Adding a Center Channel (difficulty: fireplace)? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 26 Old 05-07-2013, 06:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Hey guys,

I have a setup with 2 front towers (Totem Sttafs) and 2 rears (in-ceiling Totem Masks). I frequently have trouble hearing dialogue in 5.1 surround for HDTV and movies.

I was looking for advice in another forum section (link here) for how to better mix my center channel.

And everyone said - actually your problem is that you need to sort yourself out with a center speaker!

So here is my challenge:



I can't put a speaker in front of the fireplace. And I have to hide wires or my wife will exercise her veto powers wink.gif

Options I've considered:

1. In front of the TV. If I push the TV as far back as it will go, I have about 3.5 inches of depth I could play with in front of the TV. There are some challenges then with hiding the cable and getting it back to the receiver.

2. Above the amplifier, inside the built-in. How odd/bad would it sound if my center channel was slightly off center?

3. In-ceiling. I actually ran cable to the center about half-way between the 2 sets of potlights. How odd/bad would it sound if my center channel was in the ceiling, but the Left and Right were towers?

Huge thanks in advance for any or all feedback.
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post #2 of 26 Old 05-07-2013, 07:39 PM
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First thoughts, just brain storming here................

1. Two center channels, one on each side of the fireplace in the openings- Don't like it.
2. I'm assuming a gas fireplace- Above the fireplace but under the tv, under the tv shelf? Doable?
3. In the ceiling with these...Invisa HTR 7000 http://www.goldenear.com/products/invisa-series (You already have the wire ran)
4. Loose the tv stand, wall mount it pulling the tv forward and mount a center channel speaker above the TV with...http://www.amazon.com/Soundbar-Brackets-Universal-Soundbar-Speaker-Mounting/dp/B0036UTT4E


I'm sure you get one in, just needs a little more work. LOOKS GREAT RIGHT NOW!!

Congrats and have fun


Looper Out
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post #3 of 26 Old 05-07-2013, 07:53 PM - Thread Starter
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Really cool ideas... some thoughts on each.....

1. What don't you like about the two center channel idea? My biggest concern is it will be difficult/impossible to run another run of speaker cables behind the fireplace
2. Yes, gas fireplace - could I put it above the fireplace, in front of the TV frame? Can you get a decent soundbar that would fit there? It is killing me I didn't run a center speaker wire to behind the TV now.
3. In the ceiling -- how would that sound?? If it's not going to be odd to have center that high up, with L+R in towers, I could probably even get the OK from the missus to put another Totem in there to match the rears
4. Those are cool - interesting concept!
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post #4 of 26 Old 05-08-2013, 07:31 AM
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I vote for DyeLooper's idea #4. Wall mount the TV... and wall (or ceiling) mount the center speaker above the TV.
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post #5 of 26 Old 05-08-2013, 08:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by totemphile View Post

Really cool ideas... some thoughts on each.....

1. What don't you like about the two center channel idea? My biggest concern is it will be difficult/impossible to run another run of speaker cables behind the fireplace
2. Yes, gas fireplace - could I put it above the fireplace, in front of the TV frame? Can you get a decent soundbar that would fit there? It is killing me I didn't run a center speaker wire to behind the TV now.
3. In the ceiling -- how would that sound?? If it's not going to be odd to have center that high up, with L+R in towers, I could probably even get the OK from the missus to put another Totem in there to match the rears
4. Those are cool - interesting concept!

1. Just don't like it, maybe it would work.
2. Fishing wire is pretty easy, you could figure it out. NO to he soundbar, just get a speaker.
3. Your YPAO or receiver system will balance for the speaker in the ceiling, should be plenty of adjustments. Drill a hole, mount, try. Don't like it, remove, return and patch hole.
4. Might be just as close as high as the in ceiling speaker. Still, Your YPAO or receiver system will balance for the speaker
4B. Mounting the tv on the wall will provide for you too tilt the TV more to the viewing area and raising the TV to the ceiling more: thus increasing table space for the speaker. You would go from your 3.5" depth to ?

