Review: Sumiko Speaker Set Speaker

Category: Speakers

Wow, I just accomplished the single most impressive step forward in my system after 40+years of audiophilia. I had my speakers set using the system developed my Sumiko so that its dealers can optimize the set up of speakers they sell.

Those that remember me please forgive me for repeating my background, but on a forum like this there are always newbies that don’t really know the reviewers’ points of view, so let me give a little background as to my music and audiophile experience. I’m a financial consultant by trade, with over thirty-nine year’s experience, but I have over fifty-years experience as a “serious” musician. I’ve played trumpet since I was nine and jazz guitar since I was forty-two. I write equipment reviews (amps, guitars and speaker cabinets) for Just Jazz Guitar, play rhythm guitar in a big band and play trumpet regularly in churches, regional symphonies, brass bands (cornet of course) and even did a multi-year stint as lead trumpet in a funk/rock/soul band in the Dallas area. I hear live music all the time in tons of different contexts. For instance, on Thanksgiving eve I played trumpet with a large choral group and then had the pleasure of sitting there right next to a harp/oboe/flute trio accompanying the same choir. I’ve been really blessed to play in some incredible groups, including just recently, the Colorado Brass Band, one of the premier bands of the genre in the USA. I’ve played orchestral trumpet sitting with my back against the wall hiding a 32-foot organ pipe that massaged my whole body as I played. So, I feel and hear the music regularly.

I’ve really been serious about audio since my college days, when I bought my first Garrard/Scott/Jensen system. I moved to Time Windows/Bryston in the 1970s and 1980s and replaced the DCMs with Celestions mini-monitors in the 1980s. I’m just now finishing the first major system update since the 1980s. I’ve gone back to serious analog, recently adding a Pro-ject RM10 with Sumiko Blackbird through a Pro-ject Tube Box phono pre-amp. (I’ll do a review of the RM10 baby soon, including DVD-Audio samples, but that’s in the works due to technical challenges that I’m working through). This August, the Celestion SL-6 speakers were replaced with 4 ohm, floor-standing Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Baby Grands. Most recently I replaced the Bryston with a Conrad-Johnson CA200 control amp (see review).

Back to the speaker set, my dealer is Soundings in Greenwood Village, CO, owned and operated by Rod Thomson. Rod has several decades of experience in the audio business and is a true music lover. He’s been a dealer for Sumiko for a number of years and attended a several-day course to learn their “Master Set” technique.

When you read reviews of Sumiko-distributed speakers (Vienna Acoustic, Sonus Faber, REL and Sequence) you’ll often see the reviewer mention that someone from Sumiko came out to optimally place the speakers within their listening space. Michael Fremer mention it in this review The reviewer almost invariably will say something about how close the optimal placement was to what he would have used. Please remember that that comment is an ego thing, since it’s of interest to a reviewer to let the readers know that he knew all along how to set speakers.

Well, I’m humble enough to realize that I needed help. While my Baby Grands were breaking in I spent an hour or so every weekend moving them around, searching for a totally cohesive sound. Every other week I was tempted to move them back toward their rear wall, but every time I did it, I screwed up the all-important midrange. Not that the bass was always smooth. I’d get it sounding really good with “Ballad of the Runaway Horse” (same recording that Sumiko uses) but then I’d put on an orchestral piece and certain bass notes would pop out and overwhelm the music.

Still, the midrange was the most problematic to me. It seemed like when I got a really nice, deep, full bass that the mids would get congested and thick. Female voices would lose some of their character and the sound would seem to be thrown at me and be more piercing than I could enjoy. I found myself turning down the volume. Since I value accurate voice, accurate brass and imaging more than anything, I’d ultimately give up on the bass and move the speakers into the room until the bass stopped smearing things.

My self-derived set was actually very satisfying. Vocals were very coherent, full of nuanced timbre and the imaging had lots of depth and side-to-side accuracy. The Baby Grands had way more bass than my, now retired, Celestion SL6s, so I was pretty darn happy. Anyway, after I had a couple of hundred hours on the VAs it was time to call Rod for my Master Set. Generally, Sumiko dealers offer the set as part of the speaker purchase; however, as I understand it, not all dealers have the training. We’re lucky in Colorado, since Rod has the training and several years of hands-on experience implementing the technique.

