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Peer-review: a new "reference" 2.2 speaker setup

SDX-LV

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Hello,

A few weeks ago I got exciting news - we are getting a new house! (yes it is just like getting one more kid, in many ways)
So what does an engineer-audioholic does in such case? Well, gets down to literature, measurements and guidelines to quickly design in a "perfect" listening space before anyone else dares to put any other furniture or room layout in the way of ACOUSTICS! Seriously, my wife was well prepared, so I am doing this.
Now I may know a thing or two about speakers and read some pieces by @Floyd Toole, Harman, Neumann, Genelec, etc. But I may be blind to some issues, overcautious or just stupid in my speaker layout.

So, if you can find flaws and improvement suggestions for my speaker layout, I would be very grateful (sorry, I will not pay you). Perhaps studying this case will give ideas to more people who have similar needs. Note, It will take many months until I will actually install this, because speakers are not the first priority in a new house, but I need to "package-protect" my listening space from the beginning. This will likely be the best listening space that I will ever have.
Maybe someone even has access to acoustics simulation software? I have all the input data, just no software or know-how :)

Here are the main plans + I attach the actual CAD file for the small, FREE SolveSpace 2.3 program.
KH120 with 2 subs - SolveSpace2 plan - Distances to walls_cr.png

KH120 with 2 subs - SolveSpace2 plan - Top view_cr.png

KH120 with 2 subs - SolveSpace2 plan - Angles and Listening position_cr.png

KH120 with 2 subs - SolveSpace2 plan - Side view_cr.png


Background:
As you can see this is the main living-room in the house with a lot of openings for a total volume on the 1st floor of 230 m3, + there are stairs to the little corridor on the 2nd floor (extra ~35 m3 cubic meters). I already have an ok 5.1 setup in my "other apartment" so to make this space more livable and spend more budget on quality over channel count I will be content with 2-channels + subwoofers. I can place subwoofers in 3 corners, including under the stairs (there even a big one could hide), but in lower right corner there is an oven, so no speakers or subwoofers there.

The main concept:
Top-quality, white, powered monitors mounted under the ceiling so that they are not "in-the-way" and also positioned far away from walls to avoid destructive interference. Because the monitors are not big (cost & size reasons), they will be crossed over at 120Hz. To help with high 120Hz handover to subs, dual subwoofers are placed in the same corners. As I can not escape the ceiling, the plan is to mount monitors with tweeter down (good idea?) and keep the speakers as closse to ceiling as possible. In practice acoustical axis may be as far as 25cm + a few more due to tilting of the speakers down. As it looks, when standing up (180cm height) speaker tilt is only ~10deg. When sitting down (100cm height) speaker tilt down is ~24deg. A TV is not in focus and will get a simpler secondary speaker setup (Adam T5V?) and will be rollable into correct position if there is a plan to use it with the main 2.2 system.

Equipment choices:
I would like to be able to run at reference movie volumes (THX) in the listening position (not 2 rows back), but everything must have civilized, even child friendly look. So the plan so far is:
  • miniDSP SHD - with 4 XLR outs it allows to do integration of 2 subs by any means necessary, PEQ & even trying out Dirac Live (if it helps).
  • Neumann KH120 A in white (with 120Hz crossover) and according to Neumann these should be good up to 104 dB(C) SPL at 2.3m distance. These speakers are legendary in terms of you can get ALL the possible measurements, information and quality guarantees that you can imagine about these, except for a one thing - no review of just this model from amirm (which I seriously don't need for these speakers).
  • XTZ Cinema SUB 1X12 - 2 pieces. A pair of these is THX Ultra certified (which to my knowledge is a very strict performance standard), not too massive, quite affordable and acceptable in the looks department. Perhaps too weak?
  • XLR analog connections through-out.
  • Genelec Z8000-436W white ceiling mount - because it is white, 25cm long and fits KH120.

Concerns, Unknowns:
  1. Will the two 12" subwoofers work in the room of this size? I need them to perform at the distance of about 4 m (13 feet), but the volume is very big.
  2. Is 120Hz crossover too high even if the subs are in the same direction as the speakers? I assume subs will run in Mono.
  3. Any issues with speakers placed near the ceiling?
  4. Should the tweeter be as low as possible (current design) or should the speaker (and the tweeter in it) be as close to the ceiling as possible?
  5. Would adding a 3rd subwoofer under the stairs be of any use? (massive extra cost and complexity for an unknown benefit)
  6. Would placing some minimal acoustical treatments help? (only if they do not make the room look weird)
  7. perhaps I should not worry about wall reflections and just mount the speakers right "under" the arch or simply on the walls (then the height can be more conventional)?

