Surround Sound Speaker Placement

Now when placing your speakers in a 5.1, 6.1, 7.1 surround setup it can depend greatly on the shape and size of your room.  I'll do a quick overview of speaker placement here and if you require more Surround Sound Setup information take a look here.

Now there are several setups you may consider.  2.1, 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1 surround sound.  Now there are others but these are the basic setups and as a result what I will be reviewing.

Firstly there are a couple things we should get out of the way as they stand true for all placement regardless of the number of channels(5.1,6.1...etc)

Speaker height should attempt to put tweeters at your head level when in your listening position.  As you can see here, it leaves you in a position to get blasted correctly :)

Now the front end of any system is made up of three speakers.  Two Front Speakers(which could be towers, bookshelves or satellites).  Also, a Center Channel.  

The basic rule of thumb is that the two Front Speakers should be equal distance from the television and the Center Channel is usually placed below or above the television.  Ideally the tweeters of all three speakers should be level.  As seen in the picture here.  The speakers should be aimed (at the same angle if possible) directly at the listening position.

The rest is quite simple in a 5.1 Surround Setup two Rear Speakers are placed to the right and left of the listening position.  As you can see in this diagram the speakers are placed next to the listening position pointed directly at each other.

A 6.1 Surround System just adds another speaker right behind the listening position.  While there are 6.1 movies, the 6.1 system appears to have grown obsolete since the emergence of 7.1


 7.1 Placement also leaves the 5.1 placement intact and adds two more speakers known as the Surround Back or Surround Rear speakers which are placed on an angle behind the listening postion.  Also pointed at the listening position.  I can speak from experience.  This is by far the greatest Surround sound setup regardless of the size of your space.

Subwoofer Placement
There are a few variations for subwoofer placement, depending on how many subwoofers you have for your system. If you have four subs, place them cross pattern in the middle of each wall. If you have two, put them in the middle of opposing walls. If you have one, place it in the middle of the front wall.  However, this is all debatable depending on the shape of your room and the listening position distance from the sub.  End of the day, change positions and test the effect it has on the sound until you find what works.

Now, I'm almost positive many of you are looking at this and thinking.  "How the hell am I going to fit all that in this room placed exactly like that", "I've got a stained glass window where the Surround speaker on the right is supposed to go and am I going to have to move my Ronald McDonald Statue in the center of the room?".  Granted.  There are pieces of every home that cannot be changed, like windows.  But you will have to dispose of that Ronald McDonald statue....Leaving anything in the direct path of the speakers will compromise the quality of your investment.
Mount to avoid obtructions
  1. If your room accommodates it, try to make sure your listening position is somewhere in the middle of the room.
  2. Position the main speakers so that they fire into the length of the room, rather than the width.
  3. Sometimes you have no choice and something is in the way of you putting speakers the same distances from your listening position because of a door or window or whatever. If possible, use wallmounts or stands to place them and direct them at your listening position.  If not just put them where they have to be and modify the speaker levels in your receiver to help compensate for that difference, any good receiver has an auto-calibration to handle that for you(Audyssey-Onkyo..for example).
  4. Speaker irregularly placed due to obstruction

  5. You can also adjust speaker levels to compensate for differences in distance between your front left and right speakers. However, if possible try and place them equal distances from your listening position, or within a few inches of that. You'll notice more subtle differences in volume and timing in the front soundstage than you will in the back.

Honestly, I have found that some small variations can make it sound better to you.  For example, in all the systems that I have running right now, I point the 4 rear speakers just behind my listening position.  Because when you have a couch or more than one chair for your listening position Ive found that this compensates and makes the listening area larger.  As with any Home Theater hardware things require testing and tweaking to your ear.  Have fun doing it, use these to test it out    ;)

Now if you want more information on Surround Sound Setup or Speaker Placement take a look here.