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Thread: Surround Sound System Speaker Placement Guide

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    Default Surround Sound System Speaker Placement Guide


    Since surround sound is a large part of the Home Theater experience, proper speaker setup and placement will add to your experience and enjoyment.

    A standard surround sound system has 6 channels of audio information coming across the speakers. 4 directional speakers, a center speaker (used mostly for dialog) and a sub woofer (speaker). This is known as a 5.1 setup. The 5 stands for the 4 directional speakers and 1 for the center speaker. The .1 stands for the sub woofer, which is non directional. There are a few other types of speaker setup; Stereo 2.0 or 2.1 (if you have a sub woofer), 3.1 (including a center channel), 6.1 (adding a rear center channel) or 7.1 (adding 2 rear surrounds). This guide is for the setup of the 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1 surround sound systems. These same guidelines can be used for a 2.0, 2.1 or 3.1 system.

    The speakers in a 5.1 surround sound system are labeled as the following. Center speaker (also known as C) is where most dialog is directed, it usually is placed directly in front of the listener. Front Left (also known as FL or LF) is a main speaker, sound effects are passed to it and as its name describes sits in the front of the listener to the left. Front Right (also known as FR or RF), is a main speaker, sound effects are passed to it and as its name describes sits in the front of the listener to the right. Both the LF and RF are used for stereo as well. NOTE: In action scenes like with fast moving cars, many times the sound is panned, that is the sound is heard from the LF then moves to the C and then on to the RF all seamlessly.
    Surround Left (also known as SL or LS), is a surround speaker and sound effects are passed to it and as its name describes sits on the side or slightly behind the listener to the left. Surround Right (also known as SR or RS), is a surround speaker and sound effects are passed to it, as its name describes sits on the side or slightly behind the listener to the right. The sub woofer (also know as LFE or low frequency emitter) is non directional and can sit almost anywhere.
    The standard set forth by the ITU (international telecommunications union), calls for varying positions and angles from the reference listening position and angling of speakers to provide the optimum listening experience with a surround sound system. That is, where to place the speakers so they sound the best. The standard calls for a placement of your speakers at varying degrees from the center. (see diagram for illustration)



    The reference listening position is where you sit. Most people will place their couch or chair in front of the TV and thus in front of the center speaker, this is your reference listening position. If you are not in front of the TV then your "experience" will differ meaning the you will be out of the "sweet spot", a area where you hear all the speakers independently of each other.
    Place your center speaker at 0 degrees from the reference listening position. Place your front left (FL) and front right (FR) at 22 to 30 degrees from the center. Place your surround left (SL) and surround right (SR) at 90 to 110 degrees from the center. It is strongly recommended to keep the 3 front speakers (FL, C, FR) at the height of the listeners ear and at the same distance to the listening position. It is also highly recommended to keep all of the front speakers on the same plane. That is to keep them in line with each other and not have the center speaker in front of, higher or lower than the LF and RF speakers.
    The easiest way to find all the correct angles, is to use an analog clock. Here's how to do it. Place the analog clock in your "sweet spot” (reference listening position), directly in front of the TV in your chair or couch. Position the clock where 12 o'clock is pointing to the TV. On the front wall near your TV is where you are going to place your Front and Center speakers. The Center speaker is placed at 12o'clock . The front right speaker is placed at 11 o'clock on the front wall. The front left speaker is placed at 1 o'clock on the front wall. Your surround right speaker is then placed at 4 o'clock on the side wall right to the listener. Your surround left speaker is placed at 8 o'clock on the side wall left of the listener. That's it for your main speakers.
    If you are one of those that own a 6.1 or a 7.1 surround sound system, the additional 1 or 2 speakers are back surround speakers (SB). These will mount directly behind the listener at 6'o'clock for a 6.1 system or 5 and 7 o'clock in a 7.1 system. (see diagrams for illustration)






    The placement of the sub woofer is not set in stone because the sub woofer is relatively non directional. Some manufacturers suggest placing this on the floor near to the center speaker, most just suggest to place where it sounds the best. I found the best position to usually be on the floor near either the LF or RF speaker.
    A note about speaker heights: Front speaker height is crucial and it is always best to keep them at the listeners ear level when seated. If that can't be done then make sure that the 2 front speakers are at the same height but the center must be as close to ear level as possible (usually on the shelf with the TV). The surround and rear surround speakers should be mounted at 2' to 3' above the listeners ear level to prevent localization, distraction from the front speakers and to allow room filling surround.


