Speakers vs. headphones

OK, desperation is setting in (I'll admit it). I have a 12-by-13 room with 7-foot ceilings (carpeted room and acoustic tiles up top) and I've tried every speaker and sub placement imaginable for my very modest system (NAD 326 amp, Totem Mites, Velodyne SL-800 sub). Even without the sub, I can't get the sound to anywhere near what I'd like it to be. I had an even more basic system (NHT Super Zeros, Onkyo amp, M&K sub) in my old home and it sounded INCREDIBLE compared to what I have now. Like I said, I've tried diagonal speaker placements and everything else, including room treatments (panels on first reflection points – no bass traps yet, but it seems the problems go well beyond bass). The question(s): Is it time for headphones? Is it even possible to get decent sound in a room with these dimensions?
Have you tried a near-field setup? It may be your only choice in a room that size.

Set your listening chair in the middle of the room, or a little behind the mid point from the front wall. Then set up your speakers in an equilateral triangle from the listening position while keeping them at least one meter from the front wall. If my calculations are correct, you and your speakers will be about a meter apart. The speakers will be well away from the side walls and there'll be plenty of space behind your head. That should make your direct to reflected sound ratio better than 1:1. You'll be hearing the speakers more than the room.
I agree you should try near field listening. Despite the current frenzy for headphones I tried them (Audeze LCD-2's and Modwright LS100 headphone amp) and found the experience wanting compared to listening through loudspeakers. Also, skip the sub, your room is too small and you are likely mucking up the sound. I had a pair of Harbeth Compact 7's in a room of almost the EXACT dimensions and got pretty good sound using a near field setup. When I moved to a larger room the sound got better (space, air, bass, etc) but it was not a night and day difference--more just a different presentation than anything.
Is this a single purpose room? If so, I agree with the others, near field listening with everything well away from walls and with speakers toed in so that the axis crosses in front of you. It's kind small, but if you close your eyes it can relly sound much larger. If you can't do that, maybe you should move on. BTW, if you listen nearfield besure to get speakers designed for that. Most will sound too bright up close. Something like the old Rogers LS3/5A's.

I have fairly competent headphone system (Senn 650's and a tubed amp, Woo W3). I love it for watching TV. But then I'm lucky to have a larger room :-)
May I suggest sitting up against the back wall, but bringing your speakers out from the front wall more than 1/3rd into the room? Also, with a fairly wide spread. This way you will have some sense of soundstaging behind the speaker plain.

You don't mention what direction the system is firing down, meaning the long or short wall. In a small room, and let's face it, with a smallish room like yours, every inch counts so let's make the most of it. If I had a small room, I would fire down the short wall and have the side walls as far away as I could as to take more the the side wall reflections out of the equation. So, maybe space your speakers parallel to the 13 foot side of the room, brought out more than 1/3rd into the room with your back up against the back wall. Just a thought...
I use Audeze LCD-3 along with very perfectionist speakers costing 50 or more times as much. I miss nothing except the feel of bass, but I get the "impact in my head", bass down to 10hz, and love the experience. It is the experience of music, of ease, yet of clarity to the event. Great headphones are lower distortion across a wider band than the best speakers. And that's audible, making the beauty of music easy to enjoy. Headphones are great: cheaper, lower distortion, easily driven. $2k phones + $2k amp = FANTASTIC sound. And I'm a 2 channel guy!
This doesn't always work, but its worth trying. Instead of placing your speakers along one of the walls, try putting them at 45 degree angles between 2 walls. To visualize what I'm talking about, your listening chair should be directly lined up with and facing one of the corners. From that point, just set your speakers up like you normally would in relation to your chair. You'll still have to fine tune speaker and listening chair placement. Just to be clear, your center image should be in front of the corner you are facing.
A good recommendation, Zd542.

BTW: I had the Audeze LCD 2/Burson combo for a while. The Audeze retrieved detail unlike any speaker I've ever heard, I couldn't get used to the "head in a vise" feeling though. Also, I need a sensation of having a soundstage infront of me. The "headphone thing" did not work for me.
Your room is not the problem. You need more current with those speakers. Load the room with books, pillows, fat fabric chair etc and buy a current swallowing integrated for those hard to drive speakers.

Headphones are not an alternative. They're a supplement.
Nice setup Kiddman, especially if you upgrade it from NAD 326/Totem Mites.
For me the ONLY fatigue free headphones found is AKG K701 or K702. Other even more expensive Grados, Senns or Ultrasone may sound better, but catch headache within minutes of listening while K702 would not.
I've heard that audiologists can design headphones for your music needs carefully analyzing your hearing spectrum and submitting required parameters to the manufacturer such as Sennheiser for instance that has a wide veriety of custom manufactured headphones
Thanks, everyone. The one thing I think I've decided is that the Mites might not be my cup of tea, or at least not in that room. Can you recommend a sub-$1,000 pair of monitors that will dance well with the NAD 326?
My room which is dedicated to my system is very close to yours in size, excepting the ceiling height. After years of trial and error what is working best for me is to place the speakers 3 feet from the rear wall with approximately 6 feet between the tweeters. My chair is about 4 feet from the rear wall which puts about 5 feet between my ears and the speakers. The speakers are toed in but not severely.
Not sure this is exactly nearfield but it does let me hear the speakers. Also, the room does have a fair amount of treatment, both absorption and diffusion.
The speakers that work best for me are long out of production, in fact the makers have folded. Still love them though. Oh yeah, Meadowlark Audio Kestrels and Soliloquy 5.0 monitors.
I have tried more speakers than I can remember in my room and always go back to these two models. Never heard the Mites but I did own the Totem Model Ones for a bit.
You already owned them...NHT Superones...sealed bass...great for odd rooms, tight quarters, etc...or give the superzeroes a shot...I wouldn't throw a ton of money at this situation/ solution...it is what it is roomwise
"The one thing I think I've decided is that the Mites might not be my cup of tea, or at least not in that room. Can you recommend a sub-$1,000 pair of monitors that will dance well with the NAD 326?"