Updates:
none so far.
 

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  • KH120 with 2 subs - SolveSpace2 plan.zip
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Last edited:
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SDX-LV

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There is some controversy about 2 corner subwoofers. ref. Earl Geddes and others.
Yes I guess that 4 subwoofers is the recommended approach.
For example these articles: https://www.audioholics.com/room-ac...i-sub-sfm/the-birth-of-sound-field-management (by Dr. Floyd Toole)
https://www.jblsynthesis.com/about/acoustics.html (by Amir amirm)
https://www.andyc.diy-audio-engineering.org/mso/html/ (the free DIY alternative?)

The reasons I so far planned just 2 subs in these corners:
  • due to small monitor speakers I need quite high crossover frequency and therefore subs may play localizeable frequencies.
  • As my room is not Really rectangular and the house is made of wood, I am hoping other connected rooms will work as bass traps and smooth things out. If I could simulate this, I would know better, but so far just hoping.
  • there is almost no high quality sources with good DACs, PEQ and support for more than 2 subs in my price range. I would need to add extra miniDSP unit into the signal chain, which would add to the mess, noise and cost.
  • more subs more cost.
  • more subs less civilized look and worse WAF.
So I could eventually add a 3rd sub (for at least 1000 USD extra), but I would like to know it is necessary before throwing money at it.
 

andreasmaaan

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Yes I guess that 4 subwoofers is the recommended approach.

Two subwoofers has almost the same potential for handling room modes as effectively as four, but corner placement is generally not going to be optimal for two subs.

Having said that, the room you have there is so open that I don't think for room-acoustic purposes you could even really call your intended sub locations "corners" :)

My bigger concern looking at your current plans is the distance between the speakers and the ceiling. You will be getting a very early reflection off the ceiling which will be so close in level and time to the direct sound that the strong interference it causes will likely have an obvious negative effect on sound quality.

My suggestion would be to bring the speakers down so that there is at least a metre of clearance between them and the ceiling, and/or to treat the ceiling with thick, broadband absorbers at the point of reflection.

The other concern that jumps out to me is that on the left-hand side it is almost completely open, while on the right-hand side you have a reflective wall. This will tend to upset your stereo image. If possible, I would also place heavy absorption at the first reflection point on the right-hand side.

Those are my 2c..

I do think the room has good potential though!
 
Last edited:

samysound

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Hello,

A few weeks ago I got exciting news - we are getting a new house! (yes it is just like getting one more kid, in many ways)
So what does an engineer-audioholic does in such case? Well, gets down to literature, measurements and guidelines to quickly design in a "perfect" listening space before anyone else dares to put any other furniture or room layout in the way of ACOUSTICS! Seriously, my wife was well prepared, so I am doing this.
Now I may know a thing or two about speakers and read some pieces by @Floyd Toole, Harman, Neumann, Genelec, etc. But I may be blind to some issues, overcautious or just stupid in my speaker layout.

So, if you can find flaws and improvement suggestions for my speaker layout, I would be very grateful (sorry, I will not pay you). Perhaps studying this case will give ideas to more people who have similar needs. Note, It will take many months until I will actually install this, because speakers are not the first priority in a new house, but I need to "package-protect" my listening space from the beginning. This will likely be the best listening space that I will ever have.
Maybe someone even has access to acoustics simulation software? I have all the input data, just no software or know-how :)

Here are the main plans + I attach the actual CAD file for the small, FREE SolveSpace 2.3 program.
View attachment 98092
View attachment 98093
View attachment 98094
View attachment 98095

Background:
As you can see this is the main living-room in the house with a lot of openings for a total volume on the 1st floor of 230 m3, + there are stairs to the little corridor on the 2nd floor (extra ~35 m3 cubic meters). I already have an ok 5.1 setup in my "other apartment" so to make this space more livable and spend more budget on quality over channel count I will be content with 2-channels + subwoofers. I can place subwoofers in 3 corners, including under the stairs (there even a big one could hide), but in lower right corner there is an oven, so no speakers or subwoofers there.