By the way, skeptics are welcome. Rod told me he was a skeptic when Sumiko first came to his shop to show him. After decades in the business, he didn’t think there wasn’t anything he hadn’t seen or heard, yet he was floored by the impact. He does the set up for non-Sumiko customers for a fee. He told me of recently setting a pair of B&W 801 for a skeptic and the guy is now bringing in buddies from out of state to hear how amazing his system now sounds.

The process took about an hour and a half in my large room. Rod came in and longingly eyed the long wall with the fire place facing the Rocky Mountains. He said something like, “you could move this, move that and I guarantee you’ll be amazed with what your speakers do, OR I can put them along where you have them and get something less.” I thought about it. The WAF of the long wall was low, not because it wasn’t a good idea, but it wasn’t her idea. I thought, if I try my set up and fail, I’ll have to pay next time, but, what the hey, it’s only money. So I asked Rod to do his best with the placement that I preferred.

In a room that’s roughly 16’ X 40’ I was asking him to set the speakers on a 7’ wall, with a hall on one side and large, odd shaped entry on the other and a 40” armoire in the middle. The ceiling is 10’, BTW. The building is concrete, high rise construction with 10” slab floor and ceiling.

Anyway, Rod accepted the challenge and “The Ballad of the Runaway Horse” soon filled the room. I could attempt to reveal the whole process, but that would be futile. I witnessed the whole thing, start to finish, and actually helped a time or two and I couldn’t replicate it in a new speaker positions. I will say that he started with the bass, beginning with the speakers just a couple of inches from the rear wall and then moving them out an back while listening to the nodes. He worked the left speaker first, and then the right, focusing on getting the bass balanced between the two speakers, but with no nasty nodes in the midrange. Toe-in and rake angle were critical to the midrange and balance, but I think that getting the bass right and avoiding the midrange nodes was the single most important factors. Still, it’s a comprehensive system that you’re not going to be able to read about and then do. Listening and hearing the nodes takes some training. I was amazed to hear MAJOR changes with just ¼” of movement.

Bottom line, speaker placement is very sensitive to distance to the wall, speaker distance from each other and surrounding walls, speaker rake, speaker plumb (levelness) and toe-in. In certain circumstances the smallest movement can destroy the whole thing. On the right side of my setup there’s a wall angle that juts out at about a 45-degree angle. The smallest movement around that can screw up my set up.

Here’s one phenomenon that amazed me, the apparent volume of the system is about 1/3 lower. It’s not because the system has less sound energy, but because the harshness and phase anomalies are removed and it’s pleasant to listen at much higher levels. My C-J CA200 has a step-attenuator with 99 steps of .7 dB. I’ve never listened at 90 before yesterday. Stuff I listened to at 55 before is now at 70. Right now I’m listening in the background at 40 and that’s very coherent, but it’s low because people are asleep. Rod and I were actually carrying on a conversation as I had something on at 70 on the CA200’s LEDs.

The bass that I gained is mind boggling. I’ve listening to orchestral stuff and string bass stuff and I’m just blown away by the extension and clarity of the bass. My VAs ended up about a foot out from the wall, with about 3” of toe-in and 56” between the front toes. The image covers the whole wall. When I go into another room, the sound stays coherent and is actually louder at lower levels than before. Yes, a paradox. Up close, it sounds softer at a given level, but that sound travels further through the apartment. I suspect it’s because all inter-speaker cancellation has been eliminated, or at least minimized.

Now for the BIG PAYOFF, the mids are better than ever. I hear every little thing, in balance. My daughter put on a Brazilian CD that must have had 16 percussion instruments going, along with vocals and guitar. She couldn’t believe how much more she was hearing. I was hearing it for the first time and asked, “what’s that thing that sounds like a cross between a dulcimer, guitar and drum?” She’d seen a DVD of the group and said, “It’s something that looks like a cross between a dulcimer, guitar and drum.” The Brazilians apparently haven’t stopped making new instruments. Anyway, this recording was very dense, but with instruments spread all over the place. I “got it” 8 measures in.

