Speaker Placement for Home Theater Surround Sound Setups

Make the Most of Your Home Theater System’s Sound

With many people around the world deciding to turn their homes into entertainment spaces, home theater systems are more popular than ever. However, what you may not realize until you start assembling your system is that it requires a little more than a big, flat-screen TV and a comfortable sofa.

The success and enjoyment of your home theater will be based on the proper placement of your speakers, if you want that movie theater, surround sound experience at home. Do you know the speaker placement for home theater surround sound setups? If not, we are here to help you! To get started, you only have to understand that every home is different. It may take some trial and error to get it right for your entertainment space.

Speaker Placement

Center Channel Speaker Placement

One of the most important features of a surround sound system is the center channel speaker. It is the part of the system that will be most important when it comes to dialog. Therefore, it is going to need to be set up as close to your television as possible.

Ideally, you will set the center speaker either above or below your TV, centered with it and in line with the screen. Then your sofa, recliners, or other furnishings that you will watch a movie from should be centered with that focal point.

By doing this, you will see the actors on the screen say the words and hear them at the same time, which gives your system a very “natural” feel that puts you in the middle of the action. If you put it too far to one side or behind you, the voices may seem separate from the action on your screen.

The center speakers have tweeters in them. Tweeters give a “directional sound”. Therefore, you should also do your best to have the center speaker in line with your ears when seated, which is why many people place it under their TV. This depends on the height and size of your television, but in most setups to put it on top of the TV will put the voices above your head.

Please Note: If you cannot place the center speaker directly in line with your ears, you should consider tilting it up or down to direct the sound.

Front Left and Right Speakers

The front left and right speakers are going to be where music and sound effects come from. At times, they may also be responsible for voice reproductions. Therefore, you want them in front of your entertainment space and in line with your television.

Placing them to the side, an equal distance from your TV is best. You should basically imagine there is a triangle in your living space. The wide bottom of that triangle will be made up of the left speaker, center speaker, and right speaker. It should all be in line with each other as you start setting things up. To take it further, all speakers should be pointed in your direction to create the tip of your triangle, centered with the center of your sofa or row of recliners.

Once you have your triangle, you can then move your right/left speakers slightly forward, creating a triangle that is curved slightly on the bottom. In a perfect setup, your speakers will be angled at 22-30 degrees so that you hear them properly.

Home Theater Surround Speaker Placement

Once you have the front speakers and center speaker set in place, you will want to move on to your surroundings. These are the speakers that provide depth and space. Their placement will vary depending on how your room (and your viewing area) are designed. It may also depend on how your speakers are designed to be placed.

For instance, some speakers are designed with mounting brackets that angle toward your ears, and others are designed to be mounted so they aim at your seating area. Personal preferences may also play a part and you should play around or experiment with what you enjoy the most. They should also be placed slightly higher than the front speakers.

If you have a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker set, this may also change how you need to set the surround speakers. Therefore, we are going to look at each set individually.

5.1 Home Theater Speakers Positioning

In most cases, you want the 5.1 speaker placement for home theater surround speakers to be slightly behind and above your ears when you are seated to watch a movie. One on each side of your recliner or sofa. If it is not possible to have it slightly behind you, that is okay. You can have it directly beside your seating area at a 90-degree angle.

Best Speaker Placement for 7.1 Home Theater

If you have a 7.1 speaker set, you will have four surround speakers to work with. This means that two of the speakers should be inline with your seating area at a 90- to 100-degree angle. The other two speakers will be situated behind you at approximately 135- to 150-degrees and angled toward your seating area.

Subwoofer Position

Much the same as your stereo system in your car or home, a subwoofer with a surround setup is designed to provide bass. They are the most forgiving part of a surrounding system. This means that you can put it where you have a space for it. You can tuck it behind your TV or in another area of the room.

However, you may also want to play around with it as well. If your empty space is a corner, the bass can become a little too boomy for you because it will perhaps create an echo. On the other side of the spectrum, putting it near a corner could amplify and enhance the bass perfectly, and putting it in “open” areas could diminish its sound or cause it to simply bounce around the room, which isn’t good either.

Our suggestion is to play with your subwoofer position to see what works for you since it does depend on the space that you are using. You may also consider adding another subwoofer to increase the bass if you cannot find a perfect setup with one.

