How to improve the sound of bookshelf speakers

Written by david lipscomb Google
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How to improve the sound of bookshelf speakers
Improving the sound of bookshelf speakers is possible with proper placement. (golden speakers image by Nicemonkey from

Bookshelf speakers rely on a single midrange and tweeter to produce all of the signal they receive. As a result, in some situations, it's tricky to achieve that delicate balance between solid bass and clear midrange. With any type of speaker, proper placement is critical for optimal performance. In all cases, it is possible to improve the sound of a well-built and undamaged bookshelf speaker.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Polyester batting (optional)

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  1. 1

    Measure 18 inches from the front wall. Measure at least 24 inches from any adjacent corners. Place the bookshelf speakers at the meeting point of these two measurements, and perform a listening test for improvement.

  2. 2

    Measure the distance from the speakers to the main listening location. Measure the distance from the seating position to the speakers. Separate the speakers so that the distance between them is equal to the distance to the seating position.

  3. 3

    Wad a thick ball of polyester batting, and stuff it into the port in the bookshelf. Do this if corner placement is unavoidable. Stuffing the port effectively "seals" the cabinet, compensating for the increase in bass that occurs when placing speakers near boundaries. This is called reducing the "boundary effect."

  4. 4

    Move the bookshelf speaker front and centre to the actual bookshelf, should this be the installed location. If necessary, stuff the port with polyester batting in this scenario as well to help mitigate the boundaries surrounding the 3 sides of the speaker.

  5. 5

    Place small rubber feet on the 4 corners of each speaker to decouple the cabinet from the mounting surface. This is a solid practice regardless if the speakers are stand or shelf mounted, and most bookshelf speakers come with these feet packaged with the units.

Tips and warnings

  • If not shelf mounting, always use the highest quality stands that fit within budget. Doing everything possible to decouple the speaker from the mounting surface is a good practice, and the more solid the stand is, the less the vibrations from the speaker's cabinet interact with the floor.
  • Many (though not all) speakers benefit from a slight "toe-in" whereby the speakers are directly aimed at the listener. This sometimes improves imaging between the speakers.

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