This set up make light work of sparse studio recordings, like you might hear with Nora Jones. You hear each smack of her lovely lips, her Texas twang and incredible instrumental sounds. I loved the snare on one song, with the drum head a little lose and the snares a little tight. Wow, it sounded like one of my buddies playing snare at the end of my room. The voices in harmony separate into their individual pieces, yet you also hear the blend of the multiple voices.

Vinyl still sounds better than average digital, but I’m finding myself listening to more CDs on my poor little Oppo HD981. I think the removal of the distortions caused by the speakers made the digital distortions much more palatable. The midrange just falls effortlessly out of the speakers now. There’s no edge, beaming or other distractions (refractions?).

How do I measure this improvement? It was at least as good as going from the Celestions to the Baby Grands. Now I’ve got the bass extension of ported, three-way speakers combined with the imaging of sealed mini-monitors up on three-foot stands, pulled into the room. I’ve heard much larger speakers that don’t have the bass extension that I now have. It’s like I doubled the size of my speakers. I mentioned that the image covers the wall where the speakers are placed. The depth that I had with the speakers pulled out is still there and rock-steady.

What will it cost you if you don’t own Sumiko distributed speakers bought from a trained Master Set dealer. I don’t know. Sumiko doesn’t even mention it on their site. It’s better than if I’d spent thousands of dollars on equipment. It takes a couple of hours. I’ve paid lawyers with much less skill and training $250 an hour, so I wouldn’t flinch to pay $500 if I moved to another home and needed Rod’s help again. Think of this as another component purchase. Would you pay $500 for a good phono pre-amp? If yes, then this’ll give you several orders of magnitude more in system improvement.


Associated gear
Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Baby Grand
Conrad Johnson CA200
Pro-ject RM10
Sumiko Blackbird
Oppo HD981

Similar products
Self alignment
I appreciate you taking the time to write about you experience. I have witnessed this first hand at the Sumiko dealer by us. They had the the Elipsa's setup with their reference BAT system and I thought they sounded very nice. After a month or so the Sumiko rep. came in and "fine tuned the setup". I was blown away with the bass and imaging. I really finally found out what those speakers can do. I think it even blow away the staff.
Thanks for joining in. Sumiko has been doing this long enough that there's got to be more people on Audiogone that have experienced it.

I first experienced it in Soundings' own shop. I listened to the Beethoven Grands and thought that they sounded harsh. Rod said, "We'll setting those tomorrow morning, come back and they'll sound totally different." Well they were indeed transformed. That was for guys that had placed dozens of speakers in that room, using "the set" but they still had to go through the process with those particular speakers.

When I go over to the Virtual Systems sections I'm in awe of the equipment that many of our members have, but I wonder how many are truly hearing them to their fullest potential. Like I said, for my particular system, it was like doubling the size of the speakers AND still keeping the imaging of a really fine mini-monitor.

Please, those that have experience the Sumiko Set, please add your experience.


Dave, I wonder how "stable" the set up will prove to be. What if you accidentally move a speaker? Get new furniture? Change amps?
Yes, that's a very good question about stability.

I don't think that an amp change is a worry, but moving the speakers,even a little, is a concern. Moving the armoire would be a potential issue, but the other furniture is out of the sound path.

I'm using a laser-line, reference points on the baseboard, a ruler and a level to get them back into the exact spots. So far, so good, but I've only moved them back and out once so far. (When not in "serious" use, I keep them back next to the armoire, perpendicular to the wall and parallel to the armoire's sides). I practiced measuring several times before I made the first move and got my accuracy down to 1/16" repeatably. I'm careful to drive the spikes to the floor and level the speaker fronts.

If you had a straight wall behind the your speakers a large carpenter's square would yield repeatable results. One of my walls isn't perpendicular, so a square won't work.

I'll update in a couple of weeks to say how I'm doing after several moves back and forth.

Hi Dave, how could I have possibly missed your fab review of your Master Set experience?!

