The best way to get theater-quality sound in your home theater isn’t necessarily buying new speakers. Simply putting the speakers you already have in their proper positions can make a world of difference, it’s not difficult to do, and using our cheat sheet you can do it in just minutes.
Let’s start with the obvious: you’re not going to have high-quality sound in your home theater if you’re using crappy speakers. But assuming you have good loudspeakers and a good subwoofer, the real key to theater-quality audio isn’t spending a fortune on new speakers. It’s knowing where to put the ones you already have.
First, a disclaimer. The performance of any speakers will depend on the shape and acoustics of a room. If your home theater is 20 feet long and only wide enough to fit a couch, these speaker placement tips probably won’t do you much good. If your 5.1, 7.1 or 9.1 channel home theater is in a “normal” rectangular or square room, though – read on.
Ideal Speaker Locations For 5.1 Audio
Let’s start with the easy stuff: the center channel speaker should be centered either below or above your HDTV or monitor, directly in front of the area where you’ll be sitting. Once your front speakers are positioned, we’ll come back to the center speaker.
Now, picture a circle drawn around your listening area, with the center of the circle being your preferred listening spot and the center channel speaker at the top of the circle, or what we’ll call 0°. Start at 0° and move 30° along the circle, to the left and to the right. That’s where the left and right front speakers should be placed, equidistant from your listening spot.
You’ll have the best audio performance when the tweeters in the front speakers are at ear level, so you might want to put those speakers on platforms if their tweeters are too low. And now that you’ve located the tweeters, compare their height to that of your center channel speaker. If the center speaker is a lot higher or lower than the front speaker tweeters, tilt it so it points directly at your listening area.
The subwoofer can be placed anywhere in your theater; it’s just usually placed in the front, because that makes it easier to run speaker cables. If you like more bass, put the subwoofer near a wall (or in a corner if you want the room to really shake). Otherwise, put it where it fits best; there’s nothing wrong with positioning it near the television if that’s the most convenient spot.
Finally, the surround speakers must be positioned – and they don’t go directly behind your listening spot, as many people believe. They should be put at the 90° spots on your imaginary circle (which is directly to the left and right of your listening area) 12-18 inches above ear level. If there’s furniture or walls in the way, the surround speakers can be placed an additional 20° behind those spots without losing much performance. The surround speakers can also be mounted on walls, if that’s convenient.
Ideal Speaker Locations For 7.1 Audio
All of the 5.1 positioning tips we’ve just listed are perfect for 7.1 channel audio. But you’ll have two more surround speakers to place and they should go behind the listening position, somewhere around the 135-150° spots on the imaginary circle and equidistant from where you’ll be sitting. You’ll get the most impact from these speakers if they’re elevated on stands or platforms, or mounted high on your walls or in the ceiling.
Ideal Speaker Locations For 9.1 Audio
Now we’re really talking about theater-quality sound. Position the first eight speakers (center channel, two front speakers, four surround speakers and subwoofer) as we’ve already discussed, and place the last two speakers directly above the two front speakers but about three to six feet higher. Again, wall or ceiling mounting may work best for you.
When your speakers are positioned properly, you won’t believe the difference in audio performance you’ll hear. Sound too complicated to do yourself? Our DTV Installations professionals are always happy to pay you a visit, for a free consultation and proposal to do the work for you.