    This should be of some help for anyone new to or setting up a surround sound system for the first time.

    Any further discussion and or questions should be placed here. Hope you enjoy...
    Last edited by Loves2Watch; 05-28-2009 at 12:34 PM.
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    Default 2 row seating

    One question -- if you have two rows of seating where do you place the rear speakers then?

    Do you move all four back some or do you just move the surround back speakers or do you leave everything as is.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeak View Post
    One question -- if you have two rows of seating where do you place the rear speakers then?

    Do you move all four back some or do you just move the surround back speakers or do you leave everything as is.
    I would move the rear surrounds and leave everything else as is.
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    Thank you sir

    Unfortunately I was about 3,000 miles away when they were doing dry-walling in the house we bought. I had about 2 days between signing the contract and getting someone to put cables in place so I called the "high-class" home theater place up here in Anchorage and they came out and helped out with cabling etc. My father-in-law did the work and they supported it by saying where etc -- well the @%#^%@ put the back speakers behind the first row of seating despite me telling them there would be two rows. They made some other major errors which is why I am kind of ticked off at them. I am going to do some kind of extension on the speaker cables (since there isn't enough coiled to run them all the way back, patch up the 8 1/4 inch holes they cut-out (which I have one heck of a hard time to find in-ceilings for) and take it from there.

    Anyways thanks for the quick reply

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    Back in the day, they used to say that your surround speakers didn't need much bass extension because surround effects never contained much bass. Is that still true?

    I ask because I've seen mentions of people pairing their surrounds with a sub. I've also seen something that suggested the SB channels contained more bass wallop than the sides.

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    Quote Originally Posted by trent.memphis View Post
    Back in the day, they used to say that your surround speakers didn't need much bass extension because surround effects never contained much bass. Is that still true?

    I ask because I've seen mentions of people pairing their surrounds with a sub. I've also seen something that suggested the SB channels contained more bass wallop than the sides.
    in the ideal system each speaker would be able to produce sounds from 20hz - 20khz, but it isn't ideal for 99.9% of people. any Receiver sold in the past few years will have bass management and will redirect the low frequencies to a sub making it unnecessary to have a full range center and full range surrounds.
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    Ah. So there is low frequency information in the surround signal; it just gets redirected by the processor. Thanks, Jason.

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    Quote Originally Posted by trent.memphis View Post
    Ah. So there is low frequency information in the surround signal; it just gets redirected by the processor. Thanks, Jason.
    sometimes there is a little bit. most people don't have the room, or power to run 5 or 7 full range speakers. it gives the whole system so much more headroom when you cutoff everything at around 80hz or so. if you wanted to run 7 speakers full range you'd need a huge dedicated amp, not just an AVR with a 5 or 7 channel amp built in. when you cross all 5 or 7 over at 80hz or so you can easily drive them with a standard AVR. the bass and mid-bass frequencies suck up power so fast.

    i'm sorry to link something from AVS to here but this thread will be a great read and hopefully help answer your question: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...nel+waterfalls
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    I have a 65 inch BDI stand that my tv is sitting on. The center will be in the top middle section of stand below tv. My question is how far apart from the BDI stand should I place the left front and right front speakers? There is about 5FT, 3inches on each side of the stand to the walls of the room. Advice, recommendations, your own setup? Thanks.
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    Quote Originally Posted by j4quattro View Post
    I have a 65 inch BDI stand that my tv is sitting on. The center will be in the top middle section of stand below tv. My question is how far apart from the BDI stand should I place the left front and right front speakers? There is about 5FT, 3inches on each side of the stand to the walls of the room. Advice, recommendations, your own setup? Thanks.
    What I was told that was fairly easy to wrap my head around, was that, Ideally, you have your left and right speakers as far apart as YOU are back from the TV. For example, if you are 10 feet back from the TV, you would want 10 feet between the left and right speakers. If that is not possible due to space constraints, I was told you want at least 75 percent of that value between the L/R, but as close to that distance as possible.