My Vienna Mahlers have also been set up via the Sumiko Master Set. . . in my case a joint operation by Rod of Soundings and Dave Ellington of Sumiko. My session lasted almost 8 hours . . . and they revolutionized the entire room. My listening loft is approximately 16 x 18 with a coffered ceiling peaking at about 11 feet. It is broadloomed and has a 12 x 9 very thick Chinese wool rug in the middle. Walls and ceiling are stippled. A 10 ft long wall unit sits against the left wall. Like in Dave's room part of this wall has also a 45 degrees cut (about 6 ft long). The left wall is essentially bare. A listening sofa sat against the outer windows along the outer long wall. The entire music system sat against a half wall along the opposite long side, which opens onto the 1st floor below. Just to make things a little more irregular, a 6ft passage way interrups one side of the half wall and goes to the stairs. I was proud of my own setup prowess. . . sounded good to me. After all. . . I have done music since I was 7. . . and I even attended Karlheinz Stockhausen's 50th Birthday Parti back in '75 in Paris. . . and once even shared a commuter train compartment with famed music critic Lorenzo Arruga, and used to build sand castle with conductor Antonello Allemandi when he was 5 years old, and last fall I even shook hands once with Albert Porter, and once even stayed at a Holiday Inn (Express). . . so, I must know what I am talking about. . . right?! Rod and David gently disagreed with the premises of my obvious qualifications, and explained that I was likely suffering of either low audio expectations or low self audio esteem blended with a very nasty case of narcisistic audio personality disorder. . . or in other words I was totally delusional. . . would I want to talk about it? Or should . . . they proceed to fix the room instead and forget about my hurt feelings? I huffed'n'puffed but opted for the latter . . . To start with, everything was moved around 180 degrees. . . I mean the couch went against the half wall, and the entire system was pushed against the windows. The wall unit seemed to be of no interest to them and was left alone. The left speaker ended against the beginning of the 45 degrees cutoff of the left wall,. The right speaker ended 3 feet from the right wall. Looked totally bizarre and asymmetrical. Connected the system and played the Ballad of The runaway Horse. . . which sounded just like a dead horse should sound instead . . . terrible and very dead! My feelings were now very very hurt. . . no more offerings of warm fuzzys from Dave/Rod. . . They continued to work. At 5:00 pm the setup was complete. Left speaker was 15.25 inches from rear wall. Right speaker was 17 inches from same rear wall, but had been pushed to about 1ft from the right short wall. Speakers were over 11ft apart. . . very asymmetrically arranged left to right, toed in for my couch 12 feet in front, spiked and raked to sonic perfection. . . . but I was in Heaven. At 5:30 we piled into David's car and went to Austin Airport. . . I left for L.A., Dave left for Houston, Rod flew back to Denver. . . now I am back home in Austin and I still am in Heaven, and my feelings are no longer hurt, and I no longer need any warm/fuzzy talk therapy from them.

Jesting aside, reading Dave's discussion of the effect of the Master Set process is exactly bang on. The sonic effect on my system was simply uncanny and likely comparable to a significant component upgrade. I suspect that in most rooms there may be more than 1 set of optimal nodal points that could be hunted down, if time and patience were of no concern. . . some more WAF friendly than others. . . my wife has approved of the new looks of the music loft, and has at least once told me she liked the music I was playing, she did not even realize that the volume was rather very much louder than usual. . . that's a real first!!!

I have asked Sumiko if any of their local (SF Bay Area) dealers would hire out and perform a Master Set for me even though I have not purchased speakers from them and don't own any Sumiko speakers. They've tried to find someone, but so far, no dice.

I've played around with the "Iron Chef Speaker Setup" from AA, which I think is the Sumiko technique. Though I have had some success, it's hard to do from written instructions.
Drubin, you should give Rod Tomson at Soundings a call. He has done the Master Set for many years. Soundings offers the process as a consulting-base service and can come to your location. Buzz him at 303-759-5505.
I understand, the other solution is to obtain a raw list of Sumiko dealers in your general area and call each of them yourself. Guido
Drubin, do you have a link to the "Iron Chef" method? I'll look at and tell you if it's similar to the Sumiko method.

Guido my friend, I'm sorry, I thought I'd put you onto my Review, but evidently failed.

Thanks for adding your experience. Yes indeed, it's like a major component upgrade. Also, it makes all the other little tweaks incredibly easy to hear. It's simply amazing.

