In the center

August 22, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

When I look at the wonderful collection of system photos from our HiFi Family photo album, the one thing I notice is that most people place their electronics stack between the speakers.

I too do this when at a tradeshow, but almost never do this in my personal or reference system if I can help it. In fact, for many years, almost no one would consider placing their electronics in the center of the front wall and between the speakers.

Before there were remote controls, it would have been a real pain in the keester to have to jump up and down to change volume levels for each track.

I understand most folks don’t have the luxury of extra real estate to be able to put their electronic stack to the side, and some are anxious to keep their cable lengths short, but I am guessing there’s also another reason.

We like to see the equipment when music’s playing. After all, most of us own some pretty cool looking gear.

So here’s the thing. My recommendation is to keep the equipment stack—or anything for that matter—out from between the speakers. Equipment racks, tables, television sets, all wreak some level of sonic havoc.

It’s not always easy nor convenient, but if you can manage, put the shelf-full of kit off to the side.

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92 comments on “In the center”

  1. [So here’s the thing. My recommendation is to keep the equipment stack—or anything for that matter—out from between the speakers. Equipment racks, tables, television sets, all wreak some level of sonic havoc.]

    Especially along a short 9ft 2.1 speaker setup wall! After 15 years of “components between monitors”, performed the rearrangement task in June…HUGE improvements in soundstage depth, width & height presentation, openness, airiness, pinpoint focus, 3D holographics, imaging, realism…well, bet you get the idea!!!

  2. While I understand that people don’t want to double their speaker cable length (even for pure cost reasons), I at least recommend not to pile the equipment as high as possible in the middle and often the most radiating on top (regenerator, amps). Keep it at least low and wide instead of high.

    Reason is not only the equipment hindering the sound waves in that space, but mainly the noise the equipment generates there. Those who tried HF/RF/EMI cancelling devices, know how much can be done with them to compensate for the middle placed equipment. Using them makes the soundstage more airy at the place they work (e.g. between the speakers). By the way: the equipment also radiates and harms the room sound, being placed at the sides, but not as noticeably.

    Everyone has to find his best compromise, as the add. lengths of cabling necessary to place gear at the side in a large room, is not only expensive but harmful to the sound, too. But what can be easily avoided is stacking components as high as possible and the most radiating ones most prominently.

    1. Agreed with the LOW rack between the speakers. My electrostats are a generous 14′ apart, and I am using an ‘old school’ entertainment rack, a very low and wide unit. I think it works in my listening space. I am 20′ back from the speakers, and hopefully on the right track (O:
      My only gripe is the turntable is at knee cap level and I have to bend way over to play with vinyl…..(sigh)


  3. Battery powered active loudspeakers with wireless inputs could easily solve the problems described. For a Phantom loudspeaker from Devialet the battery pack could easily be installed inside the stand. And why should admiring the hifi-rack during listening to music improve the intended impression of a holographic sound stage – the phantom images of stereo are best experienced with eyes?

  4. Vale, Don Everly (1939-2021)

    In my teens, twenties & very early thirties I would stack all of my home audio (HA) electronics into a ‘Hi-Fi Cabinet’, until I came to the understanding that there is no such thing as a ‘Hi-Fi Cabinet’…it’s a misnomer (just like ‘acoustically transparent fabric’, a truly laughable concept) since most cabinets are made of wood that vibrates a lot when you increase the gain, & this cabinet vibration goes right through your electronics that is stacked within.

    Once I came to realise that ‘the shorter the cables the better the resulting sound’, at 33 years of age, my 2 – 4 pieces of HA electronics are now placed 2 – 5 inches off the floor, in between the loudspeakers, on isolation/absorption platforms completely out of the way of the tweeter’s & the squaker’s (midrange driver) ability to create a pleasing sonic image.
    Since air vibrations will affect said HA electronics wherever you put them in the same room as your loudspeakers, you might as well go for short as possible interconnects, power cabling & loudspeaker wiring…in my not so humble opinion 😉

    Apart from 8.75″ from the floor, there is nothing but air
    in between, & 4 feet either side, of my loudspeakers.

