Speaker set up placement tools to get that last 1%

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Well-known member
Aug 23, 2005
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OK, After posting in another thread about the diligence of being exact with speaker set up I thought I would ask some of you what you use to dial your speakers in. This is not a room treatment discussion but rather how you set up your speakers with what tools and tricks. (We all know room treatment can help);)

We know that being exact with Martin Logan can have its rewards. I have set up many a system from cones to ribbons to ESL, bookshelf to refrigerator sized speakers. All have different placement options and needs. Lets keep this to strictly Martin Logan or ESL in general.

ESL speakers have a inherently different design and performance to them than any other speaker. They are not just something you plop down and WALLA ! Great sound. Time needs to be taken with most ESL as they need room to breath to get the best out of them. They have a rear wave that can add ambiance and depth of field if done right. Done poorly they can sound flat and dull.

These are the tools and methods I have found and tried that have worked over the years for me ! I will note in the explanations on the differences I have found with Hybrids and full ranges since I have had both.


Blue Tape
Flashlight / Mini Mag works best/ Its small and adjustable beam.
Water marker or Wax pen
Tape measure
1/8 1/4 1/2 /3/4 inch metal plates /round or small squares
Plumb bob
Level 4 ft
SPL meter
Test tone Disc/ my demo discs (music I'm dead on familiar with)
Beer/ or favorite drink

OK here is the C.A.P method of speaker set up.

1. First I try and find the best room for my set up. We all have limited rooms that we can use so we make the best out of them. Some of us have dedicated rooms or basements that have been remodeled for our hobby. Some of us have tiny man caves. Remember , the room has more effect on the overall sound of your speakers than almost any other tweak you can do. Small rooms can sound OK but you tend to get a Headphone effect if your cramped in. Long narrow rooms tend to not make the best rooms either as you can get a tunneling effect. I start out and measure the dimensions of the room I have decided. You should have a L x W = floor space or sq ft. L x W x H = total room Volume. That is more important in speaker size or sub decisions. Some of you who have open ended rooms or L shaped may need to tweak a few things but most of the general rules will apply for front wall set up.

2. Once we have measurements of the room. There are a few ways to start out. Do not try and set up speakers to the listening chair. You will never get it right if you are doing it that way. Set the chair to the speakers. Hard sometimes for the wife to swallow having a chair in the center of the family room to trip over but Its a price you pay (and you will pay) for having sonic nirvana. This is where blue tape comes in handy at first. More on a permanent solution later ! I like to sit in my chair and measure the ear height from the floor as that is usually where you will be sitting. I note that on my pad and will use it in the end set up.

I generally like to start out on the shorter wall as most rooms are rectangular in shape. Do not try and tune a square room. Id rather try and figure out a Rubiks cube. There are a few formulas that are out, the CARDAS Golden Rule or the Harry Pearson's rule of 1/3, or the equilateral triangle method, But overall I like to do it my way with Logan's.

I measure the length by the width as the length will play a big role in the distance apart the speakers are. If you have total control of the room you will start out by measuring the center of the short wall(width) then divide that by 2 then divide that by 2 and you have a starting point for the edge of the speaker. Example in my room. 15.6/2 =7.8/2= 3.9 Do this each side. This will usually leave you with plenty of side wall clearance and room to tweak to your liking.

Now comes the part where the length comes into play. The length will determine how far out you can go with the speakers and still have room to not be pinned to a back wall which is a NO NO! It will reinforce bass and blur things up. Your better off having the speakers closer together and getting closer to them away from the back wall.

OK now I have my preliminary side measurements I will measure the length and divide by 4 , in my case 22/4= 5.5 That is close to where the back of my chair and the maximum to the front of panel. What this usually yields is the chair being 1.5 to 2 times the distance from inside edge to seat, This is optimal for the timing and cues of a dipole. Martin Logan actually recommends this. Some times when you have a very large room(some people have that 30 x 45 room) you may have a bit more space than the formula calls for. If that is the case you will try and hit the ratio of 1 1/5 to 2 times the distance from inside edge to edge, and equal distances from the side walls too.

