We all know that speaker placements is very important as it will greatly affect the audio quality and how it will sound overall. But due to limited space or simply been assigned a small area for your HiFi system as the rest of the home will be meant for your family usage. We have no choice but to make full use of what limited space we have.
Does that mean for this type of situation, we should always get a pair of front ported speakers? This is where this article about front vs rear ported speakers comes in handy. We will reveal all the necessary information about these 2 types of speakers thus enabling you to finalize and decide which is more suitable, front ported or rear ported.
What is a Speaker Port
A speaker port is a hole that is cut into the speaker cabinet with a pipe affixed to the port/hole. This port increases the low frequency efficiency of the system thus enhancing the lowest frequencies reproduction that is generated by the speakers’ woofers. There can be one or more ports either mounted in the front or rear of a speaker.
When compared to a sealed enclosure speaker of the same size, a ported version will always perform better in terms of bass response, it has higher output, lower frequency, and more efficiency. And because of the efficiency, it requires lesser power than a sealed speaker, as they have increased bass output by around 3 dB. The size of the port and length of the tube will usually be based on the size of the speaker cabinet. Another deciding factor of the port size and length will be determined by the speaker designer as he/she will need to do extensive experimentation to determine the ideal measurements.
This is why ported speakers or bass reflex systems are so popular among consumers and even manufacturers. You also don’t see many sealed enclosure speakers these days due to this. Now we have an understanding of what is a speaker port, let’s move on to the wall boundaries on how it may affect ported speakers.
Wall boundaries affect Bass and Sound Stage
The back wall and sidewall of your room will affect 2 acoustic characteristics which are the sound stage and bass response. The closer you place a speaker to the wall, the more bass reinforcement it will get. The quality and quantity of the bass reproduction will be greatly affected, leading to bass boominess, lesser bass details, and warmer sound. There are no speakers that are immune to this, front ported or rear ported and even sealed enclosure speakers will be ‘influenced’ by these wall boundaries. Usually, rear ported speakers will be the ones that get affected the most.
The sound stage is another acoustic characteristic that will be affected by this. By increasing the distance between the speaker and the back wall, this will increase the depth of the soundstage but if the distance is too far, this will cause your sound stage to lose its focus. Also, increasing the distance between the speaker and the sidewall, this will increase the width of the soundstage. If one side of the speaker is closer to the wall, let’s say the right side, you will notice the right half of the soundstage is narrower than the left half of the soundstage. This issue will affect both front and rear ported speakers with no exception. Sidewall will affect the tonal balance as well. Basically, how close your speakers are to the sidewall will influence the midrange balance and the back wall will affect more on the bass impact.
Just to add on, the width of the soundstage will also be affected by the distance between the speakers. The size of your room will be the influencer on how much distance you can set your speakers apart.
Size of the speakers
Whether it is front or rear ported speakers, the bigger the speakers, the more room it requires. Bookshelf speakers placement will be easier in smaller rooms as it doesn’t get affected by wall boundaries that much when compared to floor standing speakers. Of course, the latter will be more suitable for bigger rooms as it can fill the room and reach all listeners within it.
With all the information I have provided earlier, you should realize that both front and rear ported speakers require a certain distance between both sidewall and back wall. If you are truly limited in space, a pair of front ported speakers may be a better option but you should go a bit further. Measure the maximum distance you can provide for your speakers, the distance between the back wall, and the distance between the sidewall. Use these measurements to find the most suitable pair of speakers, be it front or rear ported ones since every speaker will have recommended minimum distance. You can use these to make a compromise in sound quality.
Another option is to get a satellite and subwoofer combo since satellite speakers are usually recommended to be placed close to walls as they need the bass reinforcements. You can also buy speakers that are specially designed to be placed right on the walls, for instance, wall speakers or ceiling speakers.
As you can see, there are a lot of other options out there but if you insist on getting ported speakers, then do go ahead. After all, the most important thing is that you like how it sounds. You should audition them first though, visit a dealer, request for the speakers to be placed exactly how they may be placed in your room (e.g. similar distance between wall boundaries). To be even more accurate, you should audition potential speakers in your own listening room. Hope this article has helped you to make the right decisions and get the most suitable speakers for your current situation.