The main concept:
Top-quality, white, powered monitors mounted under the ceiling so that they are not "in-the-way" and also positioned far away from walls to avoid destructive interference. Because the monitors are not big (cost & size reasons), they will be crossed over at 120Hz. To help with high 120Hz handover to subs, dual subwoofers are placed in the same corners. As I can not escape the ceiling, the plan is to mount monitors with tweeter down (good idea?) and keep the speakers as closse to ceiling as possible. In practice acoustical axis may be as far as 25cm + a few more due to tilting of the speakers down. As it looks, when standing up (180cm height) speaker tilt is only ~10deg. When sitting down (100cm height) speaker tilt down is ~24deg. A TV is not in focus and will get a simpler secondary speaker setup (Adam T5V?) and will be rollable into correct position if there is a plan to use it with the main 2.2 system.

Equipment choices:
I would like to be able to run at reference movie volumes (THX) in the listening position (not 2 rows back), but everything must have civilized, even child friendly look. So the plan so far is:
  • miniDSP SHD - with 4 XLR outs it allows to do integration of 2 subs by any means necessary, PEQ & even trying out Dirac Live (if it helps).
  • Neumann KH120 A in white (with 120Hz crossover) and according to Neumann these should be good up to 104 dB(C) SPL at 2.3m distance. These speakers are legendary in terms of you can get ALL the possible measurements, information and quality guarantees that you can imagine about these, except for a one thing - no review of just this model from amirm (which I seriously don't need for these speakers).
  • XTZ Cinema SUB 1X12 - 2 pieces. A pair of these is THX Ultra certified (which to my knowledge is a very strict performance standard), not too massive, quite affordable and acceptable in the looks department. Perhaps too weak?
  • XLR analog connections through-out.
  • Genelec Z8000-436W white ceiling mount - because it is white, 25cm long and fits KH120.

Concerns, Unknowns:
  1. Will the two 12" subwoofers work in the room of this size? I need them to perform at the distance of about 4 m (13 feet), but the volume is very big.
  2. Is 120Hz crossover too high even if the subs are in the same direction as the speakers? I assume subs will run in Mono.
  3. Any issues with speakers placed near the ceiling?
  4. Should the tweeter be as low as possible (current design) or should the speaker (and the tweeter in it) be as close to the ceiling as possible?
  5. Would adding a 3rd subwoofer under the stairs be of any use? (massive extra cost and complexity for an unknown benefit)
  6. Would placing some minimal acoustical treatments help? (only if they do not make the room look weird)
  7. perhaps I should not worry about wall reflections and just mount the speakers right "under" the arch or simply on the walls (then the height can be more conventional)?

Updates:
none so far.
what about putting speakers on either side of the wall with the window instead? speakers could be wall mounted or placed on stands nearly flush to the wall
1607474731776.png
 
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SDX-LV

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Two subwoofers has almost the same potential for handling room modes as effectively as four, but corner placement is generally not going to be optimal for two subs.

Having said that, the room you have there is so open that I don't think for room-acoustic purposes you could even really call your intended sub locations "corners" :)

My bigger concern looking at your current plans is the distance between the speakers and the ceiling. You will be getting a very early reflection off the ceiling which will be so close in level and time to the direct sound that the strong interference it causes will likely have an obvious negative effect on sound quality.

My suggestion would be to bring the speakers down so that there is at least a metre of clearance between them and the ceiling, and/or to treat the ceiling with thick, broadband absorbers at the point of reflection.

The other concern that jumps out to me is that on the left-hand side it is almost completely open, while on the right-hand side you have a reflective wall. This will tend to upset your stereo image. If possible, I would also place heavy absorption at the first reflection point on the right-hand side.

Those are my 2c..

I do think the room has good potential though!


Thanks! With subwoofers I am just guessing at this point and hoping the openings in the room will disturb the classic room modes of the closed rectangular rooms. If I could run acoustics simulations, that would give some clarity, otherwise I hope and then will measure what I got :)

Regarding "very early reflection off the ceiling" I wonder what would be an alternative? In the 3 alternative speaker positions that I considered I always have as big reflection against back wall and/or side walls. What is worse? :) Perhaps a symmetrical mirror image of the source right above the speaker is OK? I never saw any analysis of ceiling reflection impact for under-ceiling speakers (which are common in commercial installations, but not in studios). According to this Post, placing speakers against walls should not be a problem at all?

