You have the AV receiver and the home theater speaker system. What now? Get the best sound in your room with this guide to surround sound speaker placement.
Finding the best surround sound speaker placement for your room can make or break your 5.1 or 7.1 home theater system.
Don't bother choosing the right speakers for your room, spend your hard-earned money on quality gear, then stick them in an old spot when you want to install them.
Spending some time properly placing your speakers will help you get the most out of your surround sound setup.
The most important speakers are probably the center, front left, and front right speakers. These are the ones that do most of the work when playing a movie soundtrack.
However, to get the most out of your system, it's important to find the best possible positions for all of your surround speakers. And the surround, rear and subwoofer speakers also play an important role.
Let's go through each speaker type and figure out the basics of home theater speaker placement.
Table of contents
- Center channel speaker placement
- Speaker placement front left and right
- Positioning of the surround sound speakers
- Placement of the Dolby Atmos speakers
- Placement of the subwoofer
- General guidelines for speaker placement
- Frequently Asked Questions
Center channel speaker placement
The center channel speaker plays a crucial role in one5.1-Surround-Soundsystem. He's the main dialogue actor in a movie, so getting him in the right place is crucial.
You should place the center speaker directly above or below the center of the TV screen, usually below it, but this depends on the height of your TV screen and whether there is a suitable spot for it.
Just try not to place it too far from the screen, otherwise the sound may appear washed out of the picture. This sounds unnatural and detracts from the impact of the soundtrack.
Ideally, your seat position is also centrally located in the middle of the television. Therefore, the center speaker should be aimed directly at you.
The position above or below the screen is not as important as the position relative to your ears.
Ideally, the speaker's tweeters should be at ear level when you're sitting in your viewing position. This is because the higher frequencies are more directional.
Tweeters are the small speaker cones on your speaker.
In a bookshelf or floorstanding speaker, the tweeters are typically placed on top of the larger woofers. However, in a center channel speaker, they are usually placed in line with the woofers.
You may be able to remove the speaker grille if you can't see where the actual speakers are. However, be careful!
If you can't align the speaker with your ears, try tilting the speaker up or down slightly. Just try to make sure you're aiming for your head when you sit down.
If possible, the center speaker tweeters should be the same height as the front left and right tweeter pairs. However, this can be difficult to achieve accurately.
This allows for a more consistent sound as the audio moves through the three front speakers.
You'll find that as long as they're relatively level, say within 1-2 feet, you won't notice too much of a problem with sound moving through the speakers.
When in doubt, play a movie, watch an effects-heavy scene move through the front speakers, and hear how it sounds.
Using your hearing and good judgment is probably the most important aspect of speaker placement.
Also, try not to place the speaker behind the front edge of the TV, especially if it's on top. This means that the sound reaches the TV first and affects the sound that reaches you.
You can use wall mounts, floor stands or shelves to place the speaker. Just try to make sure it's stable and on a firm, flat surface. In many cases, this can be the most difficult speaker to find a good position for.
If so, consider a piece of furniture designed for a TV and center speaker.
A speaker designed specifically for the center will generally have a wide, horizontal shape. This should allow it to fit the edge of a TV screen and spread the sound evenly.
However, you can use any type of speaker as a hub, like a regular bookshelf speaker. Note, however, that the shape of this type of speaker can make it more difficult to install in an ideal position.
Also, you may not get the wide soundstage that you can get with a dedicated center channel speaker. This depends on the design of the speaker.
Speaker placement front left and right
The front left and right speakers correspond to the stereo pair you may be using with your HiFi system.
They provide much of the music and sound effects in a movie soundtrack, but sometimes they perform dialogue.
So it's important to try to balance the sound field in front of the screen. So that the front left, center and front right speakers complement each other.
The front speakers should be equidistant to the left and right of the TV, and ideally both should be equidistant from your main listening position.
However, your room will most likely not accommodate this precise positioning. So in many cases one speaker can be slightly closer than the other.
That's fine, your AV receiver will adjust the output level for small differences if necessary. Just try to keep things as even and central as possible.
If you imagine an arch across the front of the room from its centerHome Theater Seats, you should try to place the center speaker at the top of the arc.
