Accessories and general tips
In order to achieve a good home audio there are rules that must be considered in any audio system and any room type. The main speakers should be at a height of around 4.60 feet. This comes from the same principle as the height of the television. This is the average line of sight and hearing of a person sitting and standing, so the sound goes directly to the user’s ears.
If your floor is not carpeted or if the speakers are for a desk, in any case the surface on which they will stand should be cushioned, because the vibration gets back on rigid surfaces and the sound can be distorted. Put a small sheet of foam on the desk or a carpet under the speakers, as they absorb vibrations.
The connecting cables between the console and the speakers should be thick. The cables that come with the equipment are often very thin and the power transmission is limited. These cables don’t allow increasing the volume and they generate much noise on the sound. Thick cables allow more power going through, reduction of annoying noise and help exploit the potential of the speakers. Such cables are actually cheap and are a good investment for your audio systems.
Find a very clear space to place the audio system. Objects can absorb the sound or make it bounce, thus changing the timbre or generating distortions. Mirrors change frequencies and make sound a little sharper than it really is. So avoid having objects that may interfere and if the room has large windows, cover them with thick curtains.
For desktop and small/medium rooms
For this scenario we will consider than small and medium-sized rooms are those smaller than 13×13 feet. The best sound system to place on your desk or in small spaces is stereo equipment. The main reason for this is that in these spaces it will be difficult to separate the speaker from the wall, so the sound bouncing will be inevitable. In addition, the more speakers you put, the bigger amount of reverberations will be, which aggravates the situation and will not add quality. Moreover, overlapping waves produces “dirty” sounds that can be annoying to the viewer, generating headaches and earaches when the volume is turned up.
If the speakers will go on your desk they should be put beside the screen, pointing at an angle of 20 ° to 30 ° to the user. The proximity of the speakers and their direction help hearing quite high when sitting at the computer without having to increase the volume. If you have a stereo with subwoofer, place the bass box beside the desk, because putting it under the desk can generate a distortion in the sound.
If the speakers will go in a small room, take into account all the objects, the doors and windows present. First put the speakers on the shelves, at the ideal height (in the line of sight and hearing). The next step is to see how far away the speakers can be from the walls, which helps keep the sound unaffected by the bouncing. The stereo system should try to make an equilateral triangle between you and the speakers, as seen in the graphic. The subwoofer should go on a carpet near one side of the triangle, without touching the corner of the triangle and without leaving its area.
For large rooms
The minimum dimensions ideal for a room that will use a 5.1 audio system is 18×18 feet. This allows all the speakers to be away from the walls, so that the sound bouncing is dispersed enough not to mess with what you hear and allowing you to set the volume at high levels.
The first thing to consider is that the sofa or the bed should be away from the walls as much as the speakers should be.
The lateral speakers should be at the ideal height we already mentioned before. The frontal left and right channels should form an equilateral triangle with the viewer, as in the former case with a stereo system. The rear speakers should be behind the viewer and making 20º, which will make them be a bit closer to the walls. This way the surrounding sound will cover the entire environment and will separate it from the ambient sound that can generate interference and distractions.
The central station should be below the TV and must not be crossed in the line of sight. The subwoofer should be on one side of the TV not far from the corners and inside the triangle formed by the front speakers.
How to find the ideal distance to place the speakers?
There are two basic methods for finding the ideal distances for the speakers: mathematics, and by trial and error. Both are useful, but the second can adjust better to the specific conditions and form of the room.
George Cardas method is mathematical and focuses on dividing the room into thirds, and each of them in thirds and so on, until the resulting space is roughly the same size as a speaker. This system focuses on the golden ratio search of the room to find the exact spot in which to place any type of speaker.
The WASP method (Wilson Audio Setup Procedure) of trial and error, seeks to find the points where the sound is not contaminated. The user starts from the use of an equilateral triangle to set the location of the speakers, and stands or sits where the chair could be. Another person helps by moving from the wall towards the user while speaking in a steady tone and marking the points where the voice feels natural (the farther from a wall, the better the sound will be). This procedure is done taking into account the direction of the speakers towards the user. Sheldon Cooper, in one of The Bing Bang Theory episodes, uses it to find the best acoustic point in a movie theater.
Although it is a less precise and probably there will not be much symmetry in the first placement, this method focuses more on finding the points where the user is listening better. After placing the speakers using the notes perceived at the first part of the process, you may adjust a little more the location symmetry of the speakers in the room.