Home Theater 101: How Do I Position My Surround Sound Speakers?
Each speaker has a specific role to play in your surround sound system. Understanding what each speaker does will help you shop smarter.
Center Channel Speaker
The primary purpose of a center channel speaker is to produce movie sound the director positioned in the center channel. When watching a movie more than 50% of the soundtrack, including almost all dialogue, is delivered through the center channel speaker. Since a great deal of action comes from this speaker, a good center channel speaker is crucial for a well-balanced home theater system.
Keep in mind a center channel speaker is best placed just below the TV, so make sure your speaker is an appropriate size for the intended placement. Most experts recommend getting 5 perfectly matched speakers for surround sound including the center channel speaker, but today many speakers will allow you to adjust the volume of each speaker separately making it easier to integrate a non matching center channel speaker.
When choosing a center channel speaker consider the other speakers in your surround sound system. Compact subwoofer/satellite systems usually use smaller center channel speakers, while tower speakers require a larger center channel model to maintain a balanced surround sound effect.
Front Left and Front Right Speakers
The front left and front right speakers provide a wide range of sounds that blend with the video to create a more realistic and exciting movie experience. The front speakers handle most of the special effects, which move back and forth between the two speakers in sync with the images on the screen.
In addition, front speakers also handle the sound of things happening off-camera, such as a car that is approaching but hasn’t come into view yet. Front speakers are also very important for music listening; they do all the work when it comes to stereo music reproduction.
When it comes to front speakers there are 3 types you can choose from:
- Floor-standing speakers – have the most impact and provide good low-frequency response
- Bookshelf speakers – smaller and easier to move, don’t reproduce as much bass, but a subwoofer generally can take care of that.
- Wall-mountable satellite speakers – perfect if you want big sound from a small package. Work best when teamed with a subwoofer.
The surround speakers produce atmospheric, ambient sounds – such as rain drops, the rustling of a newspaper, splashing in a pool, or footsteps. These atmospheric sounds and special effects are what make you feel like you’re actually in the middle of the action that’s taking place on screen.
The surround speakers are best placed to the left and right of your listening position. If side placement isn’t possible, place your surround speakers behind and above your listening position. Correct surround speaker placement is important for quality sound. Look for surround speakers that you can easily angle towards your listening area. Pivoting mounting brackets and speaker stands can help do the trick as well.
Consider where you will put your surround speakers and whether they will need to be stand-mounted, wall-mounted, or even placed in-wall or in-ceiling. For well-balanced sound, you should strive for your surround speakers to have the same performance capability as your front left and front right speakers.
A 5.1-channel surround system, with only one pair of surround speakers is the most common setup. If you have a larger space you may want to consider buying additional speakers to use as “back surrounds” in a 6.1 or 7.1-channel system.
A home theater system should include at least one powered subwoofer. Most movies, as well as TV shows and video game soundtracks, provide a dedicated channel for deep bass.
The bass is what makes your windows rattle and your house shake, during special effects like thunder or explosions. Most speakers can’t deliver that level of bass on their own; this is why a subwoofer is needed.
Since the deep-bass frequencies reproduced by the subwoofers are non-directional it is very difficult for our ears to actually pin-point the direction in which the sound is coming. That’s why we can only sense that the thunder or explosions seem to be all around us, rather than coming from a particular direction. As a result, the subwoofer can be placed anywhere in the room. However, placing a subwoofer near a wall or in a corner can increase bass impact noticeably. Experiment by placing your subwoofer in different locations; then choose the location that sounds the best to you. One subwoofer is the norm, but if you want to ensure even and smooth coverage, add a second subwoofer.
Need more help in deciding what speakers are best for your home theater system? Just stop into anyone of our P.C. Richard and Son Superstores and one of our expert sales representatives can help you find exactly what you’re looking for!