I like 4B the best...

FYI-I do not install, I am not a professional, and this does not include tax, tags and title.....
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post #6 of 26 Old 05-08-2013, 08:11 AM
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If you are thinking about running dual centers on either side of the TV, why not just run a phatom center with your L/R speaker!? You are already loosing some of your directionality by placing the centers, well, not in the center!
Ideally, the suggestion of placing your center in brackets above the TV would be best...

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post #7 of 26 Old 05-08-2013, 09:32 AM
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I'm assuming you are sticking with Totem for the center channel?
An option for you that would work whether you move the tv back or wall mount it, get a Tribe I for the center channel.
The depth of this would work if you push the tv back and it might work for the height as well (at 5.9 inches tall). However, I would still recommend wall mounting the tv for greater flexibility.

http://www.totemacoustic.com/en/hi-fi/center-channels/tribe-i/specifications/

Width 150 mm / 5.9”
Height 660 mm / 26”
Depth 89 mm / 3.5” without grill
95 mm / 3.75” with grill

The specs are for the speaker standing upright, so of course just switch the width and height for laying on its side.
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post #8 of 26 Old 05-08-2013, 01:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DyeLooper View Post

1. Just don't like it, maybe it would work.
2. Fishing wire is pretty easy, you could figure it out. NO to he soundbar, just get a speaker.
3. Your YPAO or receiver system will balance for the speaker in the ceiling, should be plenty of adjustments. Drill a hole, mount, try. Don't like it, remove, return and patch hole.
4. Might be just as close as high as the in ceiling speaker. Still, Your YPAO or receiver system will balance for the speaker
4B. Mounting the tv on the wall will provide for you too tilt the TV more to the viewing area and raising the TV to the ceiling more: thus increasing table space for the speaker. You would go from your 3.5" depth to ?

I like 4B the best...

FYI-I do not install, I am not a professional, and this does not include tax, tags and title.....

In regards to installing the speaker in the ceiling (option #3), I don't like it because your front left/right/center speakers should be aimed right at your head. You don't want reflected sound from those speakers. If you mount it in the ceiling, it will be firing down toward the floor. This would not sound right.

In regard to #4B, I would recommend to mount the speaker at the top of the TV, because the person speaking is usually shot so that their face is near the top of the screen. It sounds more natural for the center speaker to be near the person's face. Also, I think your TV is already too high for my taste. I don't like TV's that are mounted above fire places or up high on a wall like a picture frame.

I suggest wall mounting the TV, and mounting the speaker above the TV. The speaker can be wall or ceiling mounted, as long as the speaker is facing the audience. It should not be an "in-the-ceiling" speaker.

My second choice would be a speaker sitting on the shelf under the TV (without wall mounting the TV), and just fish a new wire for it.
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post #9 of 26 Old 05-09-2013, 07:21 AM
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This issue comes up occasionally.

The reason this comes up, is because it's a serious issue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elihawk View Post

If you are thinking about running dual centers on either side of the TV, why not just run a phatom center with your L/R speaker!? You are already loosing some of your directionality by placing the centers, well, not in the center!
Ideally, the suggestion of placing your center in brackets above the TV would be best...



+1 .. absolutely right


Dual centers create more problems than they fix, theoretically a disaster, in practice even worse, sorry.


Please, I intend no offense whatsoever, but I'll be brutally honest. That said, have you consider the nuclear option? What I mean is clearly there's acoustic issues w/clarity, etc (there's also other execution errors visible too), would you consider redesigning that front wall for audio instead of aesthetics? I get it, I do. There's a reason architects, marketing gurus, decor magazines, etc, place TV above a fireplace, surrounded by gorgeous built-in custom shelving that house loudspeakers .... it looks great and has an appealing visual component. That said, everything else is compromised. The display/TV is in the wrong place for use, front L&R sound like they're in boxes, no good option for a center channel.

