Room Size vs. Distance From Speakers

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by matrix-6, Nov 24, 2021 at 10:36 PM.

  1. matrix-6

    matrix-6 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I keep reading posts and online articles on getting the right size speakers for your room size. Isn't listening distance more important? If I have a large room and I'm sitting 8 - 10 feet from the speakers, do I need larger speakers just because I'm doing so in a larger space?
  2. Emergency Whiskey

    Emergency Whiskey Forum Resident

    Kansas City, MO
    I think in most of these discussions, the assumption is that the listener's distance from the speakers is defined by the room size -- speakers are spaced relative to the room boundaries, and listener position is then based on that spacing. The distance ratios there take into account room reflections.

    I think the thing about larger rooms isn't that larger speakers are needed for the distance you'd be sitting at in a smaller room, but that in a larger room, the sound quality will deteriorate outside of that listening position. To just throw out random numbers, if you have a 30'x30' room that only sounds good in a certain 5'x5' square, why use that room?
  3. MarkD51

    MarkD51 Well-Known Member

    Some good points. Probably many of us would give a kidney to have a 30'x30' room. I know I would!
    If properly done, such a larger room can offer a greater spatial effect, soundstage.
    Lenny99, Rick58, izeek and 1 other person like this.
  4. Tone?

    Tone? Forum Resident

    San Francisco

    How large is your room?
  5. Doctor Fine

    Doctor Fine Meat and Potatoes all day long

    If you have a "carve out space" like a small sitting area in a large room---you MIGHT not want a large setup there.
    But if the sitting arrangement is part of the greater room area then the system generally should be able to "play the room" without sounding teeny.

    Larger rooms sound particularly good when the system fits them.
    They sound better than small rooms.

    Because the longer bass waves are pipe organ length and it takes a big room to hear clearly without the wave doubling back and causing cancellation problems.
    Big rooms really make big recordings shine!

    Whenever I walk out to my big listening room after being in my office---I feel like "reality" is much more "real" out there.
    Funny---because I always love my small system.
    Until it's time to move to the large one!
    Tone? likes this.
  6. Tone?

    Tone? Forum Resident

    San Francisco

    thats all I’m missing. A good room.

    gear can come later.

    so jealous.
    Panama Hotel, izeek and George P like this.
  7. tIANcI

    tIANcI Wondering when the hifi madness will end

    Sometimes we really do need to get the right sized speaker for the room.

    My present room is about 13’ x 14’. Speakers do like to be played at a certain level to start to sing. Not optimum yet but it starts at a certain point.

    My AudioSolutions Figaro M will have too much for my little room so it’s sitting in the living room as decor. I was enjoying the SHL5+ till recently, I felt the mids are kinda strong for the room. I swapped them for my Benchmark SMS1, medium sized bookshelf. I’m enjoying music more now. Yes, I lose out on some detail etc but the level of enjoyment is better now.
    missan and Tone? like this.
  8. matrix-6

    matrix-6 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I’m guessing 18 x 15 or so. It’s more of a L shape with the dining room off to the left. Arched ceiling. I sit about 9 feet away, with 9 feet behind me. Behind me are stairs leading down. It’s a split-level/raised ranch.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2021 at 2:41 AM
    Rick58 likes this.
  9. oktapod

    oktapod Forum Resident

    On a related note I think that, for a smaller room, more of the room comes into play at a given listening distance than it would for the same listening distance in a larger room, simply due to the listening position being closer to the walls etc.

    Although I can't arrange my system this way at present, by far and away the best sound I've heard occurs in a near equilateral speaker arrangement such that the listening position is more near-field than far-field. Audiophysic used to promote an unusual speaker positioning approach that worked beautifully, if you had a dedicated room, insofar as the speakers and listening position could be positioned in key locations to maximise the capabilities of their speakers and minimise room interactions.

    I will balance the above by adding that, for many speakers (with multiple drivers) coherency falls apart if you get too close to the speakers, so unless they're coaxial types or single driver, you might want to play with the distance so that everything comes together properly. Bit of experimentation required. My office system - Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 into Alesis M1 Active 520 speakers on IsoAcoustics stands - gives superb detail and imaging on an equilateral arrangement with toe of about 4'. My main system, worth many multiples of this office setup, has all the articulation and more, but the size and room necessitate sitting further away so something is lost.