    From yesterday.
    I forgot, ‘Stormbringer’ – Deep Purple

    1. I learned my lesson about “entertainment centers” quite a few years ago in a somewhat different way. I put a 12″ subwoofer in the bottom of a rather tall flat pack cabinet with the tv in the top and audio equipment in the middle. One day I noticed it had a very pronounced list to port, the sub’s vibration loosened all the locking cams that hold those things together. Luckily I noticed it before it actually fell and I did away with it post haste, it made for a quite nice bon fire. lol.

      Just in case you missed it yesterday…Thanks for the warm welcome back!

      1. OHT,
        I got it & you’re welcome.
        I missed your humour & insights.
        I always squirt a generous amount of ‘Liquid Nails’ into the
        locking cams so that that accidental loosening can not happen 😉

      1. Hi gws,
        As a birthday present my wife bought me a generic flat-pack
        ‘bookcase style’ CD shelving unit; holds 1,000 CDs.
        So when I slapped it together I Liquid Nailed everything
        along with cam-locking, screwing & nailing all the panels & bits.
        It’s incredibly solid now.

        Oh…I’m sorry, was that a rhetorical question? 😉

        1. That’s definitely the way to go, and a method I’ll remember when needed! When I had the leaning tower of entertainment I’m not certain liquid nails had been invented.

    1. Would you elaborate on the term “dead line” as this is a new term in my audio vocabulary. The only thing I can think of is that dipoles have a very narrow sweet spot.

        1. So what you are driving at is that you can put an equipment rack between dipoles. I used to have my rack between my Maggie’s but I moved it off to the side and now there is a substantial positive audible difference in the soundstage between them (not beyond the outside edges) at the very least. So I still don’t get what you’re saying. But thanks for your explanation.

          1. I should have explained more fully about the vertical blind material used. Plastic backed with a faux material which is hardly absorbent and mostly diffuse.

  5. As we live in the Highlands of Scotland, we have a wood burning stove between our loudspeakers; makes a much better focal point than a rack of hi-fi when listening to music particularly during the long Winter evenings with the lights turned down……..

    1. Yes, ambiance can be more important than acoustic purity. After all, it’s your life you’re living. And a room with a view can be wonderful, too.

    2. I’m one of those that appreciates wood heat too! We have a fairly large free-standing “Franklin fireplace”* with a glass front but there’s no way I could put it between my speakers, they’d get waaay to hot. We also have central heat that I can only assume is in working condition, we’ve never even turned it on. Very few things are finer than coming in from the cold and backing up to a nice warm fire!

      * In our part of the world Ben Franklin gets credit for having invented cast iron wood burning stoves/fireplaces. A claim I find somewhat dubious, though I really don’t know.

  6. A famous man once said : every advantage has its disadvantage.
    To put it in another way : TANSTAAFL.
    Putting the audio rack on the side of the room would mean in my situation much longer speakercables and if those cables are as expensive as mine you don’t want that.
    And I learned from the best that it’s best to keep speakercables as short as possible.
    Then there is the problem of the remote control if the rack is on the other side of the room.
    And not being able to use the remote control….no thank you 🙁
    Besides, I placed my television on top of the audio rack (yes, the heresy, I know).
    Very nice with movies, documentaries etc. and I would not want it any other way (looking over my shoulder to watch television all the time, ha)
    So, my audio rack is in between the speakers and I have overcome FOMO a long time ago 🙂

  7. That is how my system is set up,I remember posting about this very subject and if Paul’s book had any answers for people in that situation but did not hear anything,I did buy the book and CD but I sort of gave up not having 10′ to 11′ of free space for placement.
    Though I’ve not long ago replaced the speakers that I had with new to me more compact floor standing model with a better frequency range,I’ve set the speakers up as the designer suggested at two thirds between the speakers and three to my chair with five degrees toe in.
    It works well for my situation now having more room around the speakers,but they are still close to the boundaries especially the left side.
    I do have a sound stage which is good some track are better than others also the speakers are less obvious in the room.

  8. I dunno.

    I don’t see why equipment asymmetrically placed and in direct line of fire from midrange and placed to asymmetrically diffuse/disperse treble should be less acoustically active than stuff placed between the speakers, where it’s invisible to tweeters and midrange, and no more susceptible to bass.