Best Position for a Single Subwoofer

It is recommended that you avoid putting the subwoofer in the center of a square room. Bass is generally a long-wave sound. This means that it can bounce around. If you have a square room, there is a risk that the bass sound will result in reflecting waveforms. This can cause it to bounce to the point that it cancels it out. Placing it closer to a corner or at least closer to one end than the other.

If you discover that the bass isn’t quite what you want when you are sitting in your viewing area, you can often improve it by moving the subwoofer just a few inches. If you cannot find the best place for it because your room has too many quiet areas, adding a second subwoofer can improve it.

Second Subwoofer Position for Better Bass

A second subwoofer is good for areas that may have imperfect bass sound from a single subwoofer. In a perfect world, you will add the second subwoofer on the other side of the room from your first and at a diagonal line from it. This is not always effective though, because it will change depending on your room’s shape.

An easy way to ensure good bass with a second subwoofer is to have someone sit and watch a movie as you move the second subwoofer around. Even though it may only need to move a few inches, that few inches may make all the difference between awesome and not so great. This trick may also come in handy as you work to optimize your setup!

Optimizing Your Setup

The information so far is based on reasonably perfect circumstances and rooms. However, it is not often that there is a “perfect” space. The setup that works well for your neighbor may not work for your surround system. Even though you both may have a room that is approximately the same shape and size, you will both have different items in that room.
Therefore, you will have to tweak your system to ensure that it works right for your listening enjoyment. Some ideas for this include:

Fine Tuning Your Speakers

Most of the surround sound speakers available today have an automatic correction, which allows you to more easily tweak the way everything sounds. You can and should take advantage of this feature if it doesn’t sound “right” for you. Beyond that, you can also adjust the settings on your AV receiver using volume, phase, and tonal balancing. The purpose of this is to compensate for the actual position of your speakers in that room.

Create a Clear Path

One thing to keep in mind is that if you are sitting in your viewing chair and cannot see your speakers from it, the sound is being blocked. You want a clear path between you and all your speakers to ensure optimal sound.

Experimentation

You should sit in your chair or on your sofa to experiment with the sound. Take a moment to listen to a movie or album that you know well and then shift one speaker a couple of inches. Even a small adjustment in a speaker’s position could boost the sound quality where you are sitting.

Room acoustics

This is one time that “less” does not equal “more”. To enhance your room acoustics, you should minimize bare walls and floors because it can make the sound more “echo-y”. This means add rugs or carpet, photographs on the wall, shelves, and other stuff to lessen the risk of an echo or too much “bounce” in the sound waves.

Tips for an Odd-Shaped Room

Unless you built your home with a movie room, you will never have a “perfect” room for a surround sound system. In today’s homes, we have square rooms, L-shaped rooms, open floor plans, and homes that the best setup is to put the TV in a corner. This does not mean that you can’t have a surround sound system. It simply means that you may have to experiment a little more. Here are some tips that may help.

Working with an L-Shaped Room:

An L-shape is basically the same as a square room, but you do want to make sure you keep everything in its “box”. You will want your center speaker above or below your TV with the front speakers to its side. Your seating/viewing area will need to be direct across from it so that everything is in line with you. You should also consider pulling your seat away from the wall to enhance the sound quality. Surrounds should be placed slightly behind you. The subwoofer should be in the same general area, not in another part of the “L”.

Optimizing and Open Floor Plan:

An open floor plan does require special consideration. For instance, you may want to consider in-ceiling surround speakers that are placed slightly behind you. If this doesn’t give you the sound quality you want, you can also consider adding a soundbar or a 3.1 system instead.

Corner TVs and Dual Seating Areas:

If you use your corners for dual seating areas or your TV, you should strongly consider a 3.1 system or a soundbar. The reason for this is simple-there isn’t a good place for surrounds that won’t leave one area without them. A soundbar or a 3.1 system is more forgiving and flexible. It can also make sense where “surround” isn’t always a good option because of aesthetics. You can still direct sound toward you with a 3.1 because it has front speakers, a center speaker, and a subwoofer. You may also be able to add other speakers to it for placement around the room, but separate from the set.

Speaker Placement for Home Theater Final Thoughts

When trying to discover the speaker placement for a home theater with a surround sound setup, you are not limited in any way. We have given you the basic guidelines, but ultimately it will depend on your setup, your space, and what sounds awesome to you. Therefore, we cannot express enough that you have to experiment to ensure that you are not missing out on the true power and potential of your surround sound. Our words of wisdom- “Don’t stress over it, just play with it!”

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