RealTraps Acoustics, LLC
47 North Plains Industrial Drive, Wallingford, CT 06490 * 860-210-1870 *

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RealTraps News: Loudspeaker Angles, BNY Productions
Advice on loudspeaker positioning by acoustics expert Ethan Winer, plus another fabulous RealTraps professional studio installation.

One of the most common audio mistakes I see is loudspeakers positioned incorrectly. For typical "box" type loudspeakers you'll hear the flattest response when your ears are at the same height as the tweeters, and also on axis. This means that speakers in a hi-fi or home theater system should be "toed in" to point at you, rather than aimed straight ahead. It's just as important to have the tweeters at ear height for the same reason. In a home recording studio you don't want the monitor speakers too high either. Even if you angle the speakers down to compensate, you'll still move off axis as you lean forward and back. Loudspeaker drivers radiate high frequencies at multiple narrow angles, an effect called beaming or lobing. This graph from my Audio Expert book shows the problem clearly.

This polar plot shows the effect of lobing, where sound is sent outward in narrow zones of peaks (the lobes) and nulls, rather than radiating uniformly. The patterns become even more complex and more directional at higher frequencies.

To prove the importance of speaker angles I measured a Yamaha NS-10M speaker in my large home studio. The NS-10 is a popular "alternate" monitor speaker used in both home and professional recording studios. The thinking is, if you can make your mixes sound good on these speakers, they'll sound good everywhere. Though you'll see in the graphs below that the low end is sorely lacking, rolling off sharply starting around 100 Hz.

I put my DPA 4090 precision measuring microphone only one foot away from the tweeter to minimize influence from the room. You can see in the setup photo below that my NS-10s are upside down! The stands I happened to have are a little too tall, and not adjustable. Having the tweeter on the bottom puts it at the correct height. I removed the grill cloth for these tests, because cloth can only harm the response at high frequencies. But I usually leave the cloth on with the logo right side up so it looks normal.

Measuring the off-axis response of a Yamaha NS-10M loudspeaker. Note that most monitor speakers should be oriented vertically, as shown above. When speakers are on their sides, content around the crossover frequency common to both the woofer and tweeter arrives at different times. That also skews the response.

As is clear in the graphs that follow, the high frequency response begins to deteriorate starting below 1 KHz, and getting worse and worse at higher frequencies:

Left-right off-axis response of a Yamaha NS-10M loudspeaker.

The vertical off-axis response is different but just as bad, losing as much as 15 dB across the entire treble range:

Up-down off-axis response of a Yamaha NS-10M loudspeaker.

You'll find even more room setup advice in the RealTraps article How to Set Up A Room, and a ton of general acoustics advice on our Articles and Videos pages.

BNY Productions

BNY Productions in Sioux City, Iowa.

RealTraps recently completed a major installation at BNY Productions in Sioux City, Iowa. This amazing control room incorporates more than 40 loudspeakers from Meyer Sound for experimental research, as well as traditional surround mixing and production. BNY also serves as a dealer for the live sound industry selling best-in-class products such as Meyer Sound, Midas, Avid Live Sound, JBL, Martin, Elation, MA Lighting, as well as servicing major artist tours with Prevost coaches, trailers, and semis.

According to BNY partner Ben Kristijanto: "When we were renovating our master control room we tried and extensivily tested several acoustic products. RealTraps out-performed the other products that we tested. If we could describe RealTraps in one sentence it would be 'all substance and no hype.'"

RealTraps was founded in 2003 by Ethan Winer and Doug Ferrara, and is now owned and managed by longtime employee Sean Kollar. Sean handles the day-to-day operations at the factory, and Ethan still pitches in to help customers with technical and pre-sales advice by phone and email. Ethan is well known throughout the audio industry for his technical articles in audio and computer magazines, and his popular book The Audio Expert published by Focal Press is now in its second edition. Sean is amazing whether playing the drums or the electric guitar.

General product information:
Contact by email: Ethan Winer
By phone 10:00 am to 5:00 pm eastern time: toll-free 866-RealTraps (866-732-5872, local 860-210-1870)

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