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surround speaker placement help

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Keith_R, Jul 17, 2001.

  1. Keith_R

    Keith_R Screenwriter

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    I have a pair of Polk sattelite surround speakers. Lately I've had them placed on the floor against the wall behind my couch. I would like to get some speaker stands to elevate them off the floor but I don't have the money yet. I can place them elevated to either side of the couch but if I do that, they blast in your ear when you watch a movie, plus you can only hear one depending on which side of the couch you are on (ie. right side of the couch you can only hear the right surround speaker) after toying around today, I think I've determined that they sound better behind the couch on the floor facing each other. Would this be a suitable placement? my living room is kind of small and my couch is directly against a wall. I don't want to mount these are there any other suggestions that you guys can give me? thanks in advance.
    -Keith-
     
  2. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    Having your surrounds on the floor behind your couch is a less than ideal place to put them to say the least. They NEED to be elevated in some fasion to provide the proper ambiance and sense of space that they are intended to convey. It's o.k. to have them elevated on either side of your couch, because when you properly calibrate them to your other speakers from your lstening position, they shouldn't as you said "blast your ears." That's why they provide a volume adjustment for each channel.
    Here's a tip, place them elevated on either side of your couch as you said, but point them at an angle at the back wall, this will increase reflections and they will sound more diffuse and won't draw as much attention to themselves, and still provide a good surround field. Try expierimenting with positions, but the key thing is to move them from the floor behind the couch, that's the worst place you can have them.
    BTW, do you have a calibration DVD such as 'Avia' or 'Video Essentials'? Either one are a necessity for properly setting speaker levels. Also, a sound level meter is an absolute MUST, the audio test tones on 'Avia' and 'VE' are useless without one. In case you don't have one, you can pick one up at Radio Shack. They have two different types, an analog type with a needle meter, or a digital type with an LCD display. I have the digital one, I find it's easier to read from accross the room.
    Good Luck!
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    [Edited last by John Williamson on July 17, 2001 at 12:16 PM]
     
  3. Doug_L

    Doug_L Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm going to disagree with John here. Although I think that placement of the rear speakers on the ground is not ideal, I believe that it's preferable to having them at ear height on either side of the couch. The best location in Keith's case is probably higher up on the rear wall, beyond the sides of the couch, with both speakers facing in; this should allow decent imaging without muffling the higher frequencies or having a blast in the ear.
    Keith, re: the blasting in the ear, I'm assuming that you've calibrated the rears to match the SPL levels all around. I think I understand the blast phenomenon; when a person sits on the side of the couch they're much closer to a rear speaker (let's say right) than when you calibrated the levels. Thus, the speaker sounds too loud to them and calls attention to itself. Likewise the same person is further away from the Left rear than the ideal position, so it sounds softer to them. This is not as much as a problem, though.
    In my personal experience I've found that a more diffuse sound from my rear speakers is much more desirable than a rear speaker that calls attention to itself and says "Look at me. I'm a speaker. You're not in the jungle/battlefield/city street. You're in a living room home theater, and I'm here to remind you of it." I'm happy to trade some of the high frequency resolution in order to NOT destroy the illusion of an enveloping soundfield.
    In fact, I prefer a slightly more diffuse soundfield for the rears anyway. I find it to be more illusory than noticing that all of the rear sound is coming from one particular point in space. Remember, most movie theaters spread these sounds across many speakers along the side walls (not going to introduce rear center channel into the mix here). That's what I like to try and mimic.
    If you like the way it sounds, then go ahead and put the speakers behind the couch. Some suggestions are:
    - on either side (not behind) facing forward;
    - on either side facing the back wall (maximum reflections);
    - either on the side, or behind, facing upwards;
    - behind the couch, facing outwards.
    Remember, even when there's a right way to do things, if you find a way that you prefer, how wrong could it be? As long as you're not doing damage to your equipment, isn't the whole idea to enjoy your hobby?
    Good luck, and don't be afraid to experiment.
     
  4. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    Doug L, I in turn must disagree. How can you have an enveloping soundfield when the sound is coming from the floor behind a couch? My boss has his speakers set up in this manner, and it sounds pretty bad. As I stated, feel free to experiment with the placement. I have seen many hometheaters and have studied much literature from Dolby Labs, various magazines, and even suggestions from top people in the industry, and none of them suggested placing the rear speakers behind furniture on the floor.
    Let me just give an example here from 'Die Hard 2'...
    At the end of the film when Mclain blows up the terrorists plane, their is a long shot of him running toward the camera as a 747 flys over his head knocking him down, as the plane flys toward the camera and eventually off screen, the sound of the plane pans seamlessly from the front stage to the rear stage, and with the speakers high on the side walls, it sounds like the plane flies right over my head!
    Now, same scene with the speakers on the floor behind the couch, the sound of the plane will pan from the frontstage, and appear to DROP as the sound reaches the ill-placed speakers, the result is not an accurate soundfield, the plane shouldn't appear to fly BENEATH you, it should appear to fly OVER you. You see what i'm getting at here?
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  5. Keith_R

    Keith_R Screenwriter

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    Thanks for all your advice. I appreciate it. I really think I'm going to cave and end up buying some speaker stands. The lady of the house doesn't want me to build shelves or wall mounts because they will cause "holes in the wall." The speaker stands seem like a nice option that will let me adjust my rears higher, maybe not quite as high as wall mounts but you work with what you can. What are your opinions on this?
    -Keith-
     
  6. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    I think stands are an ideal option for you cause we can't have holes now can we. [​IMG]
    Actually the stands should put the speakers at an ideal hieght from your listening position. Mine are only 6' above my head, and about a foot and a half behind me when i'm seated in my chair, and I get a great surround field, I also have them towed in just a tad, so it just goes to show you it doesn't take alot of hieght.
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  7. Keith_R

    Keith_R Screenwriter

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    I think I'm going to go for stands. I'm looking at a pair that are 31' high, however my couch is 31' high. The couch reclines though so the speaker's will still be higher when we watch a movie because we usually watch with the couch reclined. Thanks for your input. Any more advice?
    -Keith-
     
  8. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    I think your good to go bud!
    But do you have either one of those dvd's I mentioned above? You'll need it to properly set up your speakers, it's impossible to do it by ear. Also you'll need that sound meter, it's an invaluable tool for the hometheater enthusiest.
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  9. Keith_R

    Keith_R Screenwriter

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    I do need to get VE, I don't have a meter yet so I'll probably grab one of those too. I was watching Superman tonight and after listening to your input I really decided that I need to elevate those speakers. I will get VE. Thanks for all the input.
    -Keith-
     
  10. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    Kieth, no problem and good luck!
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