Regarding "thick, broadband absorbers" - that is something I would like if I can find something that looks nice. It seems that I would need to cover a few square-meters of the ceiling with this stuff, so it has to have excellent WAF on a white living-room ceiling :(

Regarding "left-hand side it is almost completely open", I agree. Again all alternative positions in the common rooms have the same issue, so I need to somehow deal with it. Perhaps equalization can do a trick, but otherwise I might need to follow example of Dr. Toole's entertainment room and install "heavy velour drapes" or something like than over windows on the right side.

My goal is to find any hidden mistakes and potential for improvement, so all suggestions are very welcome!
 

andreasmaaan

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Regarding "very early reflection off the ceiling" I wonder what would be an alternative? In the 3 alternative speaker positions that I considered I always have as big reflection against back wall and/or side walls. What is worse? :) Perhaps a symmetrical mirror image of the source right above the speaker is OK? I never saw any analysis of ceiling reflection impact for under-ceiling speakers (which are common in commercial installations, but not in studios). According to this Post, placing speakers against walls should not be a problem at all?

Toole there says "almost always not audible problems". IMO unfortunately this is one of those cases.

These cancellations that Toole's talking about don't tend to be an audible issue if the delayed sound arrives significantly later than the direct sound, for example where the wall is some distance away or (even more so) where it is a 2nd-order+ reflection.

The one case where cancellations caused by very early reflections is at least arguably not a problem is when the reflection is a floor bounce (the theory being that our brains are subconsciously so accustomed to this reflection that we automatically tune it out. I find the argument somewhat persuasive personally, but there is no comprehensive research on the topic I'm aware of).

The ceiling reflection in your room, unfortunately though, is neither a floor bounce nor a late-arriving reflection. It is a very early arriving reflection that is coming from an angle that we are not accustomed to hearing very early reflections from. It will likely be very audible if not dealt with, IMHO.

I see your point that sometimes commercial installations are done this way. However, I'd never advise it where sound quality is a major objective.
 
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SDX-LV

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what about putting speakers on either side of the wall with the window instead? speakers could be wall mounted or placed on stands nearly flush to the wall
View attachment 98125

Yes, this was my original intention which is ideal for use with a TV & even allows for a surround setup (TV can be rolled-into the center from the subwoofer corner when in use). I am not excluding this option, but the main arguments against it are:
  • Speakers would be placed against the wall instead of more free-field placement in the current proposal (assuming wall is "bad for sound").
  • the view out of the right side window is 2% as good as in the other direction. The right side can only have a TV as an attraction.
  • When people are in the living-room, they are likely to sit very close to the right-hand speaker (this really depends where people are in the house).
Do you see any acoustical benefits in this right-wall placement compared to the current proposal?
 

samysound

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Yes, this was my original intention which is ideal for use with a TV & even allows for a surround setup (TV can be rolled-into the center from the subwoofer corner when in use). I am not excluding this option, but the main arguments against it are:
  • Speakers would be placed against the wall instead of more free-field placement in the current proposal (assuming wall is "bad for sound").
  • the view out of the right side window is 2% as good as in the other direction. The right side can only have a TV as an attraction.
  • When people are in the living-room, they are likely to sit very close to the right-hand speaker (this really depends where people are in the house).
Do you see any acoustical benefits in this right-wall placement compared to the current proposal?
Ive had good luck with near wall placement and dirac (minidsp shd) to level everything out in my setup. you could have speakers placed nearer to ear level and might be better off than with the near ceiling reflection problem described above
 
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SDX-LV

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Toole there says "almost always not audible problems". IMO unfortunately this is one of those cases.

These cancellations that Toole's talking about don't tend to be an audible issue if the delayed sound arrives significantly later than the direct sound, for example where the wall is some distance away or (even more so) where it is a 2nd-order+ reflection.

The one case where cancellations caused by very early reflections is at least arguably not a problem is when the reflection is a floor bounce (the theory being that our brains are subconsciously so accustomed to this reflection that we automatically tune it out. I find the argument somewhat persuasive personally, but there is no comprehensive research on the topic I'm aware of).

