05 September, 2016

HiFi Basics III: Loudspeakers Placement, Short vs Long Wall, Vibrapods

pic: Case 1, Sang's room. L, Now; R, Before. Click to Enlarge.

HiFi Basics III: Examine Your (Loudspeakers') Orientation, Short vs Long Wall
Talk Tweak: Vibrapods do no Evil

This article is NOT a tutorial on loudspeaker placement. There are many such articles on the net. This article serves to illustrate how a change of placement can DRASTICALLY improve the sound.

Loudspeaker Placement = Obstacle Course? The Reality
There is no question Loudspeaker Placement is often the most compromised in the audio chain. Many audiophiles do not have a dedicated audio room, and sharing a room with the rest of the family means major compromises. Add WAF to the equation and the result is often as good as only a toss-up.

In HK, this is a major problem, as small living rooms are used for audio (there are basically no family rooms, nor basement-as-man-cave). Compounding the problem, many LR's are irregular in shape, the worst being the so-called "diamond shaped" ones (Apartment D in the diagram, which basically has only one long wall!). In my own place, I too have to contend with my loudspeakers pretty much against the wall, even my large Yamaha NS-1000.

Even for those who do have the room to maneuver, habits and reluctance to move things around too much can sometimes make them choose one configuration over the other. In this article I shall cite you just THREE cases where a change of placement reaped massive benefits.

Short Wall vs Long Wall (sort of, 90" rotation)
Instructions try to be generally applicable, which is why none would go straight out and say it is better to place loudspeakers against the short wall, firing down the length of the room: but I tell you, this is so, in the majority of cases. In HK, we have more unusually shaped living rooms, sometimes with "short" almost the same as "long". In years of home visits, I have encountered many households with sub-optimal placement. I often suggest re-positioning, but not everyone is receptive (or have the strength!).

Case 1 - Verity Audio Sang and Carmen are good friends. Once in a while, I steal some time to have Sunday breakfast with them, and of course try to do a few things in due course. His Verity Audio Rienzi's for a long time were placed rather in-room, with the TV wall in the back (top, right pic; as covered here, though equipment is much different now). Imagine my surprise when I sat down during a recent visit and discovered the loudspeakers moved to the other side, which I have nudged him to do for many years (top, left pic). Even I was shocked by how much the sound had improved! Larger soundstage, fleshier images and more effortless presentation. In the current setup, the distance from the listener to the loudspeakers is increased significantly, and the loudspeakers now have more symmetrical, extrapolated, certainly not ideal, "side-wall" "reinforcement/reflections" (or lack of).

Case 2 - Klipsch In the case of our friend Bernard, re-positioning of his Klipsch La Scala was one of the seminal events in my recent journey in audio, and was written up in detail here. In this case, after re-positioning, the speakers are firing down a much longer distance, and the side-walls are much more symmetrical.

Case 3 Yamaha FX-3 Although I haven't heard it, my friend Robin's latest coup resulted in exactly the dramatic change for the better, covered here.

There have been quite a few more examples, but these 3 will do. The Room and Loudspeaker Placement are the most important elements in the audio chain, yet most audiophiles do too little in placement, either because of inertia or other constraints. But, if you can try everything!

Vibrapods have Done it Again!
During this visit to Sang's place, I discovered he had several unused packages of Vibrapods. We put them under his sources, the Technics SP-10 and the Sparkler S303 CDP, and in both instances things were significantly improved, more natural and breathing. Wonderful!


  1. So your friend Sang ditched his Softone CD Player/transport for the Sparkler? Shame ICL stopped making the cd player. I would've liked to try one. The styling is DIY and very industrial looking but I've heard good things about the sound quality.

    Btw, Sparkler has a new cd player now. Called Spiral series or something? looks even more minimalist than the S303.

    1. No, he didn't "ditch" it, as he's going to use it as a transport with the SF SFD-2, just not yet set up. The ICL actually sounds very decent.

      Thx for the new info about the Sparkler. I must investigate.