Jazz And Speaker Placement

Inspired by the purchase of a new pair of speaker stands (custom made for my LS50s, whatever good that does), I just went through a painful reevaluatIon of my system’s speaker placement. A lot of reading—particularly into the SBIR phenomenon, along with KEF’s own literature—and even more experimentation. Two guidelines: No rules and no big money on footers.

The last time I tried this, I wound up with the speakers on spikes, 4” from the speaker wall, with socks stuffed into the ports. (Some members of this forum may not have heard: I’ve done away with the terms “front” and “back” walls, along with the confusion and explanations that always accompany then, in favor of the terms speaker wall and listener wall. Please use these terms going forward.)

The first person to hear this setup asked, “Where’s the bass?” He was right. The sound had been tightened within an inch of it’s life. Bass and drums were staccato, with plenty of black space audible. But that’s not the way bass sounds, nor a kick drum. They are soft instruments, with lots of attack and decay. They are not “transients,” at least not in the way that I understand that word. (To me, “transient” has about the same descriptive power as ‘postmodern.”)

This was “audiophile bass,” to borrow Paul McGowan’s phrase, and it had to go. The socks had been long gone by the time the new stands arrived, now, following the advice of McGowan and our own MillerCarbon, I got rid of the spikes and replaced them with a dot of poster putty. Played around with the positioning but kept them in the SBIR-friendly spot close to the wall.

“Miss You” by The Rolling Stones was my reference bass sound during all of this. Great bass line and it now sounds glorious. But I’m still new enough at this game to question my own ears. So allow me to ask the jazz lovers on this forum a question:

Bill Evans’s famous stand at the Village Vanguard has been issued on two albums (probably more). The Paul Motian-heavy “Sunday At” and the more normal sounding “Waltz For Debbie.” In my new setup, I’m “Waltz,” Motian and LeFaro are as loud in the left channel as Evans does in the right. (I may have the channels reversed.) Is this how it’s supposed to sound? In the old days, Evans dominated. Now the famous interplay among this trio is more clear.

It sounds good but it’s definitely a change. Is this how it’s supposed to be?

Worried in Williamsburg.
NEARFIELD!! Seriously…compare and evaluate.

Also if you want to tweak your set up even further check out the YouTube audiophile, “New Record Day” he has a great tutorial on speaker set up. I messed with it and it really improved on what I thought was already great.
I have LS50's and placement challenges as well, and am a jazz fan familiar with the Vanguard album. Based on your post I played the first track and yes, I would say the sides are close to even level with with some edge given to Evans. I thought they were even at first, but then realized I had not shut off my subwoofer. With that off, edge to Evans, but still pronounced bass on the left channel.

I would say this about your configuration, if you are four inches from the wall, you should be using the full foam bass plugs supplied with the LS50's. With open ports that close the wall I expect you will get boomy bass, though I understand with the foam the overall bass is significantly decreased, it will be higher quality. Definitely don't use a sock, use the foam that came with them.

I built special stands for my LS50's to work around some fixed obstacles in my room and so I could get my speakers about 10" from the wall allowing me to use the half foam plugs. This greatly improved my bass response and clarity. I really wish I could get a couple feet and remove the plugs altogether. 

If you are jazz fan with LS50's I cannot recommend strongly enough that you invest in a good subwoofer. I started with a Polk and now have a REL 7i, it blends perfectly and adds so much to the sound.

While I am at it, and starting an entirely different conversation, even though the Vanguard recording is considered one of the great performances, what is up with splitting the piano to one channel and bass/drums to the other? Makes for a disappointing soundstage.
“Trust your ears.”

”If it sounds good to you that’s all that matters.”

I can hear it being shouted from the rooftops. I knew that was the answer before I made that post and, as I listen to this system sound more and more gorgeous than it ever has, my ability to do so is growing by the hour. But it takes confidence, and with so much information/opinions/bullshit being thrown at me, confidence can be elusive. 

But my confidence grows as I listen to the Evans trio and can hear, plain as day, clearer than I’ve ever heard it before, Bill Evans pushing the music one way, and Motian and LeFaro picking it up and pushing it even farther, then Evans . . .

