How Do I Position Loudspeakers For My Home Theater System?

Harman Kardon AVR147 Home Theater Receiver - User Manual IIlustration - Speaker Setup Diagram
IIlustration - Speaker Setup Diagram. Official AVR147 Documentation provided by Harman International - Used With Permission

Probably the most critical part of a home theater set-up is the positioning of the loudspeakers and subwoofers. Factors, such as the type of loudspeakers, room shape, and acoustics definitely affect optimum loudspeaker placement.

However, there are some general loudspeaker position guidelines that can be followed as a starting point, and, for most basic installations, these guidelines may be sufficient.

The following examples are provided for a typical square or slightly rectangular room, you may need to adjust your placement for other room shapes, types of speakers, and additional acoustical factors.

5.1 Channel Speaker Placement

Front Center Channel Speaker: Place the Front Center Channel Speaker directly in front of the listening area, either above or below the television, video display, or projection screen.

Subwoofer: Place the Subwoofer to the left or right of the television.

Left and Right Main/Front Speakers: Place the Left and Right Main/Front speakers equidistant from the Front Center Channel speaker, about a 30-degree angle from the center channel.

Left and Right Surround Speakers: Place the Left and Right Surround Speakers to the left and right side, just to the side or slightly behind the listening position - about 90-110 degrees from the center channel. These speakers can be elevated above the listener.

6.1 Channel Speaker Placement

The Front Center and Left/Right Main speakers and Subwoofer are the same as in a 5.1 Channel configuration.

Left and Right Surround Speakers: Place the Left and Right Surround Speakers to the left and right side of the listening position, in line with or slightly behind the listening position - about 90-110 degrees from the center.

These speakers can be elevated above the listener.

Rear Center Channel Speaker: Directly behind the listening position, in line with the Front Center speaker - May be elevated.

7.1 Channel Speaker Placement

The Front Center and Left/Right Main speakers and Subwoofer are the same as a 5.1 or 6.1 Channel set up.

Left and Right Surround Speakers: Place the Left and Right Surround Speakers to the left and right side of the listening position, in line with or slightly behind the listening position - about 90-110 degrees from the center. These speakers can be elevated above the listener.

Rear/Back Surround Speakers Place the Rear/Back Surround Speakers behind the listening position - slightly to the left and right (may be elevated above listener) - at about 140-150 degrees from the front center channel speaker. Rear/Back channel surround speakers can be elevated above the listening position.

9.1 Channel Speaker Placement

Same front, surround, rear/back surround speaker and subwoofer setup as in a 7.1 channel system. However, there is an addition of Front Left and Right Height speakers placed about three to six feet above the Front Left and Right Main Speakers - directed towards the listening position.

Dolby Atmos and Auro 3D Audio Speaker Placement

In addition to the 5.1, 7.1, and 9.1 channel speaker setups explained above, there are also immersive surround sound formats that require a different approach to speaker placement.

Dolby Atmos

For Dolby Atmos of 5.1, 7.1, 9.1 etc... there are new designations, such as 5.1.2, 7.1.2, 7.1.4, 9.1.4, etc... Speakers laid on in a horizontal plane (left/right front and surrounds) are the first number, the subwoofer is the second number (may be .1 or .2), and the ceiling mounted or vertical drivers represent the last number (usually .2 or .4). For illustrations on how the speakers can be placed, go to The Official Dolby Atmos Speaker Setup Page

Auro 3D Audio

Auro3D Audio employs traditional 5.1 speaker layout as a foundation (referred to as the lower layer) but adds and additional height layer of speakers slightly above 5.1 channel lower layer speaker layout (5 more speakers above each speaker in the lower layer). Then there is also an additional top height layer consisting of single speaker/channel that is positioned directly overhead (in the ceiling) - which is affectionately referred as the "Voice of God" channel. The VOG is designed to seal the immersive sound "cocoon". The entire setup consists of 11 speaker channels, plus one subwoofer channel (11.1).

For home theater, Auro3D can also be adapted to a 10.1 channel configuration (with the center height channel but with the VOG channel), or 9.1 channel configuration (without the top and center height channel speakers).

For illustrations, check out the Official Audio 3D Audio Listening Formats Page

NOTE: To aid in your speaker setup, take advantage of the built-in Test Tone Generator that is available in many Home Theater Receivers to set your sound levels. All Speakers should be able to output at the same volume level. An inexpensive Sound Meter can also help with this task.

NOTE: The above setup description is a basic overview of what to expect when hooking speakers up to your home theater system. The set up may vary depending on how many and what types of loudspeakers you have, as well as your room size, shape, and acoustical properties.

Also, for more advanced tips on setting up speakers that can be adapted to a home theater system setup, check out the following articles from Lifewire.com Stereos: Five Ways To Get Best Performance From Your Stereo System, Bi-Wiring and Bi-Amplifying Stereo Speakers, Your Listening Room.

Back to the Home Theater Basics FAQ Intro Page

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