Choosing A Speaker Set Up For Your Home Theatre

You spent the time required to research different home theatre systems. The due diligence has paid off for the visual part of your entertainment center. Now, you have the equally important, but often neglected step of setting up the audio for your home theatre system.

Whether you watch a stunning nature show on the National Geographic channel or sit back and close your eyes to a live performance of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, you need to know how to optimize the quality of the audio. In other words, the time has come for choosing a speaker set up for your home theatre.

Factors that Determine Speaker Placement

According to the audio experts at, there are several factors that determine whether you achieve pristine audio quality. First, the size and shape of a room plays a huge role in deciding where to place speakers. The distance between each speaker determines how much space a speaker covers with sound. Room shape is also important because a room that includes several walls partitioning sections of a room can cause audio signals to bounce back toward the source of the sound. You also have to consider the height of the room where you plan to set up speakers, as well as the acoustic properties of the floor, walls, and ceilings. Large objects such as a bookcase also factor into where you set up speakers for a home theatre.

Let’s start with the most basic speaker set up, before diving into a speaker set up that resonates within movie theatres.

Dual-channel Stereo Speaker

As the most basic audio system, dual-channel stereo speakers simplify speaker set up. However, this does not mean you can simply walk into room and nonchalantly place dual-channel stereo speakers anywhere. The distance to the nearest speaker, as well as the angle the speaker points determines whether the you enjoy the soundstage effect. The soundstage effect allows you to detect unique sounds coming from different sources. In the London Philharmonic Orchestra example, a dual-channel speaker placed close to you and placed at the correct angle should allow you to detect the sound coming from the clarinet section, as well as the thunderous sound emitted from the lone tuba.

Setting Up Surround Speakers

Secured on top of stable stands or mounted along one or more walls, surround speakers deliver audio that reminds you of the audio effect produced inside movie theatres. In fact, cinemas introduced the public to the concept of audio coming from a large number of different locations. Rapidly changing technology has created different classes of surround speakers.

5.1 Surround Sound Speakers

For a 5.1 surround system, the speakers should stand or mount to the left and to the right of where you sit to watch programs on the home theatre system. Aim the sound directly toward where you sit to produce the highest quality audio. If placing the speaker to face you is not a practical plan, then go with a speaker stand placement by moving the speakers a few feet behind where you plan to watch programs and listen to the stereo. One to two feet above your line of vision is the best approach for placing 5.1 surround sound speakers.

7.1 Surround Sound Speakers

The 7.1 surround sound speaker set up looks like the set up for the 5.1 surround sound set up, except the major difference is you also place rear speakers behind you facing toward the home theatre. Positioning the speakers two feet above sight level is highly recommended. 7.1 surround sound speakers focus on delivering audio from the rear and sides to produce the classic wraparound audio effect.

9.1 and 11.1 Surround Sound Speakers

With the introduction of 9.1 and 11.1 surround sound speakers, advancements in technology have taken surround sound technology to the next level. Both speakers include Wide and Height presence channels that boost immersion and sound stage spaciousness. This means the audio coming from the London Philharmonic Orchestra is like attending a concert in person. 

Wide speaker channels should sit between the primary front speakers and the side surround speakers at about six feet off axis and sitting around eight feet off the floor. Height speaker channels work best at the left and right corners of the front stage of your home theatre. The speakers should be 45 degrees off axis and also eight feet off the floor.

Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos added ceiling mounted speakers to the surround sound set up to produce special effects that come from above where you sit. The speaker set up maximizes the effect height has on the listening experience. Dolby Atmos ceiling speakers work best in rooms that span more than 12 feet high to deliver the ultimate in cinematic realism.

What about the Bass?

Because subwoofers emit audio frequencies that travel in all directions, you have much more flexibility as where to place the speakers. Placing a subwoofer against a wall typically creates a much louder and deeper bass sound. Double the heart pounding bass played during pivotal moments of your favorite movies by adding a second subwoofer to sit across the room against the opposite wall where the first subwoofer sits.

The bottom line is speaker set ups are often done by experimenting with different audio layouts. Try locating speakers in different parts of the entertainment center before deciding on the most effective set up that produces the highest quality audio.