Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

General HiFi discussion, using the Tune Method to evaluate performance

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Defender
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Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by Defender » 2019-01-10 18:53

I would like to start this because we all know how important speaker setup is however there might be different routines how people arrive at the position where it „clicks in“.

How do you do it?
Assuming a rectangular room do you set up the speakers in front of the short wall or in front of the long wall?
Do you start with optimising the distance to the back wall and than go to optimise distance between loudspeakers and than go for toe in? What makes you go to the next step?
Do you try to achieve a equilateral triangle between speakers and seating position?
Do you start with a certain setup depending on the room dimensions like the golden rule (Cardas)?

I am asking because I need help. After having Katalysed my ADS I thought I have to start with a completely new room setup.

Room width is 4.07m and room length is 7.20m and room hight is 2.51m

loudspeakers are now at
1.55m from the back wall and 0.95m from the side walls (2.17m distance from loudspeaker to loudspeaker)
back wall is the short wall
seating position has a distance of about 2.9m to each loudspeaker

I am a tune dem student ;) I think I understand what to do let alone really performing it and hear the differences sometimes create issues.

What is your procedure?

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Re: Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by lejonklou » 2019-01-10 22:56

What speakers do you have, Defender? Your positions sound odd to me. Very few speakers end up so far from the rear wall and they also seem too far apart.

I have written several articles about how to optimally install loudspeakers, some of which I'm rather proud. A few of them were published in Scandinavian magazines and I believe the longest and best was a series of articles in the magazine Hemmabio (no longer in print). In that series I went through all the speakers in a home cinema system - centre, left and right, subwoofer and surround channels and how to optimally position them. The only problem with this series was that the whole procedure required the reader to be able to listen, compare and decide whether it was better or worse. And who actually mastered that? I didn't mention the Tune Method (in which case it might not have been published), but I tried describing how to follow a melody and judging by the ease with which you could understand the music, etcetera. In retrospect I believe that a real, practical demonstration of the Tune Method is what had been needed to understand it all. Consequently I received very little feedback from the readers.

If you haven't learned the Tune Method well, I recommend that you ask a friend or a nearby forum member for help. Tuning your own system is always much harder than helping someone else. And if you're two, it often becomes more fun and much easier. No scheme will ever help, regardless of how clever or advances, if you don't know how to listen for a quick decision. It's absolutely essential to be able to tell better from worse!

In general I would try installing the speakers against the longer wall in a rectangular room. I would also try to get an unbroken wall, that is no door openings or windows or large cabinets. It's also good if the speakers don't have any big furniture in between them. If they can't "see" eachother, they get lonely and start playing individually instead of together.

Having a reasonably unbroken wall behind the speakers makes them get good support from the room. This wall needs to be steady and non resonant! Timber is good. Stone is good. Plaster with a cavity behind is terrible. If you bump your fist into the wall at various places, you will hear what will be added to your music. How other walls, doors, windows etc resonate is important as well, but the rear wall I usually find has the strongest influence.

Practical considerations might decide where you can put your speakers along the chosen wall. There are two methods of how to tune the speaker positions here, one I call the symmetrical and the other I call the asymmetrical method. The symmetrical method is easier and that's the only one I will mention in this text.

A symmetrical position along the rear wall is the best. That is; both speakers are equally far from their respective side walls or from openings in the rear wall. Now, using the Tune Method, you adjust:

1. Distance to rear wall. Start close, make some jumps, I often do 10, 20, 30, 40 cm. Continue past the point where you felt it got worse. This is the hard part, because right now everything is wrong! Be patient and methodical, it will get easier later on.

2. Make the changes smaller. If you've settled for 30 cm, try it against 25. If 30 is still better, try 35. If 35 is better, start moving 1 cm at a time. Then 0.5 cm. That's good enough for now.

3. As the position is symmetrical, now adjust the distance apart. Did you start with 1.6 m in between each speaker? Try 1.5 and 1.7. Maybe even more? Move both speakers at once (symmetrical, right?) and keep the distance from the rear wall the same. Now it's good to be two doing the work and the listening! Tune the distance apart down to 0.5 cm.

