Using loudspeakers upside down?

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Using loudspeakers upside down?

Post by Mike Senior »

Hi all,

Just had an interesting question from one of my site patrons, and figured it was worth getting a bit of outside input on it: is there any reason not to use your monitor speakers upside down? The thinking here is that it's sometimes a means of putting the tweeter more at ear height.

Now, in principle, I can't really think of any reason why this would cause any problems in practice, but maybe I'm missing something. After all, if you had the tweeters at ear height with the speakers the normal way up, the woofer would be just as 'off-axis' as with the speakers the opposite way up.

One thought I had was that maybe the heatsinking wouldn't work correctly with the speaker the wrong way up, and maybe that might be a concern. But that wouldn't presumably affect passive speakers...

Anyway -- interested to hear your thoughts.

Mike S.
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Re: Using loudspeakers upside down?

Post by ef37a »

Hi Mike, hmm, the recieved wisdom is that we need to be on the tweeter axis for good stereo imaging? However, I get virtually nothing past 2kHz. Top string of violin is largely a mystery to me and the top octave of a piano is just a series of 'clunks'! However, I still enjoy good stereo placement from my Tannoy 5As and my living room Mission 775s. Then, maybe the lugs should really be on axis with the point between woofer and tweeter?

The point about heat sinking I think is nothing to worry about? There cannot be any active monitors around that get so hot that flipping them over would impreril them? Certainly in reading just about every speaker review since Feb 2005 I cannot recall anyone saying "this bugger runs hot tho'but!"

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Re: Using loudspeakers upside down?

Post by Mike Senior »

ef37a wrote:The point about heat sinking I think is nothing to worry about? There cannot be any active monitors around that get so hot that flipping them over would impreril them? Certainly in reading just about every speaker review since Feb 2005 I cannot recall anyone saying "this bugger runs hot tho'but!"


I just wondered because, for instance, the plastic-coated mains cable (which usually plugs in a the bottom of the speaker) might drape over the heatsink and risk melting?
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Re: Using loudspeakers upside down?

Post by blinddrew »

Mike Senior wrote:I just wondered because, for instance, the plastic-coated mains cable (which usually plugs in a the bottom of the speaker) might drape over the heatsink and risk melting?


I think that would be a crazy hot heatsink but I guess it could be a concern with the wrong make and model. Might be sortable with a right-angled power lead?
In terms of the listening side of things, there was a break out box in an article by Phil Ward a while back that was talking about the D'Appolito configuration but it also showed how the aural lobe of a standard two-way speaker spread. Looking at the diagram my immediate response was 'surely most speakers should be run upside down then?' but if the manufacturers have already factored that in then I guess you could run into time/phase issues?
I'll see if I can find the article.

EDIT my googlefu is failing me. :(
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Re: Using loudspeakers upside down?

Post by MarkOne »

I’d be willing to bet that unless you have some world class acoustics in the room and an unobstructed free space path with no pesky desk, mixer, outboard, keyboard stand, signed photo of a band you like, or studio cat present to create errant reflections, refractions, and whatnot, you won’t really hear a difference. Just get the tweeters around head height whichever way you can.
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Re: Using loudspeakers upside down?

Post by James Perrett »

I seem to remember that Mission made some upside down speakers in the 80's but that configuration never seemed to catch on.
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Re: Using loudspeakers upside down?

Post by ef37a »

James Perrett wrote:I seem to remember that Mission made some upside down speakers in the 80's but that configuration never seemed to catch on.


Aha! Yes, my 775s have two 8" woofers and the tweeter between them. That puts the tweeters at about my shoulder height seated but these are by no means 'midfield' speakers being 43" (119mm) floor standers!

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Re: Using loudspeakers upside down?

Post by Luke W »

My thinking is that the benefits of setting the tweeters at ear height would probably outweigh any potential downfalls.

I understand the effect that laying a speaker on its side has (which doesn't seem to stop a lot of people still), but to my mind being completely upside down will perform much the same as sitting the right way up. Although I'm interested to hear if there's something I'm missing.
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Re: Using loudspeakers upside down?

Post by RichardT »

I’m speculating here....

With the speakers upside down, and assuming the speakers are on some kind of desk, there is a possibility of reflections from the desk being different at high frequencies dependent on the orientation of the speakers - possibly worse upside down as the tweeter is closer to the desk.

But this might be nonsense!
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Re: Using loudspeakers upside down?

