Where to Put Your Surround Sound Speakers for 5.1, 7.1, and Dolby Atmos
Correct placement of the surround sound speakers is crucial for a successful 5.1 or 7.1 home theatre setup.
Taking the effort to position the speakers correctly will allow you to get the most out of your surround sound system.
Three front-firing speakers in particular—the centre, left, and right—are likely to be indispensable. These are the primary actors in re-creating a film’s soundtrack.
However, the placement of your surround sound speakers is crucial for achieving the best possible results. It’s important to have a good subwoofer as well as surround and rear speakers.
Let’s take a look at all the different speaker choices and figure out which ones are essential for a home theatre setup.
Center Channel Speaker Placement
The main speaker is crucial in a 5.1 system.
Depending on the size of your TV and the available space, you may place the centre speaker either immediately above or below the centre of the screen.
Since they do most of the talking in the movie, we need to make sure we put them in the right place.
Make sure it isn’t too far away, though, otherwise the audio won’t match the visuals. This will subtract from the quality of the soundtrack by making it sound synthetic.
Locating the speakers at an appropriate distance from your ears is more important than placing them exactly above or below the screen.
Assuming a common viewing position, tweeters should be placed so that the centre of the speaker is at or slightly above the listener’s ear. Your speakers’ tweeters are the little cones at the very top. Because of their enhanced directional sense, higher frequencies can go farther and have a stronger impact.
The tweeters in a regular set of bookshelf or floor speakers are perched atop the larger woofers. However, they are often set up in a centre channel speaker next to the woofers.
It’s possible that the speakers can be removed from the grille if you can’t identify their exact location. But you should still take care!
It’s ideal if the tweeters of the centre speaker and the left and right front speakers were at the same level. But this is not always a simple task to accomplish precisely.
By doing so, the sound will be more consistent amongst the first three speakers.
You won’t notice much of an issue as the sound travels from one speaker to the next if they’re set horizontally within a range of around 1 to 2 feet. Listening and utilising your own judgement are crucial when placing speakers.
If you can’t make up your mind, put on a movie, choose an action scene with lots of special effects, and listen to how it sounds via the front speakers.
Also, if your TV is on top, don’t put the speaker behind the front edge. As a result, by the time the sound reaches your ears after hitting the TV, it will have been changed.
Speakers for the centre channel are typically horizontally long and wide. This should let it to sit flush against the wall behind a TV while still delivering satisfactory sound.
If you need to mount the speaker to the wall, use a floor stand, or set it on a shelf, just make sure it’s secure and level. Sometimes it’s tough to find a good spot for this speaker.
Front Left and Right Speaker Placement
A home stereo system’s left and right front speakers make up a stereo pair.
It is likely that they will also be tasked with dubbing the dialogue in the picture, in addition to providing the majority of the score and sound effects.
Reason enough to make sure the sound at the front of the screen is balanced. That is, the front-facing left, centre, and right speakers should be calibrated to play nice with one another.
The optimal distance between the TV and the left and right front speakers should be the same as the distance between the primary listening position and the TV.
This orientation may or may not be suitable for your room. This means that one of the two speakers is physically closer to the audience than the other.
If there is a little change in output level, your home theatre receiver will adjust for it automatically. You need only guarantee that you are the focal point of attention and that everyone else is given equal consideration.
The front, left, and right corners of a room are common locations for speakers.
The front of the room is where you’ll find the left and right speakers.
When setting up a home theatre, the centre channel speaker should be positioned at the apex of the imaginary arc created by the viewer’s line of sight from the centre seats.
Next, we’ll nudge the left and right front speakers forward a little bit. That way, they can all be nearly at the same distance from the listening location. If you find yourself struggling with this, try not to worry too much. Your AV receiver should adjust the volume based on the physical distance between the speakers.
If you’re listening from a chair, the sweet spot for the front left and right speakers is anywhere between 22 and 30 degrees (see below). You can use this as a general template for positioning the front speakers.
The tweeters of the front speakers are slanted to the left and right, so your ears may rest securely above them. It should be at the same level as your main speaker.
