Speaker - Room/size dilemma

Need some advice. Like many other (married) folks here, I'm trying to find a reasonable balance between room esthetics and sound quality. We listen to music in our living room. It's a 16'X18' room with a two-story ceiling that is almost 20' high. So the room is basically a large cube. The other challenge is the speakers need to be placed along the18' wall, roughly a foot or two away front the side and the back walls, basically near the corners since we have a fireplace in the middle of that wall. The couch will be about 15' away from the speakers. All in all, the speakers and the main listening position form a 15' equilateral triangle. I guess I'll need  to look for high dispersion speakers with good off-axis sound quality. Almost the opposite of what I have in there now which are ML Aerius i speakers. I still have the pair of Definitive Technologies BP20 speakers which I had originally purchased for this room and I think they better fit that application but I really prefer the clarity and focus of the MLs albeit with a much more constrained sweet spot. The MLs are being driven by a McIntosh MC2200 and I have the Def. Techs in another (smaller) room hooked up to a Vincent SP-331 hybrid amplifier. My bottom line question is what would be a decent option for this cubical size room, trying to stay within a $3K budget. The bi-polar design speakers seem to meet most of the requirements but sound a bit diffused to my taste. Anyone has experience with the newer/slimmer Def. Tech. tower models? What about the Magnepan 1.7? Thanks in advance. 

It kind of depends how you listen. If your biggest concern is having a full sound between the speakers no matter where you are, sure you want a wide dispersion.

However, in a reverberant, untreated room you sacrifice smooth frequency response and natural/accurate sounding imaging. In general, the closer your speakers are to boundaries, the less dispersion you want, or the more room treatment you need.

My suggestion is to reach out to GIK Acoustics FIRST. Figure out what you want or are willing to do with the room treatment, then choose speakers.

In that room, the ML’s would be your better option if you could keep them away from the rear wall and at an angle.

Good room treatment makes your room more speaker friendly, plus, you may trade speakers many times, but no one ever trades in good acoustics. :)


Here's an experiment you can run yourself.  Listen to your speakers from around 2' away. Then listen to them in their proper location.

The difference in clarity, detail, air, etc. you hear is all due to room acoustics.


1-2 feet from the back wall and near the corners is a tough ask of most audiophile speakers.  I'd skew toward speakers made to be placed in or near corners and near or against the wall.  Two that come to mind are Sjofn (the clue) and Von Schweikert VR22.  I think (the clue) may be available on an in-home trial basis, and I'd recommend going with a double stack given the size/height of your room and your budget.  These speakers are flat out amazing at their price point.  Disregard the Stereophile review BTW.  It was completely botched due to improper placement and reviewer laziness.  People who have heard them at shows properly set up have been blown away -- me included.  Best of luck.
If you can tuck them in the corners then Klipschorns would be just about perfect.  Even though McIntosh/Klipschorn would be a great combination, you will never even come close to using all the 2200 has being how efficient the Khorns are.  You would get great dynamics in your room and the Khorns, as large as they are, may even pass the WAF because your bride may think they are just beautiful pieces of wood furniture.

" ... Listen to your speakers from around 2' away. Then listen to them in their proper location.

The difference in clarity, detail, air, etc. you hear is all due to room acoustics"
Not exactly. That's because most speakers are designed to be used in a room, and not an anechoic chamber. In particular, dipolar speakers are very much designed with a room in mind. (Whether that room is similar to the room they'll actually be  used in is another matter, of course.)

Kalali, the Magneplanar's require at a minimum 3' of space between them and the wall behind them, 5' being even better. Lots of better-halfs don't care for that! If you want to go dipolar, with the volume of your room the 3.7 will be better at filling the room than will the 1.7. You might be able to find a used pair of 3.7's for your target price of $3k. An alternative is the Eminent Technology LFT-8b at $2499, also a magnetic-planar dipole, but with a sealed cone woofer for frequencies below 180Hz.