Ideally, the TV needs to be where the fireplace is, the L&R need to come out of their enclosures. The TV is up against the ceiling, huge screens can be all the way up at the ceiling, but not a small display such as this. The center of the display is about the 20% mark off the ceiling, that creates problems for many viewers, perhaps you've grown accustomed to it, and that's fine too, I don't know if I could ... maybe. Again, please I don't intend to offend, I merely want to be honest. If you hadn't expressed clarity issues with vocal intelligibility, etc, I don't believe I would point these out.

If it were me, and I had one eye on my wife's concerns, and one eye on increasing the clarity, I'd stop using the fireplace, and lower the display. I'd bring the L&R out into the room where they need to be and place a CC either directly above or directly below the display. If moving the display is not an option, simply getting the L&R out of the shelves, and into the space where they belong ... will increase clarity significantly and they will image as well as their design will allow. The acoustic issue at hand is the manner in which loudspeakers radiate their output. They radiate sound in all directions until well up into the midrange, this creates secondary reflections all around the speaker from within the shelving and adjacent surfaces.

This creates a smearing in time ... of the recorded event, all types of busy secondary reflections are launched toward the listener. At the source recording, the film/music, etc, the vocalist excites the air and the microphone receives the energy ... then thru the electronics chain ... then in your room the speaker reverses the effect and reproduces the vocal... plain and simple. However, instead of your speakers reproducing the vocal and that wave-launch excites the air and proceeds toward the listener, the output is encountering acoustic distortions prior to even getting a couple feet from the speaker. Up until this point the signal has been handled so carefully, then it's processed, or filtered by the cavity and surrounding in which you've placed them.

Ideally, you need to bring your speakers out into the room, and toe them in somewhat ... axially toward the LP. They will have greater clarity, and image dramatically better than placed inside the shelving. If aesthetic concerns trump the audio concerns, I get it. If you can't bring them out, at least bring the speaker out to the front edge (nothing should be even or in front of the front edge of the speakers), and entirely fill the area all around the speaker with fiberglass, acoustic cotton, or even rock-wool. This will reduce the level of interaction of the cabinet, but only somewhat.

This clarity issue and the effect of less than ideal loudspeaker placement within furniture, shelving, or simply too close to an adjacent boundary, is quite common. The effect is essentially no different than if the lead singer sang from inside the cabinet ... it simply colors the sound in a negative manner. It sounds like they're inside a cabinet. One can easily hear it and understand it, the intent and majority of the content is perceived because we're quite adept at hearing through acoustic distortions. However, the details, imaging and clarity is smeared, due to the multiple corrupted paths encountered, diffraction ... instead of the speaker radiating into free space.

That's the science involved, this is a science forum.



I truly hope this helps, regardless which approach you ultimately pursue. If you'd like very specific details regarding the absorption of the cavity, PM me I'd be glad to help in any way I can with materials selection, etc.


Best of luck

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post #10 of 26 Old 05-09-2013, 11:12 AM
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I agree 100% with FOH. I just didn't say it in my post because you are probably unwilling to change the entire room to make it look and sound better.

I don't know if you can, but I would recommend moving the TV to a different wall in the room and give up on placing the TV above the fireplace.

Another thing that you don't want to hear: Your room is full of hard surfaces. I don't see any carpet or rug on the floor. The whole wall around the fire place is wood. There are simply too many highly reflective surfaces (acoustically) in your room.

EDIT: When I say "make it look" better, I mean the viewing experience when watching the TV.
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post #11 of 26 Old 05-10-2013, 12:26 PM - Thread Starter
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So much to weigh in on! FOH, no offense taken, I am fully aware the built-in unit was designed for visual rather than acoustic aesthetics!

Before I start drilling or moving the TV, I'd like to try to optimize the sound of the existing speakers. First, I will move them to the very front of the cabinets as suggested.

