Small adjustments - a revelation

The week before last I visited a dealer for a demo of four speakers including Sonus Faber Olympica Nova V and Kudos Titan 707. None of them impressed me enough to consider changing my active Ovator 600s.

Over the weekend I remembered the dealer positioning the speakers with toe-in, something I have always avoided for some reason, so I decided to experiment and adjusted them with a 10mm toe-in. I also noticed that the speakers were just 25cm from the rear wall and pulled them out to 30cm.

I am amazed at the difference this made the bass is deeper and better defined whilst the treble is sweeter.

I had previously read on the forum that small increments to speaker position can yield big improvements but experiments with positioning from the back wall had seemed to not change the sound. How wrong I was.

Indeed, if any of the speakers at the recent demo had produced an equal sound, I would probably have purchased them.

Well, for the foreseeable future, I will not be contemplating a change of speaker.

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Just to thrown in another thought when I tried it. Yes, it can be a big improvement, but there can be a cost.

The cost to me was that I had to be positioned very carefully to hear the toe-in at its best. A slight movement of head (e.g. to look at a lap-top) and the imagery went. This became a massive distraction. Also the sound in every other part of my room was worse. So generally I favour straight out for overall great quality.

Of course all speakers and rooms are different, so glad it works well for you.

It amazes me how much difference millimetres make to how a speaker can sound. A lot of people think that the older Naim speakers (SBL’s/DBL’s) should go flat against a wall but I have it on good authority that Naim always use to apply 5 to 10mm of toe-in. I use the around 5mm on my DBL’s measured from both edges and it really does sweeten up the sound. I also make sure that the spikes sit in the centre of my Naim chips and that each spike exerts the same pressure to avoid any likelihood of rocking. This really does make a huge difference.

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Interesting insight. Thank you. Never knew.

Accurate speaker positioning is indeed very important, regardless of the speakers. And seems highly underestimated by many people imo. Wrong or less than optimal positioning can make or break - at least cripple - the best of systems. And this can’t be compensated by boxes or cables.

I adjust in steps of only 5mm in one plane at a time. In my room, the speakers ‘see’ about 11 meters of free space in front of them (the remaining length of the room). It’s hard to believe how much difference just 5mm forward of backward can make. Same for toe-in/out obviously.

My listening position is about 5 meters from the speakers. The rear wall behind me is still 6 meters away, a good thing. In many rooms, the listening position is (much) close(er) to a rear wall that inevitably creates early - short timed - reflections back to listener. In this more common situation, accurate positioning is even more critical in my experience.

If you reached the optimal position of a speaker in a room, the sweet spot is typically the widest for imaging and tonal balance too. It ‘only’ takes time, patience and perseverance to find it. Possibly a lot of time but it will be worth it.

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If you’re up to experiment look up Sumiko Masterset, it’s a setup procedure which if it works as they say can lead to a very broad sweet spot. I’ve achieved that with a pair of Thiels using it but it’s not applicable to my NBLs or other boundary designs. You do need to be able to move the speakers easily, the Thiel’s cones were OK but remove spikes or use something like Herbie’s Gliders to make it easier.

I’ll give it a try later. The Gaia feet enable fairly easy movement of the speakers.

This is also speaker dependent. I have very little room for tweaking my speaker setup, but with Audiovectors both 6 and 8 this has never been a problem even in a room that I have to admit is not optimal for big speakers.
I am sitting close to the backwall but that is at least treated and that did help, but even m before we have never used much time with speaker placement.
Claus

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Once I was at a show where Ken Ishiwata showed the newest Marantz top of the line amplifiers. It was accompanied with speakers which at that time I was not familiar with. He used extreme toe-in. As you can check on youtube. It gave immense staging and a pleasure to listen to. I was surprised that these speakers were “only” between the 5 and 6K euro range for a pair…with this setup I had expected they would cost way way above 10k a pair. Anyway I remembered these speakers and two years later I was lucky enough to come across a good ex-demo deal. And at home I tried this extreme toe in, and yes it works, for me at least, and albeit not as extreme as Ken showed, it would certainly raise some eyebrows. Anyhow…toe in works and differs per speaker and per room and especially per listener. Q Acoustics Concept 500. Love em!

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Having the possibility to move around with your speakers or if it depends on the speaker are two different things imo?

I don’t know any speaker where accurate positioning isn’t important. That doesn’t mean that anything less than ‘perfect’ won’t sound good. Sure it can. But if you’re at, say 85%, you might never know or miss the remaining 15% left on the table.

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Gold.

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Well I have to say now my system was all set up what I thought was great I decided to make a change today after reading here! Now I am not sure exactly what has made the difference but it’s like a new hifi I really mean this! Like a blanket has been lifted off and I can get it louder now without noise and it’s quite the most amazing system I have heard! So here goes I change the order of my components around as per the picture the amp was at the top I swapped to put the streamer in the top put the fraim in the corner not straight and set the fraim up with ringing technique in the glass … it’s now Purring like a cat! Deeper bass open midrange like a much more expensive system no nasties at all! Astonishing! It’s always worth trying something new it seems! Thanks

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It all depends on speaker design the focal sopra are better with toe…in towards the listening position.