Then the front left and right speakers are a bit further forward. This ensures they are a similar distance from the listening position.
If this proves difficult, don't worry. Your AV receiver can compensate for the difference in distance between the speakers.
Get as close to your room as you can, but don't start tearing down walls to get it just right!
The recommended range for the angle of the front left and right speakers from your seating position is 22 to 30 degrees (see below). So use this as a guide when placing the front speakers.
This angle may not be possible depending on the size and shape of your room, so don't get too distracted by the numbers.
Ideally, the front-facing speakers will have their tweeters at ear level when seated in your viewing position. It should be about the same height as the center speaker.
If you have floorstanding speakers, the height of the tweeter should be just right when seated. Similarly, bookshelf speakers must have their stands set the right level.
Many people like the front speakers to be angled slightly to point towards the middle seating position. This is referred to as "toing in" the speaker.
However, this can depend on personal taste and also vary from speaker to speaker. It's best to play around with the angle of the speakers and decide which one you prefer.
You often get a wider soundstage if you don't match the speakers, and a narrower, more focused sound if you do. But the design of your speakers also has a significant impact.
As with the center speaker, if you cannot get the front speakers to ear level, it may be beneficial to tilt them up or down towards your listening position.
However, whether you can do this may depend on the mounts or mounts you're using.
But depending on the layout, you only need to place a few speakers on the plane, leaving it up to you whether you think tilting improves the sound.
Positioning of the surround sound speakers
Surround sound speakers create a sense of spaciousness in your room. Ideally, the surround speakers should be placed directly behind or to the side of your listening position in a 5.1 surround sound setup.
Dolby recommends an angle of 110° to 120° from your listening position as shown in the image below.
However, if this is not possible, the next best position is closer to 90 degrees to either side.
THX recommends between 90° and 110°, so I wouldn't feel the need to be too specific. You can save your van!
For example, if you place your sofa against a wall, you can place the surround sound speakers at 90° on each side.
In many rooms it can be difficult to find the exact position, but always try to get as close to your room as possible.
Depending on the room, you may need to trade off the placement of walls, doors, windows, and furniture. But usually there are ways to get as close as possible with a little thought.
The surround sound speakers should be slightly higher in the room than the front speakers. Ideally about 1 to 2 feet above head height when seated.
This is because the surround sound channels are there to create ambient noise in your room. So they should benefit from being a little farther from your ears.
The idea isn't to get the direct front sound we want from our front speakers.
Normally I would point these speakers towards the center of the seat just like the front speakers. However, this can also depend on the construction of the speaker and whether the stands or brackets allow this.
Try aiming standard direct radiating (monopole) speakers squarely at your listening position.
Some people might find the sound a bit too direct.
So it's also worth placing direct-firing speakers well above your main theater seat. This increases the spread of the sound before it reaches your ears.
Experiment and let your ears decide what sounds best.
It should be noted that since the introduction of Dolby Atmos speaker designsDolby now proposesSurround speakers should be closer to head/ear height.
This means there is a clear separation between surround sound and Atmos effects. You might want to experiment with this and see what works best in your space.
If you don't have Atmos, anything from head level to a foot or two above should work just as well once the receiver has worked its magic. In a small room, however, the head height would feel a bit cramped in my opinion.
Surround effects should complement, not compete with, the front soundstage.
Louder is probably better too if you have more people in the seating area, as the people closest to the speakers at head height will block the sound to others.
Keep in mind that many people don't have the luxury of placing speakers in the exact recommended locations anyway.
Speaker placement for 7.1 surround sound is similar. However, the left and right surrounds should be slightly further to the side from the listening position, between 90° and 110°.
The two additional rear speakers should be between 135° and 150° behind the listening position.
Otherwise, the height and angle of the speakers should be the same as in a 5.1 speaker system.
Placement of bipolar and dipole speakers
If you haveBipolar or dipole surround speakers, then you don't have to worry about tilting - the design of these speakers gives you the surround sound you need.
Usually they are mounted flat against a wall.
In a 5.1 setup, the ideal position for the bipolar speakers is directly behind the listening position and pointing towards the front speakers.
Place them about 1 to 2 feet above the listener, in line with or slightly wider than the front speakers.
