What Could Cause Center Image To Present Lower than Expected

I will preface with admitting, that I am not an audiophile, but a hobbyist at best. Purchased Totem Acoustic Forest Sig. I am powering them with a ModWright  KWH 225I with Morrow Audio Sp7 speaker cables. My primary source is an Ayon S10 MKII network player/DAC feed by Small Green Computer (ROON) with Snake River Audio Mumushi Sig XLR interconects.

Integrated/Player feed with Morrow Audio Elite Power cords from a Shunyata PS8 w/Defender. PS8 connected with Shunyata Alpha v2 NR power cord.

Room is 13x19. Speakers 7' apart and 4" from front wall and 2.5' from side wall. No toe-in.  Audio equipment behind speakers along short wall with TV above mounted to wall. There is an 8x10 decorative rug hung on wall behind tv/equipment.

From the get-go, I have been very happy with sound and center image / soundstage present without fiddling with anything. Better than my ATC SCM19 v2.

My issue is with how low the center image presents.  Not sure how to proceed. Where to start. Is it most likely a speaker adjustment or component issue? I know my room is not properly treated.



Sounds like a chair/speaker angle thing.  Lower your chair, or raise the front of the speakers.

This is kind of a common problem with 2-way speakers for some reason.  I won't say it always happens, but that it's only with 2-way speakers that it seems the balance is such we want to listen on the mid-woofer's axis instead of the tweeter.  A couple of designs out there solve this by switching the tweeter and mid-woofer's location.  Try my suggestions and let me know.

Since these speakers are angled, you may also try increasing the distance from the seat to the speakers.

Since these speakers are angled, you may also try increasing the distance from the seat to the speakers.

...or decrease the distance between the speakers.

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Having the speakers 4” from the front wall is doing you no favors, especially with excellent speakers like yours that image/soundstage so well.  The first thing I’d do is pull the speakers out at least a foot , and two feet even better, just to see what happens (don’t worry about how it looks for now as this is just for experimental purposes at this point).  Also, I’d try the speakers more like 6’ apart and experiment with toe-in — I like angling my speakers, which are similar to yours BTW, so they fire just outside my shoulders.  I bet just doing these few things will make pretty significant improvements all around but especially in 3D imaging/soundstage.  Also, if your listening chair is against the back wall pull it out a few inches, and your ears should be at tweeter level so if your seating height is above the tweeters that’d be something else to adjust if possible.  This is just a rough starting point but would be very interested in what you find.


+1, in addition, I’d put some damping on the first reflection point on the side walls

I think the totems like to be ~4 feet out from the wall.  You can also move them a little closer together as Soix suggested, but  I’m not sure if the-in will be good, not that close together. Totem recommends no toe-in.

Maybe try blankets and pillows on floor to lesson low reflections. If that works then replace with a rug with a thick pad.

Room tuning or speaker repositioning would help but I would suggest a different approach to try first. Swap cabling, both interconnects and power cables (if not the same). Most likely is the TV screen behind the speakers and any other big reflective area between them. Sometimes a cable swap can alter things.

Play with speaker positioning. Moving the speakers closer together will usually make the center image more pronounced but will sacrifice on soundstage width.

Spreading the speakers further apart will widen the center image and soundstage but at the expense of losing some of the focus.

And definitely move them out into the room about at least a foot away from the wall behind them. You can also experiment with raising the speakers off the floor slightly. You can use platforms or nobsound springs from Amazon to experiment on the cheap.

Create an equilateral triangle between your listening chair and speakers. It’s all room/component dependent.

Find placement that strikes a good balance. And if the problem persists, then you need to continue working on room acoustics and potentially revisit your components. 

If the 4" distance to rear wall is not a typo I'd yank them out several feet for starters and experiment with distance, width, toe-in, and rake. Slightly angling speakers upwards, even a few degrees, will change the image height in my experience.

You have nice equipment so work with the positioning. Others have offered good insights as well. I like an equilateral triangle with speakers aimed behind my head.