The ceiling reflection in your room, unfortunately though, is neither a floor bounce nor a late-arriving reflection. It is a very early arriving reflection that is coming from an angle that we are not accustomed to hearing very early reflections from. It will likely be very audible if not dealt with, IMHO.

I see your point that sometimes commercial installations are done this way. However, I'd never advise it where sound quality is a major objective.

I need to investigate this some more. So far my main guideline is from Neumann (even if Genelec has virtually the same guideline). Note that their guidelines for bass managed speakers also have to accept wall placement because this is the reality in most rooms. You can't just ban wall placement no matter what are the consequences. Nothing ceiling-specific here anyway.

Neumann Loudspeaker-Boundary Location guide.jpg
 

andreasmaaan

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I need to investigate this some more. So far my main guideline is from Neumann (even if Genelec has virtually the same guideline). Note that their guidelines for bass managed speakers also have to accept wall placement because this is the reality in most rooms. You can't just ban wall placement no matter what are the consequences. Nothing ceiling-specific here anyway.

View attachment 98261

This information is correct, however, the situation is somewhat different for reflections from the wall behind the speakers. This is because the speaker itself does not radiate mid and high frequencies to the rear. So by placing the speaker close to the wall behind it, you can keep it to a short enough distance that the primary cancellation occurs high enough in frequency that the speaker is radiating little energy.

The ceiling reflection you would be dealing with is very different, though. The speaker will be radiating significant mid and high frequencies in the direction of the ceiling.

Not meaning to bash you over the head with this BTW :) Hope it comes across as just some friendly advice...
 
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SDX-LV

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This information is correct, however, the situation is somewhat different for reflections from the wall behind the speakers. This is because the speaker itself does not radiate mid and high frequencies to the rear. So by placing the speaker close to the wall behind it, you can keep it to a short enough distance that the primary cancellation occurs high enough in frequency that the speaker is radiating little energy.

The ceiling reflection you would be dealing with is very different, though. The speaker will be radiating significant mid and high frequencies in the direction of the ceiling.

Not meaning to bash you over the head with this BTW :) Hope it comes across as just some friendly advice...

All useful feedback is very welcome :) No need to be polite.

OK so here is a rough "Plan B" where I could put speakers on any height but bringing them closer together is tricky, as they start to get seriously in the way. The WAF factor is already dangerously low :) I could probably pack some serious fiberglass absorbers on the surfaces in the arch if they would be needed (I assume not needed due to extreme reflection angles).

KH120 with 2 subs - SolveSpace2 plan B - Distances to walls_cr.png

KH120 with 2 subs - SolveSpace2 plan B - Side view_cr.png

KH120 with 2 subs - SolveSpace2 plan B- Top view_cr.png

The result is:
  • height & pitch angles are more conventional - 0.68 m to the ceiling and 1.54 m to the ground
  • no rear wall reflection
  • width is a bit wide - listening distance a bit long or speaker angle over 60 deg.
  • Side walls and ceiling are within the Red distance zone - about 0.7 m both to the ceiling and side walls. Is this good?
  • For the purposes of first reflections, there are symmetrical sidewalls (until the walls are filled up with nice cupbords and other furniture even closer to the speakers)
So are there issues in the plan B? :)
 

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I recently went through a remodel, and had a much easier, almost fully enclosed media room, so no comments on your difficult layout.

I can offer a recommendation on pre-wiring. Speaker wire, in-wall is easy, and I did that for 11 speakers and RCA for 4 subs. I did not account for the possibility of XLR connections for subs, nor enough power outlets if I wanted to go active/powered. If you aren’t sure of the exact speakers, try to cover future configurations with pre-wiring in a few locations and with a good amount of wire types.
 
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SDX-LV

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I recently went through a remodel, and had a much easier, almost fully enclosed media room, so no comments on your difficult layout.

I can offer a recommendation on pre-wiring. Speaker wire, in-wall is easy, and I did that for 11 speakers and RCA for 4 subs. I did not account for the possibility of XLR connections for subs, nor enough power outlets if I wanted to go active/powered. If you aren’t sure of the exact speakers, try to cover future configurations with pre-wiring in a few locations and with a good amount of wire types.
Yes pre-wiring would be absolutely worth it. Unfortunately it is not an option here and I will have to deal with cable channels on the surface. The only option to hide them flush would be to cut in grooves into the wall surface.
 