If that's not possible, the next best option is directly either side: 90° to the listening position. Again 1 or 2 feet higher than the listener.
For dipole speakers, the correct positions are 90° to either side of the listening position. This means that the speakers of the device are facing front and back, ie not towards the listening position.
These should also be 1 or 2 feet higher than the listener, as in the examples above.
An advantage of bipolar speakers is that they are more flexible in positioning.
In case you come across another name, bipolar speakers are also referred to as bi-polar speakers.
This video covers some of the issues I discussed and highlights the trade-offs that are sometimes required:
Placement of the Dolby Atmos speakers
A Dolby Atmos system must have at least two speakers that can reproduce the sound from above.
These should be installed high up in your room as ceiling, ceiling or wall speakers, or you can buy special Dolby Atmos modules to place on top of your existing speakers.
Traditional speakers with built-in Dolby Atmos modules are also available.
These modules throw the audio from the ceiling towards your listening position.
DTS:X soundtracks do not require dedicated overhead speakers or modules, and a DTS:X soundtrack will fit any speaker configuration.
Without the element of height, however, it won't be as fun.
If you are new to Dolby Atmos,Check out my beginner's guidefor more background information.
Is your AV receiver compatible with Atmos?
The other thing to consider before getting started is your AV receiver's support.
First, your receiver must support Dolby Atmos and have output channels for the number of speakers you need.
Budget models only support two Atmos speakers in addition to a 5.1 layout.
You can also install Atmos speakers in several different locations. The most common are:
- Front elevation left/right
- Surround height left/right
- left/right rear elevation
- front top left/right
- Top center left/right
- top rear left/right
DOLBY ATMOS MODULE
- Front Dolby Atmos activated left/right
- Dolby Atmos Surround enabled left/right
- Rear Dolby Atmos Enabled Left/Right
You should always install Dolby Atmos speakers in pairs.
When setting up your receiver, you need to tell it what kind of Dolby Atmos speakers you have installed in your room and where they are located.
The receiver then adapts the delivery of a soundtrack to your installation.
But not every receiver will support every possible location, so check before you poke holes in your ceiling!
Placing your Dolby Atmos speakers
With the introduction of Atmos Audio, Dolby introduced a slightly different concept to home theater sound: audio at the listener level and audio in the ceiling.
The listener level speakers are standard 5.1/7.1 surround sound speakers and should ideally be positioned at about the same level and at ear level.
This leaves room at the top for the Atmos airborne audio aircraft. Combined, this creates an exciting 3D audio experience in your room.
If the top speakers are ceiling mounted and pointing straight down, they should have a wide dispersion of about 45 degrees (100 Hz to 10 kHz).
For narrower stage speakers, they should be aimed at the main listening position.
Ideally, you should install the top speakers at a height of about 2 to 3 times the height of the listening level speakers. Although these are guidelines only, try to get as close to your room as possible.
The main thing is to get a good separation between the listening plane and the upper speakers, although not too much, or the sound will drop out and not be as immersive.
As previously mentioned, the minimum number of top speakers for Dolby Atmos is two, although Dolby recommends four.
Although multiple speaker placements are supported, with top four speakers, the recommended locations are:
- front top left/right
- top rear left/right
As in the picture here:
As you can see, ideally you should center the placement of the top speakers around your listening position.
However, this requires your AV receiver to support these locations and enough space in your room. If you don't have any of these, you can choose another design.
Another thing to consider is the type of speaker. The ideal speaker type for top front, center and rear placements are ceiling speakers. This is because they are meant to be directly overhead.
However, many people cannot (or do not want to) drill holes in the ceiling to install speakers. In this case, you can use traditional speakers that you attach to the ceiling.
Or why not try placing the speakers on the side walls and tilting them towards the main listening position?
You can still tell the receiver that these are speakers upstairs. Or, if your receiver supports it, you can identify them as Surround and Rear Height speakers.
It's not exactly what you want it to be, but if you bend the rules a bit, you can still create a great 3D effect in your room. Try it out and see what sounds best to you.
With four speakers, the recommended angle from the listening position is 45 degrees to the top front and rear speakers.
