Speakers are key to any hi-fi system; after all, they’re how you hear your audio. You might have noticed that the sound can be different depending on where they are in a room – and where you are in relation to them too.
We spoke to Stephen Tizzard, Senior Audio Hardware Engineer at Cambridge Audio, about the key things to consider positioning your speakers, why it’s probably never going to be perfect – and why that’s okay.
You might have the exact same collection of kit as a friend, or your favourite hi-fi retailer, but they’ll still sound different. Remember the golden rule:
Every room is different, and every listener has their different preferences.
It’s okay if what works for a friend doesn’t work for you in terms of set-ups!
Start with a triangle
Stephen’s first tip is to try to use an equilateral triangle as your basis for listening, to provide the “ideal listening position”.
If you and the speakers are all the same distance from each other, it creates a starting point for where you want to be. Depending on the size and shape of your room, this might not be possible – so just try to get as close to it as you can.
Up against a wall?
Try to keep your speakers away from the walls if possible, as the reflections of soundwaves on nearby surfaces can affect the sound. Of course, if you’ve got pets or kids, you might be more concerned with keeping them out of the way of small hands or paws!
If you’ve got the flexibility, you could also consider rearranging your furniture as well as your speaker positions to really get the most out of your system.
Soft furnishings and other details
Most of us use rooms for multiple purposes – watching TV, spending time with friends and family, playing games, eating, listening to music… so your hi-fi system and speakers will need to work around these uses. It’s also worth considering what time of day you’re most often using your hi-fi – and positioning your speakers based on that.
“Reflective and smooth surfaces, like windows and walls, are generally speaking worse than busy surfaces for sound,” explains Stephen. “I might have terrible sound in the day, but if I'm listening in an evening, I’ve drawn my nice, thick curtains, it absorbs the sound more and allows it not to reflect off the glass.”
On a similar note, maybe you’ve had the same set-up for a while, but you’ve recently put up a new shelf for family photos and something’s changed about the sound. Don't be afraid to adjust as time goes on.
Make sure you’re still having fun
“You want to trial and error everything to get the best enjoyment that you have, without letting the ideals cloud your enjoyment,” says Stephen. If you’ve spent so long on positioning your speakers that it’s stopped being fun, take a break.
He adds: “Don't be scared to revert back to how it was before you started doing any adjustments. Don't be scared to start again, and don't worry too much about it.”
A few more tips for positioning speakers:
- If you’re thinking about a surround sound system, try to place your subwoofer at least 30cm from a corner to prevent unnecessary reverberation and echo.
- Working from home? If you have speakers on a desk or a shelf you may want to place them on a layer of foam or similarly absorptive material. This prevents the desk or shelf from reverberating too much.
- This might sound obvious… but avoid placing items directly in front of your speakers, whether that’s CD stacks or general décor.
- Whether you have your speakers on stands, on a shelf or wall-mounted, remember that speakers are generally designed so that they sound best when they are level with your ears when you are listening to them.
We love seeing listeners’ set-ups – so share how you’ve positioned your speakers with us on social media!