The best way to position your speakers for optimal performance is a widely discussed topic. Many music enthusiasts believe the only way to improve the sound from their system is by upgrading parts such as amplifiers, speakers, and DACs.
But what if there was something else that you could try to get better audio? Something as simple as changing the positioning of speakers in your room can lead to a significantly better listening experience.
Regarding hi-fi speaker positioning, you might have heard somewhere that placing speakers facing each other can result in a louder and richer bass tone. But what does science say? should speakers meet each other? Does this sort of positioning produce better quality audio?
In a nutshell, the overall sound played will be louder when in-phase speakers face each other. And as long as both speakers are wired correctly, there shouldn’t be any phasing issues either. But if the speakers are out of phase, the opposite could occur -the audio from both speakers canceling each other out to varying degrees.
This topic requires further discussion to fully understand some of the key arguments both for and against speakers facing each other. This post will detail what happens when speakers face each other and serve as a speaker positioning guide to help you decide the best setup for you! So let’s jump right into the discussion!
What Exactly Happens When Speakers Face Each Other?
Well, the answer is pretty short, two words -constructive interference. What exactly is it, though?
It is a concept in physics that applies specifically to waves. Constructive interference occurs when two waves that are in phase combine to form a resultant amplitude that is the sum of the individual amplitudes.
Mathematically the formula is quite simple -resultant amplitude = amplitude of wave 1+ amplitude of wave 2.
Constructive interference doesn’t necessarily only occur with sound waves. It can occur with every type of wave, including sound waves.
Regarding speakers, when you set up two or more speakers to the same source with all the connections being made correctly, you should be producing similar sound waves in each speaker. After setting up correctly, all these waves should be in phase and have equal loudness as well.
Placing these speakers facing each other will result in the sound waves interfering constructively due to the waves being in phase. In essence, you can double the output volume of two speakers by making them face each other.
The Potential Problems With Speakers Facing Each Other
Up until now, we have been discussing what happens when speakers face each other while in the phase. But what can happen if two speakers that are out of phase face each other?
Well, first, we need to consider what it means to be “out of phase.” When speakers are out of phase, even though they play back the same audio waves, one is delayed relative to the other. This means that these two sound waves do not perfectly align with each other.
But considering that both speakers are connected to the same source, how could something like this occur in the first place? Well, the most common reason is that maybe one of the speaker’s connecting wires is reversed. This can cause the speaker to be out of phase with the other one.
This can happen when the negative terminal is connected to a positive terminal on an amplifier and vice versa. This results in an opposite mirror image of the audio signal being formed due to the reversed polarity.
This can effectively result in the speakers canceling each other out due to destructive interference (the opposite of constructive interference). Still, the chances of both the speakers canceling each other are meager even when both are not in phase.
This is because speakers need to be significantly close to each other for complete cancellation to occur. In most cases, speakers are not placed together too close while facing each other.
Additionally, speakers never produce sound in only one direction. They emit sound in all directions, and therefore the resultant sound cancellation is never too drastic.
Should Speakers Face Each Other?
One of the most significant benefits of placing speakers facing each other is that the overall sound will be louder by up to 3db.
For people that prefer loudness above all else, this is one way you can achieve higher output volumes. Other than being louder, there is no evidence suggesting that speakers who face each other have better audio quality overall.
A few people who place speakers facing each other state that there is a significant improvement in sound quality, but that could be due to various reasons. The acoustics of the room and the individual loudness preferences, for example, maybe the reasons the speakers sound better or worse with this new setup.
All in all, there is no conclusive evidence that suggests that the audio should and will sound better with speakers facing each other. The only thing that we know with certainty is that the overall sound will be louder in this case.
Which Way Should You Place Speakers?
Even though positioning speakers towards each other has no significant problems, it is still not ideal. Speakers should preferably point towards the listening area, usually towards the audience. Additionally, the speakers should be far from corners or walls to ensure excellent quality sound.
Placing your speakers too close to corners or walls can result in unwanted rumbling and distorted bass tones. This can negatively impact the listening experience.
Even though speakers are preferable to be slightly further from the surrounding walls, it is not always possible due to shorter wires and equipment holding them back. Consider investing in longer speaker wires to be able to move your speakers a bit further without disturbing your setup.
Finally, speakers should be facing the audience to make sure the sound waves travel in a straight path directly from the speakers to the audience without bouncing around the room and interfering with each other.