    Then you want to toe them in per the diagram. I re mounted my front speakers (they are on wall speakers) after reading this information and it sounds quite a bit better. More separation. They always show on wall speakers really tight to the TV too in all of the pictures you see, but that does not seem to be ideal.
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    Default Re: Surround Sound System Speaker Placement Guide

    What if your 50" plasma is on the side of the room? The room is 12x12 feet. You're sitting 10 /2 feet, directly in front of the screen. The section of the wall that the screen is on is only 5 feet before a 5 foot alcove begins and the wall continues for another 2 feet. The perpendicular wall next to the screen also has a doorway. Where to put the LF & RF speakers? Best compromise? Can't move the TV. Thanks.

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    Default Re: Surround Sound System Speaker Placement Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by wimperelli View Post
    What if your 50" plasma is on the side of the room? The room is 12x12 feet. You're sitting 10 /2 feet, directly in front of the screen. The section of the wall that the screen is on is only 5 feet before a 5 foot alcove begins and the wall continues for another 2 feet. The perpendicular wall next to the screen also has a doorway. Where to put the LF & RF speakers? Best compromise? Can't move the TV. Thanks.
    Can you post a picture?
    I own some stuff.

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    Default Re: Surround Sound System Speaker Placement Guide

    Sorry, I can't get back far enough to get the area I'm talking about in the picture.
    Here's a sketch.Click image for larger version. 

Name:	room sketch.jpg 
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    Default Re: Surround Sound System Speaker Placement Guide

    The red thing is the TV right?

    If so that's gonna be tough. Maybe go with book shelves and mount the right speaker in that corner to the right of the TV if there is room. If not above it.

    I'd put the left one to the left of that doorway.

    If I owned that house I would buy some 2x4's and drywall and get rid of one of those doorways.
    I own some stuff.

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    Default Re: Surround Sound System Speaker Placement Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by Disco Batman View Post
    The red thing is the TV right?

    If so that's gonna be tough. Maybe go with book shelves and mount the right speaker in that corner to the right of the TV if there is room. If not above it.

    I'd put the left one to the left of that doorway.



    If I owned that house I would buy some 2x4's and drywall and get rid of one of those doorways.
    I love this attitude!!! I would do the same damn thing, time for a remodel or a move to get the perfect surround sound!!!! Damn that is a very tough room, but I agree with Disco's placement.

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    Default Re: Surround Sound System Speaker Placement Guide

    Disco Batman thanks for the suggestions.Your idea of putting the left speaker to the left of the doorway is exactly what I did when I had a stereo set up and it worked really well. But with my current setup and the monitor in the corner, I'm afraid that if I place the RF speaker in between the monitor and the wall (I have about 5") and I have the LF speaker that far away from the screen (about 5'), that the soundstage would be lopsided and not correspond to what is happening on screen.

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    Default Re: Surround Sound System Speaker Placement Guide

    I see your point, but with your room I don't know how you are going to get around having a lopsided sound stage. You really are limited, the best thing you can do is maybe hook them up and move them around, and see what sounds best.

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    Default Re: Surround Sound System Speaker Placement Guide

    Thank you for responding Caliberconst.. How about putting the LF & RF speakers on the sides of the plasma (4 feet wide) and the surround SL & SR speakers farther apart, i.e. on either end of the couch ( 8 feet). Will that expand the soundstage and not sound lopsided? Can I get away with it because they're surround channels? Thanks again.

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    Default Re: Surround Sound System Speaker Placement Guide

    wimperelli, if you got a satisfactory soundstage with a stereo amp, you'll be fine with a modern surround system. The room optimization feature in high quality receivers will balance the left/right and front/rear situation easily. Go ahead and put the speakers where you must, set up your system with the supplied microphone and enjoy. You've got all the time in the world to make drastic changes to your room if you want; until then, enjoy.
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    Default Re: Surround Sound System Speaker Placement Guide


    Thanks nobsplease. Will do.

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