Speaker distance from front wall - audiophile vs studio?

Oct 16, 2010
59
0
6
WA, Australia
#1
The standard audiophile set-up is for speakers well out from the front wall (presumably to reduce the frequency related to rear-wave cancellation). A lot of professional studios, meanwhile, seem to have monitors either against the front wall or soffit mounted (presumably to remove rear wave reflections altogether). What is the reason for these different set-ups? And what are the pre-requisites for successfully having speakers flat against the front wall in a home stereo set-up? I know that this can only work with sealed, or front ported, speakers and imaging that DSP might be needed to deal with a bass bump but are their other considerations?

Zydeco
 

audioarcher

Active Member
May 7, 2012
1,325
1
38
Seattle area
#2
You want your speakers far enough away from the front wall to delay the secondary sound reflections to the ear. If you do not delay the secondary sound reflections long enough the brain will confuse them with the primary sound and it will blur the sound. I do not remember the numbers of the top of my head. Do a search on small room acoustics for the details.

In a listening room environment having the speakers far enough out from the back wall results in a deeper soundstage and clearer sound. In a studio I assume if they soffit mount the speakers then they also heavily treat the side boundaries to dampen the reflections. They also sit closer to the speakers to lessen the distance between direct and reflected sound. I have not heard any systems with a soffit mounted speaker setup but I have heard several wall mounted speakers and they never have any depth of soundstage. Very 2D sounding.
 

JackD201

[WBF Founding Member]
Apr 21, 2010
11,261
235
63
Manila, Philippines
#3
Horses for courses. Main studio monitors are designed to be flat soffit mounted. Not the case for domestic loudspeakers. The reason can be summed mainly by the word Realestate. Necessary adjustments are made in the speakers response curve to allow it to remain flat mounted in such a way. Soffits also allow mounting high up over the meter bridge so that's a plus too. You'd need a PRETTY highly set midrange and tweeter to use it in a recording or mixing studio. Besides most control rooms are very dead acoustically anyway. Reflections are a minimal concern.
 
Jul 8, 2010
1,232
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70
New Milford, CT
#4
The standard audiophile set-up is for speakers well out from the front wall (presumably to reduce the frequency related to rear-wave cancellation). A lot of professional studios, meanwhile, seem to have monitors either against the front wall or soffit mounted (presumably to remove rear wave reflections altogether). What is the reason for these different set-ups?
The goal for home listening and professional studio monitoring is identical: to hear the music as it sounds, with minimal interference from the room. You are correct that mounting the speakers in a wall avoids rear waves from causing peaks and nulls. But this is a low frequency issue, and has nothing to do with reflections at mid and high frequencies where delays can affect imaging. Unless you're using dipole type speakers that send sound equally front and rear, the main thing emitting from the rear is bass, usually from 300 Hz and below.

--Ethan
 
Jul 1, 2010
8,713
1
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#5
Horses for courses. Main studio monitors are designed to be flat soffit mounted. Not the case for domestic loudspeakers. The reason can be summed mainly by the word Realestate. Necessary adjustments are made in the speakers response curve to allow it to remain flat mounted in such a way. Soffits also allow mounting high up over the meter bridge so that's a plus too. You'd need a PRETTY highly set midrange and tweeter to use it in a recording or mixing studio. Besides most control rooms are very dead acoustically anyway. Reflections are a minimal concern.
I'm not following this, Jack...

Tim
 
May 30, 2010
15,079
474
83
Portugal
#6
The standard audiophile set-up is for speakers well out from the front wall (presumably to reduce the frequency related to rear-wave cancellation). A lot of professional studios, meanwhile, seem to have monitors either against the front wall or soffit mounted (presumably to remove rear wave reflections altogether). What is the reason for these different set-ups? And what are the pre-requisites for successfully having speakers flat against the front wall in a home stereo set-up? I know that this can only work with sealed, or front ported, speakers and imaging that DSP might be needed to deal with a bass bump but are their other considerations?

Zydeco
The acoustic designer Philip Newell is known for designing rooms with speakers built inside the walls, with the speaker face flush to the surface of the wall. He wrote an article in Hifi Critic some years ago explaining why, and his book "Studio Monitoring Design: A Personal View" also addresses this subject.
 

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rbbert

Active Member
Dec 12, 2010
3,424
2
38
Reno, NV
#7
The goal for home listening and professional studio monitoring is identical: to hear the music as it sounds, with minimal interference from the room. You are correct that mounting the speakers in a wall avoids rear waves from causing peaks and nulls. But this is a low frequency issue, and has nothing to do with reflections at mid and high frequencies where delays can affect imaging. Unless you're using dipole type speakers that send sound equally front and rear, the main thing emitting from the rear is bass, usually from 300 Hz and below.

--Ethan
I'm missing your point here. Are you saying it doesn't matter how far the speakers are from the front wall?
 

JackD201

[WBF Founding Member]
Apr 21, 2010
11,261
235
63
Manila, Philippines
#9
I'm not following this, Jack...

Tim
A domestic speaker would need to be very tall or set on high stands. Like how the N801s are set up at Lucas Arts or Abbey Road.
 
Jul 1, 2010
8,713
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#11
I'm missing your point here. Are you saying it doesn't matter how far the speakers are from the front wall?
The point, I believe, is that it won't effect imaging or sound stage. The energy coming off of the back of a closed-back cabinet is all pretty low bass. Non-directional stuff. Well below the frequencies that define imaging.