4. When distance apart has been optimised, it's now time to test Toe In. If you are short of time, skip this step! I find that in about 95% of installations, toe in should be zero. There are exceptions, however, so if you have the time, it's worth testing. The point around which a loudspeaker rotates while remaining at the optimal distance from the rear wall and from the other speaker is the centre of the woofer, where the dustcap is. When you try toe in, rotate the speaker around this point. And take really small steps! A tiny angle, with a few mm more on one side of the cabinet than the other against the rear wall, often has a very strong effect. If it's worse than no toe in, try a little more. Continue until you get an idea of what toe in does - musically! Often it "smears" the sharpness of the bass notes and in some cases, this is better. Often it's not. The music will tell you.

5. If Toe In was better, you will need to keep track of the difference between inner corner and outer corner of the cabinet - to keep the amount of toe in constant. Otherwise you keep the speakers straight. Now redo step 3 and step 2, this time fine tuning them further. First do the distance apart, at least down to a quarter of a cm. Sometime those last mm gives the greatest AHA!-moments. Then do the distance against the rear wall - and here, you do the speakers one at a time! First the left and then the right. The rear wall might not be straight and you might end up with left and right speaker having a slight difference in their distance against rear wall.

Now you should be smiling from ear to ear and have problems sitting still when music is playing. There are more things to tune - isn't there always? - but today you've done enough. Have fun!

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Re: Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by Matteo » 2019-01-10 23:04

Thanks Fredrik

Spectacular guide to speakers positioning!

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Re: Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by Defender » 2019-01-10 23:25

thank you for your comprehensive answer Fredrik - this is much more than I hoped I would get.
I think since I joined this forum last year all what I thought I know seems wrong.
You said it requires one to be able to hear and I realise the way I did it in the past was not the way many of this forum do. But I am in training. I understand tune dem but need more practice.

Loudspeaker Burmester 949 mkII Bass Driver on the inner side so each bass driver sees the one of the other loudspeaker.

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Re: Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by lejonklou » 2019-01-10 23:35

Defender wrote:
2019-01-10 23:25
thank you for your comprehensive answer Fredrik - this is much more than I hoped I would get.
I think since I joined this forum last year all what I thought I know seems wrong.
You said it requires one to be able to hear and I realise the way I did it in the past was not the way many of this forum do. But I am in training. I understand tune dem but need more practice.

Loudspeaker Burmester 949 mkII Bass Driver on the inner side so each bass driver sees the one of the other loudspeaker.
Never heard those speakers, so you may disregard from my comments about their positioning appearing wrong.

Many dynamic loudspeakers have a similar pattern when fine tuning their position. But some are different, like for instance Quad electrostatics, which usually end up far from the rear wall and with quite a bit of toe in.

But forget all about equilateral triangles or golden rule room dimensions - they have nothing to do with getting the most musical result! They simply have no practical relevance whatsoever.

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Re: Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by Defender » 2019-01-10 23:43

I got a good understanding how to start - and I am looking forward to it - will keep you updated.
Thank you for taking the time.

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Re: Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by ThomasOK » 2019-01-11 00:28

We had some Burmester speakers on demo about a decade ago and have also worked with other speakers with side mounted woofers. They still tend to work well without being that far out from the wall. There are speaker companies who say you should have the speakers a third of the way into the room yet they end up sounding best 14 or 15" from the back wall. So I would recommend following Fredrik's setup guidelines.
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Re: Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by Defender » 2019-01-11 10:47

Hi Thomas you seem to read my mind. The setup somehow came from recommendations from the loudspeaker company and me being afraid to enable too much bass energy through the back firing bass reflex port.

I would like to treat this project to really get familiar with the tune dem as I also want to be able to contribute to the forum.

... and I hope this thread also helps others

some of the other discussions show me that there is a big chance to fall into certain traps

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Re: Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by u252agz » 2019-01-11 12:52

Matteo wrote:
2019-01-10 23:04
Thanks Fredrik

Spectacular guide to speakers positioning!

