If you are on the search for speakers for your home stereo system, make sure you take the size of your room into consideration. In this case size does matter. The goal is to get the best sound possible for your room and getting the wrong size speakers can prevent you from achieving this. Speakers that are too big may end up sounding distorted and to me the only thing that sounds worse than a distorted speaker are fingers on a chalk board and a pack of coyotes attacking a defenseless rabbit at two in the morning. You also don’t want speakers that are too small. You’ll definitely want to fill a room with sound and speakers that are too small could sound hollow and leave you wanting more. Let’s take a look at how to determine the right size speaker for your room.
Ratio of Speaker to Room Size
When it comes to speaker size, a distorted sound can happen when speakers are too tall with regard to its distance from the ceiling. In general the height of the speaker should not exceed more than 50% of the room height. It’s also important to consider the listening position in the room. You’ll want to find the spot where the sound reflections and the direct energy from the speaker are equal. Finding this spot is more difficult if the speakers are too tall. Also, important in preventing distortion is the distance of the speaker to a room surface boundary. Take care when positioning your speakers with regards not only to the ceiling and back wall but also the side walls.
Let’s talk about how sound reflects in the room and how it relates to speaker size. The first sound that hits our listening position is reflected by the floor and ceiling. The taller the speaker the more ceiling reflections are added to the sound mix causing reflection time delays. Speakers that are too close to the ceiling can also cause what is called a comb filtering effect where the sound reflects from the ceiling back to the speaker leading to sound distortions in that area. The floor to ceiling height is extremely important as the reflections from these surfaces are audible in your listening room.
Also important is room length but for a different reason. Room length is not a concern for reflections but is a concern for pressure when using tower speakers. Not to get too technical but a tower speaker can produce bass sounds in frequencies as low as 30hz which are 37ft. Long. To comfortably fit that energy in a room optimally the room would have to be about 40ft. Long. The main thing to remember is don’t buy speakers that produce bass frequencies that are too long for your room. Remember the smaller the room the more the low bass frequencies are and issue and the larger the room the more the reflections are the issue. Both of these need to be balanced to get the right size speaker.
The Correct Room Size
So what is the correct room size? Well there are none specifically but there are room size starting points. It all depends on the energy you are putting into the room. The recommendation I’ve seen is that if you are building a listening room a good size would be 17 x 10 x 23. This size will minimize both bass frequency issues and reflection issues. Would this be a good size for a home theater room? Actually not because when talking about a home theater you are dealing with more energy so the room size would have to increase.
Speakers for Very Close Proximity
It probably goes without saying that if your listening position is a very close distance to your speakers, the speakers are going to be small. In this case you’ll want desktop speakers. Desktop speakers are designed to deliver high quality sound at a very close distance. These will not work if you are trying to fill a larger room as they will sound hollow.
A small room is when the listening position is about 6-8 feet from the speaker and the ceiling is 8 feet. You will not need large floor speakers in a room this size. A large floor speaker will have too much power and will have to be listened to at a lower volume which can lead to sound distortion. Sound bars work best for this size room.
Medium Sized Rooms
A medium-sized room is one where the speakers will sit 10-12 feet away from the listener. You don’t want to go crazy in this size room because you will be tempted to go big. Go big or go home will not work in this situation and you will end up with a distorted sound. Also, the speakers themselves will take up too much room.
OK you have a large room and you want to have killer speakers. A large room is where the listener is more than 12 feet away. If your room is this large you will need drivers that are going to move a decent amount of air and you’ll need floor speakers with built in sub woofers or a standalone sub. To get a really good sound which is our goal, you can’t go cheap on large floor speakers. To get a high quality sound you’ll need high quality speakers.
I’ve seen opinions where the size of the room really isn’t that important when considering speakers but should you really risk it? If you really enjoy listening to music you’ll want to get the best speakers for your room. You will be tempted to get the largest and most expensive thinking this is the way to go to get the sound you need but doing that will lead to getting the wrong speakers for your room and not a very good sound. Don’t make the mistake of convincing yourself that your speakers sound good because of all the money you spent when they are the wrong size for your room. Have patience and take the time it takes to get the right size speakers for your room, your ears will thank you. Please leave a comment or question.