Speaker Placement Guide

Where is the best place to position my speakers?
So you purchased the speakers of your dreams. Now you are wondering what to do next. Like, how far apart should you place your speakers? How close to the walls? Do you plan to incorporate a subwoofer and surround system? At Atlantic Technology, we are dedicated not only to designing the best speakers available, but to also helping you create the best sound for your unique space. Below is a set of standards that outline the basics of speaker placement. Just follow these standards and you will be well on your way toward creating the optimal sound for your room.


Left/Right front speakers

4200_lr.jpgGenerally, the ideal locations will be located to either side of the TV screen, at least 1.5 to 2 feet away from the screen itself. It’s actually best to have the speakers a little forward of the screen and out away from the side and back walls. For the best audiophile performance and to minimize interactions with the walls (boundaries) it helps to be sure the distances from the rear wall and sidewalls relative to the speaker are different. The speakers should be placed with the tweeters as close as possible to seated ear height, about 35-40” off the floor. Experiment with them toed in towards the prime listening position or facing straight out into the room.


Center Channel

4200_c.jpgIdeally, this speaker should be located directly on top of or below the center of the TV screen. The center channel is arguably the single most important speaker in a home theater system, because it handles up to 80% of the movie’s soundtrack! Putting a speaker in the same plane of the TV screen does, however, cause certain problems. Sounds that would normally radiate equally in every direction from the speaker are instead immediately reflected off the television’s screen. This causes undesirable sonic "colorations" that make the center channel sound different than the left/right front speakers, even if they are precisely matched.

This is why all Atlantic Technology center channel speakers include one or more controls that allow you to tailor their sound to better match the L/R speakers. Additionally, all Atlantic center channel speakers come with an adjustable mounting base that allows precise aiming towards the prime listening position for better dialogue intelligibility.


Subwoofers

422sb.jpgWith traditional box subwoofers, it’s best to experiment with placement, since no two rooms are exactly alike. Keep these things in mind: room boundaries—such as floors, walls, and ceilings—act like “acoustic mirrors,” and will reinforce the subwoofer’s output. Therefore, a subwoofer placed 3 feet out from all the sidewalls behind a chair, for example, will sound thinner and weaker than the same sub in the same room place directly at the floor-wall intersection.

Also keep in mind that rooms tend to have what engineers call “room modes” or “room resonances,” whereby the room’s dimensions will either reinforce or weaken certain bass notes where the bass wavelengths correspond to the room’s dimensions. The best way around this (especially if you aren’t using expensive, complicated room diagnostic tools and fancy equalization) is to locate the subwoofer asymmetrically in the room with respect to the room’s dimensions. For instance, if the sub is going to be placed along an 18-foot wall, try locating it, say, five feet out from the corner. Five and thirteen feet are mathematically unrelated, so they don’t conspire together to reinforce or cancel related frequencies. On the other hand, if you located the sub 6 feet out from the corner, then you’d be left with 12 feet. Not as good, because 12 and 6 are directly related (2:1 or 1:2), and you could get a buildup of room modes around related frequencies. 9 feet out (mid-wall) is even worse, because then it’s 9 feet and 9 feet.

You get the idea. Experiment with placement.

The exception to all this is our 10e CSB Corner Subwoofer. It’s shaped and designed to look and sound its best when placed in a corner, so that’s where it goes. Simple.


Surround speaker placement

4200_sr.jpgThere are several different types of speakers used for surround applications but the rule of thumb for the best location is the same: try to place them such that their sound can’t be specifically pointed to or “localized” by the listeners. The goal of surround speakers is to immerse the listening room in three-dimensional, enveloping surround effects.

  • Dipoles
    For dipole surrounds (sometimes called “diffuse field” surrounds), the ideal location is directly alongside the prime listening position, well above ear height when seated, approximately 12-24 inches down from an 8-10 foot ceiling. Dipoles may be placed slightly rearward of the prime listening position on the sidewall, or even located on the back wall if absolutely necessary. For ceiling-mounted dipoles, such as our 6.3e or 8.3e Tri-Vector speakers, the best location is either directly above or very slightly behind the primary listening area. Locate them just outside either side of the sofa.
  • Bipoles
    These speakers can be placed similarly to dipoles, and can even be placed forward of the listening position as well. But it’s typically more difficult to get a bipole to deliver a non-localizable sound field unless they're located fairly high on the side walls, well above seated ear level. Bipoles will work satisfactorily on back walls or ceilings, as long as they’re far enough away from the listeners so their sound can’t be localized.
  • Monopoles
    Also known as direct radiators. When used for surround speakers they should be placed relatively high up on the rear or side walls, with the tweeters firing straight out from the enclosure (not angled down towards the listeners), high above the listeners’ ears. This helps to create a more believable "surrounding experience" and makes this type of speaker less localizable.