The ideal placement for floor-standing speakers is to have the tweeter at roughly the same height from your seat as it is from the floor. To get the best sound quality from your bookshelf speakers, you’ll also need stands that can be adjusted in height.
Some listeners find it more comfortable with their front speakers slightly angled toward the centre of the room. A common name for this strategy is “toeing-in” the speaker.
However, this may vary from person to person and speaker to speaker. To find the optimal location for your speakers, consider a few different options.
For a more concentrated sound, toe the speakers in, and for a wider soundstage, leave them out. However, the appearance of your speakers is equally important.
Even if you can’t get the front speakers to sit perfectly at ear level, you can still achieve a comparable effect by tilting them upwards or downwards with respect to the listener.
The stands or brackets you use will determine whether this is possible or not. Although certain speaker designs call for the speakers to be level, it’s up to you to decide if angling them improves the sound.
Surround Sound Speaker Positioning
Using surround sound speakers is meant to create a more immersive experience. For the best possible experience with a 5.1 configuration, the surround speakers should be placed behind or to the side of the listener.
As may be seen in the diagram below, the angle recommended by Dolby is between 110 and 120 degrees.
Surround speakers can be placed at a ninety-degree angle on either side of a couch that is pulled up against a wall.
Precise accuracy may be challenging in some spaces, but you should always strive for it. Doors, windows, and furniture placement all play a role in the arrangement of a room and may require you to make some difficult choices. Nonetheless, the closest possible solution can usually be found through resourceful problem solving.
Put the rear channels up higher than the front ones. Between one and two feet is the sweet spot for comfort when seated.
This is because the point of having surround sound is to create an immersive environment for the listener. That’s why getting them out of sight of your ears should help.
It isn’t intended for the sound to be directed straight at us from the front speakers. Like the front speakers, these are normally aimed at the room’s centre. The form of the speakers and the capability of the supports or brackets can affect whether or not this is achievable.
Regular, direct-firing (monopole) speakers can be made to sound better by angling them. However, this approach can come across as a bit too direct to some audiences.
That’s why installing speakers high above the primary seat in your theatre is a smart option; they’ll be able to funnel the sound down toward you. As a result, more air will be needed to carry the sound to your ears.
Get your hands on a few different options and observe what your ears respond to best. Due to the development of Dolby Atmos speaker configurations, it is now suggested that the surround speakers be placed at a higher elevation, closer to the viewer’s head or ear.
With this, it will be easier to distinguish between the surround and Atmos effects. Finding the optimal layout for your room requires experimentation. Anywhere from right over the listener’s head to a couple feet above makes little difference once the receiver has finished processing the signal. On the other hand, in a cramped environment, I worry that being at head height would feel too close.
The surround effects’ function is to supplement the primary soundstage, not to replace it. When there are many people in the audience, it’s best to raise the speakers up so they don’t block anyone’s line of sight.
Keep in mind that many people won’t have the option of positioning the speakers exactly where it’s indicated. The process of setting up speakers for 7.1 surround sound is not radically different from setting up speakers for 5.1. However, the left and right surrounds should be placed at an angle of 90° to 110° with respect to the listener’s position.
Between 135 and 150 degrees is the ideal angle between the listening position and the two additional back speakers.
Aside from that, it’s important to place the speakers at the correct height and at the recommended angle for a 5.1 speaker system.
Bipole or Dipole Speakers Placement
If you have a pair of bipole or dipole speakers, you won’t need to move them around to have an expansive, immersive soundstage.
When using a 5.1 speaker setup, the bipole speakers should be situated behind the listener and pointed in the direction of the front speakers for the best possible sound quality.
Place them such that the woofers are parallel to or slightly wider than the front speakers, and a foot or two above the listener. You should be facing the listener directly if at all feasible, otherwise you should be 90 degrees to one side. A metre or two over the head of the observer, once more.
When using dipole speakers, place them such that their polarity is 90 degrees from the listener’s. In other words, the speakers are facing the front and back of the gadget rather than the listener.