So now I have my preliminary dimensions(These are not set in stone its a starting point). I will measure the distance from the front edge to rear wall on each speaker and get them EXACT ! I do the same with the outside edge too. I start out with them parallel to the front wall with no toe. I then use my level to check the rake on both. I start out at 90* if possible. Remember these are starting points.

Now before you sit down mark the chair and the speaker with blue tape. Everything starts from hear and you can always go back to reference point to start over. sit down in the listening chair record all your rough dimensions on the pad and paper. Keep good records and notes on this. Here comes the fun part. You bite down in the Flashlight(Now you know why I recommended a Mini Mag). Adjust it so it has a beam and hold your head still and and shine it on the panel on the right and note where the shinny beam reflects of it, do this to the left and it should be the same if all your measurements are identical.

Hook up the speaker leads making sure they are correctly phased. Some amps reverse the phase so be aware if yours does. Load up the test disc. Sterophile has a few decent ones. Test for correct phase and stereo image.

This is where i take it a step farther as it ends all doubt about a panel being down in DB or a woofer down. I get out my test tone CD and SPL meter set up on the tripod and calibrate my volume to 75 DB with white noise. I then unhook one speaker and run test tones 10 seconds each at 20to 20k and record with my SPL meter and note them on the pad. I do this with each speaker and hopefully you are withing +- 1 db all the way through on each . You may have a couple tones that are +-3 but that could be room nodes.
Once this is done and my neurotic mind is at ease I begin to listen to well known music. I listen for width image depth and timing cues.

Now the fun part starts. Crack a beer as this can get tiring getting up and down moving the speakers ever so slightly I start out by toeing them in one inch. Measure and note! I like to do the toe in one inch increments at first as its pretty substantial. Sit down and repeat listening again, take in the slight changes and note them on the pad. Try and move them back 3 inches or closer together 3 inches. Noting and recording a mental sound your liking or disliking. The great thing about this is if you note all your movements and measure each time you can always go back to the starting point or where you thought you liked the sound best. That is very important. Good notes on the sound and what you liked about it at that spot. Remember this is not a thing that you will do in one night. It will take a week or two of constant measuring and moving ever so slightly. Your wife will think you are nuts but who cares ! Remember to never move the chair at all ! You have set that already and NEED that distance away from the rear wall.

By now you will be getting dialed in to the sound of the changes. You now can play with the rake of the speaker. This is done with the spacers. You will adjust the rake and such with them by stacking them (temporarly ) in the front of the speakers. Most ML have adjustable spikes that you will adjust later once you get the final placement and rake set in stone. But for now its easier to use spacers then lift and turn each time to try out something new.
Remember we started out at 90* and now you can angle them back or forward to heighten the stage or bring it down. Depending on the room raking them back can give a warm bloom to some speakers. Floor material will have a great effect on this too. Experiment with this and note each time you make a change. If I find a place where I'm thinking this may be the spot I mark it with blue tape and write all my measurements on the tape for quick reference. As you have seen in my pics in the past its been known to look like I have stock in this $5.00 a roll stuff.

Once you think you have them really singing to your ears and can listen for at least 4 hrs with no fatigue you are close. The final tweak that my or may not help you is the chair. I know its been killing you to move the chair to see what happens but resist until now. What I do is move the chair a few inches forward or back and see if I like the change. chances are that going forward will bring the stage forward and give you a false sense of envelopment as you now are now a touch close and getting timing cues faster. Most times moving back will deepen the stage and sometimes center the image a bit. Some people will try and change the height of their chair but resist. You set the speaker to this chair height already. If you are going to raise anything get the speakers on stands and start the process over from the beginning. Try and do one set up at a time. Set them up first with no stands and do a complete re set up with stands and note the difference. Find the best that suites your ears. I bet its within 2 inches either way of your initial set up. ;)

Now this is for most Martin Logan's. There may be some variations for the CLS or CLX as full range speakers have such a wide panel and dispersion that you can take advantage of them by opening them up a tad more. Its not a whole lot though.