Drubin, call Rod. Frontier flights are often below 200-bucks round trip from Denver to San Francisco, if wisely purchased. It'd be well worth the extra investment. (You probably spent more on cables).

See my Virtual System with the speakers in their Master Set positions. You'd never guess how good they work right there.

Rod actually wanted to rearrange my whole setup, but WAF nixed that. He told me that he surprised himself with how good thise sounded in the positions he found, thus confirming Guido's assumption that there might be several very good positions possible within the same room.

Here's the link:
Yes, that Iron Chef method is pretty close. It's easier said than done, but you can get 80% to 90% of what an experienced "expert" would do in a DIY application.

One thing different, Rod swings the right speaker 90-degrees out rather than leaving it forward when do the initial setting of the left speaker. This gets rid of some conflicting information that won't help while you're working on the left speaker. Otherwise, that pretty much it, but in a Cliff Notes version, which is way better than nothing.

I have wondered why you wouldn't just turn off the right speaker altogether during that initial left speaker set up.
04-10-08: Drubin said:
"I have wondered why you wouldn't just turn off the right speaker altogether during that initial left speaker set up."

I suppose that if there's a wall right there, then it'd be better to just turn off the right speaker. Rod was right over the speaker as he set mine, primarily focused on the bass response and nodes. At that close range I doubt that he could her the right speaker at all.

Click on my "System" link below then click on "Sumiko Master set" in my Virtual System to see the jpeg graph of my system's in-room response. Here's the post I added in my Virtual System thread:

At the request of a sceptic or two, I added a graph of the in-room response from 25hz to 200hz. I used that range because that's what's available on the Stereophile test CD. 20hz is down to 65dB and 1000hz is 87dB. The response is very smooth, averaging 85dB. At 31.5hz the response is a pretty healthy 80dB, but there's a dip down to 72dB at 40 Hz. BTW, my average listening level ranges around 85-87dB, so these measurements should correlate well with my listening experience.

It's interesting, this dip is the only serious measured roughness, but it doesn't create a perceived "hole" when listening to music, perhaps because it's so low. Now that I've got 40Hz in my head I'll start listening for it in music. At 50Hz the response is just a couple of dB over the average, reading 87dB.

I may do a more involved study in the near future. It's interesting to note that if I move the speakers back two inches the 50Hz reading bumps up over 90dB. The Master Set apparently removed the peaks and really smoothed the lower midrange and upper bass.

I was a little reluctant to post this curve because I don't want readers to think that the Master Set is all about frequency response. As much effort goes into minimizing Intermodulation Distortion by properly aligning the speakers in relation to each other and the room. I don't know how to measure IM Distortion, but if someone does know, please let me know. I'm really curious to see that.

Still, there's no doubt that avoiding bass nodes and over-emphasis has a big impact on midrange clarity. Before the Master Set, working by myself, I couldn't get both a smooth midrange and a full bass. I ended up sacrificing bass by moving the speakers way out into the room. This is a very common solution, but I think it's really a shame when your system doesn't work to its full potential.

Some people like to insert a complex EQ circuit into the system to electronically do what Master Set did with physical placement. I think that's valid, but I've spent a great deal of effort making my system transparent, detailed and stress free and I doubt that inserting any device will add to that transparency. Also, those insertations may not be able to deal with IM Distortion.

Hi Dave, That looks very good. I do suggest though that you do a test with the REW program available at the Home Theater Shack. Your method of testing is not accurate enough to see what is really going on. It is a simple and free program. It will give you much more detailed info that your graph is not showing you. This is essential. The REW also shows Harmonic distortion (I was incorrect when I said it did test IMD) it does also show a waterfall plot which is just as and probably more important than freq response.
Thanks Bob.

Well that "free" program looks interesting, but I'd need to buy an external interface so that I could use my AKG condensor mics, either that or buy a USB mic to plug straight into my laptop. If I do it, it'll be for you guys, because I'm happy with the sound as is. It would be interesting to show how moving things just a few inches really does cause dramatic change and how effectively the Master Set found the "sweet spot."

