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Thread: Speakers Height

  1. #1
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    Default Speakers Height

    I always thought the proper way to set up the loudspeakers in the listening room is to able to create the illusion of a well recorded voice projected approximately 1/2 foot above or lower than your head/ears. So that you get the feel that the singer is standing right in front of you at the same height as you are. Give or take 1/2 foot up or down.

    However, many of my friends say a proper setup should be where the whole sound should fill from ceiling to floor . The only way for that to be possible is to get a taller speakers so that the tweeters/midrange drivers are relatively 20 degrees higher than your head/ears.

    Which is correct? or is it my early exposure of live unamplified music mold my perception of correct sound?

    ST

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    Default What does nature tell us?

    Quote Originally Posted by STHLS5 View Post
    ...many of my friends say a proper setup should be where the whole sound should fill from ceiling to floor . The only way for that to be possible is to get a taller speakers so that the tweeters/midrange drivers are relatively 20 degrees higher than your head/ears. ST
    Are you sure that serious listeners recommend listening up to the sound stage as you would do in the cheap seats right down at the front of the auditorium? That's completely misguided. Conceptually wrong. Most permanent auditorium (concert halls, cinema, theatre etc.) are designed on a raked basis, seats higher up at the back - hence looking down onto the performers - and seats often below the performers or even the stage at the front. The best and most expensive seats are usually somewhere in the middle, where you are level with or just above the performers themselves - as you suggest. This is considered to be the most natural viewing and listening position. What do we mean by 'natural'?

    Let's take a step back to nature and evolution, which defined our visual and auditory systems. Sound sources above our heads suggest a lurking danger especially associated with higher screeching noises (from a tweeter?) as we associate only flying reptiles (birds) with high frequencies above our heads. So, to be listening to speakers where their HF seems to emanate from above us arms our subconscious to a potential predatory threat as we sit cowering under those gigantic speakers. That's not what I call a natural, involving musical experience at all.

    Always try and relate sonic experiences back to evolution - remember: the first musical instrument appeared only about 35,000 years ago. Our ears have been under development for perhaps 10,000,000 years. In evolutionary terms, musical appreciation is an irrelevance as our entire hearing system was designed for an entirely different purpose - survival from predator attack. Anything that reminds our subconscious and automatic nervous system of the potential of danger will divert attention from the enjoyment of music.

    Empathy with evolution is at the heart of a great, fulfilling listening experience as we know well here.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

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    Default Re: What does nature tell us?

    Thank you for your assuring words. Over here I was in the minority and was worried of my understanding of what's supposed to be natural.

    Quote Originally Posted by A.S. View Post
    ................So, to be listening to speakers where their HF seems to emanate from above us arms our subconscious to a potential predatory threat as we sit cowering under those gigantic speakers. ...................
    LOL....I wouldn't dare to forward your reply to my friends BTW, could it be subconsciously the fear induced release of adrenaline whereby it triggers some excitement in their musical experience?

    ST

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    Default Re: What does nature tell us?

    Quote Originally Posted by A.S. View Post
    Let's take a step back to nature and evolution, which defined our visual and auditory systems. Sound sources above our heads suggest a lurking danger especially associated with higher screeching noises (from a tweeter?) as we associate only flying reptiles (birds) with high frequencies above our heads..
    In The Sound of One Wing Flapping Elisabeth Weis analyzes Alfred Hitchcock's use of sound to convey such lurking dangers and cites the relevance of the auditory placement of sounds in The Birds and the violin screeches in Psycho as two examples of Hitchcock's application.
    http://filmsound.org/articles/Hitchcock.htm

    If that is of interest to you, her book entitled The Silent Scream- Alfred Hitchcock's Sound Track will attract your attention.
    http://www.filmsound.org/bibliography/silentscream.htm

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    Default Re: What does nature tell us?

    Quote Originally Posted by STHLS5 View Post
    ... could it be subconsciously the fear induced release of adrenaline whereby it triggers some excitement in their musical experience?
    Very interesting suggestion.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

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    Default Re: What does nature tell us?

    That reminds me , some30 years ago I brought a few friends from very remote part of my state to watch King Kong (or was it Jaws?). These friends of mine never had or very little exposure to televisions or even cinemas. In those days the best seats were known as "Reserves" and I booked tickets for those places. However, my friends after a few minutes excused themselves and moved closer to the screen , i.e. to the cheap seats.

    After reading what you said about human behaviour and auditory evolution I now understand their preference or was it just a coincidence? I used to tease them about it but they insisted that's where they liked the best.

