More and more people are opting for a home cinema system with surround sound , sound that surrounds the listening position. But how exactly do you place those speakers in the room and what should you pay attention to as position of speakers in a surround home cinema set matters a lot. There are many different set-up options and that is why we put everything together for you again.
A home cinema system consists of many components, but one of the most important parts of a home cinema system is the arrangement of the speakers and the subwoofer. We come across many setups where they are far from optimally placed and that does not benefit the audio reproduction. There are a number of guidelines you can follow for speaker placement, and this will result in an audibly better surround experience.
Below we discuss the most common surround setups , from a simple 2.1-channel system to an extensive speaker system with Dolby Atmos. Please note; in the examples we assume a square or rectangular room and do not take the acoustics of the room into account. There are several ways to place the speakers of your home cinema system and of course every living room or loudspeaker has its limitations. For example, due to a certain shape, a room may not be able to accommodate speakers in the correct angle or a certain speaker may not be hung for an optimal position due to its size. The guidelines below give you a good starting point for a basic installation of your home cinema system, but you can deviate from them if the room or the type of speaker requires it.
2.1 home cinema surround setup
One of the simplest setups is the 2.1-channel setup. Actually, this is not a surround setup because you use three speakers at the front. Surround speakers are not available. However, the people who like to listen to stereo music often choose this setup.
When you sit on the couch, in the position from which you watch a movie or listen to music, the speakers should be at an angle of about 30 degrees, on either side of the center (often the TV). It is also important that the speakers face inward, in a straight line towards the listening position. The distance between the speakers and the TV should be about three feet and both speakers should be the same distance from the TV and the same distance from the listening position. In principle, you can place the subwoofer anywhere, as it often has omnidirectional sound, but the best position is to the left or right of the TV. In any case, do not place the subwoofer in a niche, corner or enclosed space. This prevents the build-up of sound, which can make the low tones appear exaggerated and messy.
5.1 home cinema surround setup
The simplest surround setup is the 5.1-channel setup. You add three extra speakers to the above setup; a center speaker for the midtones (dialogues in particular) and two surround speakers for the surround effects. You place the center speaker directly in front of the listening position, above or below the TV. This is therefore between the two stereo speakers at the front. The surround speakers are placed to the left and right behind the listening position, preferably slightly above ear height. The speakers point at an angle of 90-110 degrees towards the listening position.
7.1 home cinema surround setup
For an even more impressive surround experience, you can opt for a 7.1-channel system. This system adds two extra speakers behind the listening position to create a 360 degree effect. You use the same setup for the front speakers, the subwoofer and the center speakers as described above, but make sure that the left and right surround speakers are now at an angle of 90 degrees next to the listening position. Behind the listening position are the two extra speakers, often called Rear / Back surround. These are at an angle of 145 degrees to the listening position and are best placed slightly above ear height.
9.1 home cinema surround setup
The 9.1-channel setup can be done in two different ways. You keep the above-mentioned setup for 7.1 channels, but you can then choose height channels at the front or two channels in the front. If you choose front center, the two channels will be on the same line as the surround speakers left and right and point at an angle of 505 – 70 degrees towards the listening position.
If you choose the height channels, place two speakers right above the front left and front right, about 1 to 2 meters above.
Dolby Atmos and DTS: X surround setup
Two fairly new audio formats are Dolby Atmos and DTS: X. These audio formats function optimally with speakers suspended from the ceiling. You have different setup options, from 5.1.2 and 7.1.2 (where the two stands for two speakers at the top) to 7.1.4 or 9.1.4 (four speakers at the top). You can read more about all the setup options of Dolby Atmos in our Dolby Atmos article .
Auro 3D surround setup
And then there is the more unknown Auro 3D. This surround format uses the 5.1-channel setup as described above as a basis, but sees this as the bottom layer. Above this layer the same 5-channel layer is placed, just above the bottom layer of speakers. A channel is placed exactly above the listening position, also called the ‘voice of god’. This is actually the optimal setup for Auro 3D, but there are alternatives as described on the Auro website .
Hang up speakers
If you want to mount speakers in 5.1 or 7.1 channel setups, this is possible. Just make sure that the speakers are angled so that they point towards the listening position. If you go to setups with Dolby Atmos and / or DTS: X, it is wise to adhere to the guidelines for the hanging speakers and not to hang the other speakers.
There are of course exceptions to the above rules, for example when the shape of the room makes an arrangement impossible or when acoustic properties require a different arrangement. Some speakers ( upright columns ) also sometimes offer the possibility to take over the function of the subwoofer and thus reproduce the low tones. When this is possible, the subwoofer in the system is omitted.
Some all-in-one home cinema systems and many receiver receivers have a built-in calibration function to optimally adjust the speakers and the sound reproduction to the environment. Use this feature to fine-tune the audio output after following the guidelines above, or adjust the audio output to accommodate different speaker placement due to room or speaker limitations.