Wow, 10 years have gone by since I wrote about Master Set speaker positioning. In these 10 years I have had opportunity to do Master Set many times for various reasons and it’s given me a lot of valuable experience in positioning speakers in a room, especially in a non symmetrical room.
I have done a lot of reading around and there is certainly now more information on speaker set up than when I did my write up. I have found two You Tube videos that are quite helpful.
One is Dave Wilson’s 2016 video on the Wilson Audio setup procedure, which you can find here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOI8py0DAC8
The most important point to me is the Zone of Neutrality. The prescribed method actually works quite well for getting the minimum distance out from the wall behind the speaker for initial setup. I was actually quite surprised that I heard the voice change so easily.
The other video is Bob Robbins 2014 RMAF talk on his version of Master Set. The video is a little long, at just over one hour, but he does describe the Master Set steps well. Here is Bob Robbins talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84Pf0ycbyBM
I have now simplified my own version of Master Set, and it’s now down to just a few steps.INITIAL STARTS:
1. Long wall/short wall. Long wall is easier. Short wall is difficult because of possible sidewall reflection issues, depending on room dimensions. For DIY, long wall is far preferable.
2. Determine distance between speakers depending on flexibility afforded by the room. Wider is better, but not too wide. Try to have speakers evenly spaced from the acoustic center of the room.
3. Determine the minimum spacing out from wall by Wilson Audio Zone of Neutrality voicing. Place one speaker out into the room just short of that minimum distance. Place other speaker up against the wall facing 45 degrees out.BEGIN:
1. Set the speaker already out in the room with the usual Master set procedure using the Ballad of a Runaway Horse. Make sure the voice is strong in the one speaker. Do the best you can at finding the position for “Best and Smoothest Bass”. Mark the position with masking tape and leave speaker in place.
2. Bring the other speaker out into the room until the voice centers in the middle. Now slowly move this speaker out in small increments paying attention to the voice in the setup song. Keep moving the speaker until the voice gets real real strong. Note this place with some kind of mark. Keep moving the speaker out until the voice begins to fade a small amount. This should give you a small area within which the magic spot of best sound will be found.
Then back the speaker up in very small increments until you find the place with the strongest voice. Mark this position with masking tape.
This is now your start point for the fine tuning.
3. Fine Tunings
First fine tune is to adjust toe-in, if you need to do any. I always like to use a little toe-in as I set the speakers in steps 1 and 2. Once toe-in is settled, mark each speaker in place with masking tape. Note the distance out from the wall behind to a notable place on the front baffle, for reference purposes.
Second step here is to install the spikes, if removed when moving the speakers around. After installation of spikes and setting speaker at same place as masking tape, check the front baffle distance out from the wall to be sure it is same as earlier measurement. Check speakers for level.
Third fine tune is to do a sound check to be sure sound is the same as before installing the spikes. Adjust as necessary.
Fourth fine tune is to move a bit to the side of the adjusting speaker and note if sound stays in place or moves with you.
Sound staying in place is good. Sound moving with you is bad. A small little move of the voice is adjusted by moving the speaker in towards the wall a small amount, like 2-3mm or 1/8th inch. A large move of the voice requires going back to step 2 and finding strongest voice position all over again, but within the limits already found and marked.
Once you get the sound to stay in place with a small move of listening position, all is done.
Fifth fine tune is to adjust the rake angle, if you wish and have the means to do so.
4. Listen to music. Assess how you find the sound and the stereo image. If something does not seem quite right, just go back up to step 2 and repeat everything as many times as needed. You will know when it is right as you will no longer have the urge to change anything.
This is a real simplified version, but really contains all you need to know to do this yourself. Step 2 is the critical step and you may have to do this one a few times. Just keep listening to the song and finding cues to where the voice is strongest. This will come to you. The point of strongest voice is where the two speakers are most perfectly aligned to each other to give the perfect illusion of a single voice in the middle from the two sound sources. The voice should be strong and tight. The more you listen for this, the more it will become apparent to you.
Take breaks as you feel necessary. There is no rush or hurry. Some times you need to give things a short rest and then start in again.
6. How do you know when you have it Right?
Well, unless you have heard speakers set by Master Set method, and have heard what the end result can actually be…………. you don’t really know when you have it right other than the music sounds good.
Some cues to listen for are the contained in the fourth fine tune step. If you get that one then you are really close to right.
Talk and listen to your voice while music is playing at normal to above normal loudness level. The music should not cover up your voice. Your voice should be clear, as it became when you moved from the wall in finding the Zone of Neutrality step.
And there is always just the sense that everything just sounds right.