    Everything's a compromise, somewhere...
    Tone? likes this.
  10. matrix-6

    matrix-6 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I’m using Harbeth P3ESRS Anniversary editions and Klipsch Heresy IIIs. I switch between the two depending on mood and what I’m listening to. Both sound fantastic, get plenty loud, and fill up my space. I also have a sub. I’ve toyed with the idea of going larger but my layout is limited and I don’t know if it’s even necessary considering the distance I sit from them. That’s what had me wondering why the focus isn’t on distance when it comes to minimum speaker size. Room size can be implied by listening distance but not really the other way around.

    My ideal listening level with my current setup is about 70dB at 9 feet.

    I do wonder how larger speakers might sound in my space, and at lower volume, but at this point it likely will never happen. We’d have to move quite a bit around, and we’d have to remove a couch.

    I actually went with the P3ESRs and the Heresys as they are closed box designs and they need to be close to the wall. The Heresys apparently sound best right up against them and the PSESRs are pretty forgiving. They both give that uncanny sense of the musicians being right there in the room with you.
  11. mcbrion

    mcbrion Forum Resident

    The advantage of larger rooms - up to a certain point - is that wall reflections take longer to interfere with your hearing the music directly from the speakers, and therefore they do not interfere with the sound. In my basement studio, 23 x 45 with an 8' ceiling, the sound is more open than in my 9 x 13 x 20 room. In either case, I start with the rule of thirds (third of the way in from the side walls, and third of the way of the room length, although this works best in rectangular rooms) and go from there.
    jeffrey75 likes this.
  12. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    Conventional wisdom is large room, large speakers. When we moved into our current house I went from a 12x12 listening room to a 24x28 room so naturally I went searching for large. After a few trials I ended up preferring two-way monitors with subs over towers with an array of drivers.

    Like you, I sit 8-10 feet from the speakers for real listening. I basically use 1/4 of the room for the stereo, have an exercise bike in another corner, a computer desk in another corner and an open area. The sound from the stereo permeates the entire room and never sounds weak or anemic, no matter where I am. I prefer the imaging I get from monitors when sitting in the sweet spot. That's much more important to me than what I hear when sitting at the computer in the opposite corner of the room, which sounds fine BTW.
    bever70, ghost rider, mreeter and 5 others like this.
  13. I just moved into a new house and am still playing with my room. The dedicated room is 12 x 19 feet and I have chosen to place the speakers about 6 ft apart(tweeter to tweeter)on the long wall, with me sitting about 9 feet across from them. I'm using bass traps in the corners behind the speakers and absorption panels behind me, as this is the first point of reflection, given the side walls are so far away. Still finessing but I can see that If I pull the speakers any further apart, it kills the imaging. The panels behind me really helped give the sound a more spacious quality as the couch and chairs are up against the wall.
    timind likes this.
  14. Rick58

    Rick58 Forum Resident

    Eagle, ID, USA
    I have two amp/speaker combos fed by a common preamp, all in the same space. It's about 24' wide (total, including 4.5' wide stairwell, maybe similar to your room) x 18' deep, with 8' ceiling.

    The listening environment is set off to one side, I laid out an imaginary 14' wide space up against the right hand side wall. It's more open to the left ... so I got some corner tri-traps which fill up the RH corners in front of and behind me, and free standing panels to flank the larger speakers, which are closer to the side/back wall. The smaller speakers are set up as a nearfield arrangement. I also have 4 diffuser/absorber panels filling the space between the larger speakers, and 2 behind me on the rear wall.

    I sit about 6' from the rear wall (1/3 of the way 'in'). The small speakers are about 6' from my ears and 7' apart (6' from the back wall). The larger ones are about 9' from my ears and 8' apart (3' from the back wall). I move the small ones out of the way when listening to the others. Sometimes ... actually they don't really mess things up as badly as one might think.

    Anyway, I have no issues or desire to get bigger or smaller speakers.

    I used Cardas Room setup as a start and tweaked from there to my liking. If you're happy with the sound, that's all that matters.
    matrix-6 and timind like this.
  15. Musicphil

    Musicphil Well-Known Member

    West mids uk
    I have gone from larger room to smaller dedicated listening room 14'x 9' I am fortunate that I don't have any normal things I have had to put up with in the past within the room- you know table, chairs, TV, furniture etc, and people!
    The room is carpeted and added rugs, records on shelves. Turntable on a dedicated wall shelf, the rest of the system is on a two tier stack.
    Bass traps in corners up the walls behind speakers and also in the join of the wall to ceiling in half of the room and a couple of diffuser panels .
    Wharfedale evo4.3 are approx 6 ' apart, toed in quite a bit for that sweet spot.
    My settee is approx 6 foot from speakers, so my listening is what I deem near field, but creates a 3d holographic sound, it's the best room I have ever had to listen to music in.
  16. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    You can have a room the size of a gym and if you are sitting 8 to 10 most speakers will work.
    Glmoneydawg, matrix-6, Rick58 and 2 others like this.
  17. Helom

    Helom Forum member

    IME, matching speakers to a room is more dependent on whether a speaker excites the room’s resonant modes. It is possible to get good sound with relatively large speakers in a smallish room.

