Stereo not sounding as great as you know it could? Hate to break it to you, but no matter what you do, you’ll probably feel that way forever, because what’s being an audiophile without a nagging, incurably torturous need for better sound that is doomed to never be satiated, ever? *ahem*… Well, thankfully, even though you may not have Jimmy Fallon’s listening room, we’ve got some simple tweaks for your existing listening space (yes, even if you live in a tiny apartment!) that just might make things sound a lot better for surprisingly little effort, time or money. Before you go to your local hi fi dealer and shell out a second mortgage on a new system, give these home stereo tips a try:
1. Pull them things away from the wall
You could have the most expensive speakers in the world, but if they’re set up improperly, they’ll sound horrible (and then you’ll spiral into a maddening pit of self-blame thinking you went out and sold your left kidney and/or rights to your first-born child for nothing. It’s okay. You’re with us now). Pulling your speakers out from the wall even just a foot can make a huge difference. If you rully wanna get fancy, you could use a program like Room EQ Wizard, but if you don’t feel like hauling out microphones and looking like you’re cracking a code in the Matrix, a little trial and error is a great start.
2. Get more fiber
No, not shredded wheat – textiles! Having soft materials in your listening room is essential to help absorb the sound rather than reflecting it (which then makes it bounce all around in the room and confuse your ears). If you have hardwood floors, putting down a plush area rug will be a great first step. You could also consider having some fleece blankets handy to drape over a TV if you have it between/behind your speakers. In general, the more pillows/sound-absorbing items, the better. You can get real fancy with the perfect mix of diffusion + absorption in all the strategic places later, but for now, just tame that echo. Sounds like it’s time for a trip to IKEA…if you can ever find your way out.
3. Work your angles
With hi-fi, it’s okay to be a little selfish. Angle your speakers slightly toward each other so that where you sit when you listen is making the third point of the triangle, directing all that delicious sound straight to your face (see image C below from focal.com). By angling, or toeing in, the speakers towards where you will be sitting, you will find better imaging. Alternatively, angling out the speakers will tame out of control treble. Another rule of thumb is to make sure the height of the tweeter is approximately the same height as your ears, otherwise, you will miss out on some of the highs (image D below).
4. Move your couch away from the wall
You might want to try pulling your couch away from the back wall of the room as well, depending on how you have your speakers angled and setup in the space. Improve your sound while giving yourself a whole new place to lose things all in one!
5. Check your cables
Using some stripped wires from RadioShack on that system of yours? No shame! But if you have the funds, you might want to consider looking into better speaker cables in the shortest length you can feasibly use. The shorter the length, the shorter the distance everything has to travel to get turned into sound, and the better it’ll sound to your ears. Makes sense, eh?
6. Ditch Spotify for Tidal and Roon
If your primary listening source is the free version of Spotify, you are in for a treat. The holy matrimony of lossless streaming service Tidal with super-clean, intuitive music player Roon is an audiophile’s dream come true. Seriously, we’re obsessed with it over here. Like, to the point of wondering if we should throw away our CDs (blasphemy!). So what if you’re primarily listening to Rihanna’s “Work” on repeat? Everyone else is – get that shit in true high fidelity!*
*unfortunately, high fidelity streaming of this track will not improve your ability to understand any of the words.
7. Stay grounded
If you’re a vinyl listener (as you should be! *ahem* Erm,… don’t let us tell you what to do…), you might be dealing with static buildup on your turntable. Investing in a static-diffusing brush and a grounding cable will take care of that for you. Alternatively, you can spray your White Album with Static Guard…
…KIDDING. omg please don’t do that.
8. Put Baby in a corner (or …something other than that…)
Aside from parallel reflective surfaces, the corners of your room are like seeing Donald Trump on the guest list for your Super Sweet 16 – the worst. They ensnare sound waves, muddy things up, they cause boomy pockets and generally shit on your listening experience, and they do it so sneakily you can’t even tell that’s where it’s all going down. You could go blow thousands of dollars on corner bass traps, but you could also just shove some stuff back there (the taller the better) – plants, pool noodles, your neglected pile of laundry, a rolled up ugly rug you meant to return to HomeGoods last year, your grandma… anything!
9. Simplify your output (more direct channel than running through multiple processors etc.)
Does your system look anything like this? You -> iPad -> Streaming service -> Apple TV – > PreAmp -> Amp -> DAC -> Speakers? It’s like playing a big game of telephone, but instead of giggling with your friends, you’re weeping alone wondering where everything in your life went wrong (only partially due to listening to Sufjan Stevens). Try to find the most direct path from source to your ears and eliminate the middlemen that can tamper with your sound quality.
10. Get New Stuff
It’s true… while these other tips can certainly help you, if you’ve got a Sony boom box to work with, it might be time for an upgrade. Lucky for youuuuu (ooh I feel a shameless plug coming, can you feel it??) we live for this at AudioFlea. Come, my child, and let us show you our ways (and wares). Browse the marketplace for some stuff and if you get stuck or want additional help, ask us! Seriously, we’d love to point you in the right direction. Preferably away from our competitors. 😉