What's the Best Speaker Setup and Placement for Two-Channel Music Listening?

High-end speakers will only get you so far — speaker setup and placement will have a major influence on your audio quality.

To reach the pristine sound that completely envelops the listener and highlights every nuance of an original recording, audiophiles tend to focus on the quality of their stereo system.

While high-end speakers and premium audio equipment are important components for capturing the best sound quality possible, they are not the end-all and be-all. An often-overlooked aspect to cultivating a better music listening experience is speaker setup and placement. Where you position your high-end speakers within the context of your listening space can make or break your two-channel system.

Start with your listening position

Before you start shuffling your speakers around your listening area and experimenting with different arrangements, first establish where you will be situated in relation to your setup. Generally speaking, you want to center your position within the room so you are equidistant from your primary speakers. With two-channel arrangements in particular, it's important that you maintain a balance between the speakers and give equal weight to each channel. Otherwise, you run the risk of one channel overwhelming the other, muddling sound quality and drowning out nuances in the recording.

When speakers are placed at an unequal distance from your listening spot, you may also hear a distinct comb filtering effect, making the mids and highs either duller or more piercing, depending on the circumstances. The result is somewhat reminiscent of the flanger guitar pedals used in songs like Heart's "Barracuda" or Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," although not nearly as pronounced. All the same, comb filtering often results in a subpar listening experience.

In a square room, establishing a central position should be relatively easy, but spaces with rectangular dimensions raise other concerns — specifically, which wall should you face? GIK Acoustics recommends facing the shorter wall, as you will experience higher peaks and deeper nulls when facing the longer wall, reducing audio clarity.

Follow the 'equilateral triangle' rule

Once you've found your ideal listening spot, you can turn your attention to speaker setup and placement. The best approach is to create an equilateral triangle between yourself and your speakers. The distance between not only your listening position and each speaker but the speakers themselves should be the same. This should place your speakers at a 30-degree angle, which is perfect for creating an immersive soundscape. Paired with high-end speakers like Definitive Technology high-performance bookshelf speakers, a finely tuned arrangement will recreate the sensation of being right there in the studio with your favorite artist.

Another important point to consider is how close your speakers are to the walls of your room. Speakers should never sit flush with the wall, because doing so will muffle the sound. Ideally, you want to move your speakers further inward (Lifewire suggests putting up to 3 feet of space in between the wall and your speakers). By doing so, you reduce the amount of sound reflecting off of surfaces in your room, resulting in better audio clarity.

Using the equilateral triangle as your baseline, you can do some tweaking if necessary. For instance, some people might prefer having the focal point of audio projection placed slightly behind them rather than directly at them. It all comes down to what sounds best to you.

However you finalize your two-channel stereo setup, the Definitive Technology Demand series of high-performance bookshelf speakers provide the precise imaging, full-range playback and room-filling sound to enhance your listening experience.