A little tilt back

August 13, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

When setting up a pair of speakers it’s standard practice to move them closer or farther apart, more or less toe in, and away from or towards the front wall.

Rarely do we remember to angle them forward or backward. This is because it is simply not part of the standard practice in speaker setup.

But, it’s a good one to add to your arsenal.

Tilting the speaker forward or the opposite aims the tweeter more or less directly at your ear without upsetting the delicate left/right balance.

You can try this handy technique without actually moving the speaker at all. Simply raise or lower your seating height by crouching down or rising up a smidge to hear what the differences are.

Try it. You might find a new dimension in sound you hadn’t had.

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33 comments on “A little tilt back”

  1. Wouldn’t there be one exception, Paul: loudspeakers designed according D’Appolito’s concept (MTM), requiring mandatorily that both Ms have the same distance to your ears?

  2. Klipsch, KLH, JBL…

    I have simply constructed two solid stands from concrete blocks that are exactly the right width, depth
    & height to match my O/93’s & to bring the tweeters up to my ear-level without any need for tilting.
    (Those of you who have seen the photos know what I’m talking about)
    After all, I wouldn’t want the pot plants to slide off from all the loudspeaker cabinet vibrations 😮

    😉

  3. I once had speakers which could be vertically angled with 3 ways towards the ear, just as the big Wilson speakers. Those who experienced the effect of an exact adjustment will doubt today‘s tip is helpful aside of one optimal position (but not tweeter tonality-wise, instead regarding directionality of all ways exactly to the ear). If then the tweeter volume level doesn’t fit and tonality is too bright, it’s a problem of the speaker voicing in its optimal adjustment (or the room) imo.

  4. It worked for me about five years ago when I had a custom cushion made for my listening armchair after raising and lowering my body to find the vertical sweet spot as Paul suggests even with Maggie 3.6 R’s.

    1. I think quite no speaker is (but quite every speaker can be tilted mechanically somehow with some effort).

      IMO every speaker should be built and voiced for a certain ear height (and probably is). In case one’s ear height on the listening chair doesn’t match that, this could be corrected with tilting. But it should be done for this purpose, not for pure tweeter tonality reasons, otherwise there will be a slight time alignment compromise in my understanding.

      However many average speakers might not be very sensible in this regard.

      1. To be more correct: tilting rather is a question of optimal focus in my experience, moving each unit representing a way forth and back (if possible) is a question of optimal time alignment, if the speaker is sensible to mechanical time alignment. I think every speaker with a flat baffle is always a compromise, although I’m not sure if there are options to completely optimize time alignment in the crossover. As there are more expensive speakers with mechanical time alignment, I guess this is still even better.

  5. I’d like to say that speaker positioning and/or tilting (if necessary)has to go down as one of the simplest, yet greatest audio tweaks of all time.
    Dramatically changes the sound.

  6. Some speakers have a built in tilt – some have a flat face –
    Some sound better perfectly level. Some sound better with a ‘tilt’

    I guess the only way to know what is best in your situation is to experiment.

    In my case I’ve done it. No tilt No toe in sounds best. Being off 1 degree in any axis make a difference. So accurate repeatable measurements (those words are for you FR 😀 )are a must. Great imaging – good sound stage very good tonal balance is what I ended up with.

  7. After going through the usual setup procedure for my speakers, I realized I was missing an openness at the top end. When I slouched down in my chair to align my ears with the tweeters and everything opened up and sounded complete and natural. I tilted both speakers to aim at my 37″ ear height and that’s where they have stayed for a few years now. In my case, even the Soundstage gained more depth.

    1. Same here, but with me it’s 41.5″.
      This changes slightly depending on whether I’m sitting back or leaning forward.
      It’s impossible for me to stay in one position for 6 hours.

      1. It is rarely mentioned that different people have different sitting styles. With my history of back problems, I am frequently changing my position in the listening chair. Fortunately, I have tweeters (and speakers, for that matter) with a reasonably wide dispersion pattern, so my fidgeting is not acoustically problematic. Nor does my listening chair squeak. 😎

  8. I know that tone control on preamplifiers is now considered audio sacrilege. However, brightness L-pads on speakers I have always appreciated. Are they now also considered audio sacrilege?