Again, similar to the prior cases, these should be positioned between 1 and 2 feet above the listener. When compared to regular speakers, bipole speakers provide more flexibility in placement. Remember that bipolar speakers are another name for bipole speakers if you come across a different one.
Dolby Atmos Speakers Placement
A Dolby Atmos system requires at least two ceiling speakers. You can have in-ceiling speakers, on-ceiling speakers, or speakers mounted on the wall installed, or you can purchase and install specialised Dolby Atmos modules on top of your existing speakers.
Dolby Atmos-enabled floor-standing speakers are also available. The acoustic energy coming from the ceiling will be redirected to your listening area by these parts.
DTS:X soundtracks can be enjoyed without the use of pricey or specialised overhead speakers or modules, and the format is versatile enough to work with many different kinds of speaker setups.
Support from your AV receiver is something else to think about before you get started. The receiver must first be compatible with Dolby Atmos and provide enough speaker outputs. Low-priced models will only be able to handle two Atmos speakers in addition to the standard 5.1 setup.
Dolby’s Atmos format, which adds height to the soundscape by placing speakers above the listener, revolutionised the way we hear movies at home. All of the speakers in a 5.1 or 7.1 surround system should be placed at roughly the same height, right around the listener’s ears for optimal sound quality.
In a perfect world, speakers positioned in the ceiling would point straight down, creating a dispersion angle of 45 degrees (from 100 Hz to 10 kHz). If your speakers don’t produce a wide enough soundstage, try turning them to face the main listening area.
The recommended placement for ceiling speakers is two to three times the height of speakers placed at regular listening height. These guidelines are merely suggestions, but I would appreciate it if you would try your best to follow them in your personal living space.
The demographics of one’s target audience are still another aspect of consideration. Those speakers that are mounted in the ceiling provide the highest sound quality for all three seating locations (front, centre, and rear). This is due to the fact that they were intended to be hung directly overhead.
However, many people do not want to drill holes in their ceilings to mount their speakers, and others just are unable to do so. In such scenario, you might want to consider mounting some standard, old-fashioned speakers somewhere in the ceiling of the room.
Even so, the receiver is going to acknowledge that these are the primary speakers. You might also refer to them as the rear height speakers and the surround speakers if your receiver has the capability of displaying those designations.
Even if this isn’t how it was intended to be used, you still have the ability to make a fantastic 3D effect at home if you just use a little bit of your imagination. Try out both of the different versions and go with the one that sounds more appealing to you.
The optimal listening posture for a four-speaker system places the listener at an angle of 45 degrees with respect to the top front and rear speakers. Nevertheless, if it is required, the temperature can be increased to a range of 30–55 degrees.
Subwoofers are the misfits of the speaker family for home theatre systems.
One reason for this is that a subwoofer’s principal job is to reproduce extremely low bass.
Subsonic and bass sounds are less pinpointed than higher ones because of their longer wavelength. Because of this, pinpointing the origin of an audible occurrence is much more difficult. It’s a relief that subwoofer placement isn’t as critical as it is with other speakers, given its enormous size.
It can go practically anyplace you have free wall or floor space. Nevertheless, try to bear the following advice in mind.
The subwoofer should be placed away from the room’s walls, particularly the corners. This is because corners have a greater tendency to accentuate low frequencies, leading to a “boomy” sound.
To improve the subwoofer’s bass output, though, you should position it as close to a room corner as possible. Your sudden prosperity, however, may not be welcomed by those around you.
The downside is that the bass could grow too dominating and unmanageable in the ecosystem. Give it a shot and see if it suits you. You will need to give this a try in multiple different spaces because of the vast differences in acoustics between them.
One crucial element to pay attention to is any areas of the room where the bass is lacking — or too strong. Since bass music has a somewhat long wavelength, it’s easy to create standing waves in a room when playing it at high volumes.
This is why the bass can be different in different portions of a room since the sound waves can either add or cancel each other out. Because the walls of a square space are all the same distance away, standing waves are more likely to form in such an environment.
