August 2015

Are you getting everything you paid for out of your stereo system?

Making an investment in great components from Rotel is only one step in creating fantastic sound. The most overlooked aspect of getting peak performance out of your system is the correct use of loudspeakers. When used improperly, bass performance, stereo imaging, dynamics and clarity suffer. Often times we misattribute the cause of these issues, and end up on a wild goose chase looking for a solution that was under our nose the entire time. It is worth noting that the acoustics of your room have a powerful influence on the sound of your loudspeakers, but that topic is beyond the scope of this article.

Below are two frequency response graphs. Figure 1 below shows an idealized frequency response graph for a pair of loudspeakers. This is one representation of how a loudspeaker performs when tested in the factory under controlled conditions. You’ll notice that the red line is very flat from low notes near 50Hz through very high frequencies at 20,000Hz. In short, this means that this speaker will not emphasize some notes over others, giving you a very balanced presentation of music and movies.

An idealized frequency response graph for a pair of loudspeakers

figure 1.

Figure 2 shows what can happen to the performance of your loudspeakers when they are positioned improperly. If Figure 1 was the very model for balance, Figure 2 is a mess.

An improper Frequency Response graph

figure 2.  

Needless to say, much of the hard work that went into producing the album that you are listening to through great electronics and loudspeakers has been wasted. So what do you do to avoid creating this mess in your home?

Here are some insider tips to get the most out of your system:

  1. Ensure that speaker cable polarity is correct. Your speakers and amplifier have positive(+) and negative(-) terminals where you attach speaker wire. Positive is often color coded Red and Negative is often coded Black. Make sure that your cabling consistently follows polarity. 
  2. Maintain left and right connections between your Rotel components.

  3. Speaker positioning. As a technology, stereo loudspeakers only work properly when they behave as a pair. Follow these best practices as closely as possible for peak performance.
  • Speakers should be placed no closer to each other than 4 ft. measured from the inside of the cabinets, and no further than 13 ft. for larger floor standing models.
  • Do not place speakers in a corner. While a tempting location, doing so will result in uneven, overly loud bass with vocals or dialog that is difficult to discern. If someone in your home balks at the notion, have them listen to the sound of your voice in a corner, and then walk a few feet away from that location while talking. Everyone will be able to hear how much clearer your voice sounds.

  • Give your speakers a target to aim at. We recommend placing your speakers in an equilateral (preferable) or isosceles triangle with you as the third point.

  • Let your speakers breathe. Try not bury them behind furniture, or have large objects (like an armoire) between them. If you have furniture between your speakers, try to bring both of them forward so that the front of the loudspeaker is in line with the front of your furniture.  Increasing this distance is recommended.

  • Keep the distance from the wall behind your speakers the same. Use a tape measure to determine this distance. Speakers can work well up to 6 inches away from the wall behind them, or 2 feet or greater.

  • Toe-in your speakers equally. Rotate them a little so that where the two tweeters intersect in a point in space is roughly 2 feet behind your target. This will increase clarity and the quality of your stereo imaging. You may find that less toe-in works better for some situations.

  • Maintain the same height off the floor for your speakers. Don’t put one on a shelf and the other on the floor.

  • Level your floor standing speakers. Most will come with spikes or rubber feet that allow you to adjust them relative to the floor so that they are plumb and level.

Follow these tips and your system will give you years of pleasure.

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Posted by Patrick Butler - Northeast Regional Manager

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