      1. Thanks FR. They do work, said that most speakers today no longer have them.

        When designing my current set of speakers to set the high frequency drivers height, I sat in my favorite chair with a tape measure to determine the height of my ear to the floor. My wife thought I was crazy.

        1. A survey of the wives of audiophiles indicated that most of them think their husbands are crazy. It was not determined if that was the reason they loved them. 😎

  9. Agree Paul! That 5th dimension (baffles tilted back 5 degrees) has added the final touch of realism to my soundstage 3D presentation! With the front wall being just 9ft, monitors are set 2ft away from front and side walls, with 5ft of baffle separation and a 5 degree toe-out! Visuals are a little crazy but all forgotten when the music starts!!

  10. My *old* KEF reference (mid -80s), could be used as (large) bookshelf, or floor-standing with a stand that tilted them back around 10 degrees. All in the design.
    They are retired now but waiting for a second system in office or spare BR.

  11. I’ve done this many times helping friends set up their speakers.
    For my previous pair I had a quarter and a dime under their front spikes – a $0.70 tweak. Solidified the soundstage, snapped the centered vocals into perfect focus.

  12. The same type of “check” movement works for toe-in…. just move you head forward (and back) from your sitting position, and notice how the image and/or sound stage changes. Where it sounds best, notice the “sight picture” of the SIDES of your speakers. Set your toe-in where you are seeing THAT from your seat position.

  13. My loudspeakers have separate bass and treble modules. The bass modules have thick brass feet and sit on 4″ maple blocks. This puts the treble modules a little higher than optimal for my listening position. To compensate, I tilt the treble modules a little downward by placing a Boston Audio Design TuneBlock XT (with the tungsten ball bearing) under each rear corner of the treble modules. This aims the tweeters at my ears when I’m seated.

  14. My speakers have three 10″ woofers in the bottom compartment and then the tweeter is in the bottom of the top compartment ( the mid range is at the top in the top compartment ). This makes the tweeter higher than on most speakers. Rather than tilt the speaker so the tweeter is downward firing, I plan to investigate higher seating to raise m ear level.

    1. One-piece tall speakers, unless they are of a slant-back geometric design, can look funny if tilted. Adjusting the height of the listening chair makes the most sense. In my case, just tilting the treble modules looks fine, and I don’t have to have a high chair in the middle of my living room.

  15. Indeed, depending on the height of the speakers (and whatever stands they are on) a little tilt goes a long ways to improving overall tonal balance as you are adjusting what part of the speakers’ response hits your ears.

    I note that some speakers like the Klipsch Heresy IV, The KLH Model 5, and my older ADS speakers sit on stands that have a ~5° tilt back.

    Most, but of course not all, speakers have “issues” if you are hearing them above the tweeter level, so always good to have the tweeters at least pointed at your ears or on the same plane. Some even sound better if you are BELOW the tweeters with the axis toward your ears being perhaps between the tweeter and the next driver down.

    Suggesting a little tilt be in your experimentation bag of tricks when setting up speakers is a good one. I’ve seen several floorstanders have a slight tilt back sometimes.

    The cool thing about placement experimentation is that it is free.

  16. I have ZU Dirty weekends with a tweeter. They are on two concrete stepping stones separated by ground rubber layer sitting on a furniture mover with casters (you guys know why) .so the twitter is higher and the full range is ear level. Sean from ZU did recommend tilting ,but recently said place the speaker on a board and tilt the board because of the bottom “porting”. But the point is of course experimenting . When i get in and out of my chair , i always here a difference and wonder if i need to adjust something. The concrete and rubber have you people to blame. On wheels is just a necessity for frequent near field listening.

  17. As Paul suggested in his book, the audiophile guide, using CD jewel cases is a good way to adjust the tilt. Remember the tilt has to be customized because the distance between you and the speakers is a variable that will be determined only by you

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