Even small differences in the positioning of loudspeakers can have a significant impact on performance, especially on the soundstage focus and bass quality.
DALI loudspeakers are capable of exceptional performance, but you need to experiment with placement to find the optimum position. There are no exact rules regarding placement, but to get you off to a good-sounding start, here are a few guidelines:
1. Furniture and room acoustics
Do not place objects such as large pieces of furniture between the speakers and the listening position. Obstructions to the free passage of sound will cause uneven frequency response and a poor stereo perspective. On the other hand, furniture around the listening position can play an important part in your room acoustics, helping to break up and absorb standing waves. A soft couch, a couple of bookshelves, and a nice rug can work wonders in this regard.
2. Correct distance between speakers and listening position
A good starting point is to make sure the distance between the Left and Right speaker as well as the distance between each speaker and the central listening position is identical, as this will yield the best soundstage. When set up like this, the two speakers will form an equilateral triangle with the listening position.
Even though DALI loudspeakers provide excellent performance at off-axis positions, for serious, critical listening, we strongly recommend a central listening position.
3. Correct height for placing compact speakers
Compact loudspeakers on stands or in bookshelves should be placed so that the top of the cabinet is barely visible from the listening position. If the speakers are placed much higher, they should be tilted forward or placed upside down, slightly aiming the high-frequency driver at your listening position. Compact speakers should never be placed directly on the floor, as they are designed to sound best at a higher elevation!
4. Correct distance to side- and rear walls.
Moving your loudspeakers further from, or closer to, the walls of your listening room will change the bass response, as well as the stereo image.
Small, compact speakers often deliver better low-frequency performance, when placed relatively close to the rear-wall. Large floor-standers are mostly designed to deliver plenty of bass at a position further away from the rear-wall, which means their low-end response may become overpowering in the same position as a smaller, more compact speaker.
The ideal distance between DALI speakers and rear- and side walls depends on the series and model, and you will need to consult the manual for your specific loudspeaker for recommended distances.
Generally, however, the distance to side-walls will be determined by the distance between the loudspeakers and your listening position, as mentioned above. As for the distance to the rear-wall, DALI floor-standing models will typically need a bit more room than stand-mount/bookshelf speakers. On-wall speakers, including in-wall speakers mounted in on-wall frames, should generally not be hung directly against side-walls, floors or ceilings unless stated in the manual.
If your room is rectangular, a good starting point is to place your speakers along one of the longer walls, with the short sides of the rectangle as your side walls. This will reduce sound reflections coming from side walls, which could cause strange sounding peaks and dips in the frequency response.
If you prefer placing your speakers along the short wall, consider placing bookshelves, plants or paintings on the side walls, somewhere between your listening position and the speakers. This will scatter any offending mid- and high frequency reflections, cleaning up the stereo image.
"Music is what life sounds like."
- Eric Olson
Why is this important?
In the average listening room, you are not only hearing the sound coming directly from the speakers, but also a reflected version from walls, floors and ceilings. The path of this reflected sound will be longer than the direct sound, since it first has to travel to the wall, then to your ears, which means the indirect sound is delayed compared to the direct sound.
When sound waves of the same frequency arrive at your ears at different times, they will cancel each other out to some degree, which means the frequency response, as well as the timing, of the original sound will change.
However, when the reflected sound has to travel longer, it also loses more of its initial energy than the direct sound does. Therefore, the longer the distance between speaker and side wall, the less audible the reflected sound will be to the human ear.
Should you then seek to eliminate all indirect sound in your listening room?
In practice, we at DALI find that some reflected sound helps the stereo imaging and sense of space. We always recommend that you use your ears to determine how much reflected sound is right for you, and move your speakers closer or farther from side walls accordingly, taking measures to diffuse reflections at the listening position as necessary.
5. DALI speakers do not need toeing-in
Thanks to their excellent off-axis response, correctly positioned DALI speakers do not need to be angled towards the central listening position. They will in most cases sound best without any angling at all. This is due to the wide-dispersion capabilities of our soft domes and trademark Hybrid Tweeter technology.
6. Placing DALI centre speakers
The DALI centre speakers are specifically tuned for placement near a TV screen. The DALI centre speaker should be placed directly above or below the television, as this ensures that centre-channel sound will appear to come from the screen, and not seem disconnected from the screen action.
These guidelines will take you far toward getting the optimum sound from your DALI speakers, even if they are not hard-and-fast rules. You will not damage your speakers by using them in a less-than-ideal position, but you will be cheating yourself out of the best possible sound experience.