    And, of course, longer wires of some sort can often be a problem (arguably much less of a problem with active loudspeakers; or with passives whose power amps are placed solidly on the floor behind them), but still.

    In the Glorious Future, of course, all will be well. The active speakers will be supplied from a floor-mounted power socket wherein the power is also carrying a nicely-encoded digital signal; extreme DSP will cleanly and simply separate that out.

    And the music source – heck, apart from turntables (which **obviously** you shouldn’t place within hearing distance of the speakers, and so you’re going to need to do some neat A/D) you can get terabytes of data in an M.2 SSD, so the equipment’s basically zero-sized… Problems solved, gentlepersons, problems solved.

  9. As long as the equipment rack is comfortably behind the back of the speakers and several feet away from them, the sonic effect should be inconsequential. Why? It’s physics
    (acoustics to be more precise).

    1. My setup is like yours. A fellow audiophile who is knowledgeable about acoustics got me to use free-standing absorption panels on the ends of my audio rack which is behind my speakers, and that was a nice improvement.

      1. I’ll try that although I don’t think I have a problem. My center equipment rack is 6-inches from the front wall and the front of my speakers are 40-inches from the wall. Soundstage and imaging are great, helped by a Shun Mook vertical stack on the center front wall and nonet stacks on the side.
        Otherwise, placing the equipment rack on the side wall becomes an expensive rewiring nightmare-not an option.

  10. Today’s post made me observe something obvious in my system, but what I always thought of as normal. My electronics preamp / Dac have always been centered, but never stacked vertically. The center height part went away when the turntable was no longer the main source of listening material, and the mono blocks sit close and behind the speakers.
    This allows short cables (and minimizes what can be massive cable costs) and is aesthetically pleasing to my eye.

    The monitor / tv in the middle thing may be a necessity depending on the location and use of the audio system. I know for a fact in my case putting it there made no difference in my set-up (mostly because I put it in and removed it many times before I left it in.)

    So today’s recommendation may be ‘sound’ advise. But not necessarily practical.

    Sounds like there’s a market for some sort of covering to make flat screen tv’s / monitors disappear visually and acoustically.

    1. On the topic of Henri from yesterday… a tropical Storm now…
      The storm is tracking more east than what was predicted yesterday. The outer feeder bands have started here. If it holds its track I’ll get to experience an eye again (if it holds together)

      Hopefully those ‘family members’ near NYC miss the brunt of it. Stay safe all.

      Btw – the tunes are now on, the dogs are happy and listening to the Doors,… not sure where the wife and great grandkids are. 🙂

      1. Mike, Thanks for the update. I am still tense here in Pleasantville, NY ( 30 miles north of NYC ). Since I live on a hill I do not worry too much about flooding ( although in very heavy rain the basement leaks a little ), however, I do worry about wind damage and power outages. Hang in there and stay safe.

        1. Will do Tony. We’ll see what happens, looks like you’ll see more rain, I’ll see more wind. Being cautious is a good thing. Don’t let the tense get the best of you (easier said than done).

          I’m hanging in, you be safe also. The better news is the brunt of this looks like it will be happening in daylight hours.

          To me power outages in my part of the world are not uncommon. 2-3 times a year sometimes weeks on end. The worse is/ was in the winter. I have a water well and oil fired heat … Thus the reason for a whole house generator now. The price of a ‘good audio component’ go figure…

        2. Hang in there Tony. If your basement walls are poured concrete you may be be able to mitigate some of the water penetration with paint on sealants and a good landscaper to walk around the perimeter of your house to see if they recommend a solution as well. Hurricanes in your area are a real bitch.

          1. stimpy, In 2019 we decided to abandon our in ground oil tank and switch to natural gas for heating. The contractors for Con Ed used a backhoe to cut trench to bring in the gas line to the house. Obviously, this disturbed to soil near the house. To make matters worse our foundation ( circa 1972 ) is a fairly porous block foundation. This is where we have been getting leaking in heavy rains. It is on my honey do list to parge the wall where it leaks.