    Of course, a large room will require speakers that can move sufficient amounts of air if high SPLs and realistic scale are desired. A near-field listening distance can mitigate this need to an extent, though not in terms of bass output.
    Tone? likes this.
  18. MarkD51

    MarkD51 Well-Known Member

    In perspective, and once attending an Emerson Lake and Palmer Concert, yep, Brain Salad Surgery just came out.

    I got home at about 11pm, and for kicks threw on my Mac-JBL system, it sounded like a pocket transistor radio. I'm sure I suffered some hearing damage after that concert. Was like $2M worth of speakers-audio gear, in quadraphonic sound.

    All I saw was stacks of JBL Pro Bass Drivers and Horns stacked to the Ceilings of the now long gone Chicago International Ampitheater.

    That surely defined large versus small! LOL
  19. matrix-6

    matrix-6 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    On the flip side I’ve been to countless shows, usually indoors, ruined by excessive volume. I truly believe there is an optimal level for all environments. It’s a shame when shows are ruined by those that believe louder is always better.
    ghost rider, timind and Helom like this.
  20. Glmoneydawg

    Glmoneydawg Forum Resident

    Ontario Canada
    Thats the logic I've gone with....nearfield gives a nice focused,intimate listening experience.The bigger the room,the further you can keep those 1st reflections/side walls away.Regardless of room size I've used the listening distance you describe for 40 odd for me :)
  21. ghost rider

    ghost rider Forum Resident

    Our prior house I had a small room 11x14ft. I bought the large speakers when I was living in an apartment and bought big to be ready for a future large house. Ended up in a small house with small rooms. I evolved into an audiophile in this small house. Never being able to set up my 2ch audio in a optimal setup.

    My biggest obstacle is my system turned into a hybrid setup. 2 channel tube and SS home theater that shared the same front speakers. I switch the wires at the speaker.
    The width of the HT shelving that hides my massive DIY subs dictates how wide my speakers need to be apart, 9-10ft so it was all on the long wall. Originally the seating was up against the back wall, it worked well enough for HT but when I got back into music upgrading I started to learn how poor my setup was. I got good advice on adjusting my room moving the couch a foot off the wall and I built DIY treatments initially in the window behind the seating then 6in thick bass traps filling the area behind the couch below the window. Then big corner traps floor to ceiling in both corners on the right side of the room. Finally I got very good advice here by @Doctor Fine the thread has long since been deleted he helped me moving my speakers around and listening to the result with the same recording, 1/4 inch at a time. I did find a sweet spot that made my system really sound great and fantastic in that sweet spot for one. I believe I made the very best out of an awful setup.

    Now I'm in a rental with a much bigger room. I'm planning my next setup for the future permanent home that most likely will involve a similar room configuration. I really think a house big enough for 2 audio rooms is not going to happen. So I'm going to keep the hybrid setup. In the new room which is very typical in newer homes being built today. It has a great room 25 x 25 connected to the kitchen dinning area as well as the entry area and a stairway going up. So it is a very big area all things considered. Best I can tell the speakers will remain 9-10 feet apart but now the main seating will be 10-12 feet back from the speakers. Your ears will be about 5 ft from the wall connecting the kitchen with a pass thru window adding much more area to the room. So this will be the basic setup outside of moving the speakers inches one way or another and toeing the speakers in to find the sweet spot for imaging. Possibly the seating a little. My wife is a big obstacle all the while. At this point I can only imagine what it will sound like.

    My next problem what do I do with all the DIY treatments I made for the other house all wrapped up in shrink wrap in the corner of the great room. It being a rental and that all the houses here use a textured paint (hard to patch) and I don't trust the landlord I'm not putting holes in the walls. I did think of a cool idea on what to do with the corner traps. I made them in 4 units all the same size stacking one on the other at the other house. Here I can get z-clip panel wall clips and literally clip all 4 traps together and put a finished top on it. It would look like a odd looking drink table that be 25 x 25 x 48 inches high. Who cares what it looks like would be a huge effective bass trap at nearly any location in the room, as it is it would be in the back left away from the kitchen dinning area. I would have several feet to move it around to test for improvement in the sound. The other window/behind the couch treatment probably keep them wrapped up and stored in the room to see if I can use them in a future house.
    timind and Doctor Fine like this.

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