Home Theater Speaker Placement
By: Ben Anton
Whether investing a large amount of your savings or a small part of your budget on your home theater, your speaker placement will play a big role in the sound quality and sonic performance in your home theater room.
The instructions that come with your speakers will give you recommendation for where to place them within a room but below are a few things to consider as you begin setting up your new home theater speakers.
CENTER CHANNEL SPEAKER
This speaker’s main purpose is to anchor sounds on-screen, like dialogue.
Tips for placement of the center channel speaker:
1. Center it directly above or below your television.
2. If you place it above the television, the front edge of the speaker should line up precisely with the front edge of the television. This will cut down on any kind of sound “bouncing around” inside the television cabinet.
3. The tweeter of this particular speaker should be at the same height as the tweeters of the front speakers. If you can accomplish this to within 24 inches, that will allow for the best sound quality.
4. The front speakers and this particular speaker should be spaced the same distance away from your planned listening position.
FRONT SPEAKERS: BOTH LEFT AND RIGHT
These speakers have two distinct purposes. They reproduce stereo music sound while also handling a movie’s soundtrack.
Tips for placement of the front speakers:
1. Find your optimal listening position. Now space the two front speakers at points in the room that are equal is distance to that position, with one to the left and one to the right. The front right, front left and center channel speakers should all be approximately the same distance from where you are sitting, with the tweeters of each directed at your ears. Don’t just eyeball this and get an approximate distance, as even an inch variation in the distance of the speakers can make a noticeable difference in your home audio system’s sound quality.
2. These speakers’ tweeters should be even to your ear level when seated in the optimal listening position. Smaller home theater speakers can be mounted on the wall or placed on a speaker stand. Floor standing speakers normally have this covered in their design.
The purpose of the surround speakers is to provide low and high level sound from other parts of the room, creating a movie theater feel in your home theater. The surround speaker placement will depend on the size of your home theater, the shape of the room, and the space needed for the actual speakers. Be creative and experiment with the placement of these particular speakers throughout the room.
Tips for placement of the surround speakers:
1. Place the primary pair to the right and to the left of your optimal listening position. This can be done in line with your position or just behind it. When placement to the side is impossible, or when you have a surround system with more than two surround speakers, you may wish to place the speakers behind the listening position, with the sound being directed toward the front of the room.
2. These speakers should be placed at approximately ear level when you are in a standing position.
3. Experiment with the aiming of these speakers when mounted on the walls. Sometimes good results can be achieved when you point them up at the ceiling or back at the rear corners of the room.
A home theater subwoofer provides your home audio system with all the low bass frequencies needed for a movie theater, surround sound experience. However, it is one of the least difficult to position. In most cases, you can position your home theater subwoofer anywhere in your home theater and still get good results.
There is no one “perfect” placement for any given home theater speaker. No two rooms’ acoustics will be the same, all speakers will have various sonic characteristics, and no two ears will hear any given sound identically. This doesn’t mean you will never achieve the best sound quality from your home audio system. All it means is take the advice given and modify it when you actually install your home theater speakers to accommodate your specific needs.
~Ben Anton, 2007