kind of important to you! If there is a placement issue that, as an example enhances the bass, you, in response are going to lower the bass. Then you take or send your music to listen in another location and your music has no bass because you reacted to your speakers, and now you have no bass. This is only one common example. The amount of reverb in a mix is another common problem.
Something I have not mentioned to this point is acoustic treatment in your room. Acoustically treating your room is an investment that really can’t go wrong. I have never been in a room that couldn’t use acoustic treatment whether it’s absorption or diffusion or both.
So first you should try to get speakers that are as neutral as possible or at least get to know how your speakers are affecting the music being played through them. A good way to do this is playback other people's music that you are familiar with and get used to how your speakers are affecting the music.
Next is speaker placement. Best practice is to place the speakers on speaker stands, have the tweeters at the height of your ears because of their directionality and place the stands about 3 feet away from wall in front of you. The reason for the stand distance from the wall has to do with low frequencies being omni-directional. Your lows move forward to you. At the same time the low waveform being omni, moves toward the front wall. It bounces off that wall and moves toward you so that low frequency sound hits you two times. The issue is at different frequencies the distance to the wall with make lows that hit the wall out of phase with the lows that hit you directly. The result is that you will not be able to know how much low frequency content you have on your music.
Now if you place the speakers with tweeters out you will get a wider image or landscape. If you place the tweeters in you will get a better center image. This is a matter of taste.
Next is the golden triangle. All this means is you place the left and right speakers. Measure the distance between the left and right speakers from tweeter to tweeter. Now the listening distance is at a position that makes an equilateral triangle. (all 3 side the same length).
If you're still not sure what is best, you can always contact us! We're always happy to help.
John DiMaggio is a Product Specialist for Dale Pro Audio, and our resident authority on studio monitors and loudspeakers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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