Oh, what's "not accurate enough" about my method? So far as it goes, I think it's very accurate. I took two sets of readings and it repeated. I used C-weighting and fast response option on my Radio Shack SPL meter.

BTW, I meant to report that the reading @1kHz was 87dB. I didn't add it to the plot because it would have added a long, straight line to the right of the plot, making it look artificially flat, because there were no data points between 200 and 1000 Hz. At the other I left off the 20Hz data point at 65dB.


I did some needed tweaking (manual and by ear only) of speaker location with my Ohm 5's today and had a similar result regarding playback level when done.

You know of what you speak!
It's amazing how few people "get it." Welcome to the club. Cheapest upgrade you ever made, right?

Yes. I'm back to where I was after my recent upgrades and before the Ohms were moved.

It's helpful having another set of accurate speaks like the Dynaudios in another room. Having multiple speaks in multiple rooms for reference helps me maintain better results in each with less guesswork.
My Mahlers were professionally set up by Rod Tomson of Soundings. . . and the resulting enhancement was nothing short of bleedin' remarkable! And the funny thing is that all he used as measuring instruments were our collective ears and a simple leveller gage to make the Mahlers perfectly horizontal after mounting their spikes.. . . welcome to the club Mapman! G.
This protocol was presented by John Hunter the owner of Sumiko. They are USA distributors for SME, Sumiko, Sonus Faber, Vienna Acoustics, REL and others. This is the best room set up tool I have ever used.
The most critical part is getting the speaker rake angle adjusted after you have them finally situated. So I hope your speakers have spikes. You will need them to set the rake angle.
If you have no spikes, you can get door shims at Home Depot or Lowes. These are wedges are used to hang the door frames to the studs surrounding the doors. There will be people to help you find these shims. They are inexpensive and you can use them to figure the angle you need, and then find something more in tune with your decore to provide the final angle.
So here is the Iron Chef Speaker Set Up Protocol
Proper speaker set up requires music. John Hunter of Sumiko uses a Rob Wasserman song featuring Jennifer Warnes called "Ballad of the Runaway Horse". You will find this on his “Duets” cd and his “Trio” CD as well. This is the best set up song I have ever found. So get a copy of this. You will always be glad you did. Another tool I like to use for fine tuning the speakers is Bob Chesky's Jazz Sampler Number 1. Cuts 10 and above really help you nail it down solid.

Step 1 will be to remove whatever removable sound absorbers you have. Take them out of the room. Anything that is permanently fixed and all your furniture and stuff are ok to leave alone.

Step 2 recommends you either remove the speaker stand spikes to make moving the speakers easier, or at least level all the spikes so the speaker is completely level. If you own heavy speakers you are probably better off adjusting the speakers with the spikes in place and set level.

Step 3 is to establish your listening seat. Optimally you will set up the speakers and your listening seat in the shape of an triangle. I like my speakers at least 8-12 ft apart and the listening seat 12-15 ft back. When properly set up, the speaker will be out at least 18” from the rear boundary wall. Your listening seat likewise should be at least 24 inches from a back boundary.

Step 4 places both left and right speakers directly against their wall facing straight out into the room. No inward “toe in” angle should be attempted yet.
The left speaker is going to become the anchor for the set up.

Step 5 gets you grooving. Now you can begin playing the “Ballad”. What makes this song so effective for set up is that the plucked string bass is at realistic volume at realistic timber. So the goal is to get the bass properly coupled to the room and the drivers.
Play this track at volumes where you can easily detect bass quality. I am usually between 80-95 db when I do a set up. Sometimes you will need to crank it up a bit. Just make sure it is loud enough to fully engage the room.

Step 6 involves a buddy. Have your buddy slide your left speaker (the anchor) out into the room until the bass becomes solid and authoritative. Mark this spot with some masking tape.
Now slide the speaker right and left to find the best bass quality. Mark this spot.
Now slide the speaker further out in the room to find other points where the bass couples properly in your room. There are likely to be a dozen spots within a 3 ft diameter of your first spot. Be patient. 1/3 of an inch is all that differentiates a good bass quality from a lifeless bass sound.
Listen to all of these good bass points until you find your favorite bass spot.
All this is done with just the left speaker playing straight out. The right speaker is playing straight into the room from the back wall. Each speaker playing at the same volume.