Post by blinddrew »

Phil Ward's diagram was not dissimilar to the one in the Lobe Tilting section here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudspeak ... _alignment

ef37a wrote:
James Perrett wrote:I seem to remember that Mission made some upside down speakers in the 80's but that configuration never seemed to catch on.


Aha! Yes, my 775s have two 8" woofers and the tweeter between them. That puts the tweeters at about my shoulder height seated but these are by no means 'midfield' speakers being 43" (119mm) floor standers!

Dave.


Technically the 775s are D'Appolito layout (MTM) whereas the 771 or 750LE style were Mid and Tweeter reversed. There are reasons for going either way but how the manufacturer has factored in the time alignment is relevant to how they're going to sound.
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Re: Using loudspeakers upside down?

Post by ef37a »

blinddrew wrote:Phil Ward's diagram was not dissimilar to the one in the Lobe Tilting section here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudspeak ... _alignment

ef37a wrote:
James Perrett wrote:I seem to remember that Mission made some upside down speakers in the 80's but that configuration never seemed to catch on.


Aha! Yes, my 775s have two 8" woofers and the tweeter between them. That puts the tweeters at about my shoulder height seated but these are by no means 'midfield' speakers being 43" (119mm) floor standers!

Dave.


Technically the 775s are D'Appolito layout (MTM) whereas the 771 or 750LE style were Mid and Tweeter reversed. There are reasons for going either way but how the manufacturer has factored in the time alignment is relevant to how they're going to sound.


Ooops! Should have said NEARfields.

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Re: Using loudspeakers upside down?

Post by Martin Walker »

RichardT wrote:I’m speculating here....

With the speakers upside down, and assuming the speakers are on some kind of desk, there is a possibility of reflections from the desk being different at high frequencies dependent on the orientation of the speakers - possibly worse upside down as the tweeter is closer to the desk.

But this might be nonsense!


Your reasoning is perfectly sound Richard, except that given that we want the tweeters at ear height, it's unlikely that they will end up too close to a desk surface (unless said desk height is up round your shoulders ;) )

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Re: Using loudspeakers upside down?

Post by Martin Walker »

Mike Senior wrote:Just had an interesting question from one of my site patrons, and figured it was worth getting a bit of outside input on it: is there any reason not to use your monitor speakers upside down? The thinking here is that it's sometimes a means of putting the tweeter more at ear height.


They might sound slightly different in a largely untreated room when upside down, because they will 'couple' into the room modes slightly differently. Some years back (two houses ago) an acoustician advised me to use my loudspeakers upside down for this reason, as it would result in a smoother response in the lower mid range.

Actually, now I remember, he not only suggested placing my loudspeakers 'upside down', but also with tweeters higher than ear height but angled down towards my ears for this flatter low mid response. I soon got used to them 'firing down from above'.

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Re: Using loudspeakers upside down?

Post by OneWorld »

I think it is to do with human anatomy, the bass is meant to hit you in the belly, so the cavernous part of the body can resonate when you pump up the bass, some bass is so powerful it might see the cranial cavity collapse in on itself so best left to higher less potent frequencies? Have you ever noticed a bass guitarist always hangs low, with his instrument that is, so he/she gets a belly boom.
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Re: Using loudspeakers upside down?

Post by Hugh Robjohns »

Mike Senior wrote:is there any reason not to use your monitor speakers upside down? The thinking here is that it's sometimes a means of putting the tweeter more at ear height.


In general, inverting a speaker is absolutely fine, and it is a convenient way of getting the tweeter nearer ear level if the stands are too high, etc.

There are no issues with vertical fin heat sinks, and if the heat sink was hot enough to melt cable insulation you've got much bigger problems than tweeter height!

Just as a side point, you could have cooling issues if you turn a speaker to landscape format, since the air couldn't run up the slots between the fins anymore.

The only other possible issue that affects some speakers and might preclude inversion is the main axis of vertical dispersion. Through the crossover region both drivers are working and so their two signals interfere causing stronger radiation at some angles than others. Sometimes the designer manipulates the phase relationship between tweeter and bass/mid to control that dominant listening axis. So, for example If the designer assumed the speakers would be used on low stands they might choose to beam the sound slightly upwards... and if you then inverted the speaker it would beam down... which might be a problem in some circumstances.

However, I've not found this to be relevant to any of the speakers I've inverted over the years!
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