Keep the subwoofer away from the centre of a room with parallel walls. There is a risk that the reflections will cancel each other out if this happens. Put the subwoofer closer to one wall or the other rather than in the centre.
We must verify that the bass does not gradually diminish with distance from the amplifier. If this is occurring, try moving the subwoofer. The difference could be as little as an inch or two. This allows for a notable boost in bass frequency response within the sweet region. In order to find the best location for a subwoofer in a room, the subwoofer crawl’ is another common technique.
You would imagine that it would be more difficult to set up a room with two subwoofers in a 7.2 configuration. There might be a gradual attenuation of low-frequency bass sound waves between two locations.
Furthermore, wiring two subwoofers can be more difficult. The cable lengths must be increased.
It would be wise at this point to have an expert come in with sound metres to assess the room and advise you on where to place the subwoofers for maximum bass. Do it yourself and notice how moving the subs around changes the sound quality before you accept my word for it.
Further Guidelines to Follow
It’s important to remember, first and foremost, that your room’s shape is generally not optimal for a home theatre sound system.
Since most of us will be sharing a living room with our home entertainment equipment, getting everything set up just right can be tricky.
However, this does not absolve us from pursuing the finest possible audio quality from our equipment. The efficiency with which you use space won’t be ideal, but it will be as excellent as it can be under the circumstances.
Compromises are often made in the area of speaker positioning. That’s fine; all you should aim for is to do a fantastic job. Your room’s acoustics will be greatly enhanced.
Avoid Getting Too Close to the Surfaces Around You
This applies to all of your speakers, not just the subwoofer. You should ideally leave some room around your speakers, including from the ground up, up, and around.
Although it may be difficult to resist doing so in more compact spaces, placing the speakers too close to such surfaces will have an adverse effect on the overall sound quality.
If you put your speakers too close to the wall or the floor, the bass will grow and distort the sound.
Additionally, these same rough surfaces might induce a delay in the time it takes for sound waves to reach your ear. This can diminish the quality of the image and make it hard to judge depth.
Not to add more complexity to the situation, however it’s worth noting that some compact speakers sound better when mounted on or near walls. Some products are designed especially to make use of this feature. This is due to the fact that they are too little to deliver sufficient bass on their own.
See the box the speaker came in if you need clarification. The larger the speaker, the more bass it will produce on its own. These will benefit greatly by being placed away from the walls.
Stay Clear of Barriers
Keep all sound paths clear at all times. The quality of your speaker’s output will be diminished if it is blocked by objects like furniture, drapes, or even your television. There are a lot of walls in this area, so the sound has a longer way to travel before it reaches you.
You should ideally have a straight line of sight from the speaker’s mouth to your ears. It’s best practise to constantly slide speakers forward on a shelf until the front of the speaker is parallel to the front of the shelf.
In fact, you could probably overhang them somewhat. However, too much and they’ll fall off! The width of an inch and a half is excessive. The speaker shouldn’t be pushed back into the shelf, as this could cause it to break. This will stop the sound from being reflected off the nearest hard surface and into the listener’s ears.
Take a Trial in Listening Comprehension
Start a looping sound, such as a piece of music you’re familiar with, and settle into your normal listening position. Hear everything that is going on around you. Then, move the speakers around a bit to see how that affects the sound, perhaps by just a few inches or by changing the angle at which they’re directed.
The sound quality may change noticeably if the speakers are moved even a short distance.
One use case where this can come in handy is finding the best location for the subwoofer. You have more leeway in where to put the submarine, so feel free to experiment.
All things considered and you’re good to go! Don’t stick yourself too much with all the guidelines. Feel free to bend or break the rules as necessary.
Close proximity to the speakers is ideal, but this also depends on the room’s dimensions and the speakers’ capabilities.
When it comes to surround sound, the front and centre channels are crucial. Focus your energy and resources here. You will have accomplished a lot if you can master this.
Subwoofers, rear speakers, and surround systems are frequently disregarded. Positioning your surround speakers properly is essential for optimal sound quality.
If you put them in the right places, they’ll work together to make an enveloping audio experience.