You have your television and home theater receiver; you just bought your new speakers and subwoofer and are ready to test things out. It’s time to break out the measuring tape because precision is vital to achieving the full potential of your home theater system. For this article, we are going to focus on a 5.1 surround sound system. The term “5.1” refers to the number of speakers and subwoofers in the system respectively. So for a 5.1 surround sound system, there are five speakers (the center channel, the two front speakers, and the two rear speakers) and one subwoofer. When placing your home theater speakers, try to use the same amount of speaker wire for each type of speaker. For example, use the same length of wire for each of the front speakers. This will allow the signal to reach each speaker in about the same instant. I say “about” because there are variations in the wire which could cause the signal to reach one speaker slightly (fractions of a fraction of a second) before the other. By making the two lengths equal, you ensure that this delay remains tiny and unnoticeable.
Center Channel The center channel should always be placed either immediately above or immediately below the viewing screen. Make sure the speaker is pointed directly at the audience.
Front Speakers The two front speakers should be the same distance from the audience as the center channel. Doing this will ensure that the sound will travel from each speaker to the audience in the same amount of time and reduce the chances of there being a noticeable delay between what takes place on screen to when you hear it. Each of the front speakers should also be positioned an equal distance from the TV on either side. This distance is dependant on your specific tastes; just make sure that the distances are both equal.
Rear Speakers The rear speakers should be mounted on the walls on either side of the audience. Their purpose is to provide a sense of atmosphere, not provide the main sound for your home theater system. Therefore, they should not be pointed directly at the audience’s ears or you risk over powering the center channel and the two front speakers. Again, distance is important. Try to have the rear speakers the same distance from the TV in order to use the same amount of speaker wire and if possible have them placed equidistance from the audience.
Subwoofer Bass tones by their nature are more difficult to localize than the midrange and high notes of the other five speakers. This will give you more freedom as to where to place the subwoofer. However, the location surrounding the subwoofer can greatly influence the bass tones you hear. Placing the subwoofer in a corner or under a table will create a deeper resonating tone as the sound waves reflect off of the surfaces. The placement of the subwoofer is up to you, depending on the type of bass you want. Experiment with different locations and find the one that best suits your taste.
Realizing the full potential of your home theater speakers is not a difficult task. By following these guidelines, you will be ready to enjoy your home theater the way it was meant to be heard.