By the way, soffit-mounted speakers are not listened to in the near field. Their distance from the listener is more like that of a typical domestic set up.

Tim
 

rbbert

Active Member
Dec 12, 2010
3,424
2
38
Reno, NV
#13
The point, I believe, is that it won't effect imaging or sound stage. The energy coming off of the back of a closed-back cabinet is all pretty low bass. Non-directional stuff. Well below the frequencies that define imaging.
The last sentence may be true. The first obviously isn't. Whether or not the imaging or soundstage is "correct" is another question, but there's no doubt that distance from the front wall affects imaging; try it yourself.
 

audioguy

WBF Founding Member
Apr 21, 2010
2,755
27
48
Near Atlanta, GA but not too near!
#14
there's no doubt that distance from the front wall affects imaging; try it yourself.
+1

No eye squinting to hear the effect. Whether the imaging is "correct" or not is a different subject.

My room is dual purpose:2 channel and home theater. I put my center channel into the wall (behind an AT screen) but my LR are well out into the room for that very reason.

That said, I was provided an article once that disagreed that you can not get image depth from a speaker in a wall but was not able to locate it prior to this post.
 

audioarcher

Active Member
May 7, 2012
1,325
1
38
Seattle area
#15
The last sentence may be true. The first obviously isn't. Whether or not the imaging or soundstage is "correct" is another question, but there's no doubt that distance from the front wall affects imaging; try it yourself.
Yes. People are not doing it just to be fashionable. They like the effect. There are a couple of things that make it difficult to do. First is lack of a large enough room. Second is getting good bass response with the speakers far away from room boundaries. This requires speakers with either adjustable bass, and/or enough bass output to not need much boundary reinforcement. Adding separate subs can also help with this.
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,859
105
63
#16
Are those MTMs Lipinskis?
They sure look like Lipinskis...btw, Noel at Lipinski is great...I am trying to find a time to pay them a visit. They have invited me to hear their reference fully active, reference speakers. Have you heard them, Jack?
 
Jul 8, 2010
1,232
0
0
70
New Milford, CT
#17
The last sentence may be true. The first obviously isn't. Whether or not the imaging or soundstage is "correct" is another question, but there's no doubt that distance from the front wall affects imaging; try it yourself.
As Tim and I both explained, what emits from the rear of box-type loudspeakers is mainly below 200-300 Hz. So the distance from both walls (and the floor and ceiling) affects the frequency and severity of peaks and nulls at bass frequencies.

It's also true that treating only the front wall can effect imaging. In that case sound goes past your head, hits the rear wall behind you, bounces back to the front, then finally comes back to you again. This is why the rear wall is much more important to treat than the front. Once the rear wall is treated sufficiently, more treatment in the front will make little or no difference in imaging and spaciousness.

--Ethan
 
Jul 1, 2010
8,713
1
0
#18
The last sentence may be true. The first obviously isn't. Whether or not the imaging or soundstage is "correct" is another question, but there's no doubt that distance from the front wall affects imaging; try it yourself.
I have tried it.

Perhaps we have a different definition of imaging. My monitors are toed in pretty radically because I sit close (they are front-ported). They are 6" from the wall behind them on the outside rear corners, 2" from the wall on the inside rear corners. The phantom center and placement of instruments from there to the furthest points out in the field is as solid and stable as almost anything I've heard. These speakers roll off pretty sharply below 60hz. Maybe the goobbering (the technical term) of low bass in placement too close to the wall is somehow interfering with the perception of frequencies above it? Maybe?

There is no doubt we have a different definition of sound stage. It's one of those fungible audiophile terms that seems to mean different things to different people and very fuzzy and indistinct things to most.

Tim
 

rbbert

Active Member
Dec 12, 2010
3,424
2
38
Reno, NV
#19
If you listen near field, speaker placement relative to any room boundary is irrelevant to imaging. And you should read my posts more carefully if you think we have different ideas or definitions of soundstage and imaging. And once again to you and Ethan, you are both ignoring (I hope it's not that you are ignorant of!) by far the most common listening situation of listening at least 8-10 ft away from the plane connecting the speaker fronts, from 1-1.25x the interspeaker distance away from that plane. In that situation moving the speakers out from the front wall will change the apparent image dramatically. Also remember that even if the speaker back is flush against the wall the speaker front (which is what matters) will be away from the front wall (by the depth of the speaker).
 
Jul 1, 2010
8,713
1
0
#20
If you listen near field, speaker placement relative to any room boundary is irrelevant to imaging. And you should read my posts more carefully if you think we have different ideas or definitions of soundstage and imaging. And once again to you and Ethan, you are both ignoring (I hope it's not that you are ignorant of!) by far the most common listening situation of listening at least 8-10 ft away from the plane connecting the speaker fronts, from 1-1.25x the interspeaker distance away from that plane. In that situation moving the speakers out from the front wall will change the apparent image dramatically. Also remember that even if the speaker back is flush against the wall the speaker front (which is what matters) will be away from the front wall (by the depth of the speaker).
Well, not quite. Near field speaker placement reduces the impact of room boundaries, it don't make them irrelevant. I'm not ignoring what you hear, or the most common listening situation, as I said, I've tried it. It did not have a dramatic effect, but that could be because of the lack of bass coming from my monitors. Given that all of the energy from the back of the speakers is low frequency, and imaging is defined by upper mids and trebles, there must be some interaction between that low frequency information, the boundary effect off the back wall and the higher frequency information that is creating this smearing of the image. Simple masking, perhaps?

Tim
 

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