Setting Up Speakers for a Strong Center Image

To Doug Schneider,

I read your review on the Vienna Acoustics Mozart Grand SE with great intrigue, particularly where you wrote: "Nelson’s voice hung starkly in space, center stage, the instruments distinctly behind him, with extremely good separation."

I have always wondered how loudspeakers could be set up to achieve this phenomenon of a palpable vocal image hanging in space. In your experience as a reviewer, are there certain special rules to adhere to for this to happen?


There are no hard-and-fast rules that will work in every room, but most speakers can produce a very solid center image, providing that they're spaced far enough apart, but not too far apart, and then toed-in appropriately. I also find that keeping the speakers as far away from the side walls as possible also helps tremendously, providing the room is wide enough to allow that, and sitting fairly close to the speakers heightens the illusion. These are the things I consider when setting up speakers.

I have a very large room, so it's easy for me to keep the speakers a pretty good distance from the front and side walls, even if I space them quite far apart. But normally I don't try to space the speakers that widely. With the Mozart Grand SEs, I had them spaced about 8' apart and I listened from a distance of about 9' away from each speaker. I toed them in about 20 degrees, so the tweeters' direct output summed just behind my head. In my room, this produced a soundstage that was expansive, with the kind of solid center image that I described in the review.

Obviously, this setup won't work for every speaker in every room, but it should give you an idea of what I consider important in speaker setup to attain that kind of performance. . . . Doug Schneider