            1. Been there done that Tony. Had to dig up all around the foundation (by hand) then clean and then waterproof. Since things were dug out a curtain drain was put in. Water proof Both inside and out no more water seepage.

              1. Hello Stimpy2,

                Plenty of old growth oak, hickory and maple around. So
                I hope no tree issues either.

                But right now generator is on but wind field and rain are minimal.

                1. In the area that Tony lives in I believe there are less oak and more ash trees I could be wrong. I used to live around 15 minutes away from him and we had ash, maple and evergreens for the most part.

                  1. No shortage of what you mention for tree fauna here. Just the predominance in my small 8 acre plot is what I listed.

                    We now have the dubious distinction of being the town in the state with the most people without power.

                    The infrastructure Bill (bull) will take care of that though. 😀

                    1. Be glad you have a generator. Power outages always worry me every time we have a storm like this. Now that we have natural gas I keep telling myself we should get one installed. Have to talk to the boss about it.

                  2. stimpy. Two days ago I just had the last two Ash tress on my very wooded lot ( at least very wooded for the middle of Pleasantville ) removed. There is some kind of bug that has done in the Ash in this whole area over the last decade or two. Henri while no longer a hurricane a major rain event. This has been a very wet summer here which is bad for any kind of wind storm and trees that still have leaves. The soil is fully saturated and this area geologically is glacial till which means the trees have very shallow roots. It does not take much for trees to be uprooted under these conditions.

                    My basement is leaking and we are using rolled up towels as indoor sandbags.
                    Not fun, but it is better than a full blown hurricane. I hope we never have another Sandy.

                    1. The first large tree that we had to drop was a beautiful Ash right in front of our home.. You are correct… there has always been an Ash blight since 1983 when we purchased our home. I really miss those beautiful wooded areas. Florida does not have the kind of nature that I love. If I want to hike or climb I have to get out of the state.

                      Hope that your property doesn’t not suffer too much damage from the storm.

                    2. The whole house generator was a calculated risk after getting the hard No! From the CEO.

                      Sent her on vacation with the girls. Got the generator installed while she was gone. ✌️

                      Now I’m a ‘hero’

                      It is a major convenience when the power is out.

      2. I’ve experienced the eye of a hurricane once when I was in my teens. It’s certainly eerie to have everything suddenly go calm, We all went out to look and were forced back inside a few minutes later. Enjoy it while it’s there, just don’t stray far from the door. Glad you’re safe! Hopefully all of our extended family in that area are as well.

        1. They moved a bunch of boats up the River to Norwich. I may get over there and take some pics. 1st time I ever heard of them doing that.

          All is good here. Power out but generator kicked right in. No internet service. But have cell phone hot spot 🙂

    2. Good morning Mike!
      Perhaps I can’t solve the TV problem, but I can tell you how to fix the sound stage problem.
      There is this company formally known as Jolida, but now known as Black Ice Audio.
      They make this box that they call a sound stage expender/bass booster.
      It uses one 12AU7 tube.
      And on Underwood HIFI, it only cost a tad bit over $500.00.
      But on the other hand, I yoost to be a very proud owner of Mcintosh equipment.
      But this was long before I lost the ability to see.
      Sure I had a closet off to the side of my living room, but it didn’t make much sense to put my equipment in there.
      And so, I had it all setting out in the livingg room, between my really tall speakers.
      I didn’t have any problems with sound staging.
      And what many people have already said about keeping the speaker cables short, that makes a whole lot of sense too.
      The longer the cables are, the higher the resistance.
      But the shorter the cables are, the lower the resistance.
      You don’t lose hardly any voltage and currant between the amplifier and speakers with shorter cables.
      I found that to be very true.
      And so, for many of years, that’s how I’ve always sat my sound systems up.
      And that’s still how I’m doing it today.
      That box that I spoke of, one of these days, I’m gonna pick a cupple of those boxes up, and try them out.
      I am willing to bet that, even if my speakers are up against the wall, these boxes will sonically make them disappear.

      1. Hello John,

        The Black Ice box has always looked cool, but I never pulled the trigger.

        As far as today’s post, in the most purist sense Paul is probably correct. Since I’m not building a reference system, or even one others might drool over, I take the advise and try it out. If it’s impractical to implement the advise then I say thank you and implement as much of the advise as I can.