If necessary, this can be increased between 30 and 55 degrees.
If you are only installing two ceiling speakers, Dolby recommends using the top-center left and right speaker positions.
It should be between 65° and 100° above your listening position. So everything from directly in front of you to directly above or slightly behind you.
But you don't have to. If you wish, you can install two left/right front height speakers. Or any of the other places.
If you don't want to install overhead speakers, buying Dolby Atmos-enabled modules or speakers with built-in Dolby Atmos drivers is a good solution.
They can also be easier to install.
The idea is to place the modules at ear level and direct the sound towards the ceiling. This creates a diffuse peak sound when reflected back to your listening position.
The recommended placement of the modules differs slightly from that of the ceiling speakers. If you only have two Dolby Atmos modules, it is recommended to place them on or near the front left and right speakers.
If you want four modules, you should place the rear pair on or near the rear rear frames in a 7.1 system and on/near the rear frames in a 5.1 system.
There are a few other guidelines to keep in mind if you plan to use this type of speaker. When installing Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers, you must:
- Make sure the height of the room is between 7.5 and 14 feet
- Make sure the ceiling is made of reflective material such as plaster of paris, drywall or hardboard
- place them at or slightly above the ears
- Do not install them higher than halfway up the room
As long as you can follow these points, you should be able to get effective overhead sound with Atmos modules.
Positioning the Dolby Atmos speakers is more complicated than traditional 5.1 and 7.1 systems.
The beauty is that you can go from a 2.1.2 layout to 7.1.4 to 11.1.8 and beyond and use a mix of speakers and ceiling modules.
Recommended placement for Dolby Atmos speakers varies slightly between designs, but they follow the same basic principles.
But you can also just place your speakers where they fit and still get a pretty good immersive experience. Don't be afraid to experiment and decide for yourself what sounds best in your room.
You can also visit the Dolby website for more informationmore Atmos themes.
If you're having trouble with your Atmos speakers after installing them, check out my guideTroubleshooting your Dolby Atmos speakers.
Placement of the subwoofer
The subwoofer is the outsider ofSurround Sound Speakers. He's the cool guy who goes where he wants and doesn't follow the same rules as everyone else.
The main reason for this is that the subwoofer has a specific job: to reproduce the really deep bass in a soundtrack.
Low bass frequencies are not as directional as higher frequencies because of their long wavelength. This makes it harder to see where the sound is coming from in the room.
As such, placement of the subwoofer in a room is far less critical than other speakers, which given the size of the damn thing can be a blessing!
Wherever you have a little free space in your room, you can put it pretty much anywhere.
However, there are some general guidelines worth considering if you can.
In general, avoiding the corners of a room can be important for the subwoofer. This is because the low frequencies can get "boomy" in the corner.
However, sometimes you can use a position near the corner of a room to your advantage and boost the bass sound of your subwoofer. However, your neighbors may not be so lucky!
The potential downside is that the bass in the room is too overwhelming and harder to control.
Play around with the position and see what you think. You must test this for each room as no room sounds the same.
One thing to watch out for are areas of the room where the bass is particularly low or high. It is easy to generate due to the long wavelength of bass sound wavesstanding wavesIn a room.
This can cause bass volume to vary in a room as sound waves complement or cancel each other out.
The shape of your room can also affect standing wave generation, and a square room can pose a particular problem because the walls are equally spaced.
Therefore, try not to place the subwoofer at the same distance between two opposite walls. This can cause the reflected waveforms to cancel each other out.
Therefore, do not place the speaker in the exact center of the room; Ideally, you want to place the subwoofer closer to one end or the other.
The main thing to check is that there's no bass roll-off in the listening area, which isn't what we want. If you find this happening, you can move the subwoofer around a bit. Just a few inches can do the trick.
This can dramatically improve bass levels in the critical listening area.
Another common method to find the best subwoofer position for your room is "subwoofer tracking".
This involves placing the subwoofer in the main listening position (you may need a long cable for this) and then getting on your knees and crawling around the room while listening to some audio content.
If you hear where the bass sounds best to your ears, you can place the subwoofer there.
Another solution, especially for a large room with some quiet areas, is a 5.2 or 7.2 setup with an additional subwoofer.
