[SoundStage!]Synergizing with Greg Weaver
Back Issue Article
October 1999

Laser Levelling Made Easy -- And Affordable!

If you read the first installment of my three-part Fistful of Freebies series (in particular, freebie number four in that column), you will be aware how much importance I put on the leveling and correct, symmetrical placement and toe-in of my speakers. Thanks to HAL, one of the Southern Maryland Irregulars, I am happy to be able to bring you a cost-effective way to level your racks, turntables and speakers, adjust toe-in too.

HAL located Heartland America, which was offering a severely discounted laser-level [Item No. WW22-3559], for a modest $29.95. The device had retailed at $99.95 and was reduced for some reason, most likely because it wasn’t a real hot seller at $100, but that is just my speculation. It is a 16"L x 3"W x 2"D bright-yellow commercial-grade level fabricated of shock-proof aluminum housing and both a horizontal and vertical bubble level. What makes it so special is the built-in 650NM laser that shoots a red beam up to 300' indoors. The Laser Level operates on two AAA batteries, which are included. What is especially novel about this little toy is that it comes with a diffraction lens that fits over the business end of the level, allowing the round beam to be stretched out into a fine flat line. Can you say "What a perfect application for all us audiophobes?" I knew that you could!

Flat lining

This sturdy and utile tool has replaced my more limited laser pointer, and has both simplified and amplified the things I can do. After affixing the lens to the end of the level, simply set it upright flush atop your speaker and point it to the front, sides and rear of each speaker. You will be able to see with remarkable ease its horizontal flat line projected on your walls for an easy and accurate means to true your speakers in all planes. It will project a bright-red line, easy to see and remarkably telltale, which will let you know beyond any doubt in which direction to adjust your speakers in order to reach the sought-after position. With the level resting on the top of the speaker cabinet (or the rack, or the turntable, or -- you get the picture), adjust the spikes or shim the bottom. You have just discovered the easiest way I’ve found to true your speakers (or any object under adjustment) in all planes.

If you are using a pair of speakers that do not have a flat top, you can use any flat surface on the speaker to find perfect level. This will require you holding the Laser Level on the chosen flat surface, taking a sighting, making your adjustments, then re-sighting. Believe me, Synergizers, doing this is well worth the time. You will have no doubt left when you see the results as to whether or not you’ve found true level. And the results will be worth the miniscule efforts on your part. But read on.

Once you have the speakers true, be sure to use your tape measure and check from the rear and side walls to the top edges of the cabinet to be sure that you have the speakers placed symmetrically in the room. The measurements taken before you have achieved level may be inaccurate due to any lean the speakers may have exhibited before you have set them perfectly vertical, and this will, believe it or not, affect the staging and imaging. I have found distances as small as a half inch can muck up what would otherwise be a perfectly solidified image and expansive, detailed stage. Once the measurements are symmetrical, double check for accurate leveling. It will only take a moment with this wonderful little tool.

Once the speaker is leveled, move the Laser Level to the sides to set toe-in. By placing the level along the inside or outside vertical face, you will see in a flash whether toe-in is symmetrical as well. Using the beam in this vertical orientation, aiming at the listening chair or the rear wall, you can set the toe-in angle to be identical for each speaker. Here again, slight angle differences between the two speakers can disrupt the magical ability to re-create the accurate width, depth and height of the stage -- and make very minute but crucial differences in timbre. This also has the ability to make the difference between an image being locked and stable or floating amorphously and adrift in the stage. And the spectacle of Q-Sound cannot be fully appreciated until the speakers are positioned and toed-in symmetrically and accurately.

Goings on ‘round here

Trust me -- you’re gonna love what this little toy can do for you. For those who want to try a different level of precision, I have been informed that I am due to receive the professional Checkpoint Sound Alignment Systems tools specifically engineered for those of us who suffer from this disease. Watch for these in an upcoming issue.

There is one other aspect of the Laser Level that is very enjoyable for Katana, the audiophile feline. Taking the diffraction lens off and pointing the round beam on the floor while moving it in a circular fashion drives the precocious feline wild with enthusiasm. Whether he thinks it is some type of bug or he is just humoring his caretaker, he makes wild noises and runs amuck trying to catch the tiny red dot on the floor, the curtains, the walls…. Enjoy!

...Greg Weaver
gregw@soundstage.com  

 

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