Speaker Placement

Now that I’ve convinced you to go with a 5.2 setup, the next step in the process is to determine speaker placement. Proper speaker placement is essential to achieve the best home theater sound. Although the 5.1 specifications clearly state where the speakers are located, we’ll fine-tune the exact placement in relation to your room configuration to get the most out of your equipment. Most importantly we’ll keep it simple, allowing you to do it yourself, which will allow you to build a custom, yet affordable high end home theater.

Proper placement of your speakers is paramount to their quality. Even high quality speakers will produce an inferior sound field if positioned incorrectly. Following are the steps I took to find the correct location for my 5.1 speaker configuration.

The key to proper setup is to first find the sweet spot for your room. In my home theater I have two rows of Seating, 3 chairs in the front and 4 rows in the rear. My sweet spot is in the front row’s center chair, or the center of the room/seating area. Using this location as a reference point, speaker placement should be as follows for a 5.1 setup:

Front Channel Placement

Looking at the screen from a seated position:
Place your center-channel speaker at 0 degrees.
Place your left and right front speakers at a 22 to 30 degree angle from your reference point.
Front speaker’s height should be around ear level.
Measure the distances from the left and right speakers to your reference point. Make sure they are equal; just a few inches off could throw off the sound.
Limit any objects, such as furniture, etc that may be blocking the area between the speakers and the seating area.

Surround Channel Placement

The surrounds should be placed on the back wall; however, keep in mind that surround speaker locations are more flexible than the fronts.
The left and right surrounds should be placed at and angle of 135 to 150 degrees from the front center/reference point. Placement is usually at the respective ends of the rear wall.
Rear surrounds should be positioned above ear level, ideally 2 feet or more above the highest seated position’s ear level. A good reference is to place them at ear height from standing position. Proper height is important to ensure that the surrounds do not over-power the fronts.
If your speakers can be aimed, aim them towards the reference point with a slight angle downward. This will help to diffuse the sound field.

Sub Channel Placement

The sub’s location is the most flexible of all the channels. Experiment to find a location where the sound is deep and clear, but not “boomy”.
Place it on the floor and close to a corner. If it sounds too “boomy”, proceed to move it away from the wall until the “boomyness” subsides. Usually anywhere from a few inches to two from the corner is adequate.
Add a second sub to help smooth out the bass for other listening locations.

These guidelines generally provide an excellent setup and help you to maximize the sound from all of your speaker locations. However, all rooms are different and often you may have to make some adjustments to achieve the best sound. If you receiver has an auto adjustment feature or manual adjustments, configure it properly to adjust to your room size. In addition, use of acoustical panels on walls or rearranging of some furniture may be necessary for best results. I was able to achieve superior results by simply placing the speakers in the correct locations; but this was attributable to good room design earlier in the process. If you take your time and plan out your project properly, I’m confident you’ll be able to build your dream home theater affordably…and it will perform with the best of them.


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