Step 7 establishes the “toe in” angle of your left speaker toward your listening seat. You want the widest possible sound stage without the sound being too thin. I usually end up seeing about 2/3 of the inside wall of the speaker when I have this about right. Do not toe in excessively, you will just ruin your sound stage. A little dab will do you! If the toe in is right, the sound will be very natural, if it is too wide the sound will be thin, and with too much the sound will seem to come from two speakers not from the space in between.
Your anchor is now set. Mark this spot carefully with masking tape.

Step 8 requires reinsertion of the left speaker's spikes leaving the speaker level at this time.

Step 9 is to set up the right speaker position. Simply slide or move the right speaker out into the room. Move it slowly listening for the sound stage to line up equally before you. By this I mean a stage is flat in front of you. The sound stage should not sound tilted, like one speaker sounding closer to you than the other. Remember to keep the speaker oriented directly straight ahead. No angle yet.

Step 10 involves moving the speaker right and left until you hear the soundstage become cohesive, and Jennifer should sound like she is right dab in the middle.

Step 11 Then toe in the angle the speaker very slighly until you hear Jennifer Warnes voice become a “body” centered in the sound field. You will hear the sound congeal nicely at this time. Things are really beginning to sound better now.
You should now have accomplished sound coupling of the speakers to your room boundaries. To test if this is the case, you should be able to stand directly over either speaker and clearly hear the other speaker.
It may be necessary to make very minor angle adjustments of the right speaker to get her voice centered. Be patient and you will be rewarded.
Now if the sound stage is not linear, meaning one speaker sounds more forward than the other, then simply slide that right speaker front or back until the sound field is "level." (Moving it right or left adjusts the centering of Jennifer Warnes voice).
Make sure you mark the final location of both speakers with masking tape.
Insert the right speaker spikes.

Step 12 begins with adjustments to the rake angle of the left speaker. You accomplish this by adjusting the spikes to get the speaker level across the front, and raked back to get the beam of the tweeter firing above your ears. You need to listen to the quality of Jennifer Warnes voice. She should appear to be ear level or slightly above ear level in the sound field. This is a personal choice. Many of my friends prefer ear level because it is a slightly fuller sound. I prefer a little above ear level cause I like the voice to sound ultra natural, like a live musical event.
Carefully listen to the tweeter response of the left speaker and make sure that the "beam" is at least an inch or two above your ear when you are seated in your listening seat.

Step 13 begins by adjusting the spikes on your right speaker to match the "height" of the left speaker.
At this time, you should hear her voice almost as a whisper, when originally it may have sounded shrill and harsh. Her voice should be centered in the sound field now, with solid and good quality bass.

Step 14 suggests you take measurements of the speaker location to the walls. Take digital photos. Someone will mess with your set up some time. You need to have these so you don't have to repeat the process unnecessarily. When you have this locked in, don't let anybody touch your set up!
I like to follow up the set-up with some confirmation tests. I prefer the Bob Chesky Jazz Sampler 1 CD. On cut 10 the speaker starts out 2 ft from the microphone in center stage. Then he moves midway right, full right, and off-stage right. He then repeats this on the left. Simply slide your right speaker right or left to get the sound staging perfect. Then use cut 11 which is “Over”, “Lateral”, “Under” and “Up” to verify your rake angles.
Your friends will be amazed. Just two CD’s let you make the magic. Rob Wasserman’s Duo or Trio CD, and Bob Chesky’s Jazz Sampler 1.

Step 15 bring back any sound absorbers and reflectors to see if you can improve upon the sound. But don't touch the speaker’s location.
What you have done, in short, is to couple the speaker's response to your room based upon your listening seat.
This process will take me 20-30 minutes or longer. On your first dozen set ups it may take longer.
Let me know if you have any questions about this process. I can do this all alone. Having a buddy slide your speaker is much faster and easier. If you have hard floors instead of carpet, you can set the speaker on a soft towel to assist in the sliding.
Make sure your buddy stands behind the speaker when he/she moves it, because their body will affect the sound if they stand along side of the speaker.
Thank yu Treitz3 for posting the Iron Chef process. It is very similar to what Sumiko further evolved to date. . . during the anchoring phase the right speaker is now set out of focus and pointing at an angle towards the right wall; I also recall that no lateral movement is ever performed on the left speaker during the anchoring phase. . . all lateral adjustments are performed only on the right speaker during a subsequent phase. G.
Great write-up Treitz3.