I also want to ask about correcting some of the distortions from within the cabinet. The approx 1" breathing room between each side of the speaker and the MDF creates a cavity that is not ideal, I know. Is there anything I could use that would be visually appealing and would improve the tone? You mention fiberglass, acoustic cotton, and rock-wool -- but I have no idea how these might be properly used to improve the sound quality.
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post #12 of 26 Old 05-10-2013, 03:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by totemphile View Post

You mention fiberglass, acoustic cotton, and rock-wool -- but I have no idea how these might be properly used to improve the sound quality.

Two approaches if the speakers stay where they are and you wish to adress the problems;

1.) Easy - Fill/stuff every possible part of the gap with absorbent material.

2.) Hard - Baffle off the face, as if the entire speaker was flush mounted into the wall. "Baffle off" meticulously with wood or other firm/rigid material.

Either way, the surrounding irregular face of the other cabinetry will still cause measurable problems via diffraction. How audible? I don't know, probably a littleTh, but I'd suspect it would impact imaging significantly. Way more trouble than it's worth, but it would be effective.

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post #13 of 26 Old 05-10-2013, 03:20 PM
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+1 on running a phantom center, or just rotate your TV to the side wall and mount it there, bam problem solved. Having the TV above the fireplace, so high above seating level, is akin to nose bleed section in the movies, without even the benefit of a large screen. I can't see it being comfortable to watch TV like that.
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post #14 of 26 Old 05-10-2013, 03:27 PM
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Got a little late to the party... but we've been discussing this in a different thread, and you invited me (and others) to come here, so here I am.

Given your constraints, I would mount the display to the wall (possibly with a hinged mount, so that you can bring the TV out a little bit, if that helps it look better). But I would definitely try my best to place the speaker below the display, not above. The three front speakers should ideally be at ear level - since many of them are usually bigger than our heads, we use the tweeters as the reference, because they produce a narrower sound field than the other drivers.

Even if you can't place the speakers at ear level, you should still keep them at the same level, or the closest you can get to it. Placing the center speaker above the TV will most likely give you a misplaced sound, which may be worse than the phantom center channel your receiver creates using the front L/R channels.

Using two speakers in those remaining openings is also a bad idea, I think. I mean, as someone said, it's not much (or any) better than the phantom channel. And it also adds the issue of wiring two speakers to one amplifier. If your current speakers are 4 ohms, you could wire two 8-ohm speakers in parallel, and if the current ones are 8 ohms you could wire two 4-ohm speakers in series, but speaker impedances are not exactly equal even if you get the same make and model, and they also vary with frequency (but differently in each unit), so that can make the whole thing a worse load to the amplifier than a speaker alone already is. Well... just don't do it...

As for the breathing room, if your speakers are rear-ported (most are, I believe), you can cover the ports with foam or cloth, but you'll lose some bass. It might not be so bad, because standing so close to the side walls as they are, they are actually adding a lot of bass now - maybe too much. You'd need to try it out.

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post #15 of 26 Old 05-10-2013, 04:31 PM
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Based on your pic, it doesn't look like you've got enough clearance to place a traditional center channel speaker without it blocking the tv. If your mains are rear ported it seems that plugging the ports would be a good idea.
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post #16 of 26 Old 05-11-2013, 03:33 AM
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I already PM'd you that I have had excellent experience with the Yamaha's phantom center, due to my unique limitation that prevents a center speaker in my setup. I agree with FOH's observations and suggestions. Just chiming in here to raise one other option - if possible in your room:

What is at the opposite end of the room (where the photographer must be standing)? Can you re-arrange everything, swapping it all around 180 degrees?