Great topic. I’ve learned that speakers and speaker positioning are probably the biggest contributor to sound quality - assuming the room acoustics aren’t really terrible. You can save a lot of money on equipment by just focussing on this aspect rather than chasing upgrades (though that is more fun!?). I agree, 5mm can make a noticeable difference.
I’ve spent around 80 hours on this and improving all the time - though I’ve probably reached the limits for my living room if I want to stay married.
My speakers (B&W 802 D2) need to be a long way off any walls to get the most defined and deepest soundstage and making the speakers “disappear” (5.5ft from rear wall, 7 feet from side walls in my case). The Isoacoustic GAIA isolators sit on Teflon discs to push the speakers back against the wall when we’re entertaining - I used a UV pen to discreetly mark the correct listening positions on the wooden floor!
Distance between the speakers seems to matter a lot for mid bass coupling at the cost of some soundstage if you bring them together too much, or a thin sound if you push them apart too much. Toe-in really helps the tonality in the upper frequencies on my speakers as the tweeters are very directional. In my case 7 degrees or about 2 cm. Without that toe-in instruments are less convincing.
The best guide I found to set up is Paul McGowan’s Audiophiles Reference Guide especially if you also buy the Reference Music as a disc or download. Best £52 I’ve ever spent.
One other aspect is the room acoustics. I recently invested in a UMIK-1 calibrated microphone (£129) and Room EQ Wizzard software (free, but I made a $50 donation). This showed up a 3 issues. I fixed two using the parametric EQ in Roon which did a great job, but a drop out at 28Hz seems unfixable - fortunately it is tightly focussed so easier to ignore.

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How critical speaker positioning is to small differences of only a few mm depends on the positioning of the listener, and also on how precisely positioned the listener’s head is. Moving your head a few mm or cm can also make a big difference - and listener position is every bit as important as speaker positioning, something it seems is not often recognised or considered.

The effect of moving one’s head was brought home to me many years ago at a Focus gig, when Thijs van Leer’s flute on some notes was painfully loud in one ear - rotating my head fractionally, moving my ear just a centimetre or two, made a massive difference and rendered it more balanced and pleasant to listen to. I guess the difference on the painful notes may have been 10dB or maybe more. That may be an extreme example compared to normal hifi listening, but highlights the effect.

While obviously not questioning your specific example, this is definitely not my experience in general. In fact, the opposite.

When you have found the best (possible) speaker position in your room, the sweet spot for imaging and tonal balance tends to be the widest and not that critical on the exact position of the listener. Provided the speakers have good dispersion, a small sweet spot that changes quickly if the listener moves a few inches or less, is typically a solid indication that the positioning is not yet ‘there’ ime.

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In my room, the listeners position is surprisingly (to me at least) sensitive, backed up my measurements with a UMIK-1 mic and REW. As I move forward of my listening position the bass hump of my room is reduced to its local minimum, this occurs at 750cm forward of my normal seating position.

This is determined by my room height and moving the speakers about laterally by a few tens of centimeters in any direction makes very little difference to the bass issue, I suspect that this is because the speakers relationship to the ceiling doesn’t really change.

But the claim is that there is always 15 percent more with ajustment, not sure that is necessarily the case. Certain speakers are known to be fussy with placement others not so much. And of course if you happen to have a setup that creates a problem e.g. to little or too much base you will have to look into that.

Hi Claus… agree that the last ounces of adjustment may or may not necessarily bring on improvements.

I think RVL meant approximate percentages (hence the use of “If you’re at, say 85%”), and those percentages were in general terms - we can wring better performance from our system with tweaking if something sounds a little “off” or the itch takes over to tune it, to make what is already good perhaps sound great.

If we’re happy with what we have, stay contented. I’ve learnt not to mess with what ain’t broke. If the system sounds great… why touch it? Just get back to the music and be happy.

The higher the outlay for a system, generally the more resolved - and sensitive - its set-up, to get the very best out from it. Everyone has different thresholds how much patience and effort they have, to want to tweak and tune their systems regardless of price or complexities. The forum constitutes tens of thousands of minds with differing ideas, and from its diversity, we find good alternatives to ours, from sources we choose to trust as part of our hobby.

A Nait 2-based system and a 300 / 500 / Statement system’s set-up requirements will differ by some margin as it should. The latter will hardly be “plug and play”; the former a little simpler. Both are musical, at different levels of SQ. Whatever I pay for better SQ, and I felt I was at the 80% mark as an example - and if something was a little “off” or amiss, or I wanted to scratch the upgrade itch - the more I’d be inclined to tune my set-up for that balance 20% to bring out the best in what I paid for. It’s hardly objective, as no one can quantify SQ save ourselves to our ears in our own homes and systems. The more I pay, the more I’ll be focussed on set-up to wring the best from it, but that’s just me. It may not be and isn’t for everyone else.

Otherwise, a bluetooth speaker serves its purpose of filling the room with music I could just as easily enjoy, as I have the past two decades, at a fraction of cost.

The percentages I mentioned are indeed examples to illustrate my point.

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