When it comes to speaker stands, one of the most pressing concerns is what material should be used to fill the hollow poles that make up the stand, or if they should even be filled at all. In this article, we look at the benefits of filling your speaker stand and what material is best to use.
Why Use a Speaker Stand Filler?
If you’ve purchased or own a pair of bookshelf speakers or satellite speakers, you probably already know that to get the best sound quality, the tweeter (or highest frequency speaker) needs to be at or above ear level.
Besides that, you may also know that the sound quality coming from your speakers can be affected by the surface the speaker is on. If you have a speaker designed to be on a stand above ear level, and instead you place it on your hardwood floor, the sound quality will be affected by the resonant properties of the surface, and you will get muddy audio. Not good.
The fix for this is to use speaker stands to support your speakers. There are numerous stand types available, mostly made from either steel or wood. Traditional stands were made from wood, but wood can affect sound quality, so most speaker stands today are made from steel.
Many of these steel stands come with hollow tubes, to reduce both the weight and price of the stands. However, the hollowness of the steel tubes can negatively affect the quality of your audio. Think about it: If you knock your knuckles against an empty tube, you’ll hear a ring or echo. Well, every frequency that resonates will affect the tube the same way and you’ll end up with distorted audio.
To counter this, many people fill the empty tubes with some kind of sound-dampening filler. If you knock your knuckles against a filled tube, you don’t hear a ring, and you won’t have an empty tube interfering with your audio. People use a variety of different materials for speaker stand filler, from kitty litter to steel shot.
What Material Should I Fill My Stand With?
This is the $64,000 question. You can fill your stand with almost any material that will fit. People fill their stands with sand, rice, kitty litter, and even pebbles. Which material you choose may be more of a personal preference depending on your budget, desired audio quality, and amount of cleanup that probably will need to take place after filling. Below we review some common speaker stand filler options.
Sand is probably the most popular choice for a speaker stand filler, as it’s cheap and readily available. However, you don’t want to use cheap garden sand to fill your stands because of the possibility of moist sand getting moldy. You definitely don’t want stinky, moldy speaker stands in your house. Instead, use washed sand.
Washed sand is sand that has been filtered and washed to remove impurities such as clay and silt, then allowed to drain and dry. It is also used as a base or underlayer for laying brick or as a liner for in-ground pools. It’s also the sand used for most volleyball courts. Washed sand should remain mold-free a lot longer than normal sand (as in years longer).
To fill your stand with washed sand, it’s best to use a funnel, and pour it in slowly. You may also want to do this outside, as there will be spillage. (There’s always spillage. It’s inevitable.) For best results and easier clean-up, place the stand inside a large trash bag, then fill the stand. The spillage should all be caught by the trash bag. When the stand is full, simply take it out, wipe it off, and put it in position. The remaining sand in the trash bag can be repurposed or discarded.
Kitty litter is also a popular speaker stand filler, as it is readily available and inexpensive. If you own a cat, you don’t even need to go out and buy it. A clay-based kitty litter is best for stand filler, one that remains relatively even throughout. Since you’re not using it for your cat, it doesn’t need to have any special properties such as clumping or odor-resistance.
To fill up your stand, follow the same procedure described above. You don’t want to get kitty litter all over the house, so get a trash bag and do your filling outside.
Another popular choice for stand filler is steel shot. Some use lead shot, but as lead comes with a high risk of toxicity, steel is much safer (If you do use lead shot, be sure to wear gloves thicker than latex gloves for your safety). Steel shot is available in many different diameters, so check out different sizes to find the one that is the best fit for your stand.
Steel shot also avoids the spillage problem of sand or kitty litter, as little balls of steel are far easier to pick up if they miss their mark. Some people even use a combination of steel shot and sand, or other filler, to fill the gaps left by the larger steel spheres.
Some people use rice to fill their speaker stands. This promises less of a mess than sand or kitty litter, but still creates a reasonable opportunity for mess-making. Also, since rice is less dense, it may not dampen the resonant properties of the hollow steel tubes as well as some other materials.
Another option for filling your speaker stand is gravel, though grabbing a handful from your driveway might not be the best choice. Uniform gravel would be best, as you don’t want a large pebble getting stuck in the tube leaving pockets of unfilled air.
Aquarium gravel is the type most commonly used in stand filling, as freshwater aquarium gravel is found easily in most pet stores. Filling the stand with aquarium gravel will require a funnel and poses a higher risk of mess, though less than sand or kitty litter.
Tips for Filling Your Speaker Stand
While the material used to fill a speaker stand may vary, there are a few things to remember that will be common no matter which material is used.
Filling your speaker stand will increase the weight of the device. You may already know this, but what you may not have thought of is if the base of your stand is prepared for the extra weight.
Certain materials such as steel shot will increase the weight more, while some like rice will increase it significantly less, but every filler will increase the weight to some degree. If you make the stand too heavy, the base may not be able to hold the added weight and your expensive speakers could end up on the floor.
When filling a stand, it’s always best to do it in increments so you can gauge the amount of stress the added weight will put on the base. Fill your stand only halfway (or better yet, ¼ way) at first and see how your base reacts. If it isn’t affected, you can fill another ¼ and check again.
Filling your stand in this manner is the best way to determine if your base is strong enough to take the added load.
Another concern with extra weight is the damage to your floor. Wooden floors are more likely to be scratched or damaged than concrete floors. If your stand is on a wooden floor, you may want to put a mat underneath the stand to prevent damage to the floor below.
Tighten Your Fit
Another thing you need to do when filling your speaker stands is make sure you have a tight seal on the steel tube connected to the base. Some stands come with tubes pre-attached to the base, but others do not.
If your stand does not have pre-attached tubes, you need to tighten the fit as much as you can before you fill the tube. Not only will this decrease the chance of spillage, but it also helps to prevent air pockets in your tube, which will affect the sound quality of your audio.
While there are many different types of fillers people use to fill their speaker stands, some may work better than others, and some provide an easier and less messy filling experience. Hopefully, this article helped you figure out which filler may work best for you, your stand, and your floors. This way, you can maximize your audio-listening experience.