The nicer the living room is decorated, the more often you see speakers in places where it becomes acoustically difficult. This is especially true for design speakers and smart multi-room components like those from market leader Sonos in promotional photos.
But is that realistic at all? Is it permissible to put loudspeakers on the shelf without a significant drop in playback quality? Can the shelf placement cause drone like the corner placement?
Shelf placement and bass response
The biggest influence is the placement on the bass range. If loudspeakers are placed close to a wall, the sound components radiated by the drivers are added to those reflected by the wall, at least in the lower bass range. Result: The bass becomes too loud and also tends to boom, depending on the room. With two walls, to the rear and to the side, this effect is amplified.
Thus, you have to reckon with increased drone and too fat bass in the corner. For shelf installation, only if the shelf is solidly built and the loudspeaker is also enclosed by a shelf wall at the side. A free-mounted shelf, on the other hand, often behaves no differently than an ordinary placement near the wall on a lowboard or table.
This is how I recognize boxes that may also be on the shelf
Loudspeaker systems that play optimally due to their bass tuning even under conditions of multiple bass amplification, i.e. on a shelf or in the corner of a room, unfortunately cannot be recognized as such from the outside. In the same way, this is not clear from the usual brochure data. Contrary to popular belief, size also plays only a very minor role here. Especially smaller speakers with a bass amplification that is not untypical for this type of construction often produce booming problems on the shelf. In contrast, larger shelf speakers with deep bass reflex tuning or closed cabinet principle tend to cause less trouble here.
A good indication of shelf suitability is a closed case principle. Or even the possibility of being able to acoustically adjust the bass response to a corner placement. Both are present in the Denon Home 150, for example. But other apps for system speakers also offer such functions, such as the KEF LS 50 Wireless II.
Loudspeaker systems whose bass cannot be regulated and which already produce a rich to fat low bass in a freestanding position are probably not the best candidates for the popular shelf placement.
Otherwise, only trial and error will help. Or have them try it out. Finally, every Stereo Guide test also tries out the performance of a speaker against the wall and describes the character of the low frequency sound.
Shelf placement and stereo playback
Not only on the low frequency, but also on the room reproduction the location of the speaker has a certain influence.
Onebox systems that work in mono or create virtual room imaging are limited in terms of room imaging anyway. Disadvantages that could arise from a shelf installation are therefore not so relevant here, insofar nothing speaks against it in most cases.
However, there are exceptions: This applies especially to soundbars, sound decks and onebox systems with a strong virtual tuning. These create an artificial impression of space for several tweeters, and use phase shifts and cancellations to do so.
However, these are precisely the ones that are optimized for completely free sound propagation and can produce completely uncontrolled reflection effects in the shelf installation. The best thing to do is to find out about the acoustic operation of the Onebox system beforehand. Knowledge about the positioning of the tweeters can also be useful. If these radiate partially to the side or upwards, sound reflections and negative effects not only on the image are to be feared. The naturalness of the sound image could also suffer. It’s best to use a system whose speakers only radiate at the front. Suitable are also those that work without virtual stereo (or on which it can be deactivated).
Stereo boxes on the shelf
If you position a pair of stereo speakers on the shelf, you should pay attention to other things. In order to achieve good room imaging, these should be placed as far apart as possible. Ideally, they should form an equilateral triangle with the listener or preferred listening position.
- Pull speakers forward at least to the edge of the shelf or let them protrude slightly in front of it.
- If there is a sound source such as a bass reflex tube or bass speaker at the rear, leave sufficient space on all sides!
- Angling the speakers to the listening position, if recommended by the manufacturer, can improve imaging and spaciousness