    ST

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    Default Re: Speakers Height

    I do not believe that the proper height for singers and the floor to ceiling ambience are mutually exclusive. I learned the trick from the older Harbeth forum to place the main tweeter of SHL5 one to two inches above the ear level. This placement is echoed by a recent 6 Moons on-line review of the speakers. I measured seated height and ordered a custom pair of 17.5 inches Sound Anchor stands to have about one inch elevation. Skylan makes its SHL5 stands at 18 inches standard perhaps for the same approach.

    For a studio recording, a solo vocalist has proper illusion of standing in front and accompanying instruments are slightly higher or lower depending on their positions. Studio recordings nonetheless rarely produce spectacular height except for electronic processing. For recordings in a natural space such a church, the center vocalist is still correctly depicted as standing, the choir emerges from higher levels as on platforms, and the ambience of the venue fills almost entirely up to the ceiling, thereby reproducing the height of the recording venue. What is more important is the proper proportion of that feeling to the other dimensions in the 3D space to produce the scale of the sound stage. For other models in the Harbeth line, I reckon the one to two inch elevation of the main tweeter over ear level to be equally viable.

    One note of caution for those fascinated by the height sensation: I used a well recorded Norwegian KKV CD of Rosa Fra Bethlehem with Sondre Bratland to audition some remarkable equipment (ARC CD8, ARC Ref 3, ARC Ref 220 monos, Avalon Eidolon Diamond, MIT Oracle cables, Finite Element Pagode Reference rack). Although the ambience was satisfyingly room filling up to the ceiling, the vocalist was projected higher than natural on some tracks in that show room. It was an uncomfortable phenomenon. I may not be free of the pattern of some raving about their equipment to avoid buyers’ remorse. To my imperfect ears, the famous Eidolon Diamonds had pristine high frequency, prodigious bass, lay back perspective just like Harbeth, very musical, but they did not present the same fine mid range quality or fluid delicacy. YMMV and only IMHO, going from the Harbeth to the 30 some thousand dollars Eidolon is not an upgrade.

    BTW, do check out the following recordings to appreciate the full potential of your Harbeths especially in very complex passages. I still think SACD's are better. However, the few KKV CD's mentioned are contenders for the very best in not just sound but also music.

    http://www.stereopal.com/CDRecommend.htm

    KKV CD's can be bought from the two sources below in US.

    http://www.spinningdogrecords.com/kiku.html

    http://www.cdroots.com/kkv.shtml

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    Default Re: Speakers Height

    Unfortunately that's not the opinion of some (actually many). To tell the truth ,I am the odd one among my other friends who play high end music to the point I was thinking I am wrong.

    A couple of months back, my friend brought me to listen to one vey high end system (JM Lab Utopia, Krell Reference Mono, Statement turntables etc, etc). As we all know Utopia is 6 or 7 feet tall speakers which was about 15 feet from the sweet spot in room 15 by 40 feet. The gentleman loved to play it real loud. The sound was very big. You don't get life like presentation at all but big, over powering sound.

    That's the sound the crowd admired and probably I am the only one insisting that the speakers were too close for my liking.

    The other thing which Alan wrote was about our hearing evolved over millions of years but (I am thinking aloud here) our early exposures to music(or sound) begins in the womb. I think there was some research by obstetrician Rene Van de Car. So my questions is how do feutes hear sound when they are in the womb surrounded by liquid? Wouldn't they be hearing music enveloping the whole body?

    ST

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    Default Re: Speakers Height

    The thing is that alot of audiophiles go for quantity rather than quality. Recently, one of my friends heard Genesis one & was so impressed by its headroom, huge soundstage & other hifi artifacts but i begged to differ. I thought it was overbearing, unnatural, a tad disjointed & definitely didn't do the tonality & timbre thing as well as my humble SHL-5. I know a few guys who "downgraded" from hyper expensive spks to Harbeth. Their friends thought they were crazy but they said they had been stupid to have spent so much & be less satisfied musically. Enough said!

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    Default Re: Speakers Height

    Quote Originally Posted by STHLS5 View Post
    I always thought the proper way to set up the loudspeakers in the listening room is to able to create the illusion of a well recorded voice projected approximately 1/2 foot above or lower than your head/ears. So that you get the feel that the singer is standing right in front of you at the same height as you are. Give or take 1/2 foot up or down.

    However, many of my friends say a proper setup should be where the whole sound should fill from ceiling to floor .

    Which is correct? or is it my early exposure of live unamplified music mold my perception of correct sound?

    ST
    I tend to set up my speakers where the sound fills ceiling to floor. This is based on the live performances I have attended and invariably, the presentation is amplified. This results in a wide dispersion where the sound fills the entire room/area.

