Setup Home Theater Surround Sound

How To Setup Home Theater: The Definitive Guide [2021]

This updated guide is all about how to setup home theater in 2021.

Many people create their home theaters with big displays and cozy chairs. But the mistake they make is the sound system.

They buy prominent speakers without realizing that multi-dimensional audio creates a great theater sound system.

So, we are here to give you a detailed step-by-step guide. Keep reading and follow along to establish your excellent home theater sound system!

Before We Begin – How To Improve The Sound In Your Room?

If you are watching movies on your TV and the audio output is from the television speakers themselves, you can significantly improve the audio.

For this, you will need an amplifier and a few speakers. Here we are just talking about the essential thing; we will come to the surround sound afterward. 

All you need to do is send the audio output from the source (DVD player, cable box, console, etc.) to the amplifier. An amplifier boosts an electric current. It will convert the audio signals into electrical signals.

Now send the sound to the speakers from the amplifier. After you do this, the way sound is produced will differ from what you have heard before.

It will be much cleaner and powerful than the audio from TV speakers. This will enhance your movie experiences. Just sit back and enjoy it then.

To sum up, here, the following are the steps you need to follow:

  • Get an amplifier and some speakers
  • Connect the source (cable box, etc.) audio output to the amplifier.
  • Connect the amplifier to the speakers.

That’s it! These simple steps can let you enjoy better sound while you watch your favorite shows or movies.

How To Send Audio Output To The Amplifier

We just discussed how to improve audio quality by changing the audio output from the source. 

As simple as it may sound, you might face trouble splitting picture and audio output. To find out if this splitting is possible with your source device, you need to look at it.

For example, a cable box, may use one HDMI cable or have two connections: one for picture and the other for audio.

Don’t get worried over this.

Let us see how to separate the sound signals for the speaker system:

  • Look at the jacks on your source device. Choose the jack to use for audio output as per your desire and considering the input your amplifier offers.

For example, if you use an optical audio output, the amplifier must also have an input for that. Just keep this in mind before getting the cables.

  • In the case of DVD players or Blu-ray players, they come with a lot of output options. Making a connection with them will be easier. Nowadays, cable boxes also offer several output options.

I hope you have not forgotten that this was a basic sound setup. This is just to improve your sound experience.

For the home theater surround sound system, we are going to up our game. We still have many things to discuss and figure out how to establish our excellent audio system.

Let’s continue then:

What Is A Surround Sound System?

In technical terms, ‘surround sound‘ means a multi-channel speaker system designed by the famous ‘Dolby Labs.’ In day-to-day life, it is used to refer to a theater multi-channel sound system.

We are here to create our home theater surround sound systems. For that, we need to learn how speakers make multi-dimensional sounds.

Let us start with that.

You are very familiar with headphones, mentioning the left and right ear cups. And if you have played some video games with a headset, you know the purpose of the ‘left and right’ stuff very well.

It lets you locate enemy locations. It’s like you can track and hear each footstep of the enemies. 

It lets you locate enemy locations. It’s like you can track and hear each footstep of the enemies. 

This is that the left driver and right driver produce the sound regarding the origin. That is what lets you have the multi-dimensional feeling.

Similarly, to establish your surround sound system, you will need multiple speakers. Each of them will produce the sound as per the origin. You will also need to have correct placements for the speakers.

Thoughts and questions might be popping up in your mind like, ‘How many speakers will be needed?’ or ‘Are not two speakers, one for left and one for right sufficient?’.

Well, we will get to it one by one. Before that, you should know that we will learn how to establish a 5.1 channel surround sound system (and extend the knowledge to a 7.1 channel system).

If you are planning to set up a different system, you may very well check that out. But we recommend to continue reading as a lot of stuff you learn here will help you out.

We will have a brief up about the 7.1 channel system too. You will learn a lot from here, and this stuff is going to be helpful information.

If you are new to all this, a 5.1 channel system will be perfect for you. It will also cost lesser than the 9.2 and other systems you might have heard about.

