We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
I was amused to see Megan McArdle having problems positioning her stereo speakers because I once spent a frustrating year fiddling with that issue in our parlor with my ridiculously high quality but handsome 5 1/2', 175 lb. LegacyFocus speakers, which would be better suited for an auditorium, a barn - or outdoors. You cannot crank them up or it could remove my house from its foundation.
Good stereo speakers need to be at least 3' from the wall, away from direct sunlight, and 6-10' apart, depending on room size. Even so, there will only be one relatively small area in the room where the sound will converge properly. What if you want to sit somewhere else? You cannot sit in front of one speaker. (And don't even talk to me about that stupid "surround sound" fad of the 1980s.)
I finally gave up on doing it right, because it wouldn't work in the room, given the windows, fireplace, piano, and other necessary furniture. I even called Legacy and sent them a floor plan, and they were kind and helpful, but it just didn't work for the space. That marked the end of my pursuit of maximum recorded sound. It's a fool's errand unless you have a dedicated "listening room" like fanatic audiophiles do. Now, I'd just rather spend my money on hearing live music, and I mostly listen to music via my crummy old computer speakers.
My big Focus speakers ended up 24' apart, in corners, about 18" from the wall. Totally wrong, unless you are listening from the adjacent room. Makes me want to return to good old monaural and to heck with this stereo nonsense. I remember when my Dad bought our first mono cabinet "record player." Man, did that sound good. I even remember my kid sister playing "Meet the Beatles" on the thing, when the record came out. (I thought it was dumb music...at first.)
As far as the speakers being close together, that just affects the stereo separation, not the sound quality. Placing them in corners and near walls, though, makes the bottom end 'booming' and unnatural. If you ever want to address the problem, buy a 10-band equalizer. That'll allow you to get the 'booming' out of the bottom end. It might even come with an audio CD that'll help you fine-tune the speakers to the room.
But I know what your real problem is.
Your real problem is twofold:
1. Tired of this new-fangled "stereo" sound, you want to get back to the basics! When an orchestra or band plays in front of you, the sound only comes from one direction, right? Obviously, this new "stereo" fad is sure to be short-lived.
2. Being an avante garde type o' guy, you want the hottest, latest electronic gizmo! That means you want a Mac!
So it's with great pride that I bring you the best of both worlds!
Very nice...tube amps. For some reason, unmeasurable and undetectable by engineering measurement techniques, tube amps and high quality vinal sound better to the human ear.
I find more and more that I make compromises in pure quality for convenience...MP3 for portability and flexibility in song selection, solid state/digital for price and reliability...also I have less and less time to plant myself in front of an ultimate system and just listen. I'm usually doing something else like reading or conversing so the quality at the extreme margin is less important. My wife and kids also make claims to my disposable income so compromises must be made.
Yes it is difficult to have a proper living/sitting room and hi-fi speaker placement. I've moved my good system to the basement to more of a listening room and use small satellite speakers + sub woofer for the living room. I've mounted the satellites about 5 ft up on the walls about 8 feet apart so they're not in anyone's ear. This does an excellent job of filling the room and maximizing decent listening areas. I've swapped my Polk Adio's for a Mirage system. For less than absolute critical listening this is a very good compromise.
You have the right idea with the satellites and the subwoofer.
Really expensive speakers are just that- really expensive and require more love than you should have to give them. It becomes an obsession, and audiophiles are the weirdest geeks I have ever met. (being in engineering and working for an audio company I have met my share of geeks...)
For what it's worth: The amplifier and source matter more than the speakers. Most decent speakers can reproduce most of what they are sent for signal- ours do for less than $200 a pair. Send your $10k setup crappy signal and it will dutifully and beautifully reproduce the crap.
My approach is to put speakers in every room of my house on the "cheap" (wink wink nudge nudge)- there's always samples laying about in the department for 'testing' purposes, things that wouldn't cost an arm and leg and are easy to get.
I don't bother with eq's and fancy pre-amps. I just run my DVD player straight into an amplifier. If you can't reproduce it properly "flat" then you are using bad gear, or have really bad geometry in your house working against you.
Then you have to worry about the recording itself, or the source. Not everyone can deal with vinyl- or even knows what that is, for convenience I put all my records onto CD. I didn't massage it at all, so it sounds exactly like a record on- clicks and all.
Most old farts killed their hearing listening to bad loud music in their youth. After 25, your hearing drops off anyway, you cannot hear the high ends. If you're married, you've developed selective hearing to boot.
Ah, yes, the pursuit of Stereo. I still have my McIntosh MC-2205 amplifier, MX-113 pre-amp and JBL 200 studio monitors (remember them? about the size of washing machines, and almost as heavy). How often do I listen now? Almost never,due to loose connectors on the speakers, which introduce a crackling sound, but I still cling to them like I cling to my "guns and religion".