    I have on many occasion tried to pin point the source of the sound and while I agree that our ears are trained to locate the general location of the sound, it isnt pin point and carved out as I have heard in some systems save for drums and cymbals, struck sharply.

    The experience was much the same at the recent Christmas carolling held in a cathedral. The entire presentation was not amplified electronically. I was seated in the middle of the church. Solo vocals were clear, filled the chamber but it was difficult to locate the singers without spotting mouth/lip movement.

    I believe it would be possible to determine voices 1/2 a foot above/below the ears if you are seated directly in front of the singer say at a distance of 15-20 feet and provided the accompanying musicians/instruments do not overcome the singer.

    As most music presented to us these days is amplified in one way or another I tend to favour a wide dispersion set up.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Speakers Height

    Quote Originally Posted by Kathylim View Post
    .......The experience was much the same at the recent Christmas carolling held in a cathedral. The entire presentation was not amplified electronically. I was seated in the middle of the church. Solo vocals were clear, filled the chamber but it was difficult to locate the singers without spotting mouth/lip movement. ....
    Would you mind to name the cathedral you attended? It is so difficult to hear good unamplified sound nowadays.

    ST

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    Default Re: Speakers Height

    St. Francis, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.

    St Francis is a 160 year old church, not a cathedral although its size is about that of the St. Johns cathedral in Kuala Lumpur. Very nice building. Google it. Some very nice pictures of it.

    Managed to attend Puccini La Boheme and more x'mas caroling at the Sidney Myer Bowl in Melbourne but presentation was amplified electronically. All the same, some good music.
    Last edited by Kathylim; 29-12-2009 at 06:27 AM. Reason: add on

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    Default 16", 17" or 18" high?

    Quote Originally Posted by ptcl99 View Post
    I do not believe that the proper height for singers and the floor to ceiling ambience are mutually exclusive. I learned the trick from the older Harbeth forum to place the main tweeter of SHL5 one to two inches above the ear level. This placement is echoed by a recent 6 Moons on-line review of the speakers. I measured seated height and ordered a custom pair of 17.5 inches Sound Anchor stands to have about one inch elevation. Skylan makes its SHL5 stands at 18 inches standard perhaps for the same approach.

    For a studio recording, a solo vocalist has proper illusion of standing in front and accompanying instruments are slightly higher or lower depending on their positions. Studio recordings nonetheless rarely produce spectacular height except for electronic processing. For recordings in a natural space such a church, the center vocalist is still correctly depicted as standing, the choir emerges from higher levels as on platforms, and the ambience of the venue fills almost entirely up to the ceiling, thereby reproducing the height of the recording venue. What is more important is the proper proportion of that feeling to the other dimensions in the 3D space to produce the scale of the sound stage. For other models in the Harbeth line, I reckon the one to two inch elevation of the main tweeter over ear level to be equally viable.
    Hi ptcl99,

    Thanks for your post, I appreciated it. Next month, I'll probably buy a pair of Skylan stands for my SHL5. Since I actually have a pair of DIY stands 16" high and found them at a reasonably good height, and that many of you including Noel suggest the 18" path, I was wondering which height to order. Cut the apple in half with 17"? Then,I talked with Noel and he also gave me some informative information (!) on the standard 18" choice. So I'm more and more considering this option.

    Any advise from member that experimented with different heights are welcomed.

    Sébastien

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    Default

    All well if you are trying to 'create' some kind of sound stage, but remember that Harbeth speakers are multiple driver models, that have a flat response when seated with ears at tweeter height. If you do not place the tweeter at ear height, both the phase and frequency response will not be as flat as possible. So you might like the higher perspective, you will be listening to a less linear phase/frequency response. If you like to have a room filling sound from floor to ceiling, it might be better to buy full range elektrostatic speakers with panels that run from floor to ceiling?

  15. #15
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Sebastien View Post
    Hi ptcl99,

    Thanks for your post, I appreciated it. Next month, I'll probably buy a pair of Skylan stands for my SHL5. Since I actually have a pair of DIY stands 16" high and found them at a reasonably good height, and that many of you including Noel suggest the 18" path, I was wondering which height to order. Cut the apple in half with 17"? Then,I talked with Noel and he also gave me some informative information (!) on the standard 18" choice. So I'm more and more considering this option.

    Any advise from member that experimented with different heights are welcomed.

    Sébastien
    I like the SHL5 with it's main tweeter (not supertweeter) at ear height. This means simply measuring the height of you ears from the ground when seated and using stands with a heigt that perfectly puts the tweeter at ear height.

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