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Location, Location, Location – Where to sit to enjoy the best sound?

…in a movie theater?

THX and Dolby have invested a great deal of research in how to create a dramatic sonic effect to compliment the quality of today’s movies.Commercial theaters today vary in size tremendously – from under 20 feet to over 50 feet in width.

Applying that research to where you should sit for optimum sound in any size theater is actually fairly simple: one screen width back and in the center from side to side.If this is a comfortable viewing distance for you, come early and get the best seats.In this position the screen takes up much more of your visual field than in most home theater setups.

…in home theater?

This seating distance (always centered from side to side) changed as TV technology improved.With the resolution of NTSC (ca. 1940-2010) televisions, viewers had to sit at least 4-6 screen widths back not to see the individual color pixels.

With 3-tube projection TVs, you could sit closer because the color pixels overlapped.Home theater was truly launched with Henry Kloss’s Advent TV.

With today’s HD televisions, you only need to sit 2-3 screen widths back to have the pixels merge in your eye.So if you have a 48” (diagonal) HD screen, you only need sit about 96” back.The screen is taking up a lot more of your visual field.But you are still farther back than the ideal viewing distance of one screen width.

With 4K video, we get there!As the 4K manufacturers are explaining, the big advantage of sitting closer and filling your visual field with the picture is drawing you into the movie.Plus, you can now sit where the sound was optimized.Your home theater can now match the performance of the theater.

…in an audiophile music system?

Most speaker manufacturers and many audiophiles recommend sitting the same distance from the speakers as the speakers are placed apart.This forms the traditional equilateral triangle with 60 degree corners.

For many of the best speakers in the world, this is their sweet-spot and may be only inches wide.As one high-end dealer told me “Our customers are serious listeners and will not be up walking around vacuuming while listening.”I replied it might be nice to have two people listening at the same time while seated and not vacuuming.

…With Ohm Walsh speakers?

The most easily heard benefit of Ohm Walsh speaker technology is the very, very wide Sweet-Sweep® where all listeners can enjoy a precise wide, deep and tall stereo image. For the past thirty-four years, we have encouraged a square layout, with 90 degree corners.

The two Walshs are placed in the front two corners and the entire side between the other two corners is our Sweet-Sweep®. If the speakers are placed eight feet apart, the listening area is eight feet (not inches) wide, eight feet back from them.This now matches up with today’s 4K system – it took them a long time to catch up! ;)

Good Listening!

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John Strohbeen Author

John Strohbeen was the President and Chief Engineer of Ohm Acoustics from 1978-2023.

John Strohbeen

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