        In my world, sacrificing a little sound stage for some electronics aesthetics is well worth it. That said, if the electronics aren’t what I consider “beautiful” to look at then maybe the interconnect expense is worth it. Now I’m thinking…

        1. Good morning again Mike!
          The closestas I’ve ever gotten to reffrence gear, is lookingg it in high end show rooms.
          Yay thoe I love the sound of the stuff, I never bought any of it.
          My Mcintosh system was just as fun to look at, just as fun to listen to.
          There is gonna come a day, that I will need to build a reffrence system.
          When I figure out how to get back in to producing music, then thats when I’ll need a reffrence system.
          I thought for a very long time, I only had three choices among high end companies to choose from.
          But because of my reasont discovery, I now have a fourth one to choose from.
          My list of companies were Audio Research Conrad Johnson and Mcintosh.
          But now, my fourth one, is Vac Amps.
          But I’ll see how that will go, when that time comes.
          I’m still trying to figure out my software dilemma.

          1. Hey John,

            Your software conundrum is a big one.

            What if you approached things all analog to start and then think D/A at the end? That at least starts you in the game. Just asking….

            1. Good morning Mike!
              That was and still is my original idea.
              But If I want to really make it work, then first thing’s first.
              I have to have some kind of a maultitrack analog recorder.
              I’m looking at a vintage Magnacord 1024 open reel recorder.
              But then again, looking at that recorder, it only offers 4 tracks.
              But what if I need more then 4 tracks?
              What can I do about that?
              I think I would need somewhere in between 8 to 16 tracks.
              But lets just say, I found a tape recorder that meets all of my needs.
              After laying down the tracks, I want to mix them all down to one big fat track.
              And then, taking it from there, in to digital.
              And again, lets just say, my audio file of choice is DSD.
              Who do I go to, to get a DAW that does that for me?
              And also, having it be screen reader friendly for both Windows and Macks?
              So far, I haven’t found a company that does that yet.
              I called up Freedom Scientific, the company that made my JAWS screen readingg software.
              Would you believe me if I told you, they’ve never heard of DSD?
              Even after I explained it to them, they still didn’t get it.
              They brought up software that’s made for recording and editing.
              Some of it, I already have on this computer.
              But here’s the problem, none of it can do DSD.
              If I want to record directly in to DSD, then I will need both the hardware and software that can do that.
              But the people in Clear Water Florida, don’t even have a clue as to what it is.

              1. I can’t to speak to it all John.
       has 8 track rtr’s (used)

                The best way to record in DSD is over my head,
                You could try HIghDefinitonTapeTransfers website. They seem pretty open about saying what they are using. Maybe check out a few of their digitized tape selections.
                What about a really high sample rate PCM? Say DXD. Then a simple conversion to DSD.

                I guess it all depends on how complex you want to start. Instead of worrying about what if I need? start with… What is the minimum I need to start? And then consider… how do I build upon that?

                1. Thanks Mike!
                  I’ll take that in to consideration.
                  But however, I really don’t know anything about DXD.
                  I know that it’s some form of PCM, but truth be told, I’m wanting to skip the whole PCM thing, altogether.
                  When I cut my very first album, I would like everyone to be engulfed in my music.
                  PCM has a lot of room for many things to be desired.
                  Sure I want my sound to be in analog in the digital ramification, but I don’t think PCM is the real true way to go.
                  But if I can do the whole thing in native DSD, then I will be able to accomplish my goal of having my music and my songs to get people to both hear and feel what I’m singing and playing about.
                  It’s all about putting my feelings in to my music.
                  But if the tech is wrong, then the sound is gonna be wrong too.
                  That’s one pitfall, I want to avoid at all cost.
                  I’m wanting to do a lot of the same things, that Stevie Wonder has already done.

                  1. I understand your desire for DSD.

                    You should pick up a recording or 2 done in both formats, The web site I referenced earlier has some of them, then do the comparison. From my experience playback in DSD may have the biggest effect on the final sound. Although most direct DSD recordings are done with the greatest care, So that may go a long way in explaining things also.