A second subwoofer can help balance bass throughout the room, especially in key areas where people are seated.
For best results, you would need to move the subwoofer positions around your room and watch for a change in bass levels. You're looking for an even bass level at all listening positions in the room.
There will not be a perfect position for the second sub that fits in every room.
One trick is to have one person sit at the listening position and another move the subwoofers. You'll be surprised how much of a difference a few inches can make one way or the other.
As you can imagine, the downside of a 7.2 setup is that it can be more difficult to set up a room with two subwoofers. Low-frequency bass sound waves from two different locations could start canceling each other out.
Therefore, you could make the bass sound worse in the room!
Also, connecting two subwoofers can be more difficult. More cables need to be laid.
And does your receiver even support two subwoofers? look at mineInstructions for connecting a subwooferif you want to know more about it.
Once you find yourself in such an area, you may want to hire an expert with sound meters to test the room and properly position the subwoofers.
But try it yourself first, use your ears and listen to the effect of moving the subwoofers.
General guidelines for speaker placement
So far I've looked at the placement of specific home theater speakers.
If you want to learn more about the different types of speakers, read the article '.
As general guidelines, consider the following points when placing your speakers.
Remember, it's not the end of the world if you don't follow them to the letter.
But the closer you get, the better chance you have of getting great sound in your room.
1. Every room is different
The first thing to think about is that your room probably isn't the perfect shape for a home theater sound system.
Most of us will use a shared living room for our home theater gear, so finding the perfect setup is difficult.
However, that doesn't mean we can't try to get the best possible sound out of our amplifier and speakers. While you may not be able to get every point just right, make the most of the space available.
Most people will have to make some compromises when placing their speakers. That's fine, just try to do your job the best you can. It will make a big difference in the sound of your room.
Once you have the speakers in the best possible position, you can adjust your AV receiver's settings with volume, phase, and tonal balance.
This can help balance each speaker's actual position in the room.
Most modern AV receivers have some sort of automatic room correction that you can do with the included microphone.
This can be very effective, and you can still manually tweak the settings to your liking if you prefer.
2. Not too close to walls, floors and ceilings
I've already mentioned this for the subwoofer, but it applies to all of your speakers. Try not to place the speakers too close to walls, floors, and ceilings.
This can be difficult in smaller rooms, but it will change the sound of the speakers if they're too close to these surfaces.
Bass is boosted when placed too close to walls or floors, artificially altering the sound of your speakers.
Also, sound waves can reflect off these hard surfaces, blocking the sound waves from reaching your listening position. This can result in poor stereo imaging and clarity.
Just to confuse you, some smaller speakers can benefit from being placed on or near walls. Some are designed to take advantage of this bass boost to support your sound.
This is because they are too small to produce a good end result on their own.
Check the information that came with the speaker if you're not sure.
In general, the larger the speaker, the more bass it generates on its own. Keeping them off the walls will be more important.
3. Avoid corners
Try not to put the speakers in the corners.
This is like point 2, except the sound issues are even more problematic as this is where the floor, wall and ceiling meet.
The corner of a room can do strange things with sound waves bouncing around the room, especially at the bottom. Bass is often boomy or muddy if the speakers are too close to the corner.
I completely disagree with that now.
In some rooms, you can try placing the subwoofer near the corner to boost the bass in the room.
If you're not getting the kind of bass you want, you can place the subwoofer there to give the bottom end a tone you like.
Just keep in mind that this can also lead to excessive bass that can be difficult to control.
Speaker placement can be full of seemingly conflicting advice. But the truth is that every space is different and something that works well in one space may not work in another.
Experiment and listen!
4. Avoid obstacles
Always try to make sure nothing interferes with the sound reaching your ears.
You won't get the best sound from your speakers if furniture, curtains, and even your own TV are blocking the sound.
Obstacles cause sound waves to bounce around the room before they reach you.
Ideally, the sound should travel straight from the speaker to your ears.
Even if your speakers are on a shelf, try pushing them forward a little so the front of the speaker is flush with the edge of the shelf.
Maybe they even stick out a bit. Not too much or they might fall off! Half an inch is enough.