M.
I agree - should be right up there on the home page with Forum rules/ Tune Dem for everyone to easily access.
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Re: Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by sunbeamgls » 2019-01-11 21:25

Best thing about speaker positioning to get the best tune: it costs you nothing and the benefit:$ ratio is huge!
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Re: Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by Spannko » 2019-01-12 00:29

sunbeamgls wrote:
2019-01-11 21:25
Best thing about speaker positioning to get the best tune: it costs you nothing and the benefit:$ ratio is huge!
At £1.29 to the dollar, does that mean that the improvements generated by moving my speakers, which were paid for in £ sterling, are 22% less huge than if I’d have paid for my system in $$$?

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Re: Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by sunbeamgls » 2019-01-12 00:42

Spannko wrote:
2019-01-12 00:29
sunbeamgls wrote:
2019-01-11 21:25
Best thing about speaker positioning to get the best tune: it costs you nothing and the benefit:$ ratio is huge!
At £1.29 to the dollar, does that mean that the improvements generated by moving my speakers, which were paid for in £ sterling, are 22% less huge than if I’d have paid for my system in $$$?
Only in your head Spannko :D
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Re: Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by Defender » 2019-01-12 13:38

sunbeamgls wrote:
2019-01-11 21:25
Best thing about speaker positioning to get the best tune: it costs you nothing and the benefit:$ ratio is huge!
completely agree - and also one of the most left untouched potential for improvement

I wasn’t just placing my loudspeakers without trying to optimize the outcome but the focus of optimization was more related to individual qualities like bass performance, soundstage, details and I wondered why I ended up liking 20-30% of my music and lived with the rest sounding not good. Excusing it in saying thats just a bad recording or thats not my taste of music. Even more - to a level that I thought you need different systems for different music tastes.
Now I have hope and now I understand that you should use not so good recorded music and music you dont know very well for tune dem.
Don’t laugh but I used Take That The Ulitimate Collection for the first steps and I am now impressed how much better that speaks to me already.

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Re: Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by beck » 2019-01-12 13:50

No one is laughing. You have definately found the way. You will from time to time get lost but you can always find the way back. :-)
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Re: Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by Defender » 2019-01-16 20:10

thought I give you some update about the progress.

I got it seriously better - I used up some time for it as I didnt want to rush myself.
The first day I just optimised for the distance to the back wall.
The day after I optimised for the distance. No toe in as that seemed to make things confusing.

What definitely helped me as a beginner:
1) search for music that you find very dull and flat sounding because its easier to hear and understand differences there. Music where you think: What are the musicians doing? Where you cant understand the structure.
Music which you know and which is communicating already very well with you or even creates emotions inside you is something to be used for tune dem professionals.

2) get out of the room as staying in the room makes you more likely shift focus to old habbits which distract from evaluating the tune

Am I am done? I dont think so. I dont even know if I can really perform tune dem.
There are too many traps to fall into.
Maybe we can have a discussion which those traps can be.
Tuning by feeling can be a trap. Tuning to be able to distinguish individulal voices better can be a trap.
Tuning to be able to follow individual instruments better can be a trap.
Fredrik named other traps in the various discussions.

During the process some questions came up:
when you tune loudspeaker positions is there a chance to end up in a „first“ optimum but if you go on there would be another one at a different position which is even better?
I have now the loudspeakers in a position where I think its the best tune but when I move my head out of the sweet spot I almost have the feeling I hear the sound out of phase. That happens on both sides of the sweet spot. Does that mean I should try toe in?
Unfortunately I couldnt test positions closer to 70cm to the back wall as my electronic is on big slade bases right on the floor ... meaning the width of those is already 160cm which would make the loudspeakers to far from each other.

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Re: Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by Spannko » 2019-01-16 20:52

Great update defender!

I think that a “Tune Dem Traps” stickie would be useful too. Especially tuning to be able to hear all the instruments. Unfortunately, Linn used to say this in their Tune Dem instructions, but I know that’s not what they really meant. They meant that we should tune to be able to clearly hear the tune of all the instruments, but for some reason it was never changed.