What’s The Big Deal About 5.1 Channel Surround Sound System?

Credits: Wikipedia

We will understand it step-by-step. Basically, ‘channel’ means speaker. When the term ‘5.1 channel’ comes in front of us, five speakers are there. What the ‘.1’ represents is the number of subwoofers.

If ‘.2’ had been there, it would mean two subwoofers.

That’s the basics.

Now, the crucial part:

The subwoofer is responsible for the bass, while the other speakers have their uses. 

As you might have guessed, we will need five speakers and one subwoofer to establish a 5.1 channel home theater system.

First, the most important speaker is the center channel/speaker. It is essential because it is used for dialogues. As movies have a lot of dialogues, it has the most critical role.

It is placed directly below your TV screen (or the display you are using). You might have already figured that out because of its name.

Then comes the left front and right front speakers. They are placed to the left and the right of the screen, respectively. They should slightly tilt towards the center speaker. The front speakers and the center speaker do most of the work.

They are responsible for reproducing dialogue, significant portions of music, and sound effects.

After that comes, the left and right surround sound speakers. They are responsible for adding dimensional flavor to your sound.

The left one will be placed precisely to your left while the right one exactly to your right. Keep in mind that we are talking about your seating position.

Also, the surround sound speakers should not be placed below your position. They should be above and exactly at your sides.

Last but not least, the subwoofer that brings the bass to the party. We will talk about the subwoofer placement later.

It needs some extra attention, so let’s discuss other stuff first.

Next, We Come To AV Receiver!

Recall the basic stuff we just discussed in which we improved audio from TV by changing the audio output. In that case, we connected the TV to the picture source directly.

Well, the modern-day AV receivers are going to make handling the audio and video signals convenient.

These days AV receivers are not just amplifiers, but they can handle video signals too.

I was wondering what is good in it for you?

First, what we discussed earlier was to set a base. There we only cared about splitting the signal and producing the audio through speakers.

But, if you think about it, we had to connect the source to the TV for the picture directly. So, if we change sources (like a cable box to a DVD player), we will have to reconsider the whole arrangement of cables. This makes our task inconvenient.

If we use an AV receiver instead, it can handle switching between sources. This lets you easily switch from a cable box to a console, etc. 

Also, only one video cable will be needed for the display for each source. For example, connecting a cable box and a PlayStation (both via HDMI cable) to the AV receiver will split the signals. It will send audio signals to the speakers and video signals to the display screen.

Why Use AV Receiver?

  • Lesser cables will be needed.
  • Neater setup.
  • Multiple input options (Can make many connections).
  • Easily switch between sources.

I’ll be honest:

You can always use the basic setup with the amplifier (which I discussed earlier) to improve your room sound.

But in that setup, you will require several cables, crowded and tangled wires, and an inconvenient way to switch between sources.

Here are the exact steps you need to follow to use an AV Receiver:

  • Connect an AV receiver to the TV/display.
  • Connect sources like the cable box to the AV receiver.
  • Connect speakers to the AV receiver.

That’s all. In this setup, the sources will send the audio and video signals to the AV receiver.

The AV receiver will send the video signals to the TV/display and audio signals to the speakers.

The AV receiver will let you select the source. As per the source, it will handle signals.

Which AV Receiver to buy? 

As we discuss a 5.1 channel surround sound system, the AV receiver you buy should support the 5.1 connection.

Basically, on the back of the AV receiver, it should specify that it is a 5.1 amp. If you are thinking of establishing a 7.1 channel, then look for a 7.1-amp AV receiver.

If you have a big room, checking out AV receivers that support 2 two subwoofers is preferable. This is because a more ample space might need giant bass.

Note: A 7.1-amp AV receiver also supports a 5.1 channel system. It’s totally up to you which one you choose.

Now, We Head Over To The 7.1 Surround Sound System!

Credits: Denon

As said earlier, we are going to brief you about the 7.1 surround sound system. To set up a 7.1 channel system, as you guessed, seven speakers and one subwoofer are needed.

