New setup for small room


My partner and I recently bought a house in the city center of Antwerp, Belgium. I’m looking for a new setup in our living room, aimed at listening to music (all genres) and to be integrated later on in our (to be bought) surround system. Our TV will be standing on a cabinet between the stereo speakers and there’s only 3 meters (that’s about 10 feet) between the wall facing us and the wall behind us when we’re sitting in the couch. We’ve got quite high cielings (2,80 meters or about 9 feet). The stereo speakers have to be against the wall and the surrounds right behind our ears on stands behind the sofa.

I’m fully aware of the compromises I make here, but family life and budgets are what they are, and I’m just trying to make the best out of it. I’m willing to buy everything (stereo speakers, added surrounds and center, subwoofer, amplification, DAC, …) new or second hand if needed. In my former residence, I’ve been using B&W 685’s combined with an old Denon receiver. It did the job for many years, but the lack of a beter listening space made me hesitate to invest more.

I’m an amateur musician and a true music lover, but my spouse won’t let me spent more than €5000/$6000. Within that budget, everything lays on the tablet: room treatment, DAC, speakers, subwoofer, whatever’s needed to make it the best we can do for that budget. I prefer the anti-Bose sound; soft/not boomy, but clear highs and great imaging.

So… where should I start? Should I sell my B&W’s? Should I start with some room treatment? Should I take pictures first? Ask me anything, and thanks a lot in advance for all your kind help!

Greetings from Europe!

I have Wharfedale EVO 4.2 standmounts that can be placed pretty close to walls with no problems (they have a port, but it deflects downward). I adore these speakers and are reasonably priced. Pair them with a PSA Strata and a sub and it should sound awesome. A lot of choices out there.


In such a small room I would advise against a full home theater. Imaging will also be compromised if you can’t pull the speakers away from the walls. Room treatment at the first reflection points will help a lot. A good sub will more than make up the difference from losing surround speakers. Look for a servo controlled sub which will reduce boominess. Alternatively, consider swapping the B&W speakers with towers. Listen before buying if possible or look for a good return policy. Good luck!

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Hello Antwerp, my wife’s home town, besides her, de Singel, Sidi Larbi and a nice opera house.

I am doing a small room at the moment. You need to take the acoustics first. A rug, I’m getting panels for the whole of the rear wall but you don’t have to go full height. Also first reflection areas.

See also here for ideas
I use a Bluesound Powernode 2i, enough power, great control system, small, pretty, very good price (about one third the price of the Stellar) and a tried and tested hugely popular product. It has a sub output.
These are about the best small speakers on the planet for the price. Harbeth P3ESR 40th Anniversary.
They can go very close to a wall and I used the previous model from 1m away.
Then get a small sub from You don’t need more than 250w.
You will be in budget.

In short, for such a small room, you need to spend most of your money on really good speakers and room acoustics. You can pick up a Powernode 2i used for €800 on hifi shark.

A combination I considered is Elac Navis ARB51 and Bluesound Node 2i. That would also be very good.

P.s. my system ended up Raidho X1 (second hand), Powernode 2i, REL S/2. I am about to order the Baux panels.


Hello Stefan,
Welcome to the forum. I would experiment with wall proximity using the existing speakers, and before buying anything I would check some foam bungs like the one below. You could have bungs with holes in them too to partially close ports.

Also, I would take caution with subwoofer placement and room modes. Placing the subwoofer at 1/4, 1/2 or 3/4 of either the length or width of the room would likely exhibit strongest room-modes. Congrats on your new place. Enjoy.

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Hi Steven

Great to hear about the connection and your setup!

I don’t really know how to start with room acoustics… how can I find the best place to mount the panels?

Thanks a lot!

Hi Stefan
The UK website is a good resource as it has a lot of acoustic brands and you should have local dealers. The Baux come from Sweden. Ordering today to cover the rear wall 2.4 x 2.8m. Costing about €800. They offer about 40% absorption, but are quite thin at 25mm. Some panels are up to 60mm thick and the most absorbent are mounted on battens. My room is about 3.8m x 2.8m, its an office so I often listen for long periods as I work and have to avoid fatigue. That is where Harbeth are so good, and frankly the Harbeth P3ESR that you can pick top for €1,000 to €1,200 is an incredible speaker. You will never get tired listening to it and is ideal for a small room. I had a pair for 6 years, just sold them although I may go back to them. I spent €100 on a rug and it made a huge impact. May also put up a ceiling panel, costs about €150.

You are best testing the room with clapping, in the middle, in the corners and by the walls. Compare the room to other rooms with more damping like the bedroom. You will know in seconds how “hard” the sound is.


p.s. I miss Antwerp and the beach this time of year.


I don’t do home theater at all, but your living space for even an audio system, never mind multi-channel HT, is quite a challenge. I might get skewered big time on the forum for what I’m about to suggest, but your situation strikes me as broadly similar to a near field pro audio studio environment. You need your speakers to be against the wall and the front to back dimension of your room, when you take into account the volume taken up by furnishings and the like, pretty much forces near field listening. So, in this unique situation were it me I would, horrors!, consider top shelf pro audio monitors, the best you can afford, that are specifically designed for this type of environment. You won’t get furniture grade veneer finishes going that route, cosmetics of pro monitors are intentionally pedestrian, but I would reject any notion there are no great sounding passive monitors from, say, Dynaudio, PMC, ATC etc. In short, start that whole process with whatever speaker choice you’re going to make because that will be by far the biggest factor determining what you’ll be able to achieve in your abode.


A good suggestion, and do not forget good sound treatment on the back wall.


I agree, the ATC SCM11 offer great value in an award-winning product and I think there is a matching subwoofer. They might need slightly more amplification than the P3ESR. Probably looking at the 80w NAD C368 or 150w C388 with the BluOS streaming module, but the latter eats into the budget.


Thanks for all tips and the beautiful pictures! :smiley:

I did the test and my living room does indeed sound a lot harsher than my bedroom. Thing is, I don’t really know how much surface I should cover on which walls and at which height I should mount the panels for the best result. I’ve made a little video from our living space, maybe that makes things easier:

Thanks a lot! :smiley:

I have all-PSAudio electronics. I toyed with several B&W tower speakers – too disjointed and harsh for me. I went to the other extreme – Tannoy Cheviots. Within your budget if you get a used pair. Front ported, so you can place close to a wall. They are tunable in HF and LF. Dual concentric eliminates phase and timing issue for my ears. They sound real, dynamic. Alternatively, check out pre-owned Klipsch for speakers designed for use agains the wall – like Cornwall IV or below. Very efficient, consider tube electronics. On the other hand, lots of folks are making really good sounding powered/active monitors these days – Kanto TUK’s, Klipsch The Fives, Vantoo Transparent One Encore, Totem Kin Play. All under $1k. (Or go for Elac Navis ARB51 for $2,300.) Big bang for the buck. Connect to anything, including phone, TV, turntable. Well integrated with subs. Forget the home theater system, go for a good 2.1 system. IMO, DSP is making big strides and is the wave of the future.


You could probably experiment with a large piece of thick cardboard behind the sofa - leave a gap of about 10cm between the cardboard and the wall - and see if the sound softens.

As you like large artwork, you cold try acoustic art panels. They are very reasonably priced.

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