After you layout the cash to get a great set of speakers for your home theater, you want to be sure that you get the excellent sound that you paid for. Finding the perfect positioning for your sound system is the key to optimizing your audio. Fortunately, there are some basic guidelines to follow to get the most out of your system.
Because music is designed for stereo listening, we tend to think of the left and right front speakers as the most important part of the sound system. Film and television files are designed differently; the majority of the audio comes through the center channel. Your center speaker handles all the dialogue, unless someone is speaking off-screen. So, positioning this speaker correctly is vital. It should go directly over or under your TV or projector screen. The ideal audio scenario would involve an “acoustically invisible” projector screen, enabling you to place the center speaker behind the screen. For those of us who don’t have the budget for a top-of-the-line screen, simply line your speaker up with the center of your display. If your speaker is significantly above or below your seating area, tilt it toward the listeners.
The front speakers handle special effects: explosions, descending alien aircraft, etc. Ideally, they should be placed to form an arc with the center speaker. Use a tape measure to ensure that they are an equal distance from the center speaker and nudge them slightly closer to the seating area. Fastidious home owners may think they look better against the wall, but they will sound better if you bring them a little bit forward.
Good news! Your subwoofer can go anywhere in the home theater. Low frequency bass sounds travel well in all directions. Typically, home theater owners put the bass near the display to avoid having to run more wire across the room. However, there are other considerations. If you put the subwoofer in a corner, it will be louder but less precise. If you but it near the seating, you can turn it down to avoid shaking the walls while your housemates are sleeping. If you have a simple 3.1 system, you’re done setting up your speakers. However, if you have a surround sound system, keep reading.
Surround Sound Speakers
5.1 systems with two rear surround sound speakers are most common for home theaters. The surround speakers should go to the left and right of the seating area. If you can wall mount them to a stud, even better. The optimum range for these speakers is directly left and right of listeners or slightly behind. If you have a 7.1 system place the additional surround speakers in an arc with the first set of surrounds, but a bit further behind the listeners.
Hopefully, your receiver is a recent model that will use advanced sound technology to detect the sonic properties of your room and the placement of your speakers. These systems use this information to compensate for any imperfection in the room acoustics and speaker placement. If your receiver doesn’t have this function, try to follow the above guidelines as closely as possible.