Here is how you can set up this:

  • The center speaker will be placed below the display in the center. It is very important as it delivers the dialogues. 
  • The front left, and front right speakers will be placed to the left and right of the screen. They should slightly tilt towards the center speaker. They are responsible for significant portions of music notes and sound effects, and dialogues.
  • The surround left and surrounded right speakers should be placed precisely to the sides of your seating position. They should be placed above your position. They create a multi-dimensional effect.
  • The back left, and back right speakers will be placed behind you, slightly tilting towards the surround speakers. They are of the least importance. They only serve to reinforce the surround speakers.
  • The subwoofer will be responsible for the bass. It is to be placed according to the room. We will discuss subwoofer placement afterward.

Get The Most Out Of Your Subwoofer!

As promised, let’s talk about the subwoofer and its placement. Firstly, the subwoofer is what adds powerful bass to the sound.

For the placement of the subwoofer, it all depends on your room.

Let us know how to find the perfect placement of the subwoofer:

  • Place the subwoofer next to your sitting position (make sure no driver or port is blocked).
  • Sit there and play bass-heavy music (with the highest settings). Listen carefully.
  • Now crawl in your room with your ear near to the floor.
  • Then move to every corner of your room, anywhere you think you can place the subwoofer.
  • Mark the place(s) with a pencil or tape where the music sounds best.
  • Place the subwoofer at that place.
  • Go back to your sitting position.
  • You will find that the music sounded almost the same when the subwoofer was right next to you.
  • This will be the perfect placement for the sub.

Note: Have a long cable connected, as no one can tell how far you will place the subwoofer.

Let’s quickly recall the steps for clarity:

Place the subwoofer very closely to the seating position. Crawl around the room and find out the best-sounding position and place a subwoofer there.

If you think about how this is happening, think of it as based on sound reflection. It’s more complicated than that, but no need to get into it. Generally, a subwoofer sounds best when placed at the corners of a room.

Now, if you have a big room, you can have more than one subwoofer. A large room having more subwoofers enriches the bass. Two subwoofers can deliver sufficient power for a large room.

More About The Placement Of Speakers

What we discussed the placement of speakers was a rough idea. There are more things to consider.

Front speakers

Let us first discuss the tilt angle of the front speakers. You know that you have to place the front left and front right speakers at the sides of the display.

Now for the angle, firstly place it in the direction of your seating position. When they are exactly parallel to the position, start tilting them towards the center speaker.

The perfect angle is between 22 – 30 degrees. This will itself create some amount of surround sound effect. The angle might differ a little as per your room.

But the angle should not be far off from the range of 22 to 30. You have to listen and find out the perfect angle for you. If the angle does differ a lot, it means your room built is improper. 

This could be the case generally for those who live in a building built like 30 years ago or so. But this does not happen often.

The speakers’ height should be such that the speakers’ tweeters are at your ear position level. You do not need to be exact with the positioning, but it should be approximately correct.

The front speakers should also be near the wall. This will make the sound richer with deeper bass

Center speakers

As I mentioned, they are to be placed at the center of the display, in front of you. You can also place them below the display (or just above). They should be at an ear-level height or close to that.

Surround Speakers

Placing them on the walls is one way to do it, but you can also put them on stands. The room will dictate the positioning.

No need to worry about changing or not; whatever is convenient, go for it. They have to be placed precisely to your sides (left and right to the seating).

Rear speakers (Not in case of 5.1 channel)

The rear/back speakers are placed behind you to the left and right. They should be angled between 135 and 150 degrees (with relation to the center speaker).

They should be above or at your ear level. Again, the room will determine the angle. You have to listen to place them correctly.

Subwoofer

The placement of the subwoofer has already been discussed. So you may know that the subwoofer generally sounds best in the corners because of reverberation.

It is recommended to follow the steps mentioned earlier for the placement. Do not get caught up in it. Subwoofer placement is less important than other speakers.

