Small dedicated listening rooms

Potentially downsizing from a 17’ x 22’ room to a 8’6 x 10’ room.
Currently have huge three-way floor standers that would swallow the room.
Mostly ARC equipment.
Thoughts on speakers with a smaller footprint that don’t have to be too far off the walls?
Budget of 15k max. Used is fine.

Boy, that is like a closet. I am not sure you can get good sound in that small room. Certainly no low bass, imaging might be poor, no depth and marginal width. I wouldn't do it.
That's very small...but depending on the ceiling height and a few other factors, it can indeed be made to work. I would suggest a stand mount speaker for a room of this size. Along with a small sub--like the REL T0 or similar. Look at my system thread to see how I have managed with a similar size room. 

In my opinion there are two main acoustic challenges presented by small rooms, and these are really the same issue just different parts of the spectrum.

Most obvious is the increased boundary reinforcement in the bass region. This can be addressed by tailoring the output in the bass region to take this boundary reinforcement into account.

The other main issue is the over-abundance of early reflections. I subscribe to the school of thought that says early reflections tend to degrade clarity. One solution is to use fairly directional speakers and deliberately position and aim them to maximize the time delay between the first-arrival sound and the onset of reflections.

For instance, your Hornscalas have good directional control. If you set them up along the 10-foot wall, not too far apart, and toe them in at 45 degrees (such that their axes criss-cross a foot or two in front of you), the first sidewall reflection of the left-hand speaker would be the long bounce off the right-hand sidewall, and vice versa. You’d be sitting pretty close to the back wall so you’d want aggressive absorption on that wall behind your head. You might want to give your Hornscalas a try with this configuration before investing in anything else, to test out this theory if nothing else.

Other issues that a small room tends to have include lumpy bass in the modal region and constrained soundstage size. I think those issues can be mitigated as well through some rather unorthodox techniques. A distributed multi-sub system is very effective at smoothing the bass in the modal region (and smooth bass = "fast" bass), and deliberately adding a little bit of late-onset reverberant energy can reduce the "small room signature" that is superimposed on top of the acoustics on the recording. Let me explain:

The ear/brain system judges the room size by the time lapse between the first-arrival sound and the "center of gravity" of the reflections. By adding some relatively late-onset reflections, we can push that "center of gravity" a bit and make the room sound bigger than it really is.

Feel free to ask questions about any of this, as most of it is rather counter-intuitive.

Best of luck with your quest.


My thought is that you need to listen in the near field. You mitigate many of the challenges and sacrifice very little.  It is easy to set up, imaging can be stunning and the level of impact and immediacy is thrilling. 

However, understand Duke really knows what he is talking about and what he is suggesting is likely the best option especially given your significant budget. 

"My thought is that you need to listen in the near field. You mitigate many of the challenges and sacrifice very little.  It is easy to set up, imaging can be stunning and the level of impact and immediacy is thrilling."

Excellent suggestion!

The setup I have in mind is a borderline nearfield setup, as distance from ears to speakers would probably be between four and five feet.   And it might sound better if you scoot speakers and listening seat a little bit closer to one another. 

But I'd still recommend the extreme toe-in configuration, to push those first sidewall reflections as far back in time as possible.

And there are other benefits to this unorthodox geometry:  When a reflection comes from the same side as the first-arrival sound, it has a tendency to be perceived as coloration.  But when the reflection comes from the other side, so that it arrives at the opposite ear first, then it is perceived as ambience and tends to enhance the timbre (assuming it is spectrally correct). 

And one final potential benefit:  A wider sweet spot.  The ear-brain system localizes sound by two mechanisms:  Arrival time, and intensity.  By criss-crossing the speaker axes, we get something unusual for a listener off to one side of the centerline:  The near speaker (obviously) "wins" arrival time, but the far speaker "wins" intensity!  This is because the off-center listener is well off-axis of the near speaker, but on-axis (or very nearly so) of the far speaker.  So we still get a decent soundstage even when listening from off to the side.  The secret is, the near speaker's output must fall off rapidly and smoothly as we move off-axis.  A 90-degree-wide pattern (-6 dB at the edges) works well for this.   And the uniformity of the radiation pattern means that the tonal balance is good throughout the listening area. 


What speakers do you have currently, and what aspects of sound reproduction and speaker performance are most important to you?
I definitely agree about nearfield.  If it were me I'd consider ATC SCM25, Focal SM9 and other pro monitors intended for mid/nearfield configurations.  
Duke, you have possibly the most comprehensive answers every time you post on the gon. Always a good read. Hats off to you!
Without knowing any more than you’ve stated, I’d seriously consider a headphone set-up and the most comfortable recliner I could find. My listening space is 12’ x 11’ x 10’. Any smaller and I’d sell it all and go for the ‘phones. 
Thanks for all your comments. The room has a high ceiling and actually measures fairly well. Pretty competent in acoustic theory and room treatment so back to the original question...

“Thoughts on speakers with a smaller footprint that don’t need to be too far off the walls?”
I have (the clue) speakers (see My System), no sub and sounds great in my small room. They are a bit of a pain to setup properly, however worth the effort. I would suggest you look for a speaker that is front ported.