Good luck; something will make it come together. Keep experimenting.

Image height can be tricky. IME, low image height can frequently be attributed to ceiling reflections. While increased height can often be beneficial, room treatment can be a more practical option for most.

Speaker rake is what I'd check first, aka the tilt of the speaker forward or back. On my system, even a fraction of an inch change in rake moves the center image noticeably. Tilt them up until the center image is where you want it to be.

My mistake. They are 4 feet off the front wall. It has been a busy week, but I started with reducing the tilt. That has made a small but noticeable difference. More tracks sound fuller. Sorry for not having a more audiophile description. I am trying one thing at a time and listening awhile.

Next step will be to bring speakers closer together.

My listening position is roughly 7 feet back from the speakers.

Again, thanks for the responses.


I am trying one thing at a time and listening awhile.

Great approach!  When you say you “reduced the tilt” what do you mean.  As others mentioned, I’d think if anything tilting your speakers back just a tad might help raise your image height.  Or maybe I’m just misunderstanding.  I still think you could pull your speakers out another foot and move them a foot closer together with just a bit of toe-in.  Be interested to hear your thoughts if/when you ever get to that point.  My room/speakers are similar to yours and after much experimentation I found this basic positioning to be the best for overall tonal balance and imaging/soundstage, but way too many variables in there to know if it’d be an improvement in your system and for your tastes.  Still, very interested as you make each adjustment — if nothing else it’s an excellent (and free and fun) learning experience, no?

Not a great fan of tilting. On most conventional speakers the tweeter is mounted on top and should be at ear height. Tilting it backwards creates issues with phase allignment if you have multiple non alligned drivers in your speakers.

antigrunge2 wrote, "Not a great fan of tilting. On most conventional speakers the tweeter is mounted on top and should be at ear height. Tilting it backwards creates issues with phase allignment if you have multiple non alligned drivers in your speakers."

Some speakers require tilting to sound right.  For example two ways with first order crossovers have a fifteen degree downward polar axial tilt and need to be tilted back fifteen degrees to project sound straight out from the enclosure.

I would very much appreciate it if someone would remind me how to properly quote excerpts from previous posts.


I was obviously referring to additional tilting from the manufacturer’s instructions 

OK. This is getting to be very frustrating. The first adjustment was reducing the tilt back. Or approached level. At first, I thought I noticed a slight change in image height; however, after further listening I can't confirm this change. So, I decided to move the speakers closer together. From 7' to just under 6' apart.

This, also, did not affect the level of the image, but it did negatively affect the soundstage. It was reduced in width but maybe deeper? But the strange thing was the image was affected too. And this is where it gets strange. The first time listening after the move, the image was not as centered.  I then thought about returning the tilt to the speaker. This did not seem to do anything. I decided to try something that I had read about and closed my eyes and things kind of came together but still no change in image height. 

Lost but not defeated.

Question - in a perfect world --- should it ever appear that an instrument is coming directly from the speaker in the soundstage? Or should everything be presented in an open space? I hope this question makes sense. 


You are tilting the wrong way.  You need the speaker to tilt back more OR sit further away OR sit lower 

FWIW some speakers sound much better at higher volumes, not so much at low volumes, especially imaging issues. Just for the fun of it, crank up your volume a bit an see what happens. Also, set up your speakers and chair in an equilateral triangle as an experiment just to see what your speakers can sound like in a more optimal position even though you may not be able to maintain this position for aesthetic reasons.  

Lost but not defeated

Very well said!  Put another way — YOU’RE LEARNING VERY VALUABLE INFORMATION!!!  Yes, what you’re doing now is hard and often very frustrating, but keep fighting the fight and you’ll get there!

Question - in a perfect world --- should it ever appear that an instrument is coming directly from the speaker in the soundstage? Or should everything be presented in an open space? I hope this question makes sense.

