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Does the positioning of 5.1 speakers make a huge difference?

Last response: in Components
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July 10, 2006 11:17:15 AM

I am considering buying a 5.1 speaker system for my PC mainly for gaming to be more specific. However, my room is too small and messy. I think I will have a hard time setting it up as perfectly as some technical drawings suggested. Furthermore, it will be difficult for me to erect some stands or wall mount to position the rear speakers. So I think in terms of the height of the speakers, they won't be equal, too.
If that's the case, will it hurt the performance a lot? or would it better if I use a 2.1 setup even I am using the system for gaming only?
July 10, 2006 12:20:15 PM

I think there is some flexibility in positioning if your requirements aren't too high. For gaming--you could probably get away with a little creative positioning, though if it comes to to point where rears aren't actually in the rear at all (aka line of speakers syndrome), then I wouldn't recommend getting a 5.1 setup at all.

For music, you wouldn't really, because PC speakers have tiny drivers so the "sweet spot" is very small--this is better known as driver beaming, as high frequencies are very directional, and a single full range driver can make the audio seem to come from a pinpoint source (and thus nondistinct unless it is ear-level). A seperate tweeter can help with the beaming issues by allowing the midrange to disperse more freely though a (usually) a seperate 3" driver. However, its still limited in its dispersion abilities unless you go into a larger 5+" drivers, which are in either powered monitors or passive speakers, as PC speakers are still designed for looks or size constraints.


If you don't have the space for 5.1 at all, its probably wiser investing in a better 2.1 setup. It's not very utilitiarian to buy a 5.1 setup and then line them up on your table, as that defeats the purpose, and the quality per satellite is lower than if you had spent that money on a 2.1 setup.
August 9, 2006 5:57:12 AM

this suggestion might sound like too much of a hassle, or maybe not even feasible for your particular rooms... ...but, it wouldnt involve anything more than furnature rearranging really... ...you could find an arrangement of furnature that will allow for the optimum amount of space and positioning to be had for your sound setup, because if theres not enough room to put the speakers where you want right now... there could be otherwise...
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August 9, 2006 6:50:19 AM

i just set up my room for surround

if you get creative you can always figure somehting out


try moving your bed so you can attack one speaker to a beadpost and mab put on in a bookshelf or somethin

they dont need to be perfect square but if it is an hour of moving it is worth it PLUS its always cool to see ur room different, it's refershing
August 9, 2006 7:14:12 AM

One of the best to set-up the sorround sound speakers is to arranged the speakers at ear level. And also calibrating each individual speakers to the right level would also improve the quality.
August 9, 2006 7:21:50 AM

Quote:
One of the best to set-up the sorround sound speakers is to arranged the speakers at ear level. And also calibrating each individual speakers to the right level would also improve the quality.


Right. Ear level, and even if the positioning is funky, at least point the drivers to your ears, because PC speaker drivers tend to have very bad horizontal dispersion, so the area that the sound is consistent is very small (sitting outside that area, with the drivers not pointed at your ears, you are going to get the transistor radio effect; it sounds like its in another room).
August 10, 2006 9:28:25 AM

Then get some 2.1 PC setup or a bookshelf+amp combo.
August 10, 2006 10:28:48 AM

Quote:
i just got a 2.1 system. what exactly is a bookshelf+amp combo?


Bookshelf's are "normal speakers", whereas PC speakers are a specialty product designed to fit into small areas, or to blend in with the look of PCs or LCD monitors (at the cost of sound quality).

Amplifiers power bookshelfs, as most of them are passive. The amplifiers on most PC speakers are located either in right channel (for 2.0 sets) or on the subwoofer (for ".1" sets). For passive speakers such as bookshelfs, they are a seperate component (generally, though there is a sub-group called "studio monitors" that have built-in amplifiers like PC speakers, but the speakers themselves are designed for waveform accuracy, not decor).

Example of bookshelf speakers



Amplifiers can be either stand alone amps, or a receiver, which is an amplifier, and also does digital processing like DTS/DD.

Example of a Receiver


Example of a stand-alone amplifier


With a "regular" speaker setup, you can mix and match parts to your content, upgrade or downgrade or do whatever you like with it to improve your product. Kind of like, building your own PC, vs buying a Dell or a Mac, either to save money, gain more performance, or both.
August 10, 2006 11:03:49 AM

I made my own wall mounts for my satelite speakers out of wire. That way I was able to twist them into position. They don't have to be perfect to tell when you are getting flanked in FEAR.
Goos luck
August 10, 2006 11:14:58 AM

Quote:
which of these speakers are better and offer the best value?

bookshelf speakers and amp
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?skuId=7705307&t...

or

creative i-trigue L3800 pc speakers
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1683...