                    Good luck in the continuing search.

  11. Often a lot of thinking, planning and expense is dedicated to mitigating the bathing of the entire audio system in a sea of acoustic vibration. I think it is best to leave only the amplifiers and the loudspeakers in the listening room.

    I have found that the best place to position all of the other equipment (especially the turntable) is outside of the listening room — in a nearby closet or in an adjacent room. I have found this to be the case on a net basis sonically — even with the longer interconnects required to accomplish this.

    1. Hi Ron,
      With ‘the purist’ in mind, I totally agree with your comment.
      It would be so easy for me to drill a half inch hole through
      the brick wall, directly behind my amp, into the adjacent
      room, if I still had a t’table, but instead I have placed
      vibration absorption devices atop & below my
      CD player, as it sits next to the amp.

  12. Hypothetical situation regarding speaker cable length:

    My speaker cables are 6 foot long. I can shorten them approximately 2 feet but I’m not sure if 6 feet is considered a long speaker cable run.

    I’d rather leave them at 6 feet in the event that I move to a larger listening room that will require 6 foot cables. This brings up another question. If I did make another move and set up all the same equipment in the same basic positions as in my current listening room except separating my speakers by 6 feet (1.5 additional feet) to get better imaging, would that mean that the overall sound quality would still be somewhat degraded?

    1. The amount of resistance added by your speaker cables is likely a very small percentage of the resistance of your loudspeakers. Adding a small fraction of an ohm to an 8 ohm speaker will not make a substantial difference to your amplifier. Nor will shortening it two feet.

    2. stimpy, My experience is that 6 to 10 feet ( maybe even 12 feet ) are considered average speaker cable length. The biggest problem is not what longer lengths will do to your sound, but what they will do to you wallet.

        1. Hi Neil,
          Try not to move again…better the room you know.

          For future reference, I reckon, less than 6′ is short,
          6′ to 11′ is a medium length & anything longer than
          11′ is long-ish 🙂

          1. Thanks FR. That’s what I always thought but I was getting a little shaky with some of the comments yesterday about
            shortening the length of the speaker cables.

  13. Paul, “In fact, for many years, almost no one would consider placing their electronics in the center of the front wall and between the speakers.”

    This has not been my experience. I became more involved in the audio hobby in the early ’70s when I found a local club and began meeting other hobbyists. From that time forward the majority of systems I see for others have components between their speakers.

    I’d say less than 20% have them placed outside of their speakers. I’ve set up my systems that way since about 1973.

  14. I am very lucky that my listening room has a unique layout. On one side of the room there is a “bump out” that is about 5 feet deep and 9 feet wide ( think of it as a closet that is open on one side ). All of my gear goes in this area on steel sand filled racks except for my speakers and stereo power amp. I do have a long interconnect run from the preamp to the power amp. My speaker cables are not as short as when I used to have monoblocks, but they are not outrageously long either. I can still use my remote controls, however, I have to lean a little to aim around the left channel speaker. It works for me. 🙂

  15. Finally i can brag. Lots of space behind the speakers. But too much speaker cable and my chair is against the wall. And i have to remake my little listening triangle everyday. Still enjoy doing it and experimenting. Fun to read the posts.

  16. I use dipoles (Magnepans) that are quite far out from the front wall – I have read about the “comb filter” benefits of diffusers on the front wall – it would seem a rack of equipment in the center of the front wall could contribute to this effect. anyone else care to comment on this?

    1. Hey Bob, I was thinking the exact same thing. In my previous listening room I had not only my gear behind the speakers, but my bookshelves full of records, CDs, audio books, banana peels, etc. I was talking about this to a guy who knows more about speakers than anyone I’ve ever met, thinking he’d tell me to clear that crap out, but he said, “Good, you have a do-it-yourself diffuser. So now I’m building a new audio room and don’t know what to do – diffuser, no diffuser, gear, no gear. And where the heck are we supposed to put the gear to the side? In between the speakers and the first reflection point? That just “sounds” to me like a bad idea. Behind the listening position? But aren’t there important sound things happening back there too? I’m starting to think the suggestions to have everything outside the room except the speakers is starting to make sense.