I solved an annoying room problem where a window kept getting in the way of my setup. Then, I lost the attachment to the idea that my couch had to face the window. I turned it all around, and it gave me the freedom I needed to place the speakers in the room in their ideal location, toed-in as FOH recommended to you. This switch-around solved all the limitations the room seemed to bind me in. To enter my living room now, you first pass the speakers and display, then turn around and sit on the reclining couch at the opposite end of the room, with your back to the window (light-block curtains in place).

Don't know if a swap is possible in your room, but I agree that the cabinet and fireplace seem to be causing some difficult placement limitations on you. Can you put the problem 'behind you', so to speak?
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post #17 of 26 Old 05-11-2013, 01:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jess Sayin View Post

I already PM'd you that I have had excellent experience with the Yamaha's phantom center, due to my unique limitation that prevents a center speaker in my setup. I agree with FOH's observations and suggestions. Just chiming in here to raise one other option - if possible in your room:

What is at the opposite end of the room (where the photographer must be standing)? Can you re-arrange everything, swapping it all around 180 degrees?

I solved an annoying room problem where a window kept getting in the way of my setup. Then, I lost the attachment to the idea that my couch had to face the window. I turned it all around, and it gave me the freedom I needed to place the speakers in the room in their ideal location, toed-in as FOH recommended to you. This switch-around solved all the limitations the room seemed to bind me in. To enter my living room now, you first pass the speakers and display, then turn around and sit on the reclining couch at the opposite end of the room, with your back to the window (light-block curtains in place).

Don't know if a swap is possible in your room, but I agree that the cabinet and fireplace seem to be causing some difficult placement limitations on you. Can you put the problem 'behind you', so to speak?

+1

Plus, cabinetry behind the LP is nearly the ideal scenario ... as it creates a diffuse, scattering environment to the rear of the listener. Got lemons? Make lemonade!

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post #18 of 26 Old 05-11-2013, 02:26 PM
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Something tells me that the overriding factor in the OP's options is the WAF.
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post #19 of 26 Old 05-11-2013, 03:42 PM
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I'd get a slim, low profile, slanted speaker for the center channel angled exactly to where the couch will be, if the "phantom center" option is unappealing. I'm considering doing that myself, run all my 7.1 channels except the center since my current center costs $30 and my left and right are > 1k each.
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post #20 of 26 Old 05-13-2013, 12:38 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crn3371 View Post

Based on your pic, it doesn't look like you've got enough clearance to place a traditional center channel speaker without it blocking the tv. If your mains are rear ported it seems that plugging the ports would be a good idea.

The mains are Totem Staffs and are rear-ported, yes. What's the right way to do this? Do I stuff it with sponge/foam?

You are correct, WAF is a major factor here as we recently renovated the space. I am regretting that I didn't come to the forum with sketches before we started building the cabinet. Potentially I could rotate 90 or 180 degrees and use the side or rear wall, and while that might help the acoustics, it would obliterate WAF.

I'm optimistic that if I improve the acoustic conditions for the fronts. I toed them in a bit, moved them right to the front of the cabinetry, and ran YPAO (Yahama's auto-configurator) and it's certainly helped clarify things.

I'm thinking next step would be to plug the rear ports of the mains, as that's inexpensive and won't affect cosmetics.

Also - cabinetry behind LP is ideal?? I have an HVAC duct on the wall 180 degrees behind. Maybe I should build a built-in bookshelf there and that will help my sound and also solve my book storage problem as well??
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post #21 of 26 Old 05-13-2013, 02:11 PM
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Stuff with with foam, balled up socks, whatever works. If you're able to pull them forward and toe them in you might just end up solving your problem. I run a phantom center and it works fine for me.
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post #22 of 26 Old 05-14-2013, 11:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by totemphile View Post

Also - cabinetry behind LP is ideal??

In the front of the room, symmetry is helpful, behind the LP, a diffuse, scattered sound environment is similarly helpful.

That said, no..this will not help the vocal articulation problems.

This will be helpful.

Also, this should be read and explored by anyone setting up either a home system, or a studio system.

