Are you setting up your home surround sound system, but aren’t sure where to place your speakers?
In a surround sound system, the most important speakers, including the center and front speakers, are always placed in front of you. Some supplementary speakers, like the surround and rear speakers, can be placed behind you.
This article will discuss the different types of speakers, the 5.1 and 7.1 speaker setups, and the optimal place to put your speakers in these configurations. Keep reading to find out!
Table of Contents
What Are the Different Types of Speakers?
In surround sound systems there are five types of speakers you will encounter, including:
- The center speaker produces the dialog you hear in movies and assists with producing the soundtracks. They are usually tuned to a lower frequency than the front speakers.
- Front left and right speakers produce the majority of soundtracks you hear, including the music and sound effects from movies. Front speakers are full-range, which means they produce mid-to-high frequency sounds.
- Surround speakers add dimension to your listening experience. They produce surround music and effects. You can have two, four, or more of these types of speakers, depending on which setup you choose. Rear speakers are often included in the same category as surround speakers.
- Rear speakers mainly produce background sounds and special effects. Like front speakers, they are full-range, with a tendency to be more attuned to high-frequency sounds. They tend to be the same size or smaller than front speakers.
- Subwoofers produce low-frequency sounds. These add bass to your music and movies, providing that deep explosion-like sound effect.
What Are the Most Common Speaker Setups?
The two most common setups are:
- A 5.1 surround setup has five speakers, including one center speaker, two front speakers, and two surround sound speakers. This setup also includes one subwoofer.
- A 7.1 surround setup has seven speakers and a subwoofer. Like the 5.1 setup, this setup includes one center speaker and two front speakers.
The difference between these systems is the 7.1 splits the rear and surround channels into four speakers. So, it includes two surround speakers and two rear speakers.
Where Should the Speakers Be Positioned?
Center Speaker Placement
The center speaker should be positioned just below the middle of your TV screen. However, if you don’t have room, you can also place it above your screen.
Front Speakers Placement
When placing front speakers, the general rule is that they should be on the left and right side of your TV, equidistance away from the center speaker.
In a perfect world, you’d also want your front speakers to be placed equidistant away from the listener, forming an equilateral triangle between the two speakers and the listener.
However, depending on the speakers you have, the shape of your room, and other variables, forming an equilateral triangle may not be an option, or it may not produce the best sound. Try to place your front speakers as close to this formation as possible, then adjust them depending on what sounds the best in your space.
Another thing you’ll want to adjust is the height of your front speakers. You want the tweeters (AKA the part of your speakers that delivers high-frequency sounds) to be at ear level when you are sitting down in your listening position.
Surround Speakers and Rear Speakers
In a 5.1 setup, the two surround speakers should be placed to the listener’s left and right. If you are unable to put them to the sides, you can place them a few feet behind the listening position, just make sure to face them towards the front.
You should also put them 1 to 2 feet (0.30-0.61 m) above ear level so that they are above you when seated. This will provide you with the best sound effects.
If you have a 7.1 setup, you’ll have two surround speakers and two rear speakers. The surround speakers should be placed to the left and right of your listening position. The two rear speakers should be placed behind you, facing forward. For an optimal listening experience, position both pairs of these speakers 1 to 2 feet (0.30-0.61 m) above ear level.
When it comes to placement, subwoofers are more versatile than the other speakers because low-frequency sounds are omnidirectional, meaning they send sound in all directions.
The subwoofer is often placed in the front of the room since it’s closer to the receiver, so it’s easier to hook up. Some people like to put their subwoofer in a corner because this results in louder and stronger bass.
However, putting the subwoofer in a corner can create a boomy bass, meaning the low frequency sounds coming from it are indistinguishable, so you aren’t able to hear the different frequencies. If you experience this, move your subwoofer out of the corner and continue to adjust it until you get the best sound.
What Else Can I Do to Have the Best Sound?
Pay Attention to Your Room Arrangement
Whenever you are listening to music or playing a movie, you aren’t just hearing the sound traveling from the speakers to your ears. You are also hearing reflected sounds, which are sounds that bounce off of things that are present in the room, such as the walls, ceiling, furniture, or even other people.
You hear these reflected sound waves a little later than you hear direct sound waves, which creates a sound distortion. These distortions can make music or movies sound unclear.
In this article by Crutchfield, they go over six ways you can reduce bad sound reflections, which are discussed in detail below.
- Avoid putting furniture in front of your speakers. The fewer things blocking your speakers, the fewer sound reflections you’ll have.
- Move your chair or sofa away from the walls and into the middle of the room. Since walls reflect sound, being too close to them can disrupt your listening experience. When you’re sitting in the middle of the room, try moving your seat closer to or farther from your front speakers to see where the audio sounds best.
- Cover large glass areas in your room with drapes. If you have large glass windows or doors in your surround sound room, try covering them up with drapes. Drapes will help absorb the reflections instead of bouncing them all over the room as glass does.
- Place an area rug over wood or vinyl flooring. Just like glass, wood and vinyl reflect sound. If you put an area rug over some of your flooring, it will help absorb the reflections.
- Purchase a subwoofer or home theatre receiver that will help correct the reflections. Some subwoofers come with bass equalizers, and some receivers come with automatic speaker calibration. These features can help digitally correct some of the problems in your room that are created by your room’s furniture or general layout.
Angle Your Speakers Inward
Typically you’ll want to angle your speakers inward towards the listener.
Remember, most of the speakers above produce high frequencies, which are more directional than low frequencies, meaning if you face them towards you, the sound will sound louder and clearer than if they were facing away.
So, you’ll want to “toe-in” your speakers, so they are facing slightly inward towards the listener’s head.
You’ll adjust how much you angle your speakers depending on the size of your listening space. If you have a wide listening area, you’ll want to decrease the “toe-in” so the speakers are angled a little wider. However, if your listening area is small, you can angle them inwards significantly. Make sure to adjust the angles a little bit at a time until you find the perfect sound!
In a surround sound system, the most important speakers, including the center speaker and the front speakers, will be placed in front of you. However, your supplementary speakers, including the surround speakers and rear speakers, can be placed behind you.
The subwoofer’s location can vary since low-frequency sounds are omnidirectional. However, typically subwoofers are played at the front of the room.
Other than speaker placement, you can adjust your listening area’s layout and furniture to enhance your experience. You can also angle your speakers towards you slightly to direct the sound towards your ears.