            1. Hi Fat Rat, thanks. But it looks from your picture that you have torn your hair out over this stuff for years. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Notice how I’m too chicken to post my picture?

              One other thing that occurred to me: I’m wondering how much ado about anything this is? I read in Paul’s Audiophile book The Stereo that this perception of depth – “behind” the speakers – is just that – a perception. I’m no acoustician, but does that perception actually have anything to do with sound waves actually occurring in that space behind the speakers? I would think the waves go out from the speakers and start reflecting off several surfaces and your ears before you’re aware of anything physically going on back there. So the perception of “depth” is hitting your ears first anyway. In fact, I’m wondering if putting your gear to the side might be even more damaging to the image because that’s more likely where reflected waves would be affected. Hmmmm.

    2. My latest setup has a large sliding glass double door on the front wall with fabric faced vertical blinds so that I can adjust the amount of diffusion. Having the verticals fully shut seems to present the best overall sound so diffusion seems helpful. The downside is that natural light is not coming into the room while I’m listening. Can’t have everything.

      1. Addendum: The vertical blind material is plastic based with a faux fabric that diffuses the rear firing part of the music signal. Don’t think it absorbs much at all.

  17. Wish I could move my gear from between the speakers but sadly my room does not allow it or more precisely wife won’t allow it. There is a synergy at play that transcends the audio world.

  18. happy wife = sad audio life.
    Possible solutions for a better audio life: build a “dedicated” audio room OR find a dedicated (to audio) girlfriend.
    I think the first solution is much easier to realize.

  19. This has me wondering! Is there any advantage in front to back placement of the audio stack. I currently have the stack flush with the front of the speakers.
    Any advantage to having the audio stack behind the speakers?
    Another question if I moved the rack to the side wall would you expect the benefit out weight the negative effects of the longer speaker wire?

    1. David,

      Relocating the components that were stacked on top my sub cabinet and set between my monitors (spaced 5 ft apart) along the 9ft setup wall, To the left side of the left monitor (sub) and components set on a 3-shelf rack along the left wall was a HUGE Improvement in Soundstage (see my top post comments)!

      To accomplish this, I had to upgrade my speaker wire 10 ft pair to 20ft (r. monitor) and 15 ft (l. monitor). FWIW, there were No Sonic negatives to this change, other than the pocket book (new cables)! 😉

      As far as the audio stack along the same plane as the speaker baffles, believe you’d greatly benefit by setting the stack as far back as possible. This would allow the main speakers to open up, focus and deliver greater depth to the center image…or if possible, simply move the speakers farther out into the room!


      1. Theo, thanks for the feedback, appreciated. Your setup dimensions are similar to mine. The gotcha is the extra cost of the cable. I have tried setting different shaped objects on top of the stack. It is amazing how simple objects can make improvements of vocals and center stage. Lamp shade, pyramid, box, plant.

  20. I purchased my home in 2014 and built a dedicated audio room. I also had a smaller dedicated audio room in my previous home. The equipment rack has not been positioned between my speakers since I read Jim Smith’s book “Get Better Sound” in 2008. It’s good of Paul to write about and bring up the topic again.

    To paraphrase Jim it would better if need be to use cheaper speaker wire which would allow the equipment stack to not sit anywhere between your speakers. Moving the rack from between the speakers greatly improves the soundstage.

    Everyone talks about wanting shorter speaker wire. I run standard length Iconoclast speaker wire and 25 foot Iconoclast interconnects with no significant decrements in performance. Thus, my monoblock amps are the only equipment that sit low on the floor between my speakers. My equipment rack sits to my immediate left away from 1st and 2nd reflection points. People listening to my system unsolicited will comment on the accuracy of the center image, soundstage, and 3d presentation.

    The equipment stack placement allows me to run a secondary amp and speaker set up to the opposite side of the room. All I need due to swap a pair interconnects. My low back swivel chair is in the sweet spot for both systems. I refer to them as my winter and summer systems because one monoblock amp system runs cooler than the other.

    Lastly if you have the space move the speakers away from the front and side walls, treat the reflection points, and place a diffusor center on the front wall, behind the speakers.

