How To: Speaker Placement (2023)

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This section is aboutspeaker placementwithin home theater setups and covers most of the scenarios we encountered during installations.

Note: I'm not going into the details of complex setups for 20+ atmos speakers here - there are a lot of Dolby tips directly on this topic!

First things first: speaker placement is "optimal" placement, but with anything home theater, you always have to compromise without completely rebuilding a room. So read the guides below as just that: a guide. As long as you follow this as closely as possible, you'll have an enjoyable viewing experience.

Some topics I always make sure to cover with clients are these two:

1) a system in equilibrium and;

2) sound separation

The first point is super important. I get customers all the time who want to spend £5,000 on a custom install speaker setup but have a small, underpowered amp that just doesn't drive the speakers the way they should. On the other hand, I sometimes have people with an 11-channel amp who want to spend as little as possible on speakers, who naturally complain when they don't sound as good as they thought. Swung! Your speakers have a power output known as Root Mean Square (RMS). It is important not to have speakers with variable RMS outputs when possible (i.e. center channel speaker with 300W RMS and left/right channel with 60W). The result of the imbalance would be the audio waveforms canceling each other out or simply completely isolating the channels, resulting in a poor experience. Having equal left/center/right channels is ideal, but as close to the RMS values ​​as possible is what you're looking for.

(Video) Stereo Speaker Placement

The second point is separation and this happens when the speakers are not placed correctly. Separation can cover several topics; here I will cover two of them.

First, I hope it's simple: where does the sound originate from?

For example, if you had a center channel speaker in the ceiling and you were watching a movie or TV show, you would have an AV split. The voice should be coming directly at you from the TV, but it's actually coming from above, which isn't where it's supposed to come from.

Another example: if you have the rear/surround speakers positioned incorrectly, you may have a bullet sound coming from the wrong place relative to what the movie shows, or in some cases, the audio portion will be lost entirely.

Second, it's about having bass/mid/tweeters that aren't configured correctly. You might end up with a sound system that has so much low-frequency noise that the dialogue is almost muffled/quiet, but then the action is really loud. Alternatively, it may have a lot of high-frequency sounds, but the bass/midrange is missing, leaving you with a weak and tiring listening experience.

As such, it is very important not only to POSITION the speakers correctly, but also to set up the crossover/correction within the room to ensure they sound as perfect as possible.

How many channels?

2, 2.1, 3.1, 5.1, 6.1, 7.1, 5.1.2, 5.1.4, 5.2.4, 7.1.2, 7.1.4, 7.2.4

(Video) A Master Class in speaker placement

What does all this mean?!

The format is "xyz" where:

  • "x" is the number of channels or speakers at or near ear level,
  • "y" is the number of channels or speakers dedicated to low bass reproduction (i.e. subwoofers)
  • "z" is the number of channels or top speakers/height.

If a system does not have a dedicated height channel, the last digit is omitted. here are some examples:

  • 2.0- this is a standard "stereo system" - it has two speakers to reproduce a stereo sound field
  • 2.1- this represents a standard stereo system but adds a dedicated speaker for bass reproduction (a woofer or subwoofer)
  • 3.0- is similar to a stereo system, but adds a dedicated center speaker between the front left and right speakers. This can help to reproduce the movie's dialogues and commentary clearly.
  • 3.1- as above, but with a dedicated woofer (subwoofer).
  • 4.0- A typical 4.0 channel system uses two speakers at the front and two at the rear or side to reproduce surround sound. But a system with 3 speakers at the front (left, center, right) and one at the back of the room could also be classified as 4.0.
  • 4.1- as above but with a dedicated subwoofer
  • 5,0- is often used to describe a traditional surround sound system with three speakers at the front (front left, center and front right) and two speakers at the sides or rear to generate surround sound.
  • 5.1- as above, but with a dedicated bass channel or subwoofer
  • 7,0- this type of system has three front speakers, 2 side speakers (side surround) and 2 rear speakers (back surround)
  • 7.1- as above but with a dedicated speaker or bass channel
  • 5.1.2- this is a "standard" 5.1-channel surround sound system, with the addition of two channels of height or speakers that generate sound above the listener
  • 5.1.4- as above but with 4 channel height or speakers to generate sound above the listener
  • 7.1.2- a standard 7.1-channel system with two additional speakers dedicated to reproducing sound above the listener
  • 7.1.4- as above but with 4 channels high or speakers

How To: Speaker Placement (1)

This image represents a 7.1.4 setup in a Dolby Atmos setup.

OK - I know how many channels I think I want. Now that?

Well, wait, we all might *want* a 7.1.4 setup, but the reality is that not all room setups allow for that. In my own living room, I would love the above setup, but my room's dimensions don't allow for it.

See below..

(Video) The Greatest Hi-Fi Secret: Correct Speaker Positioning

How To: Speaker Placement (2)

The ideal would be to get rid of the corner sofa and put a floating sofa in the middle of the room in front of the TV. The reality is, I can't do that (as much as my selfish side would like!) because a 3-person couch in our living room just isn't going to cut it. As such, I am committed.

I can't have a 4 channel height setting for Immersive Atmos as that requires ceiling speakers in front of and behind the MLP (middle listening position) which in my case is in front of the TV by the window!

How To: Speaker Placement (3)

This means I can only use an x.y.2 configuration, which I'm fine with.

Now to determine how many (x) channel speakers at ear level I can have.

First thing to note: Dolby recommends placing your speakers at a certain angle from the MLP.

The center channel should be 0 degrees left/right from the sitting position, with the left/right channel between 22° y30°do MLP.

(Video) Audiophile Sound in Small Rooms?

Surround speakers must be between 110° y120°do MLP.

Speakers of any height should be aligned with the left and right channel speakers, approximately 65°forward from sitting position. The subwoofer you should try, but usually on the left/right of the center position or on the back wall if you have a 180°option on the submarine itself.

Back to my situation: I can't have rear and surround speakers, so I'm limited to 5 channels in the front (so 5.y.2). I could use 2 subwoofers but I'm limited by space and second (balance) I don't want to flood the room with too much bass and miss mid/high frequency/dialogue sounds. As such, my setup is one that will be 5.1.2 and as close to angles as possible (ideal).

How To: Speaker Placement (4)

Dolby Project Sheet 5.1.2.

How To: Speaker Placement (5)

In the end, our own room setup resembled the previous one. We looked into alternatives like the TV on the top wall instead of the left, but then came out with a stage that was compressed due to viewing distance and still wouldn't give us what we wanted; We thought the above was appropriate and, in fact, rings true. great!

So hopefully by now you're a little more knowledgeable about speaker placement and how to map that to your specific room. As always, we're here to help, so if you're looking at options or designing your own room, send us a message.

(Video) Speaker Placement | 5 Basic Tips | Let's Talk!

Coming soon in our next "How To" guide:

  • Selecting the right speakers
  • Speaker wire: how to put it in difficult places and which wires to use!


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3. Best Speaker Placement in 4 Easy Steps | Kanto Solutions
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4. AudioU: Speaker Placement
5. Speaker Placement Basics For Small Concerts, DJ's, and Portable Churches
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6. Speaker Coverage Calculator | How To Choose The Right Speakers & Placement
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