Oh, the Insignias. Best Buy's House brand. There's quite a rage these days with them, on various enthusiast forums like audioholics, avforum, av123 forums, etc, etc. There's kit for an additional $45 that removes some of the cabinent resonance, levels the frequency response, and makes it the best thing under $200 (which is AV-123 X-LS territory, the current king of the hill at that price range.)

Even without the boost, those are "real speakers." They will definitely exhibit far less distortion than PC speakers. With 6.5" composite main drivers, you will not need a subwoofer, these things will probably reach 30hz in-room.

Not to mention, you see the recessed edges? It's primarily designed for horizontal dispersion, something a lot of loudspeaker designers miss these days (again, I'm talking about real loudspeakers, not PC speakers designed for looks). That means, you can walk around the room, and it will sound *consistent*. With PC speakers, you range of consistency is like 2-3 inches on either side of your satellites. And we're not even talking about accuracy of the speakers themselves in the prime listening arc.

This is like a Goliath vs David Spade contest.

A dedicated amp like the Sonic T-amp will cost you in the $50 range though (T-amp + the 2.5A AC adaptor). You could get a receiver for around $100 though, which will make future upgrades to 5.1 far easier, but it costs you more now, upfront.
August 10, 2006 11:46:30 AM

Quote:
i was thinking about pairing up the insignia bookshelf speakers with the insignia receiver

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?skuId=7016481&t...

but how would i be able to connect these together with my PC? would i need a special adapter or something?

i'm going to buy these at best buys so i can return them just in case they don't work out


Hmm...as long as you are okay that it's only 2.0...as you know, getting a receiver that can do digital movie processing (DD5.1/DTS) as well as amplifying 5-7 channels is a huge plus (of course, this also means you need to spend around $150-200+, but if you look at this in terms of future utility--if you do upgrade at some point, the $100 you spent on the 2.0 receiver is a liability at that point).

For connectivity: it depends on the sound card. If your soundcard has a digital out, just use that (and a digital coaxial or digital optical cable will connect directly to the receiver on one end and the sound card on the other).

If you have no digital outs, then you will need to get a $7 cable (3.5mm stereo mini to RCA 2m) or a $4 adaptor (either a male or female RCA to stereo mini adaptor, depending on whether you already have a stereo mini cable, or an RCA cable first). These are easily found at your friendly neighborhood Radioshack of course.

And that's about it.

The only other thing is speaker wire...which you can pick up at Best Buy...I suggest a 50 to 100 foot spool of 16-guage wire. You need to obviously take some scissors and cut away some lenghts of cable, then remove an inch or so of the plastic covering the copper wire (also with scissors, without cutting the wire as well; it sounds tricky but really its not), and stick the exposed copper into the posts on the bookshelf and amp end. (This is how the amp powers the bookshelfs, obviously). If you like to be able to remove and put back this speaker cable easily, you'll probably need to spend $10 on some banana plugs (which I did) and it basically turns it into a cable which plugs in and out of the amp and bookshelf posts with ease. All of this may sound intimidating and "hands on", but seriously, it takes less than 5mins.

P.S...I would avoid Sony or Yamaha if you do end up getting a 5.1+ receiver...those brands claim 100W/channel but its actually closer to 30.
August 10, 2006 12:17:09 PM

The speaker wire powers your amp, so how your computer/soundcard is connected to the amp makes no difference. Soundcard sends signal, amp powers it up, sends feed through copper cables to bookshelfs. Simple one-way diagram. You can spend more money obviously for pre-cut cables with banana plugs attached to them, maybe even get a deal on ebay or such, but its an additional cost, and with 50-100 foot spool of cable, its not like you can "really" screw up. If you are worried about doing it, ask a friend or a neighbor or family member to help you. If you really think its too much work cutting cables, then there is always PC speakers (the Dell/Mac crowd vs the built-it-yourself).

As for Creative's "proprietary digital out" (the one you get if you don't buy the break-out box versions which include optical and coaxial connections), I've heard at least, people complaining about problems with the voltage screwing up their amps. This is only unsubstantiated assertions of course, but it might be safer to get some RCA to stereo mini converters considering you don't have a true traditional format digital out.
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