As I continue down the path of audio enlightenment I have begun really working with my speakers so as to create the most accurate and believable sound-stage and image that my current system is capable of producing. I started out with fairly decent equipment, Marantz 5001 to a NAD C 740 and ending with Polk RT600's.
The Marantz has been reviewed as being a very good CD player for the price. Decent DAC and efficient transport. The signal then travels through some low end Monster cables (working on fixing that) to the NAD C 740, The C 740 has earned some good reviews in the past for it's very under rated power and neutral amplifier. I always run it in the tone bypass mode to keep the signal clean. I am still using the factory stock jumpers in between the preamp and amplifier section. (Not sure if I should upgrade this or not). The signal then travels through a set of gold plated banana plugs. They are not expensive but feel solid and of decent quality. Currently I am running Amazon basics 16AWG wire to another set of gold plated banana plugs to my Polk RT600's. The wire will be upgraded to KnuKonceps 10AWG Kord Ultra wire once I have the final position of the speakers nailed down. Ultimately, all the cables will most likely be upgraded to Kimber products.
To set up the speakers, I first found an area where I wanted my listening position to be. The room is 16' x 30' with vaulted ceilings. The couch is centered in the room and against the 30' wall looking towards the other 30' wall. A functioning fireplace is dead center in front of the listening position. The fireplace projects into the room about 3'. I tried to keep the speakers away from the wall as much as possible but the location of the TV and its viewing angle keeps me from pulling them out any more than 8 3/4”. I was able to keep them off the sides of the fireplace by 13” each. Not ideal, but at least I could keep the distances front to back different from left to right. I am experimenting with subwoofers and I have not positioned the subwoofer yet.
I then took a piece of string and taped it to a spot pretty much where my ears will be when seated and kicked back a bit. It is accurate to within 1/8”. I then ran the string out to the speakers and positioned them exactly the same distance from my ears, accurate to 1/16”. I then leveled the speakers with their adjustable feet side to side and front to back. The tweeters are right at ear level when seated comfortably. This is accurate to within 2”.
I chose two different CD's I have because I was able to see how the band's were set up during recording. Louis Armstrong, What a Wonderful World and Lucky Peterson's, Move. Both of these CD's have a pretty good and detailed sound stage that when set up correctly, has both performers located center stage, supporting instruments to the left and right. Percussion is to the rear and slightly right.
I then sat down with a cup of coffee and prepared myself for perfectly measured out audio bliss. Or not. Immediately I noticed that L. Armstrong was located somewhere off to the left of the stage and as if he was sitting down. I then checked this by playing the other CD. L. Peterson's album has him a little more to the right than L. Armstrong when set up properly. In this case he too, was off to the left in a big way. I also noticed that the music did not have that airy, open feeling that you get when listening to a stereo.
The manual for the RT600's has the speakers set up straight ahead. It says to toe the speakers in if needed so that's what I did next. I kept moving them 1/8” at a time until they were firing directly at my listening position. The sound was better but the placement of the musicians' was still wrong.
I had already marked the exact speaker position with masking tape so I was able to reference them to the original position as they were moved. Next, I started playing with the distance to my ears to try and correct the timing, which I suspected was what was causing the image problems. I moved the right speaker towards my position and the left speaker away from the listening position in 1/4”increments. It was only when I did this that the stage shifted right. I was able to put Louis in the fireplace. When I closed my eyes, he was almost where he should be. I was able to determine which way he favored and faced when playing his instrument. It was a little low but pretty close. Lucky P was now where he was supposed to be as well. Albeit a little low. It was good enough for one days work and I continued to enjoy many albums through the evening.
The next day I re measured everything and started tweaking again. I had noticed a few positions that really created that airy sense of width. But the image was never right when this happened. I know this system is capable of providing that. One thing I have not done yet, (can't believe this eluded me) is to adjust the speaker separation to match the distance to the listening position, thereby creating the triangle. I will play with this tomorrow, however, I may run into limiting factors that may not allow me to move the speakers further away from each other. For example, our sectional creates an L shape. The love seat portion will eventually block the sound from the left speaker if I keep moving the speaker further away from the right. As of now, it is a clear shot with nothing but a coffee table between me and the speakers. I found it strange that the sound would be so much better NOT having the speakers an equal distance to my ears. As of right now, they are not the same, the image is almost correct but a little low. The stage seems compressed and lacks a really open and airy sound. It's a little airy, noticeably so, but not just “right”. Any suggestions, pointers or comments? Alan.