The second track, one of the “Waltz For Debbie” takes, encapsulates perfectly everything I’m saying. Spikes have been ruined this song for me all these years. And it’s still happening in countless homes! I’ve got to warn them! I’ve got to save them!
Zlone, I spent years fearing boomy bass. I never actually heard any, but Stereophile warned me about it and if Stereophile said it was a problem then it must be. So I pulled the speakers out as far as I could. (Which wasn’t far.) Not much bass. (With no sub, I need all the room gain I can get.) But no one could accuse the bass I had of being boomy. 

Then I read about SBIR, which gave moving them close to the wall some theoretical underpinning. Then I learned that pro studios had their speakers built into the wall. I felt even more comfortable getting backing up the speakers as far as I could. 

I’m still poised like a puma to leap at the first hint of boomyness. But it just ain’t there. As I said earlier, bass is not meant to be a fast starting/stopping sound. Having heard many of them live, both acoustic and electric, I’m quite confident that I’m getting the right sound. No boomyness but no artificial tautness, either. 

Everyone and everything tells me that it should sound boomy. I’ve listened for it and I just don’t hear it. Maybe I just got lucky. Maybe my couch is tuned to the perfect resonance. Whatever it is, I’m safe from boom. And I will live in fear no longer!
I live in an apartment in NYC. My floor must be soundproofed because I can turn it up loud and the couple downstairs say that they don’t hear anything. But I think a sub would be a bridge too far. 
The advice you got from me was springs. Blue tack only came up because you were dead set against springs. The news here I guess is my advice is so good even my second and third tier recommendations work.
I mean it’s not just bass, my speakers placed on my desk closed to the walls sounded muddy due to the lower mids overtaking other frequencies. Now away from walls, on stands they sound great.

Williamsburg eh? I used to dance at Output, go to M Noodle Shop at 3 AM in the morning, grab some beef noodle soup with chili peppers and catch the G train home.
If it sounds as good as you say, then you have a good solution. In my situation it booms if I get too close. Glad you love your system.

I hear what you are saying about bass not being some simple transient. Proper bass at all volumes is of highest priority in my system. Getting that full rise and fall with the long tail of natural bass is critical. If all you hear is a thump, that ain't it.

I get the apartment thing, subs are probably not a good idea. Visited NYC in early 2020 right before COVID changed everything, caught shows at the Vanguard (w/Ron Carter!) and The Jazz Standard.
Nitewulf, I’m actually in Fort Greene, a few stops down the G train. But I had to stretch for the alliteration. 

The night you describe used to be so normal. Now it just doesn’t happen any more. I saw The Hold Steady at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg not too long before the pandemic got serious. That was also fun but normal. I didn’t know it would be the last live music I would see until . . . forever?

I was walking by Radio City the other day and it was sold out for a Gabriel Inglesias concert. (The third Inglesias to go big?) I’m not sure I would rush into a packed Radio City these days. I’m vaxxed and I would rank myself as low on the COVID fear scale. But I don’t know. It’s a big place, very spacious above, but that’s still a lot of people. 

Zlone, the Jazz Standard closed for good. I liked that place, liked the BBQ upstairs. Gone. 

The Vanguard says it will be reopening September 14. That place has bands like no other. But . .. I used to say that the most expensive activity on earth was going to a baseball game. A typical game: $75 for not very good seats, $12 for a hot dog, $18 for a beer. Of course, it’s a baseball game so you can’t not get them. Several rounds, in fact. It’s a vacation in the Caribbean. 

But the Village Vanguard might top the Mets. How much was Ron Carter? $50? And if you go to the early show the clock is ticking like a guillatine. 10 pm and you’re out. Like ballparks that charge separate admission fees for a double-header. I don’t think the beers are $18 but they’re no bargain.

But what I wouldn’t give to be getting ripped off by the Vanguard right now.
Yes, I heard the Jazz Standard closed, bummer. Good food and a good space. We actually went to see Emmet Cohen at the Vanguard, but the bonus was Ron Carter was playing bass with them. $35 a ticket, not bad. We would have gone to any show as the trip was planned before the tickets were bought. I really wanted to see a piano trio, so it was a happy surprise to see them on the bill. Yep, definitely no lounging around after the early show, move along folks. Still worth it.
Paul, I lived in Fort Greene actually at the time, and always took the G to either Greenpoint or WB on the weekends. I was by the Fulton Street stop. No 9, with the broccoli tacos are a perennial favorite.

