Surround Sound Speaker Placement is Easy
So you have finally gone out and bought yourself that surround sound system you have thought about for so long. Now you can begin to build your Home Cinema System. But wait a minute the fun is just beginning – now what? All this equipment what goes where, connected to this that or the other and then finally ….what about the ideal surround sound speaker placement? Here’s the deal – there is no such thing as ideal, not in the real world.
You can read mountains of information and look at diagrams from basic reference manuals to scientific journals adding to your confusion into the bargain. My advice is to keep things simple and follow the main principles…. Oh and one other thing so many of the technical wizards forget to mention – use some common sense.
All the guides and instructions are meant as guidelines, they are there to steer you in the right direction but are by no means definitive. We are fitting surround sound systems into our homes here, not working with some diagram! Follow the guidelines, aim for the best speaker placement for your sound system and then listen. After that …listen some more! Your ears are what will decide if the setup is good.
Do not be afraid to experiment a little with the positioning of your speakers before you settle on a permanent position. In your trial phase keep the cables and wires loose so you can easily move the speakers around. When you get close to a good sound effect, try it for a few days and make some further adjustments if you like. After a little trial and error you will find what works best for your room and ultimately, your ears.
What are the Main Principles of Surround Sound Speaker Placement?
The first thing to realize is that surround sound systems will be optimized to focus the best sound on one point in the room. With the old stereo sound you had two speakers – left and right – positioned to deliver the best sound to one spot. If you sat really close to the left speaker the sound was not great, likewise to the right speaker. But when you sat in the middle – sweet spot – perfect stereo sound. Surround sound systems work in much the same way but using multiple speakers. The sound should be targeted towards one single seat or sweet spot. This does not mean that you have to sit in this one seat to enjoy the benefit of surround sound, just that this spot will have the best of the surround effect. A successful setup will mean that there is very little variation of the sound quality to each seat in the room.
5.1 Surround Sound
There are several configurations of surround systems, but the most common today is still 5.1 surround sound. This system will consist of five surround sound speakers plus a subwoofer (the point 1). So six speakers in total to position. Don’t panic it is easier than most experts like to make out, remember it is the principles you need to follow you will not need a tape measure or a calculator.
You can see in the diagrams there are three front speakers. Front left, front right and front centre. Front centre should be close to the screen, right in the middle as this speaker delivers most of the dialogue. The voices obviously should be coming from the screen. The front left and right speakers act in a similar fashion to the stereo speakers and they should be roughly equal distances from the screen and your sweet spot. Look in the graphic how they can be slightly turned and aimed at the main seating area.
The rear left and right speakers are used in the same way but this time the best placement for the speakers is slightly behind the sweet spot. Again turn them slightly to aim inwards.
This leaves the subwoofer. It is really easy – because it delivers low frequency sound and sound effects it is non directional – it can be placed anywhere that is convenient in the room although most people tend to place it to the side.
If possible it is best to keep the speakers up off the ground, around ear height when you are seated. There are a range of different speaker stands suitable for this and some surround sound speakers are actually designed already raised up.
So there you have it. Keep things simple, follow these principles and experiment a little. Make the most of your new home theater system with good surround sound speaker placement …. But do not loose any sleep, if it sounds good it is good!