​The homify guide to arranging your home audio

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
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It’s all about the bass… and the treble, too. Investing in a decent sound system is the key to a range of leisure activities. Whether it is hosting movie night and popping in the latest action blockbuster, or just putting on some smooth background classics while typing away at your desk, the quality of your speakers speak volumes (no pun intended). 

Since musicians and Hollywood big-shots put months and multi-millions into creating their chart-topping work, we, of course, want to enjoy every beat as best as we can. But to get the best effect when it comes to sound (whether we’re listening to Tchaikovsky or Rammstein, or getting a kick out of the latest musical), there’s a range of factors to consider that involves a bit more than simply plugging that speaker into the correct outlet.

So, whether you’re looking for premium sound quality in your home office or your living room, take note of the following tips for your sound system’s speakers.

Room length

Sound travels, which is why you need a good amount of space. However, since we can’t renovate on a whim and change room sizes whenever we please, it comes down to clever thinking and placement. 

Speakers should be laid out so that they play along the length of the room. If your room is shaped in a rectangle, the speakers should ideally face the longest part of the room – therefore, place your study desk (or TV set) at the shortest wall. 

If you have a surround-sound system for your TV in mind, your chair or sofa should ideally be placed nearer to the middle of the room, and not too close to the back wall.

Think in thirds

The “Rule of Thirds” involves you imagining dividing your room’s length by three – you can physically measure the floor space, or just guess the length and then mentally divide it into three equal parts.  

Your speakers need to be placed in the first third of your room – careful not to move them farther from the wall that will result in them entering the second “third” zone. Placing your speakers one-third of the way into your room as measured from a wall, enhances the sound quality. 

homify hint: A human’s threshold for audible pain is 140 dB (Decibels) which is why, a lot of the time, music at a rock concert can hurt a little (even if you’re not close to the speakers). In fact, constant exposure to speakers at 90 dB or more has proven to cause progressive hearing loss. To compare, conversations typically measure 70 dB, a chainsaw 110 dB, and a rocket engine 180 dB.

Angling your speakers

 Multimedia room by Barst! Keramiek
Barst! Keramiek

Out of the Box

Barst! Keramiek

The placement and positioning of your speakers plays a large role in your system's overall sound and performance. Speaker placement can be especially critical in dedicated music systems, because it greatly affects tonal accuracy, staging, and imaging, as well as realistic sound reproduction.

Whether it’s the latest punk rock piece or children’s sing-along, music is generally released in stereo. That means the sound is spread between the left- and right speakers. Positioning your speakers at a 60° angle provides you with the best ‘stereo image’ of these sounds. 

So, grab that protractor and carefully carve out your 60° angle. It can definitely help to place a small marker at your listening spot and work from there.

Spacing from the wall

Table Top Hi-Fi:  Multimedia room by Symbol Audio
Symbol Audio

Table Top Hi-Fi

Symbol Audio

If you’re blessed with a huge room where you can revel in your favourite sounds, place the speakers away from the side walls. The ideal solution would be to avoid a 1m – 2.2m zone.

If your room is smaller, then opt to leave as much space as possible between the wall and the speaker – up to 1m if you can. Placing a speaker too close to the wall can diminish the quality of the bass sound. 

homify hint: Certain surfaces reflect sound, such as windows and hardwood floors, and add an artificial “brightness” to the sound. This also reduces clarity due to too many reflections and reverberations. On the other hand, thick carpeting, upholstered furniture, and similar absorptive materials reduce reflections, causing a lack of spaciousness. To enjoy a full, rich sound that is smooth and balanced, ensure your room is a good mixture of absorption and reflection.

The height of your speakers

Stereo Console:  Multimedia room by Symbol Audio
Symbol Audio

Stereo Console

Symbol Audio

If you have speaker stands, adjust the height so that the speaker is level with your head – and ideally above 1.2m. The tweeter – usually a shiny, bright area – emanates the highest sounds, so elevating this to a point that is level with your ears will result in the best hearing quality. 

homify hint: Even though they're called bookshelf speakers, it's not a good idea to actually place such speakers on a bookshelf, because sound can reflect off the shelf and the wall behind them. However, if your setup requires you to place speakers on a bookshelf, bring them as far forward as possible to reduce reflections off the shelf.

For desktop speakers

modern Study/office by Equipe Ceramicas
Equipe Ceramicas

Rhombus black 14x24

Equipe Ceramicas

We understand that you also want premium music while working at your desk or watching a movie on your computer. So, to get the best sound quality, rest your desk speakers on a piece of foam or similarly absorptive material. This prevents the entire desk from reverberating and helps isolate the sounds you actually wish to hear from those you don’t.   

homify hint: It might sound obvious, but avoid placing items directly in front of your speakers. Your sound needs a clear path to travel, and items such as plants, side tables, small décor or furniture can all distort the sound and ruin that listening experience. 

Perfect sound is just the beginning – let’s see some more: Home Office Ideas.

Surround sound

Surround sound most definitely perks up your sound quality, but make sure you do your part to get the premium effect. 

Place the centre of your sound system directly in front of you, with the side speakers at a 110° angle to the sides. Each speaker should be the same distance from your listening position, forming a circle around your seating area (whether it’s your desk chair or living room sofas). 

Succeeding in this strategic placement will make those Hollywood explosions sound just as lifelike as they were intended!  

homify hint: If you’re thinking about a surround sound system, place your subwoofer at least 30cm from a corner to prevent unnecessary reverberation and echo.

Did our advice make a difference to your speaker quality? What other tips do you have to boost those sounds? Let us know, below!
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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