Creating a soundstage in a small room

October 14, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

17 comments on “Creating a soundstage in a small room”

  1. How small is your small room?
    (How long is a piece of string?)

    I managed to get a magnificent 3D soundstage, along with pinpoint imaging, from a pair of properly set-up Harbeth – ‘HL Compact’ (now 7ES-3 XD) loudspeakers many years ago in a smallish room.

    There are certain models within some loudspeaker brands that are specifically designed to be set up (placed) against the front wall of a listening/living room.
    You could go & investigate those options.
    PS Audio has a pair of standmount loudspeakers in design & testing, the ‘Sprout’ 2-way’s…however, I suspect that they will require at least 17″ between the back of them & the front wall.
    Good luck in your quest Mark 😀

  2. So you cannot have depth in a room if your speakers have accurate tonal balance? This depth is created by a recessed midrange and high frequencies? I prefer an accurate tonal balance. If the recording puts the instruments behind speakers that have accurate tonal balance than that is what is accurate. I don’t agree that a speaker should be tailored to put instruments behind the speakers if that is not baked into the recording. Not that I’m against that because the effect might be seductive but it’s not accuracy. Unless it’s taking in consideration that most rooms are live sounding and need a bit of a downward midrange and high frequency curve.

  3. Good afternoon Paul!
    You said in your video, “when we’re designing speakers, we create a dip to widen the sound stage, to make it both deeper and wider.”
    Ok, I get that.
    This is something in the way that the passive crossover networks are both design and built.
    But on the other hand, I have said time and time again, “not everybody can pull their speakers, half way in to the middle of their rooms.
    Some of us can’t do that because, we live in smaller places.
    But I also heard you say, that this guy that is a reviewer for Stereophile, has his speakers, right up against the walls behind them.
    And that he gets a really good sound stage too as well.
    The truth is, his speakers were designed to be placed against the walls behind them.
    I get the dip in the crossover networks.
    But for those of us that don’t get the dip in the crossover thing, can you explain that to the rest of us in plane and cemple turms?
    Thanks in advance!
    PS. I’m not asking you to do that on my behalf, I’m asking on the behalf of the others that don’t have a working understanding of this stuff.

    1. Thanks, John. This all comes down to listening vs. measuring. When we design a speaker, any speaker, we first want to make the output as flat as possible. That takes a lot of time in a 3-way or 4-way system.

      Once flat we begin the listening work and here’s where often we find that flat isn’t working for us, especially in the midrange and upper woofer response. The problem is how the ear perceives localization. Often, if too close to flat the midrange will sound as if stuck in the speaker while the other frequencies are properly divorced from the enclosure.

      I am not enough of a speaker designer to understand and explain why that is, just that’s what I hear. Reducing the midrange level by a dB or so has the effect of making the driver sound less like a driver and more just seamlessly blending in.

      As for the fellow with the speakers close to the wall, they are big Wilsons which are not designed to be up against the wall.

      1. Good morning Paul!
        Ok, I get the fact that those big Wilsons weren’t designed to be placed right up against the wall behind them.
        So, how did he get a very deep and large sound stage out of them?
        Did he employ some kind of a technical trick to make that happen?
        I’m asking because, the type of speakers I’m about to talk about here, aren’t really expensive speakers by any means.
        I have a quod of Dayton Audio B-652Airs.
        They can either be hung on the wall, or put upon a book shelf or stands.
        They are a sealed enclosures.
        But the one time that I put them upon the wall in one of my bed rooms, they threw a really big sound stage.
        The only thing that was holding them back if anything, was my Eastern Electric M-520 integrated amplifier.
        But when I hooked them up to my vintage Fisher 800 stereo receiver, the sound stage both deepened and widened too as well.
        How was the array of drivers in those big Wilsons configured?

  4. I find that very interesting in that you don’t want to have flat response speakers. It’s best to put a dip in the response.

    Does this then mean that the speakers are colouring the sound? Isn’t it the aim to reproduce the sound/music as it was recorded?

    Would be very interested in learning about this and why then if you build in a certain response why you couldn’t do this with DSP?

    Thanks in advance

    1. The whole audio chain is colouring the sound anyway…the DAC, the interconnects,
      the amp, the loudspeaker wires…so why not the loudspeakers.
      One man’s neutral is another man’s coloured.

  5. My venerable Yamaha NS1000s, hard against the wall as they were designed, had great dynamics and tone but zero depth and I don’t care.

    Then I pulled them out, the front a mere 18inches in. And I get depth.
    But tone and dynamics are more important. To me.

  6. Thanks Paul for your answer and thanks to everyone else for your comments. This is a great community from which there is always something to learn and lots of encouragement to explore. I guess the quest for perfection never ends which is half the fun of it.

    I used to be obsessed by the search for a full up-front sound that filled the room. Now I just want a realistic image and a real sense of the soundstage on which the recording was made. I guess tastes change as well as differ.

    Mark, Cambridge

  7. Bear in mind that we might have a disconnect in our common understanding of a “small room”. In the UK, rooms in typical or average houses have been getting smaller since the 1970’s, are the smallest in Europe, and are now considerably smaller than rooms in houses in the US. The average living room has shrunk from 25 m^2 in 1970 to 18 m^2.

    We might say that someone who purchases PS Audio products probably lives in a larger house. On the other hand, if someone on a normal income buys a PS Audio system there’s probably little disposable income for housing needs, so he/she might have reduced accommodation.

  8. Hey Paul, you say in this video that the diffusers should be behind the speaker and the absorbers should be behind the listeners head. Mine are reversed with a diffuser behind my head and the absorbers are on the wall behind the speakers. How much difference does it make to have them this way?

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