There is no spoon, and no grid. The OpenAL listener object and source objects have attributes to describe their position, velocity and orientation in three dimensional space. OpenAL -- like OpenGL -- uses a right-handed Cartesian coordinate system (RHS), where in a frontal default view X (thumb) points right, Y (index finger) points up, and Z (middle finger) points towards the viewer/camera.
Now, you place your sound sources and the listener object in your world.
I usually use the coordinates from my game objects as they are, in world coordinates. That means, the listener is always inside my hero and needs to be updated when it moves, as every other sound emitter, too. Be sure, to make all AL source not
relative, if you're using world coordinates.
The only thing that needs to be adjusted is the reference distance of each source. AL_REFERENCE_DISTANCE is the distance at which the listener will experience AL_GAIN, meaning your hero hears the sound at the current sources' gain level. Getting closer/staying inside that circle to/around the source, there'll be no difference in gain experience. Only spatial changes, which AL manages for you. Leaving the reference range will make the source go quiet. It all depends on the distance model you choose.
More here: http://openal.org/openal_webstf/specs/oal11spec_html/oal11spec3.html
Is your game 2D or 3D? How do you store the positions of your game objects?