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SDX-LV

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OK so here is a rough "Plan B" where I could put speakers on any height but bringing them closer together is tricky, as they start to get seriously in the way. The WAF factor is already dangerously low :) I could probably pack some serious fiberglass absorbers on the surfaces in the arch if they would be needed (I assume not needed due to extreme reflection angles).
View attachment 98402
View attachment 98403
View attachment 98404

As I can't edit the 1st post, I will summarize that the "Plan B" now extends and supersedes the 1st post.

Equipment choices:
I would like to be able to run at reference movie volumes (THX) in the listening position (not 2 rows back), but everything must have civilized, even child friendly look. So the plan so far is:
  • miniDSP SHD - no change.
  • Neumann KH120 A (crossed over at 120Hz) - no change.
  • XTZ Cinema SUB 1X12 - 2 pieces. - no change.
  • Some VESA wall-mounted arm mount - because it would allow to mount KH120 in the "arch" at any height and sufficiently far away from walls to fit about 10cm thick sound absorbers (if needed?).
The result:
  • height & pitch angles can be more conventional - 0.68 m to the ceiling and 1.54 m to the ground
  • Almost no rear wall reflection.
  • width is a bit wide - listening distance a bit long or speaker angle over 60 deg.
  • Side walls and ceiling are within the Red distance zone - about 0.7 m both to the ceiling and side walls. Is this good?
  • For the purposes of first reflections, there are symmetrical sidewalls (I plan to leave these plain and reflective, but could potentially install 10cm sound absorbers in these places if that is useful)
KH120 with 2 subs - SolveSpace2 plan B - Side view_cr.png

If you can find flaws and improvement suggestions for my speaker layout, I would be very grateful:)
 

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waynel

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As I can't edit the 1st post, I will summarize that the "Plan B" now extends and supersedes the 1st post.

Equipment choices:
I would like to be able to run at reference movie volumes (THX) in the listening position (not 2 rows back), but everything must have civilized, even child friendly look. So the plan so far is:
  • miniDSP SHD - no change.
  • Neumann KH120 A (crossed over at 120Hz) - no change.
  • XTZ Cinema SUB 1X12 - 2 pieces. - no change.
  • Some VESA wall-mounted arm mount - because it would allow to mount KH120 in the "arch" at any height and sufficiently far away from walls to fit about 10cm thick sound absorbers (if needed?).
The result:
  • height & pitch angles can be more conventional - 0.68 m to the ceiling and 1.54 m to the ground
  • Almost no rear wall reflection.
  • width is a bit wide - listening distance a bit long or speaker angle over 60 deg.
  • Side walls and ceiling are within the Red distance zone - about 0.7 m both to the ceiling and side walls. Is this good?
  • For the purposes of first reflections, there are symmetrical sidewalls (I plan to leave these plain and reflective, but could potentially install 10cm sound absorbers in these places if that is useful)
View attachment 99316
If you can find flaws and improvement suggestions for my speaker layout, I would be very grateful:)
I think your speakers are too high. Why not place them on desk stands on top of the subs? Alternatively put them on stands just inside the arch. The way you are showing them now people are going to smack their heads into the speakers when walking through the arch.
 
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SDX-LV

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I think your speakers are too high. Why not place them on desk stands on top of the subs? Alternatively put them on stands just inside the arch. The way you are showing them now people are going to smack their heads into the speakers when walking through the arch.

I actually think this height should be nice. It is the height of a tall adult, so nothing too extreme and very suitable for parties, walking, standing or just projecting sound into the room over obstacles. Plus hearing sound from above may add to the drama :)

About "smacking heads" it is a valid point. The short answer is - I will have to test and I have 180 cm tall adjustable floor stands lying around for that. Plus with the planned VESA wall mounts, I will be able to swing the speakers out of the arch and into the corners of the "dining room" when not in use.

As for putting speakers into the corners, against walls, that is something people do out of necessity and as far as I know should be avoided or treated with serious sound absorbers (for example check "Designing a Home Theatre part 1"). No speaker in the world can fix severe flaws in room acoustics, such as poor placement of speakers. So I estimate that Plan B is better than corner placement for mid-high frequencies.
 
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