Speaker stand can help improve the sound of bookshelf speakers if they are well paired with the sound system by improving the acoustic properties and the soundstage in general. However, there are instances where adding the incorrect stands to bookshelf speakers can do more harm than good.
The main use of stands in any audio system is to provide isolation against vibrations from other components in your house and from your speakers to the floor or other components.
They also give you better flexibility during speaker placement and bring the speakers’ reference point at or close to ear-level.
To understand the main improvement that speaker stands can have on your audio system, we should look at two very important concepts; coupling and decoupling.
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Coupling and decoupling explained
As may already know by now, sound waves are essentially vibrations of particles through matter be it air, water, solid objects and so.
Vibrations from speaker cones can have wavelengths that range from as low as 1 micron for the high-frequency sound to several meters for the lower-end frequencies and bass effects.
From the speaker cones, these vibrations travel through the air to your ears, some are reflected from surfaces around your room, others may resonate with building materials and components, and others are converted to heat.
The way these vibrations behave after leaving your speaker drivers can both improve or degrade the sound quality.
For example, a certain amount of reverberation is required to bring music to life (not too much nor too little). On the other hand, you do not want the sound waves to resonate with the enclosures or other materials around your room that may degrade the quality.
You also do not want vibrations from other sources such as other speakers, dry cleaners, and so on to affect how you perceive the sound.
It is important to keep in mind that some of these vibrations can have the same wavelength and frequency as some of the audio frequencies you are listening to. This means that at some frequencies what you may be hearing is noise other than the intended sound.
Now to my main point, coupling and decoupling.
Coupling means to make as one or pairing two things. In the case of a speaker stand and the speaker, they both become part of each other and whatever happens to one affects the other. Meanwhile, decoupling is essentially separating two things so that they do not affect each other. This is why some stands may have viscoelastic materials similar to Blu-tack to add separation maybe between the stand and the speaker or between the stand and floor and essentially act as decouplers.
In most cases, it will be appropriate to decouple the speaker from the stand and the stand from the floor.
Doing this should prevent the speaker from resonating with the stand or the speaker from resonating with your room, especially if your room is made up of a wooden floor. This is will most of the sound energy is lost as heat other than causing vibrations.
Some stands may also have spikes at the base that are mainly used to couple the stand and speaker mass to the ground. These are mainly useful on dense concrete floors that do not resonate with the vibrations from the speakers.
Coupling speaker stands to wooden floors can be detrimental to your listening experience since most wood surfaces have a high resonance with the sound vibrations from the speakers.
Other stands may also be hollow with space where you can add dampening materials to convert sound energy to heat.
This is why you often see audio enthusiasts adding dry sand to their bookshelf speaker stands. Dry sand acts as a great decoupler since there are air pockets that kill the vibrations. Sand is also dense enough and adds mass to the stands to reduce resonance (Q) between the speakers and the stands while increasing stability.
How speaker stands can improve the listening experience
Speaker stands can have 3 main benefits to your audio system;
- Reduce or prevent vibrations from going to and from your speakers to other structures or components.
- Bring the reference point, usually the tweeter, at or close to ear-level.
- Give you better flexibility during speaker placement/positioning.
Vibrations are mainly reduced through decoupling which we have gone through briefly above.
Stands also bring the reference point (listening axis) which in most cases will be the tweeter at about ear-level. Some stands are also height-adjustable which can be used to adjust the height to preference.
And unlike placing your bookshelf speakers on a bookshelf or a table-top, you can place your speakers at any position such as moving them away from walls as you wish since you can easily move them.
All these benefits work in tandem to improve the sound quality by a noticeable level but may not always be the solution to an awful sounding system as there is so much that goes into creating a great soundstage from other audio components to your room’s acoustic properties.
Choosing the right stands for your bookshelf speakers
1. Consider your room’s building materials
The most important thing to do when selecting speaker stands for your system is to consider the materials used to build your audio room and the house in general.
For example, you do not want to pair speaker stands with spikes to speakers in a room with a wooden floor. You will want to have some form of decoupling between the stands and the floor to prevent resonance between the surface and the stands.
Concrete floors also vibrate and anyone that tells you otherwise would be lying to you. It would also be great to have some form of decoupling, especially if your sound system is on a higher floor. This will also prevent bass vibrations from traveling and affecting other rooms.
The building materials will also affect the type of stands that you choose depending on the materials that the stands are made of.
2. Choose stands with the right height
This should not be much of an issue if you plan on buying adjustable stands that you can tweak to your liking.
However, when it comes to fixed stands, you will need the stands to bring the speakers’ listening axis to or as close as possible to the ear-level.
In this case, you should first measure the distance from the floor to your ear-level which in most cases is usually 36, 37, or 38 inches.
The next thing you need to do is find your speakers’ reference point by contacting the manufacturer. This is usually at the level of tweeter but this is not always the case.
After finding out your speakers’ reference point, measure the distance between that point and the bottom of the speakers. This can be 10 inches, for example.
From this, you can now deduct to find out which stand height will be right for you. All you need to do is take the ear-level distance minus the distance between the speakers’ listening and their bases. This can be 38 – 10 to give you about 28 inches.
3. Get stands with the right weight specifications
The next thing you want to ensure is that the stands can handle your speakers’ weight for maximum stability.
You can easily find how much your speakers weigh by looking at the manual or searching for the specifications online.
The stands you choose should not have a weight limit that is lower than what your speakers weigh.
Ideally, it would be great to get stands that allow you to add a damping material if you want to purchase metallic stands. This should not be much of a problem with wooden stands.
This is something that is often not talked about by buyers’ guides when it comes to speaker stands.
Speaker stands can get expensive depending on the materials they are made of and the features that they endow.
I have always been an advocate of living within your means and in this case, it means staying within your budget. From here, you can weigh the benefits of such an investment and determine if it is right for you keeping in mind other factors such as the ones above.
If you do not find a worthy investment you can look for alternatives.
Remember, I mentioned that the most important benefit of speaker stands is to prevent the resonance of bookshelf speakers with other structures/components and vice versa.
This means that with proper considerations, you can find great DIY options such as using blocks of bricks that you get from a building store and add decouplers between the bricks and the speakers or build your stands using wood, PVC, and so on if you have the skills.
Alternatively, you could still place the speakers on a table-top, a bookshelf, or any other raised surface and add a decoupling platform (separation) between the speakers and the surface to reduce resonance.
With all that said, you can get great speaker stands for the right price with all factors considered, if not try DIY options. You do not have to splash money on speaker stands if you are not much of an audio-nut or if you do not consider them a worthy investment.