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 Speaker Placement: Ported Versus Sealed

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PostSubject: Speaker Placement: Ported Versus Sealed   Wed Aug 03, 2011 3:44 am

Whether you bought your speakers second hand, didn’t receive proper set-up instruction at the time of purchase, or just never bothered to properly place them, it’s time to re-examine your home theater’s speaker placement and specifically your front three channels. (left, center, and right)



Home theater speakers come in many different shapes, sizes, styles and most definitely price ranges but for our purposes today let’s focus on one specific characteristic, ported or non-ported. The port (sometimes called a baffle, although that’s something else entirely) is typically found on the front of a speaker (or rear) and towards the bottom quarter, although that’s by no means the only method or location for porting a speaker.



Ports are designed to allow air to flow into and out of the speaker to improve bass response, however a restricted port can affect more than just the perceived bass response. A restricted (read not enough space for air to flow) can wreck the sound stage, throw off the pace, rhythm and timing, and a whole host of other nasty side effects.



Not all speakers are ported however, some are sealed. The quickest way for determining what type of speaker you have is just to inspect the cabinet. If you see a hole in the cabinet, either a circular opening and or a slot in the front, you’re mostly likely dealing with a ported speaker.



Here’s why all this matters, sealed or non-ported speakers are designed to be placed close to the wall, while ported speakers need space between the rear of the speaker cabinet and the back wall. How much space? That depends on the specific speaker and the room itself but I recommend checking the owner’s manual first and then experimenting with placement second.



If you have no reference whatsoever for how the speakers should be placed in the room start with the rear of the cabinet five to six inches away from the rear wall. Then listen to some music you’re familiar with (don’t bother with video as it’s a secondary distraction at this point). Pick something organic if possible, something that you have a firm reference of what it should sound like, then move the speakers a few inches forward. Does it sound better or worse?



If it sounds worse by all means move them back, if it sounds better (and by better I mean more natural, more “real” or engaging) then move them a few more inches forward. If you notice the bass response drop then you’ve probably crossed that magical too-far-forward line for you room; move them back to your previous position.



Yes, some newer receivers have built in auto-calibration features and sure more often than not they work great, but those features can never physically move the speaker for you (it would be nice though…Wink. If you’ll start out with my method using just some 2-channel audio to find the correct distance-to-wall for the front channels, afterwards your auto calibration should sound even better.
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