Above all, avoid pushing the speaker back onto the shelf.
This ensures that the sound from the speaker does not reflect off the hard surface once it exits the speaker.
This problem can be a particular problem for your center speaker. It is common to have them on a shelf under the TV.
Just make sure it slides to the front edge, pushing the sound straight into your listening position.
5. Take a listening comprehension test
Play a steady tone, like a piece of music you know well, and sit in your normal listening position. Listen carefully to the tone.
Then move the speakers a few inches or change the angle they're pointed at and hear how that affects the sound.
This is easier when there are two people present: one to listen and one to move the speakers.
It may surprise you how slightly moving the speakers can change the sound.
This can be particularly helpful in finding the correct position for the subwoofer. You have more freedom in positioning the subwoofer, allowing you to experiment more.
Follow these guidelines and you'll be well on your way to finding the best speaker placement for your surround sound system.
The most important thing to remember is that they are just that: guidelines. Don't feel like you have to strictly follow every point.
Move as close as possible depending on the dimensions of your room and the type of speakers.
The center and front speakers are vital to a surround sound system. These should get the most attention. If you get this right, you're on the right track.
However, it's easy to forget the surround, rear, and subwoofer speakers. Proper placement of your surround sound speakers is crucial if you want to get the most out of your speaker system.
When they're all in the best places, they work together to give you a great surround sound experience.
Don't waste the potential of your home theater sound system by not giving it a chance to sound its best.
Frequently Asked Questions
This article covers a little ground, but there's always more to learn about placementSurround Sound Speakers. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions.
How tall should surround sound speakers be?
In a traditional 5.1 and 7.1 speaker system, the recommendation for surround sound speakers is 30 to 60 cm above ear level. Since the introduction of Dolby Atmos Audio, Dolby now refers to 5- and 7-channel speakers as being at the listener level, suggesting that they should all be at the listener's ear level. This is to provide a clear separation between the listener-level audio and the Atmos high-altitude audio. These are not hard and fast rules though, so you can set the frames higher than this. In this case, however, Dolby recommends a height no higher than 1.25 times the height of the front speakers. These are guidelines only. You can deviate from this if your interior design is challenging.
How far back should the surround back speakers be placed?
There is no specific spacing for the surround back speakers in a 7.1 speaker layout. However, it would be best to stay relatively close to aid in the surround sound experience. The recommendation is that the surround back speakers should be between 135° and 150° from the listening position and approximately in line with the left and right pairs in front.
Does Surround Sound Speaker Height Matter?
Yes, for the best immersive experience, you should follow the guidelines as best as you can. For 5.1 and 7.1 systems, the environment should be from ear level to 1-2 feet above. For a Dolby Atmos system, Dolby recommends that you place the standard surround speakers at ear level (listening level) and the Dolby Atmos top speakers at two to three times the height of the listening level speakers.
Do I need top speakers in a Dolby Atmos speaker system?
According to Dolby, superior sound is an integral part of the Dolby Atmos audio experience. Therefore, you must have speakers capable of reproducing the Dolby Atmos sound field. In-ceiling speakers can be in-ceiling, in-ceiling, in-wall, or in-wall, or you can place Dolby Atmos-enabled modules on top of your existing listener-level speakers. DTS:X soundtracks do not rely on overhead speakers, so DTS:X is suitable for any speaker setup.
How do I install 7.1 surround sound with a sofa against the wall?
The simplest answer is to just stick with a 5.1 surround sound system and set your surroundings at 90° to your seating position. The back frames in a 7.1 layout really should have some clearance behind you, which you can't do when the sofa is against the wall. If you really want to give it a try, you can try installing in-ceiling speakers above you, in-ceiling speakers behind you, or maybe bipolar/dipole speakers on the back wall. But neither solution is ideal, and you'll probably be better off setting up a great 5.1 system than trying to hack a 7.1 layout.
Paul started the Home Theater Guide to help less experienced users get the most out of today's AV technology. He has been a sound, light and audiovisual engineer for about 20 years. At home, you've spent more time installing, setting up, testing, dismantling, repairing, adjusting, reinstalling (and sometimes using) various home theater and hi-fi equipment than is probably healthy. You can know moreHere.
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