The only change I would make is the 18" rule from the rear wall. That's going to vary from speaker to speaker as well as the wall shape. In my case, the rear of my Vienna Acoustic Beethoven Baby Grands are 16" from the rear wall. Soundings started with the speakers several inches closer and moved the left one out in small increments to get the bass right.

Many people will have a very tough time knowing when the bass is right. Some things to listen for are an evenness, without emphasis. Wasserman's bass gives off a lot of rich overtones and character, so you should hear this. When I tried to do this on my own, the bass got too strong and muddied the vocal range. I needed a lot more patience. This might take you 30 or 45 minutes to find the right spots. As mentioned, very small moves can make a huge difference.

Please forgive me as I have not tried this setup yet and these are not my evaluations. I learned of this setup through a casual conversation with a fellow audiophile friend and it sparked a bit of interest so I decided to do a little research and ended up reading this thread. I noticed that there was discussion about it but that it wasn't put out there as to how to do it.

This is all that I have been able to dig up and any other information is welcome as this is really all that I have been able to find out so far but it basically outlined the same exact thing my friend told me about. I have ordered the two CD's to perform the Sumiko setup today and once they hit, I will be trying this setup protocol out. So far in my research, nothing but positive things have been said and that's what has furthered my interest in trying this out. It will be interesting and fun, regardless of the end result.

I apologize for any misunderstanding.
Hi Treitz3, let us know how your DIY MasterSet experience goes. . . the only thing that I would really recommend different from your steps is to angle the right speaker somewhat towards the right wall during the anchoring process. . . the idea apparently is to get it temporarily completely out of the sonic picture. . . I suspect that, if you had monoblocks, it may be an even better idea to mute the right channel mono amp. Guido
Guido, I was finally able to download Issue 188 of TAS to read your excellent review. I think taht you did a great job of describing the impact of the Master Set.

Thank you Dave, I admit that the Masters Set session was a real eye opener. . . I was totally blown how tiny changes in speaker position on the scale of perhaps 1/16 of an inch can have an effect at all. . . never mind a truly major effect on the overall sound, with quick shifts ranging from the absolutely wonderful to the "get me the heck out o' here" and back again. Not even electronics as wonderful as the JRDG 312+Capri + TEAC X-01 Limited can make the Mahlers sing if they are not perfectly situated in the room. But once they are. . . 'tis heavenly. End of the road for me? Uhrn. . . unlikely. . . the JRDG Criterion linestage is looming after all. . . but for one thing, the Mahlers won't move anywhere. . . and by that I do not mean only out of my system. . . I won't let them move by a fraction of an inch until I move out of the house. . . with them, that is.
Ooo, the Criterion would be a great review. I hope you get it.

I know what you say about moving the speakers a fraction of an inch. Fortunately for me I figured out how to lift the right speaker and let it settle into it's sweet spot (after I've first used a tape measure to get it within 1/16th of an inch of the Master Set). It's a little hard to do with big speakers like the Mahlers.

All i did the Iron Chef setup early last year, found it by web search at audio asylum. By far the best thing you can do for your system to produce its optimal sound best part its free. I know that better components and such can bring improvements in sound quality. We all have gone the upgrade route. But when you have your speakers coupled into your music room the sound field you get is beyond what most upgrades can offer.

I'm getting a new pair of speakers this month and will have to use this most important setup again. Boy i love this hobby.
Stltrains said:

"I'm getting a new pair of speakers this month and will have to use this most important setup again. Boy i love this hobby."

You can set your new speakers up right away, but realize that the optimal set is likely to change as the drivers break in and the crossover burns in. So, set it up right away, but give it a fine tuning after a few hundred hours.

Here's a thread on another forum that grew out of this thread:
AudioCircle Master Set Thread

It's nice to see this improvement technique spreading around the world. ;-)