Last week, I threw you guys a bit of a curve ball. What started ostensibly as a follow-up to the topic we began two weeks ago — how to maximize the stereo effect of your music playback system — took a turn into pro audio and ended with a discussion of tiers of quality in recordings and how money spent on those recordings plays into the excellence of the final result.
This may have felt like a complete change of topic to some, but really, we had to talk about the quality disparity in recordings before we could get into the actual placement and treatment of speakers, as it plays such a big role in the outcome of a listening system.
Remember, what we’re actually dealing with here are not original, spontaneous new sounds being created in your house. Recorded music is a facsimile — a mere representation of the original event. All we’re trying to do is give our systems a fighting chance to recreate it convincingly. And if the original event wasn’t captured well enough, no amount of fiddling or tweaking will make it better when you’re playing it back at home.
Before we get into living rooms and big systems, let’s take a look at desktop speakers and their potential for proper stereo.
In general, desktops have become cleaner and cleaner over the years. The genius of the original iMac was that it combined two bulky elements of a modern desk into one, saving all kinds of space in the meantime. Bluetooth keyboards and mice have eradicated the wire-crossed desks of yore.
So when it comes to putting speakers on the desktop, it’s only natural that most people push them to the back of the desk, so that the wires in their rears are less conspicuous. This may be good for the visual harmony of the desk, but it can really impede the speakers’ inherently tough task.
The first problem with a lot of desk real estate lying directly below and in front of the speakers is that up to half of the speakers’ radiated sound will be bounced off of the desk, and its waves will immediately interact with the direct sound that is going to your ears. The second problem is similar, where the physical dimensions of the desk will determine which exact wave length (or tone) will be exaggerated by the reflection.
That’s probably enough tech talk for today, so let’s get to the solution. Small desktop speaker stands will lift the speakers up off the big reflective surface, severing that “coupling” connection of speakers placed directly onto desks. They also can ever-so-slightly angle them back, which changes enough of the reflection angle to remove the effect.
After trying a few pairs of stands in my time, I have whittled them down to one brand that always works. Iso Acoustics makes a desktop stand you can find on Amazon that is so good, it’s a head-scratcher why it’s so cheap — besides, I guess, the fact that it’s made from just rubber and plastic.
Iso Acoustics small desk stands aren’t just for desks either. If you’ve got the music boxes on an entertainment center or in an actual bookshelf, they will make similar improvements to your overall sound.
Try it! They’re cheap. More next week.