Placing a speaker near the back wall is usually a recipe for lousy sound. A lot of speakers that sound good in open spaces, sound downright boxy and murky near the back wall. Yet a lot of audiophiles have no option. She says, that’s where they have to go!
If you need to have your speakers near the back wall, it’s best to have them on stands as opposed to a shelf. If you need to put your speakers on shelves, that’s even more challenging, yet we have solutions.
Speakers that are highly resonant with thin walled cabinets sound boxy as they near the back wall. Speakers that DO WORK well with such placement have rigid cabinet design with massive driver magnets. Speakers that are built like the proverbial brick outhouse are more impervious to placement problems than flimsy speakers.
There are many small audiophile speakers. Among the most popular are dozens of versions of the old British LS3/5a design. This design works around a thin walled cabinet that is “tuned” to work with resonance as opposed to defeating it. These speakers sound their best on stands, well away from ALL walls. It’s nice that they CAN sound good. But the necessary placement is impractical. Nobody (OK, almost nobody) will buy this speaker and use it as it sounds best- on solid stands well into the room.
We sold several versions (Rogers/Spendor) of the 3/5a years ago. On stands, away from walls, with top end electronics, they performed admirably. If you took that same speaker and put it on a shelf or near the back wall, it sounded boxy and murky.
I recently took a pair of Harbeth 3/5a’s on trade. Same result. They’re lovely on stands out in the room. But I don’t know anybody who wants a small bookshelf speaker on a stand way out into the room. If you can do that, consider Maggies!
The vast majority of small audiophile speakers are made of plastic, or composite materials. They’re cute and come in all the colors of the rainbow. They typically use bright, full-range or coax drivers. It makes for a small speaker. Some are pretty clear. But none of these have real bass. And their characteristics change dramatically as they sit near the back wall or on a shelf. Endemic to their build are flimsy cabinets and magnets. The closer they get to boundaries, the worse they sound.
So what DOES work? Exhibit A is Bryston- Canadians who make speakers built like a tank. All Bryston speakers are voiced smooth, not bright, and have a 20 year warranty!
Bryston Mini A $1410pr
At just $1410pr you get a legit 3-way speaker, with generous bass. The cabinet is thick and heavy. The magnets on the drivers are substantial too. Mini A is an affordable shelf speaker that performs well on a shelf or stand near the back wall.
Bryston Mini T $3700pr
Mini T is a large “shelf” speaker. It’s a 50 pound gorilla. The cabinet construction is thick, internally braced, and has separate chambers for drive units. The magnet used on the 8” woofer is approximately double that of the well known brands that you see advertised in the audiophile rags!
All this control is imperative to making Bryston sound its best, even if near the back wall or on a shelf. But to achieve this, Bryston uses a lot of heavy and expensive materials. It’s built in Canada with a 20 year warranty.
The “other guys” are almost all built in China. The Chinese can certainly make nice speakers. But there is immense pressure on them to keep the weight down (!!) because they are shipping them to us. The reality of doing business makes them less desirable for this prescribed application.
Elac Debut Speakers
Elac has introduced its B5 and B6 shelf speakers. They are made in China to hit their shockingly low price points. But they are not scaled back light weights. In fact, the testosterone of these two models is game changing to the product-price category!
We’ve had plenty of sub $400pr shelf speakers over the years. Yet we’ve seen nothing to compare to the mass/value/sound of the Elacs. Nothing!
Using hearty cabinet construction with internal bracing, and the largest magnets that will barely fit into the box, Elac breaks new ground at the price points! They use silk dome tweeters and are smooth on top. The bass… you’ll have to hear for yourself. Because if I tell you, you won’t believe me.
5” Woofer, 1” Silk Dome Tweeter
6” Woofer, 1” Silk Dome Tweeter