After a few weeks of listening and deciding on where you like them lets finalize their set up. We now will adjust the spikes and such to give the rake and angle we like. Measure the distances from the front wall and make sure they coincide with the notes. Hear is a final (neurotic ) measurement I learned from another member on this site is to use string. Once you are finalized in all your set up. Speakers and chair. Take a string and I bite on it with my teeth. (back to the mouth thing), keep your head still and at the correct height. Have another person,(hopefully a audio friend as by now your wife is ready to commit you and biting on strings will only reinforce her thought) stretch it to the inside edge of each speaker and the outside edge of each speaker . If you where diligent and set things up to exact measurements the string should be withing 1/16 of an inch at all points.

Sit back now in your asylum you have created and enjoy every last bit of sonic nirvana you have worked so hard to achieve. after all you deserve it ! Oh yeah have a beer as you probably deserve that also.

Here is a breakdown and measurements of my set up with my method. If you look I have a few inches here or there but I am damn close. I have my chair right at the ratio of 1 1/2 the distance from the inside edge of the panels. It not always going to be dead on but should be close. The toe is about 1 inch difference as the CLS needs very little toe. The stands were on before the initial set up as I knew they sounded better from previous testing. The rear wall is about 5 feet behind me but I do have a slight bump out that is a thorn but ist still a damn good set up.

This is what I have found that works well with real world rooms as most are in the 350 to 600 square foot floor plans. As I stated Huge ball rooms will take considerable thought. However most average rooms this works and works well.


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I really need to do a final and exact placement of my speakers and then spike them to the floor.
The final tweak and the spiking will get you there! Check everything to be exact as you can. Some may find this anal and overkill. I call it a concerned audio nut that wants the most out of their system. :D
One thing to consider about the spike vs the soft rubber bumpers is the
quality of the bass you are getting. Depending on your room and how you like bass to sound, you may NOT want to spike your speakers.

If you are in a room with a lot of hard surfaces, (and depending on the way the rest of your system sounds), you may prefer the sound of the rubber bumpers compared to the spikes.

Just a thought.

I think going through all the work that was mentioned here will get you a lot more than the last 1%. If you are this diligent at setting up your speakers (especially the CLS or CLX) you will be amazed at how much more sound is lurking in the setup you already have.

Before you spend a big pile of dough on exotic cables, take the time and effort to set your speakers up first!
my speakers are on those tiles and they rest on the carpet all be it thick and stiff carpet tonepub and that seems to allow them to vibrate easilly is this bad for the sound??? I would guess it to be that's why I think I should spike them
Before you spend a big pile of dough on exotic cables, take the time and effort to set your speakers up first!

Excellent advice! One thing I would add though, is that in the case of brand new speakers, it's probably worth waiting until they're throughly broken in before spending ages on speaker set up.
Excellent advice! One thing I would add though, is that in the case of brand new speakers, it's probably worth waiting until they're throughly broken in before spending ages on speaker set up.

Couldn't agree more... Especially in the mid bass.
my speakers are on those tiles and they rest on the carpet all be it thick and stiff carpet tonepub and that seems to allow them to vibrate easilly is this bad for the sound??? I would guess it to be that's why I think I should spike them

Try both and see what you prefer.
All great advice! I have used rubber or neoprene feet as opposed to Spikes. The bass can be affected for the better in some situations.
How do you all set them up?;)

Man I thought this thred would bloom in light of the recent discussions !:confused:
All great advice! I have used rubber or neoprene feet as opposed to Spikes. The bass can be affected for the better in some situations.
How do you all set them up?;)
I was listening to a friend's Totem speakers recently, and he was quite pleased with them until I asked him, "Where's the bass?". So he took away the rubber foot he had under the front of each speaker to raise ita bit, and Voila ! he had bass again.
Was this on carpet or hardwood?

Spikes usually help on Carpet floors where they can get a solid footing. On hardwood ,many use the tip toes(discs that hold a spike from penetrating the wood) to get a solid footing but decouple them from the floor!
Hardwood. My friend has since left me a vmail, saying he has made other improvements, and is waiting for me to go over. He had become blasé about his system, but I served as the catalyst to get him back on track.
Hardwood serves as a better means to start with. You can always deaden a floor but never make it live. Its also easy to get stuck in a audio rut and feel like your at a stall with your set up. We have all been there.

That is when you re read all the tweaks sections and try different things. Sometimes we overlook the small tweaks that make a huge difference!
I still cannot figure out how you measure the distance from the front wall to the panel of the speaker. Can you explain in detail? Thanks.