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How bad is it to not have speakers at ear level?

 

Bronze Member
Username: Dmehling

Post Number: 22
Registered: Dec-08
I have some floorstanding speakers in probably the worst arrangement possible. The left speaker is a bit to the left of where I sit and the right speaker is about 6 feet to the right of where I sit. Not the most balanced situation, but it still sounds okay to me. However, that's really not the point. I'm going to replace them with smaller wall-mounted speakers to save space. Because of the arrangement of the room and other factors, they will be above ear level. Does this really matter that much, especially for someone like me? What aspects of the sound would suffer? To me, it would be a big improvement over my current sound. I like good quality sound, but I hardly notice a difference between $50 and $500 speakers.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 17869
Registered: May-04
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Well, I can't think of a decent $50 at today's prices but I can find many $500 speakers that truly suck.

Unfortunately, I have no idea what "someone like me" means. Rather than go through a long explanation of what occurs when a speaker couples to a room and how a speaker pair should be arranged in a room, why don't you tell me what is important to you in music and then I'll tell you whether your wall mounted speakers will suffer from that location.

Certainly, if the speakers have not been designed specifically for the location you have planned, or they will still be less than ideally positioned in relation to your listening position, then sound quality will be less than ideal. How much that bothers a listener like you is impossible to guess. If you don't hear any problems now, it's likely speaker position is more important to you when you don't have to maneuver around the box.



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Bronze Member
Username: Dmehling

Post Number: 23
Registered: Dec-08
By "someone like me", I meant a person who is not necessarily an audiophile. I really don't have a good ability to discern the distinctions that can be heard when comparing speakers and other components.

I listen mostly to modern instrumental, film scores, New Age, electronic, and some classical. I just need a good basic sound. I'm sure I'm probably missing certain sounds or frequencies in my current setup, but I don't notice them. I don't really know what to listen for. If I could at least have my speakers equally spaced apart, that would be a big improvement over what I have now. I really don't think I would be disappointed in upgrading to wall-mounted speakers, even if they are positioned a bit too high. I just wanted to make sure that I'm not making a big mistake.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 17870
Registered: May-04
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I would first ask whether you attend live music performances. As an audience member you perceive not only the performers but also the performers behaving as they do within a specific space. One value of higher quality audio systems is to provide much the same sense of music occurring before you - as if you had been transported to the presence of the performers. Of course, much of the success achieved in this illusion begins with the recording process. Film scores and what you term New Age are similar to electronic scores, for the most part they can exist only within the confines of a computer. They are not "realistic" portrayals of the type of sound you would hear in a symphony hall. Therefore, in many cases, there is no "soundstage" to perceive or "image" of a solo instrument to detect. The recording reflects the dramatic effects staged by the mixing artists.

With classical symphonies you would preferrably have the ability to perceive the tensions created by the composer/conductor occurring between various sections of the orchestra as a way of heightening the emotional content of the music. None of this will be adequately portrayed when proper speaker position has been diluted by poor set up.

Frequency response will suffer when speakers are not positioned as the designer intended. Bass response will be bloated if the speakers are meant to stand free from the room surfaces. High frequency response will be rolled off since the smallest wavelengths of this region become increasingly narrow and follow a path almost similar to a billiard ball traveling in a straight line toward its objective. Many of these same problems exist in any room which is set up for domestic living rather than sound quality, your proposed speaker position will simply exacerbate these issues. What you as a listener will hear in any room is a combination of direct sound from the speaker and reflected sounds bouncing off the surfaces of the room then reaching your ears at a slightly delayed time. At its best these reflections provide an ambient character to overly dry studio recordings. At their worst, they negate many of the effects which can be found in higher quality audio systems. When speakers are set up with this rule in mind and adhere to known laws of physics, the effects of being in the presence of the performers can be achieved in a strikingly realistic soundstage laid out before the attentive listener.

Finally, if the speakers are wall mounted, this tends to imply they are not so easily movable with the space at a later date. This ties you down to more or less one location for your furniture. That has little to do with sound and more to do with how flexible you care to be with other aspects of your life.

When I was selling audio one of my first questions to a new client would involve how they intended to listen to music. If their habits were to sit down and listen intently to the performance as if they were attending a concert - in other words; no TV, newspaper, books, or other distractions - and they were looking to achieve the greatest involvement with the music, they would do so with attention to speaker set up and system quality. If they viewed music as sonic wallpaper which simply existed in their shared space, then what they purchased and how they set up the system was far less important. We all have our own priorities and only you can determine just how important these values of recorded music are to your enjoyment.


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Bronze Member
Username: Dmehling

Post Number: 24
Registered: Dec-08
Thanks for your advice. I will never have the means to have more than a basic sound system, so I would probably not even have the opportunity to enjoy some of the finer aspects of a high-end system, even if I had a perfect room set up. I currently have the most basic Onkyo stereo receiver and a pair of 15-year-old Infinity tower speakers (don't know the model number). Not only are the speakers unbalanced in their left and right orientation, but they both sit in front of an desk and entertainment center, and the tweeters are a few inches below ear level.

If I get some wall-mounted speakers, I am aiming for something with a sound quality comparable to my current speakers. I don't have great concern about permanently tying them down to a particular spot. There isn't really any other place I can put them, and nothing else in my listening room can be moved around. Space is at a premium right now. I would just like to avoid as much possible what you call bass bloating and loss of higher frequencies.

As far as reproducing live sound, if I want to hear that, I would go to a concert hall. Even with my classical music, I don't mind if my sound system doesn't reproduce anything at all like an actual concert hall. I am a fairly casual listener of my music, and seldom have time to focus my full attention on it. For those few times when I want to do serious and focused listening, I use headphones.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 17871
Registered: May-04
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You seem to have the answer to your original question.
 

Gold Member
Username: Magfan

USA

Post Number: 3107
Registered: Oct-07
Douglas, I've read posts by many persons similar to yourself. Good�.is good enough.
However, I would urge you to listen to some new gear as money allows. At any given price point you WILL find something which For You will represent the 'next level'.

don't just 'buy some wall mounts'�.but rather spend some time defining and listening to the differences.

For Example�.a retailer near here has quite a selection of in-wall speakers. For ME�..I found, when I was selling stuff, to prefer to listen to the Polks. Finding what someone preferred was a little demo work, but made for more satisfied people.
 

Gold Member
Username: Superjazzyjames

Post Number: 2253
Registered: Oct-10
Douglas, I don't know how many other models of speakers are like this, but the Mirage Omnisat OS3 is designed to be wall mounted. Mirage recommends mounting them upside down if higher than 6 feet above the floor. You will probably want a subwoofer with these. The Mirage Omni S8 sub has an 8 inch driver and takes up very little room. I don't like recommending specific brands and models, but these and any others you can find like them might be worth checking out.
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