    1. So, by having the amps on the floor between the speakers you at least have minimized the length of the speaker cables. That is good advice for everyone. As for the interconnects, that is the real issue for most people, including me. After many years of trying dozens of different top-rated interconnects from mid-to-high end, I finally found an interconnect that works wonders in my system. No other cable has performed as optimally in my system. Even used, a 1-meter pair is very expensive, costing more than a good DAC. If I had kept my equipment stand on a side wall away from the loudspeakers, I would have never experienced this interconnect because I would never have been able to find it or afford it.

  21. I’ve learned that using my best power cords on my front ends, and lesser power cords on my amps, I have maximized the power supply to the system (short of buying top line power cords for everything). My interconnects and speaker cable were all the same series from the same manufacturer until I found a better tonearm cable. This raises the possibility that, like my power cables, upgrading the interconnects at the front end would be preferable to upgrading interconnects downstream. The corollary here might be that less expensive speaker cables would be preferable to less expensive interconnects feeding the amplifier, assuming they are all from the same manufacturer and that price equates with quality which is generally true within a given manufacturer’s lineup. If this is so, it can have a significant impact on the decision to go with long or short interconnects to the amp, and long or short speaker cables. Likewise, this has implications for placement of both amps and the rest of your equipment as well as whether or not to place your sources along the side wall. Has anyone experimented along these lines?

  22. It is so funny. Every time in the past you recommended no shelves or stands between the loudspeakers I have perused the HIFI Photo Album and noticed the same thing you noticed: virtually no one follows the rule. Those who do follow it sometimes put some kind of diffuser on the front wall to break up the bare wall sound reflections.

    I used to have my equipment stand on a side wall, and only my amps on the floor between the loudspeakers. When I moved the equipment from the side wall to a low, wide stand between the speakers, I heard no degradation in sound stage or imaging whatsoever. By moving the stand with the DAC and preamp closer to the amps I could afford better interconnects, which did make a noticeable improvement in sound stage, imaging and all other SQ parameters. The probable reasons having the equipment stand between my speakers was not detrimental are: 1) my loudspeakers are widely spaced, with still reasonable distance between them and the equipment stand, 2) the leading edge of my equipment stand is a couple of feet behind the line of the face of the loudspeakers, 2) my equipment stand is low, below the height of the treble drivers, 3) my loudspeakers are not as sensitive as some to front wall interaction, 4) my equipment stand provides decent isolation between components and between the floor supporting the loudspeakers, to control vibrations from bass speaker drivers in close proximity.

    If I had plenty of money, I could afford longer higher grade cables and put my stand back on the side wall and see again if it makes any difference with the higher grade cables. But given that I already did that experiment with lower grade cables and I am very happy with my current sound stage, if I didn’t hear a difference I would feel pretty silly wasting all that money.

    1. For fun, look at Michael Fremer’s critical music listening room in which he reviews audio components. He jams his speakers into the corners against the wall of the room and toes them to the max. At least his source and preamp gear is on a rack on the side wall, not between the speakers. Room reverberations are reduced by shear clutter. The amp stand (or rack) is below the midrange drivers of the Wilson ALEXX loudspeakers. I think by keeping the stuff between the loudspeakers low, he is able to maintain the illusion of sound stage. That is what I do, keep the gear rack between the loudspeakers low.

        1. It really is a hoot. I hope you listened to 13:20 to 13:51 in which he says the distance behind the speakers and the wall has nothing to do with a sense of depth. I’m also curious about the Stillpoint box between the speakers that he says are “like black holes that just suck up stuff and make the space nonexistent.”

          1. I’ve spent time in that room and he’s right about a few things. First, it is a good sounding system and yes it has depth. It’s not to my tastes, but then hey, as he says, it’s personal. Secondly, what makes Mike’s room work IS all the stuff. You can hear its affect on sound just walking in. Thousands upon thousands of albums in racks makes for some amazing damping in all the right ways.

            1. I really enjoyed his tour and advice. I think the more different music rooms and approaches we are exposed to, the more we are encouraged to deal with what we have and try new things. I am particularly interested in those Stillpoints Aperture panels between the speakers that he reviewed elsewhere. You are no doubt familiar with them and have some opinions.

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