I have your exact situation. Despite moving to a larger home, I’m in a room the same size as yours with 10’ ceiling. There are no absolutes, but here is what I have done to continue to enjoy this hobby. I use stand-mounted lspeakers (Sonus Faber) supplemented by headphones. If you are new to headphones, you may be surprised at how satisfying a good headphone system can sound. I recommend a tube amp with electrostatic phones. YMMV!
I also have a small dedicated listening room. It's approximately 9'x13'.  I have some modest acoustic treatments. I run 3 HSU subs. My speakers are about 30" or so from the back wall,and the center of the speakers about 15" from side wall. (Speakers are on the 9' wall)  I alternate between Nola Boxer 2's,and Hornshoppe Great Horned Heils. To my ears,and some friends ears,imaging is very,very good. I don't crank the subs,and bass is full and satisfying.  I believe a small room can deliver great sound with a little patience. 
i have a system in an unusual room 12’ x 10’ but with 14’ plus ceiling....( I know...I know )
i have managed excellent sound with many different speakers: Apogee Stage, Dynaco A-25, Sonus Faber Concertino, Vandersteen 1ci
room gain will need be managed in your might have to try an analog filter in the 60-80 HZ range, with your ARC seperates this is easy, Vandersteen M5 HP will work with very minimal impact to is just science..

Dukes points about HOW your brain hears are very relevant, even w smaller speakers designed for NF, you should at least be trying this..

The Vandersteen Treo is designed to operate near a rear wall, combine those with toe in, first replaction control and you might achieve bliss.....

good luck 
oh and while I was rebuilding them and for a month or so Cornwall also did well in my room......
For those with “small rooms”, take some masking tape and block off 8.5’ x 10’. My room is about 50% larger, and is still small and challenging. Again, I’d focus on creating a very soothing environment around a killer headphone set-up. 
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I'd go with something like the Harbeth P3esr.  They are sealed, sound great at low volumes, work well in the near field, and can be paired with a sub if you want more bass.  The new Spendor A1 is similar and has gotten good reviews (but I haven't heard it so can't comment).  The Harbeth 30.1/30.2 is bigger but only goes down to about 50hz.  It's front-ported, so that would help with having them closer to walls.  For nearfield listening, I don't imagine you'd do too much better than the appropriately sized Harbeth. 
Thanks. Going to hear some Harbeth’s and some Sonus Faber in the next week or so. Will be seeking out the other suggestions as well. Thanks for the input.

" Potentially downsizing from a 17’ x 22’ room to a 8’6 x 10’ room. "
A nice pair of Sennheiser HD800S is what you need.
Closet indeed. Don't waste your time and $$$ trying to shoehorn a high end system in there. Do what has been proposed and invest in a very nice headphone rig. 15k wil go a long way in this situation.


I would consider Omega speakers and a quality set amp, perhaps even  LTA microzotl, in a very near field setup. Save you lots of dough too.
Duke brings up some very good points. Adding multiple small subs is beneficial, as it will smooth out the overall response. Unfortunately, adding more subs brings its own problems...and that is getting them to blend invisibly into the mix. Not to say it cannot be done, as I have managed this in my room, but it is more difficult to achieve and will take a lot more effort...and patience.
I wouldn't go with the headphone need to.
Since the room measures well and has a high ceiling, I think you are fine.
One of the best high end sounds I ever heard were big MBL 101D speakers situate in a room that was hilariously small, truly "closet-like" and I think smaller than the OPs.   But they were essentially nearfield, and the room well treated.

I've heard other speakers in very small rooms work well.  It depends on the speaker (for instance, something like Quad ESLs won't have as much interaction to the side walls), how you can position the speakers, what type of room treatment you can apply if necessary.

My first thought for the OP's situation was similar to what other's have mentioned.   Closer to near-field listening, and choosing an appropriate speaker for that.  But he mentioned the speaker has to be placed near the back wall, so, really that's the type of criteria that makes answering the question a lot tougher.
"Duke, you have possibly the most comprehensive answers every time you post on the gon. Always a good read. Hats off to you!"
New to this forum. The kids have left home, so time to put together a nice two Channel listening room in a 10’ X 24’ room.  I’m old school, and love the Sonus Faber two ways on stands for their intimacy and warmth.  The New Guarneri Homage Tradition Wenge might be the nicest looking speaker ever. This or the Paradigm Persona B, ugly, but did have a great sound are my favs so far.  Thoughts from you experts. Before the kids, I had Thiel 3.6 with a Spectral DMC6, and a McCormack DNA1 amp. Not trying to replace this sound, but I did enjoy it for many years until the room was needed for another bedroom. What pre/amp setup might go with best with the SF Guarneri.  Thanks for input.  
In a room that size I have used very successfully the Harbeth P3esr and the Trenner and Freidl Suns (the latter with integrated amplifier from Brinkmann).  I agree that headphones eliminate the problems of a small room, but sometimes one doesn’t want to listen that way.  It can be done—especially nearfield.  Good luck!
I have a similar situation. My room is 10' X 10.5' w/ 8' ceilings. My speakers are ATC SM19s on stands. Independently, through trial and error, the room is set up like Duke describes, except I opted for the speakers further away from the wall. I sit about 4-5' away from the towed in speakers. I had all kinds of reflection issues and slowly I've had to add a lot of tweaks to get the sound that I want, but I have overcome most of the problems associated with a small room. The room is not pretty, but the sound is spectacular. Because I am so close the smaller SCM-19s provide a sweet sound even when not driven hard.
@luckytiger1 My current office is even smaller and I am currently running Audience 1+1 V2 (next week upgrade to V3) speakers. The V3 iteration are $3K new. I have Benchmark DAC3L ($2K) and Benchmark AHB2 amp ($3k) + computer + Sonare microRendu. So around $10K new. Sounds pretty damn good.

Read the review of the speakers. There are no crossovers in the speaker design. They weigh 9lbs and do not go deep but in a small room that is good. You can always pair with a sub if you can find one that is fast enough to keep up.

I like rollinT have 19 s toed in at me almost!/straight near feild with some space (3’ 6" from back wall to front/tweeter) no damping/ from the wall to offer soundstage...and the port less cabs sound great in small room...depending on your listening preference you might not need sub...i do get to wanting some shaking the walls...I do have 200watts aside pushing them to there best...but small room can be done right...
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