Positioning the 7.1 Surround Sound System in Your Home
There was once a time in the days of yore when there was only one speaker. Then came the age of stereo speakers but people still didn’t care about where they placed them as long as they could hear the sounds. The advent of home theater systems however, changed the way people wanted sounds to sound. There were suddenly five, six, and more speakers to grapple with. But nobody was complaining because these surround sound systems delivered an intensely life-life and immersive listening experience. So it is only natural that the coming of the 7.1 sound system made people happier.
However, to extract the most out of your 7.1 surround sound system, you must position the various speakers appropriately.
Where to Place the Center Channel Speaker
As you go about setting up and positioning your 7.1 surround sound system, start by placing the center channel speaker because all the other components will be positioned relative to it. Place the center channel speaker directly above or below the display unit. You can also mount it on the wall or place it on top of a direct-view television. Then tilt it so that it is aimed at your ear.
Where to Place the Front Left and Right Speakers
The front-left and front-right speakers can be mounted on the wall (but only if they are not fitted with rear-panel bass ports) or placed atop a stand. Ideally, they should be placed not more than two feet above or below the center channel speaker and they should form an arc with the latter. Maintain the same distance between the front-left and front-right speakers as that between where you would sit down to listen and the center channel speaker.
The speakers should ideally be at a distance of three feet on either side of your TV. Tilt the speakers inwards and at an angle of about 45o from your seating position. The tweeters of the speakers should be at your ear level when you are seated for an optimal listening experience.
Where to Place the Surround Left and Right Speakers
The surround-left and surround-right speakers simulate the surround sound effect of movie theaters and their placement is critical if you want to achieve this effect in your living or entertainment room. If your room permits, you should mount the surround-left and surround-right speakers on the side walls and ideally a little behind your listening position or just about parallel to your seat. However, if there is no space behind you, you can place these speakers just next to your listening position and facing each other.
If these speakers have built-in rear-pane bass ports, then you should not mount them on the walls. Instead, place them on stands so that they are no more than two feet above the height of the front speakers. But they should ideally be at a height of two feet or more than your listening position. The rule of the thumb in this regard is to place them at your ear level when you are standing so that the sounds emanated from them do not blast your eardrums and yet you have the feeling of being engulfed in a swirling mass of ambient sounds.
Where to Place the Surround Back Left and Right Speakers
The surround back-left and the surround back-right speakers should be placed side-by-side on the rear wall of the room. They should not be placed more than six feet behind the surround-left and surround-right speakers and should be about 2.3-3.3 feet above the height of the left and right surround speakers.
However, if you have a big room and the rear wall is too far back or if the speakers are fitted with rear-panel bass ports, then place them on stands and position them as indicated above. Space the surround back speakers about half as much apart as the distance between the surround left and right speakers. The surround back speakers of your sound system should be more or less perfectly aligned with the lateral edges of your listening position but tilted a little downwards.
Where to Place the Subwoofer(s)
A 7.1 surround sound system can come with one or more subwoofers. The bass frequencies of subwoofers are non-directional so you actually have the freedom to place them at various locations in your room. If your sound system has one subwoofer, it should ideally be placed at the center of the front wall and about six inches from it. This will also ensure that it is easier to connect the subwoofer to your home theater receiving system. If you have two subwoofers, then place them at the center of the opposite walls and ideally on the front and the back walls. If your sound system consists of four subwoofers, then position one at the center of each wall. In this context, it is worth mentioning that while positioning the subwoofer, you should try to achieve a happy compromise between the quality and the quantity of the bass generated. For instance, you can achieve the highest amount of bass if you place the subwoofer at one corner of the room or near a wall. But this will also result in a “boom” effect—a less clear but a heavy-sounding bass. So you may need to turn on some music and move the subwoofer around until you find the perfect spot.
While positioning the subwoofers, keep in mind that they contain powerful magnets and radiate vibrations that can interfere with the functioning of other electrical and electronic equipment. So ensure that you do not place them atop any such device. Also do not place them on stands or shelves.
While there’s no stopping you from slapping the speakers and the subwoofers all along a line at the front of your room and on either side of the television, placing them in the way suggested above will only heighten your media experience. Again, on the other hand, you do not have get down to the task of positioning the various components of your surround sound system with a measuring tape in hand with all intentions in place to tear down walls if necessary! You just need to scatter the speakers around you so that you can enjoy a truly “surround” sound experience.