Here Are Some Useful Products That Will Boost Your Room Sound!

3 Products

  • Speaker stands
    If you did not know, there are speaker stands available on the market. If you lack space on your table to place the speakers, consider buying these.

    They don’t take much space and are available in different sizes. 
  • All-in-one home theater package
    It’s worth considering these package deals. These all-in-one packages include an AV receiver, all speakers, and the subwoofer.

    It reduces the task of finding and purchasing each product separately. They don’t come with TV generally so that you can get the sound system only.
  • Wall mounts
    Honestly, speakers’ placements might be a bother, finding the correct size table and stuff. But, if you mount the speakers on the wall, you won’t have to worry about having the speaker at the right height.

Best Surround Sound Tips On Different Kinds Of Rooms!

You might be feeling confused or troubled as at a lot of places you would have read ‘as per room’ or ‘room dictates.’

So, let’s keep it simple and slow and find out things that will probably improve your sound experience.

For Big Rooms

If your room is big, you can have a great sound experience if you establish a great setup.

To get started, let us talk about the subwoofer first. In big rooms, the bass generally gets dull. Its power feels insufficient for space.

To correct that, there are two things you can do:

  • The first is to get two subwoofers. If one subwoofer can not deliver the thundering bass, have another one that reinforces the bass. It will undoubtedly make a difference.
  • The second thing you can do is create the illusion of having two subwoofers. To do this, all you have to do is split the single subwoofer output with the help of a ‘Y’ connector. It will not produce too big a difference, but it can surely add juice to the sound.

Note:  It’s recommended to have AV receivers that support two subwoofers for big rooms.

  • The next thing is the channel configuration. If your room is big, having more speakers will strengthen the sound. It makes sense, right!

So, instead of a 5.1 system, having a 7.1 or 7.2 system will offer richer sound to you. The more the speakers, the better the audio quality.

  • The last thing recommended is, as you might have already guessed, to have better speakers. It’s a super simple thing; just buy speakers that can play louder and better.

There are some simple things to keep in mind to establish your home theater in a small room.

  • To kick it off, having one subwoofer is sufficient. Having two subwoofers might sound tempting but, we want ‘immersive experience’ and not ‘noise.’

Powerful bass is good, but too powerful bass just gives you a headache. You can lower the sound, but then what is the point of buying an extra subwoofer?

  • The second thing is to not go for a lot of speakers. A 5.1 or a 7.1channel will be sufficient. If you go for a 9.1 channel, all it’s going to do is make you feel crowded by speakers.
  • The last thing is to have a good sitting position. If the room is small, a sitting position too close to the subwoofer might feel uncomfortable. Figure out a good position for yourself and the speakers.

Final Words On How To Setup Home Theater

We tried to give you a lot of information. This knowledge will surely help you out in establishing your own ‘home theater surround sound system.

We covered the 5.1 channel system as well as the 7.1 channel. But we focused more on the 5.1 channel.

If you are experienced with all the surround sound stuff, it’s preferred to look into Dolby Atmos and all the top-notch sound systems out there.

To set up your theater, you need to buy an AV Receiver with a suitable configuration.

It would be great if:

You buy cables for the connections. Keep in mind that the cable length should be enough, you should have short cables for front, center speakers and long cables for surround speakers should be enough.

If you are creating a surround system for the first time, you might feel confused and panic. We have tried to simplify things for you to keep your cool and make a great sound system.

If the system works improperly, look at the connections first. There are a lot of ports on the AV receiver, and connections could be made wrong.

Because of a lot of stuff, it’s preferred to go through the steps again or take screenshots, so you don’t feel lost at some points.

All there is to it is creating your surround sound system, turning it on, and enjoying a movie with some butter popcorns.


What Do You Think?

There you have it: the complete guide on how to setup home theater surround sound in 2021.

Now, I’d turn it over to you.

Which tip from today’s post you will try out first?

Are you going to use the all-in-one home theater package to keep things easy and convenient?

Or you will use dual suboofers for your large rooms?

Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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