At GP after a night of drinking and live music, I'd head to Taqueria la Nortena and order a spicy chicken soup, which can make a dead man walk.

And at WB or GP I'd just randomly pop in anywhere with live music, Polish bars with very hardcore metal, The Knitting Factory for indie, and Skinny Dennis for country music!

As for live jazz, I was at Mezzrow in June when things seemed for a second to be moving back to normal. I love Mezzrow because I can walk in anytime without standing in a huge line like Smalls (or the midtown spots). Anyway, it was a great show that night, like most nights - topped it off with Japanese single malts at a low key Japanese bar. But haven't been back since, cause Delta and things have gone downhill again. 

Not to mention the numerous shows at Central Park or Prospect Park Bandshell, and all the stuff at Lincoln Center.

Either way those days seem so far away now, and they weren't even that long ago.
Seems like another century.

Nitewulf, I should make clear that while I once had top-notch hipster credentials, I’m an old man. With kids. As soon as the kids come, your knowledge of NYC cool spots is magically erased. When you’re scanning a menu for chicken fingers, it feels like the battle is lost.

I’m impressed with your knowledge of jazz clubs. This past year has seen me listen to more and more jazz but obviously not seeing ant live.  I’d love to find a place with a good vibe and a good house band. If you know one, the first beer is on me. Except that you can’t exchange personal information here. I’m going 9 to make 1 a lame 7 attempt 4 that will 3 no doubt 4 be caught by 3 the audiogon 8 goons. But if 4 this does 5 get through, I’d love to see some jazz. Delta be damned.

Like you, I’ve stood in line at Smalls. Paid through the nose at the Vanguard. The Jazz Standard, not a bad place, is closed for good. So if you know the right place, I’d be thrilled.

I’ll even do better than a beer. Since you mention Japanese whiskey, do you know Karasu? Kind of a speakeasy-type place in that back of Walter’s on Dekalb Ave. Japanese food, not sushi, some other sort of traditional Japanese restaurant. Its hidden character was pretty much blown when it got revealed in the Times.

Dangerously, it’s directly across the street from my apartment. Walters is doing a roaring outside business (although, as a regular, losing some of its character in the process), but Karasu is still closed. Hopefully, it will open again soon, with the same list of serious Japanese whiskeys, whose prices quickly climb to dizzying heights You show me the jazz, I’ll show you the Yamazaki.

"If stereophile said it's a problem then it must be"...

See, that in itself is a problem. Too much credence given to the media. Not uncommon, however.

Ozzy, somehow you seem to have missed the sarcasm in that statement. Not an easy thing to do given that it was as subtle as a sledgehammer. 
when i had the LS50s it was very important to bass response to have solid stands.  i used skylan stands filled with cat litter.  make sure stands make rigid contact with floor, spiked or spiked on discs.  
make sure you use the isolation dots that KEF provides, i have tested them and they are tuned extremely well.  
the stands should be no more than 24 in high.  KEF specifies this for proper floor reinforcement and smooth voicing at the listening spot.  if the tweeters are ear level they will have an exaggerated treble response.  
finally avoid using the plugs and pull them out from the wall behind them at least 24 inches.  
they can sound impressive when setup correctly.  
Paul, I highly recommend Mezzrow, it’s basically across the street from Smalls, just not well known, hence not as crowded. I believe you can pretty much walk in snd pay $25 at the door for a good show. Check the calendar prior for set times. Basically you can go anytime.
If you wanna hang out in the FG area, I’m game but there’s no jazz club there currently I believe. Across BAM there was La Caye which I don’t know if it’s still there, they had hood live jazz. Karasu sounds great, may have to check that out.
Paul, just wanted to mention, BRIC jazzfest is this week from 21 to 23, at Fort Greene. It's at the BRIC cultural center. This is a good opportunity for you to catch up on some jazz. I may swing by Thursday (because of  Cecile McLorin Salvant) or Friday night.