Not a bad idea, they do play very nicely in a corner, but have kind of a "classic speaker" sound to them, which may be just what the OP wants. :)



Thank you guys. Great suggestions. Regarding the corner requirements, I have the MLs at 1.5' from the side and 2' from the front walls. That's about the practical placement limits of the speakers. I tried pulling the speakers more forward - while still keeping the side wall limit, and felt the sound stage suffered greatly by putting the speakers too close to the listening position relative to the distance between them. I'll definitely follow up with the options folks recommended, including room treatment.

By the way someone asked about the type of music I listen to and its mostly jazz or American folk particularly female vocals. My current obsession is with Tidal and streaming through my Bluesound gadget.

Oh, I looked up Sjofn. Lots of reviews but didn't find anyone actually selling the Clue.

Oh, I'm not saying you should LISTEN to the speakers up close! :)

I just meant, you should know just how much detail is lost when your room acoustics are poor.


x2 with eric
The addition of room treatment and bass traps were gamer changers for me in every room i have ever had .I use gik, all mine are custom sizes. It's only like 20.00 bks for the change of equipment to custom size ....also i bet a dollar to a donut they will try to get some traps in that high ceiling .My ht room is high and I get big slap echo,alot of the companies can imprint a design of your choice on the panels which can help soothe the partner.
good luck.
Another idea, depending on your flooring, is to move your speakers out into the room just when you're listening to music. My speakers sit on a wood floor and I don't spike them. Instead, I use Symposium platforms under them. These platforms have a number of benefits, but they let you slide around your speakers quite easily without scratching the floor. Just a thought.

I’m going to experiment with some bass traps in the corners - cylinder, wedge, etc., but I think a 15’ equilateral triangle speaker placement and listening position is a challenge for most speakers, even not considering the very high ceiling. Rethinking the overall situation, I think I’m better off to leave the large family room set up as is, with some room acoustics improvements and focus on the living room where I now have the BP20s. That room is 13’x17’ with 8’ ceiling and much more suitable for music listening and allows for a lot of speaker options. A pair of medium size stand mount monitors will be perfect for that room, maybe a pair of used Aerial 5Ts. Thank you all again for all your input.

Anyone tried these guys for room treatment options?


There's a pair of Joseph Audio Prisms for sale here now in your price range that would be worth a look.  A lot of the Pulsar's performance for half the price. 
Had been looking at various dedicated listening room plans for 12 years, and ended up with a Cardas Audio design called a "tapered trapagon".  It is roughly 20' L x 14' 11" W (dead end) x 13' 6" W (live end), with the ceiling sloping from 8' 7" to 7' 8".  The side walls are non parallel.  Added very little acoustical treatment (thick carpet, etc.), but did end up with a 4' x 8' ceiling "vent" with light batting to allow for air flow.  It was rather easy to construct in an open heated basement with a 9' 6" ceiling.  As an added note, took the opportunity to upgrade to dedicated AC lines for the audio gear.
I agree with all of the room treatment advice (and there some decorator-friendly options from GIK, ATS, and others). However, even after applying appropriate treatment, a room with those dimensions is not going to have even bass response without digital room correction. Check out Mitch Barnett's book, Accurate Sound Reproduction Using DSP.
Kalali, a note regarding the Magie 1.7: I do have and in a closely sized room, but only 11' H. sloping to 8' at the walls, Trying to accommodate WAF, I found at only 2' from the rear wall, just didn't work. Moved them out to 3' - much better and at 42.5" toed very slightly in, WOW! It only took a few days and a little listening to convince the wife that them living a ways further out wasn't so bad. I did hang some acoustic drapes on the walls behind. With a little patience and work at toeing and slight changes in placement the rewards in detail, image and stage is amazing.
Good luck with your quest,
I've never tried a DIY solution, but the GIK Acoustic Soffit Traps are among the highest value bass traps you can buy.  They are unique in how deep they go for the space and money

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The Larsen 8 speakers were designed to work with your's and other room-challenged listening environments.  They work great and sound fabulous.  The only caveat to note vs. your requirements is that the Larsens were designed and work best with placement directly against the "rear" wall.  The result: a room full of clear, natural sound that many customers tell me is the closest reproduction they have heard to a natural, live acoustical performance.

See here: http://www.larsenhifi.com/en/larsen8.htm


*Disclaimer* I am a dealer for Larsen speakers