Setting Up a Surround Sound System? Here’s What to Know


Follow These Tips for an Epic Audio Experience in Your Home Theater

In an impressive home theater setup, a giant display is only part of the equation. If you want a movie-watching environment that rivals the cineplex, you’ll also need an enveloping, high-quality surround sound system to round out the experience.

We could talk about speaker selection and layout options in great length, but we’ll stick to the basics for those just getting started on a home theater system installation in their Highland Park, IL home. Read this guide to learn about common surround sound system configurations and get our top tips for ideal speaker placement.

SEE ALSO: 5 Lighting Best Practices to Consider for Your Home Theater

Decoding Surround Sound System Configurations

When you search for surround sound systems online, you’ll see them described in number sequences containing two or three digits. A common sequence is 5.1, but these can also look like 3.0 or 7.2.4. It’s important to understand what these numbers mean before picking the right configuration for you.

The first number represents the number of main speakers, such as the left, right, center, and side surround speakers. The second number represents the number of subwoofers. If you see a speaker system configuration with a third number, then that represents the number of height speakers.

For example, a 5.1 surround sound configuration comprises a left, right, center, left surround, right surround, and subwoofer. A more immersive configuration, such as a 7.2.4 system, has the same setup as 5.1 but also adds left and right rear speakers, an additional subwoofer, and four height speakers.

Which Configuration Should You Choose?

Generally, more speakers mean more immersive and realistic audio. However, the ideal setup will depend on your budget and room size. If you have limited space, then 5.1 is a great starting point for satisfying surround sound. Still, we recommend at least a pair of height speakers so you can take advantage of Dolby Atmos 360-degree sound. That configuration would look like this: 5.1.2.

Speaker Placement Tips

Before you place your speakers, we recommend placing your seating first. Knowing where the viewers will be positioned in the room will help determine the best locations for all your speakers. Once your seats are positioned, keep the following tips in mind when placing your speakers:

  • Position main left and right speakers on either side of your projector screen or TV display and at a 45-to-60-degree angle from the primary listening position. These speakers should also be at ear level.

  • Position your center-channel speaker in the center of your display. Ideally, you’d want to use an in-wall speaker that sits at ear level directly behind a perforated projector screen. However, you can also place the center-channel speaker directly below the display if needed.

  • Position main side surrounds directly on either side of the primary listening position and at ear level if your system will have height speakers. If you won’t have height speakers, then place main side surrounds slightly above ear level for a sense of spaciousness.

  • Position rear surrounds at a 45-to-60-degree angle behind the primary listening position. Like the main side surrounds, place rear surrounds at ear level if you’ll have height speakers. If you won’t have height speakers, place your rear surrounds slightly above ear level.

  • Use in-ceiling speakers for the best Dolby Atmos audio experience. If you can’t put speakers in the ceiling, a solid alternative is putting elevation speakers on top of front and rear floor speakers, which feature up-firing drivers to reflect the sound effects off the ceiling.

  • Test your subwoofer placement to find the sweet spot. Because bass is omnidirectional, a properly placed sub shouldn’t give away its location. However, factors like room acoustics might affect where your sub sounds best. A common location is the front of the room, but corner placements are typical, too.

What About Speaker Type?

Home theater speakers come in many forms. Choose from tower speakers, bookshelf speakers, on-wall speakers, in-wall speakers, or a combination. While there’s nothing wrong with any of these speaker types, we recommend in-wall and in-ceiling speakers. These speakers hide from view and can provide as much of an immersive audio experience as freestanding speakers. Subwoofers can also be installed in the wall to free up floor space and round out a clean and refined home theater design.

The Avidia team partners with class-leading home theater speaker and subwoofer brands like MartinLogan, JL Audio, and KEF, to bring homeowners the very best in accurate, dynamic, high-fidelity sound. We’d love to help you build the home theater system of your dreams, complete with a powerful surround sound system that lets you experience movies and shows the way the creators intended.


Ready to start? Contact the Avidia team here or send us a message in the chat box below. To learn more about our home theater solutions, you can also check out our home theater solutions page.

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