There are some recordings — oftentimes older recordings — where the sound of an instrument or singer will just be “stuck” to the speaker.  Nothing you can really do about that because it’s just baked in and can also be a function of the speaker design characteristics.  But, I find the better you get your speakers dialed in the less “sticky” they become and images tend to just float better in space.  This is the prime benefit of the effort you’re putting in now.  I’d forget about tilting the speakers back at this point because you’re just introducing another variable into the equation you really don’t need to deal with on top of all the other very important stuff you’re trying to figure out.  Keep experimenting with the basics — distance from back wall, distance between speakers, toe-in, etc. — and once you get that right, and you’ll know it when you do, then maybe mess with how far to tilt the speakers back if at all.  Keep in mind, your speakers were not designed to be tilted so just don’t do that until you have the other stuff right.  Just my $0.02 FWIW, and keep fighting the good fight!  It’ll pay off. 

In the description of your speaker on the company website they talk about it having adjustable rake angle so they obviously understand the importance of it in relationship to your seating distance, seating height and ear height.  Calculate the distance from your ear to the floor in a normal seating position and then adjust the rake angle of the speaker so that your ear is in the acoustical center of the speaker.  It may involve you asking the dealer or even Totem what the designer intended the acoustical center of this model to be. As the speaker is normally tilted backwards from the photos that will probably involve tilting the speaker forward a bit.  This has been a proponent of Vandersteen speaker set up for decades. 

After many adjustments, hours of listening and one major addition, I have come to the point where I need to work with the room. I am still @ 7' apart but now 56" from the back wall and sitting in that 7'-8' away. I was able to get a slight rise in the image. 

During this time, I have also introduced subwoofers, which absolutely blew my mind. I was able to audition a pair of REL T/7x's. This did nothing to the height of the image, but I was able to experience how subs do more than provide low frequencies. I listened for hours and enjoyed the enhancements. I had the opportunity to talk with someone who previously sold both Totem and REL products and suggested than the sub I should use is the S/510. He stated a whole bunch of audiophile terminology, but it was his expressive explanation that drew me in. I returned the T/7x's and ordered the S/510's. He was completely correct. It made a noticeable difference, and they were easy to integrate with the Forest's.

Now, I borrowed a Nordost system set-up & tuning disc. After going through the set-up tracks, I had two areas, which I think are related to my issue, that my system (so called) "failed"

Track - LEDR Tone Up - which created a sound that was to rise straight up from each speaker to @ 6'. My experience was the tone rising up and at the top it moved toward the center. The included manual states that this could be from strong reflections. Also, stated problem with tweeter but I will assume that is not the issue. 

Track - LEDR Tone Over - which created the same sound but originates outside of the speaker and works across to the other but in an arch, with a peak at the same height as the Tone Up from above. I was able to hear this; however, the tone only rose about half the height, if that, as the Tone Up.

So, this is where I would like to start with room treatments, but not sure what to use to address the issues stated above.

Looking for suggestions as what to use to begin this new journey in my audio education.




Two things you can do to raise the sound stage- 

1) Definitely bring your speakers away from the wall!  4 inches is much to close for them to develop the space around them needed for a large sound stage in all dimensions.  Try for at least 2 feet or more as you can manage.  

2) Try varying degrees of toe angle- experiment from none all the way to aiming at a spot 2 feet in front of you- in small steps.  

3) Tubes.  Your modwright amp uses 6DJ8 tubes and the type of tube has a large impact on sound stage- that is why we love tubes.  

See the link below and get the ones you can afford beginning with the following brands-

Amperex (always a sound stage winner)

Telefunken (likewise)



Good Luck ! 

6DJ8 Tubes From Brent Jessee Recording (audiotubes.com)

@avanti1960 no offence but none of what you recommended will affect image height. What affects image height is rake angle and it is somewhat speaker - dependent. In general, raking the speaker back will raise the image but again, with some speakers, especially when the Mid / tweet drivers are far above the sweet spot listener's ears, raking forward can raise the image. Tubes, toe - in and distance from the front wall will do nothing WRT image height.