With respect to your phase problem, it certainly doesn’t sound right. When a system has been tuned you should be able to sit anywhere in the room and it will still sound great (or even in another room, as you suggest). It’s possible that your speakers need to be closer to the wall, so just for an experiment put them where you can move them close to the wall, then move them out until you find the sweet spot. If it’s nearer than 700mm, you may need to rearrange your system. If you find that 700mm is about right, it may be a peculiarity of your speakers.
Last edited by Spannko on 2019-01-16 22:17, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by Defender » 2019-01-16 22:10

I agree with your statement about hearing all the instruments and on one hand effortlessly following the instrument you want to follow.
... and even more: when the system is perfectly tuned you can follow all the instruments simultaneously without the need and the wish to follow an individual instrument because as soon as you wish to do that it creates an effort which moves you out of that „special“ meditationlike moment.

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Re: Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by ThomasOK » 2019-01-17 22:40

It does sound like you are making progress and having fun, so that's good. There can technically be only one optimum, by definition, but there can definitely be multiple positions that are close to optimum. This has also been my experience with torques. When you have a really good position it will always get worse going one way or the other so you may stop there. If you have a good idea from past setups of the same speakers that may be good enough. The good position is like a mountain peak - perfromance tapering off quickly to either side. But there can be multiple peaks and one will be higher than the others. So there can be reason to continue to check other options.

When I first shared my torques with Fredrik and then Paolo a message came back saying they were very good but Paolo thought the main bearing should be a bit higher. That was already a very high torque at 3.2Nm + 4 notches and it sounded much better than any torque close to it. But next time I did an LP12 I went all the way up to 4.0 and found the torque we now use with original Cirkus subchassis of 3.4Nm.

I can even give you a very recent speaker setup example. Last weekend I was trying to find the optimum height for the Quads. Using a technique I believe came from Music Lover I used a stack of books with fewer or more books under the speaker to change the height. A friend and I listened and found that 22 books was very good, 21 was not and then I skipped to 18 which was good, 17 not good and 16 pretty good. 15 and 14 books were not good either. Went back to try 22 vs. 18, vs. 16 and still liked 22 best but then added 20 in, which was bad and 19 which was immediately obvious as the best. Double checked against 22 and no question 19 was the best. This put the bottom of the Quad grill 10 1/8" from the floor each book being about one half inch. So there were multiple good positions but one easily best. Interestingly, a dealer friend who is big into Quads told me that about 10" from the floor was the best height! This was the first time I had a chance to test it and I didn't know the height until after we tested with the books and then I measured it.

I would definitely recommend testing closer to the wall by moving the speakers farther apart than optimum so you can find the best distance to the back wall. Then you can decide if you need or want to move equipment to acheive the best result. There are often (always?) compromises and you may find proper distance to the wall behind the speakers to be more important than ideal distance apart. In my system with the JBLs I have never been able to get every distance ideal and still accommodate all the equipment, either at home or at a Hi-Fi show. You just have to optimize what you can, or are willing to, and accept the rest.
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Re: Setting up loudspeakers for the best tune

Post by Defender » 2019-01-18 00:05

Thank you Thomas and thank you Fredrik - really big thanks. Thank you Spannko for also insisting getting them closer to the wall.

I made big progress today much more than the other days and you are right it was all too far away from the wall.
I repositioned the Akurate on top of the pre-amp as that was the only fast solution to get closer to the walls.
Started with 20cm away from the wall and than compared it to 30cm - the first note on my paper for the 30cm position was "WOW".

Your 14’- 15’ equals 35,56cm - 38,1cm
Know what - my loudspeakers are now sitting at 37,5cm and I am running out on bad sounding music.
Bruce Springsteen always sounded bad on my system as well as The Police so I decided to use those for checking. Certain songs like „Every breath you take“ sounded really good before but the rest just sounded flat for me and I just couldnt understand what those musicians did in the other songs because it sounded not musical at all to me.

I just cant believe it - I just had to throw everything I thought I know over the border. I cant believe that so many loudspeaker companies cant even recommend how to set up the speakers in the right way. At hifi shows they also present the speakers as much a possible away from the walls.

It hasnt "clicked in" completely but I know I am close - feel like I have to take a short rest before the mountain top to enjoy the feeling later even more.
Music Lover recommended Whiskey in another thread - I agree ... a red wine also helps for tune dem.

Edited to be more clear on what I meant.

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