I was going to suggest that you just may like your speakers. Can you give some examples of the type of sound you like? It makes it easier to recommend something.
Over your stated budget by $500, the KEF LS50s are exceptional at their price. They may redefine what is possible at that price point for a limited bandwidth speaker. They are advertised to work well in small rooms.

Headphones is a very different experience. If you like it you could save stress and a lot of money.
After listening to Audeze, Hifiman and other highly regarded cans they have never managed to impress me like speakers have. Speakers can give me chills down my spine, headphones have never done that.
Speakers can give me chills down my spine, headphones have never done that.
I have speakers that go to 20hz, and are my favorite speakers, cost completely no object, I have heard. Yet I get chills up and down my spine with my Audeze LCD-3 just as often. With the right amp they are just incredible, but for me it about the music, not how much my chair vibrates or stomach rumbles.

The fact that the Audeze really plumb the audio depths certainly helps....I don't need the hit on my body if the headphones are delivering the complete audio range.
I have the Audeze LCD2 driven by the Schiit Lyr.
It is reasonable sound......but compared to my speakers......as Docks wrote....."there are no chills".....?
Facten, I use the Audio Research Reference 150 with a resistive loading network.
Amphion Argon 2s, Yamaha CA-1010

Same room. Tried near field - no sound stage, well, poor sound stage. Tried facing down the long walls, not much better.

Pointing down the short walls, speaker faces 30" from the side wall and the same from the back wall. Angled in to point about a foot off my holders when seated against the opposite wall. That seems to work the best.
I find that headphone listening is more of an intellectual exercise, where speakers is more visceral
My STAX Lambda Nova Signatures with SRM T1S ( low noise RCA clear top tubes) sound better than any speaker I know of.

STAX headphones are the best sounding of all headphones!

Headphones have the "in the head" experience that some do not care for.
I always feels disconnected while listening to headphones
It's a very lonely feeling for me ,and it dosent even metter how good they are.
Hard to enjoy great music with your friend(s) when wearing headphones. Part of my experience is listening with friends and enjoying together.

Also, grew up in a church where the 32ft. Bombarde organ pipe would literally shake and rattle the pews I sat in. Speakers and/or sub can reproduce this much better than headphones. Nice to feel the rumble in 5.1 home theater as well as 5.1 music.
I had a similar problem and tried tirelessly for 2 years to get my system sound as I knew it could. Changing speaker postioning, the orientation of the room... the trick that did it was to adress the mains with a Nordost qb8. I then realized how important a proper electric alimentation can be. The fault was not that of the speakers but the electronics. I agree also the sub is too much in such a room
I have a pair of Signet head phones I bought back in the 70s and they have always sounded better than speakers. I've had B&O,Klipsch and Polk, with and without subs and they still can't top using headphones. Just a thought.
It is a matter of taste, of course. If you want the most analytical detail, good headphones can't be beat. They also produce bass which is unaltered by room modes, thus often smoother and clearer in the bass. Speakers, by comparison, are much more expensive, require more space and fiddling. But a big, deep, reach out and touch sound stage and bone-rattling bass are too much fun. Unfortunately, you need EQ, good-sized and treated rooms to do it right.
Headphones take room acoustics out of the game and are the easiest and most inexpensive way to establish a good reference for listening to recordings on the smallest possible scale, as a start.
2 big advantages are no speaqker crossovers and class A amplifier, hopefully a tubed one.
HEadphones are the rest of hifi audio's biggest enemy, because so many things can be done right with headphones for so little.

You don't get the soundstage and imaging, or the associated illusion of live music, which is very important to me, but in general you can have all the rest for a relative pittance compared to in-room home audio.

Will agree with Geoff on this one. No crossovers=greater coherency and top notch amplification comes in quite affordably with phones. No better way to listen to what is "in a recording", but the listening experience is much different than what one would typically hear "live".
You said you haven't tried bass traps. Bass traps transformed my room, 10x13x8. I finished it off with 24 1x2' SoundTrax Pro acoustic panels through out the room. Twelve on the back wall behind the listening chair and twelve on the side walls, six per side, extending forward from the speakers. The front wall has a window with a curtain and two of the bass traps centered vertically in the corners. A third is mounted in the corner of the the wall-ceiling juncture on the back wall. I made my own 2'x4'x4" bass traps out of 1x4 lumber and stacked 2 inch thick 2'x4' Rockwool boards. The bass panels were done last and had the greatest effect. The room was unlistenable until I did all this.
After listening to Audeze, Hifiman and other highly regarded cans they have never managed to impress me like speakers have. Speakers can give me chills down my spine, headphones have never done that

Some headphones can give chills too,but not necessarily the most expensive ones like you have mentioned.In my case chills gave me 20$ samsung open air headphones which i bought 20 years ago,still miss dynamic "wide soprano" sound:) From time to time check net to find second pair.