Additionally, this paper describes the single most important component in any audio system, the room. This paper would help anyone when addressing the acoustic distortions of the room, with room treatment.

I'm not merely flippantly including some links in a post. I like to truly contribute, the above three links contain crucial ... yet very simple steps and information toward maximizing a systems potential. Every room holds a system back,...every room ... it just up to the individual to determine how much damage the room does.

Electronics matter little.
Loudspeakers, quality speakers are important. However their set-up and optimization to the room is overwhelmingly important. The optimization of the room either includes significant treatment, or minimal treatment, each space's need differ greatly.

Your speaker are quality. The manner in which they're set-up is not recommended. The output is compromised prior to the energy getting to the listener. This is what precipitated this thread.


Continued good luck.
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post #23 of 26 Old 05-14-2013, 05:11 PM
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It's hard to tell from the picture, but it looks like the L/R towers are standing inside the cabinet, with an air gap around the sides/top. Just for fun, I'd suggest seeing how things sound if you temporarily pull the speaker out of the cabinet, and slide them away from the side walls another foot or so. If the intelligibility improves, there are ways to get there with acoustic treatments as FOH noted, and also by filling the cavity spaces around the speakers. The issue is not the rear ports, but filling the cavities will of course reduce that in the bargain.

Might even lay down an area rug to impede the floor reflections.

A good phantom center image should not have intelligibility problems.
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post #24 of 26 Old 05-15-2013, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Roger Dressler View Post

It's hard to tell from the picture, but it looks like the L/R towers are standing inside the cabinet, with an air gap around the sides/top. Just for fun, I'd suggest seeing how things sound if you temporarily pull the speaker out of the cabinet, and slide them away from the side walls another foot or so.

This is a huge component of the discussion Roger, the L&R are sitting inside the custom, built in shelving.

The first course of action I suggested, just as you, was to bring them out .. and away from the adjacent boundaries, toed in and allow them to perform to their best capability. However, there's aesthetic concerns with that. Therein ...

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post #25 of 26 Old 05-15-2013, 01:01 PM
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This is a huge component of the discussion Roger, the L&R are sitting inside the custom, built in shelving.

The first course of action I suggested, just as you, was to bring them out .. and away from the adjacent boundaries, toed in and allow them to perform to their best capability. However, there's aesthetic concerns with that. Therein ...
Yes. The only reason I suggest to pull them out is to allow one to experience the expected benefits in sound quality. And if those actually materialize, it sets the bar for the OP when deciding what to do next and how to judge the results.

I suspect it would be possible to retain those benefits with the speakers inside the cabinets, but it will take work, and that requires motivation. If better sound and dialog intelligibility without adding a center speaker represents that motivation, he's off and running.
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post #26 of 26 Old 05-15-2013, 01:13 PM
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In the front of the room, symmetry is helpful, behind the LP, a diffuse, scattered sound environment is similarly helpful.

That said, no..this will not help the vocal articulation problems.

This will be helpful.

Also, this should be read and explored by anyone setting up either a home system, or a studio system.

Additionally, this paper describes the single most important component in any audio system, the room. This paper would help anyone when addressing the acoustic distortions of the room, with room treatment.

I'm not merely flippantly including some links in a post. I like to truly contribute, the above three links contain crucial ... yet very simple steps and information toward maximizing a systems potential. Every room holds a system back,...every room ... it just up to the individual to determine how much damage the room does.

Electronics matter little.
Loudspeakers, quality speakers are important. However their set-up and optimization to the room is overwhelmingly important. The optimization of the room either includes significant treatment, or minimal treatment, each space's need differ greatly.

Your speaker are quality. The manner in which they're set-up is not recommended. The output is compromised prior to the energy getting to the listener. This is what precipitated this thread.


Continued good luck.
FOH is perfectly accurate here. It's exactly what I was saying, but with much more detail. Your room is killing the sound from your very nice speakers.
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