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Home Theater Speaker Setup Guide at OneCall

If your mission is to turn your living room into an exciting place in which to lose yourself in your favorite movies and music, then choosing the right surround receiver and multichannel speaker system is only step one. To get the full benefit of your new gear, you also need to position your speakers properly. (There's no point investing in rear speakers--designed to envelop you in ambience and surprise you with off-screen noises--if they end up sitting on top of your front speakers!)

In a 5.1-channel system, the speaker layout is as follows: front left, center, and right; rear left and right; and a stand-alone subwoofer (the ".1" channel, for low-frequency effects). A 6.1 system adds a rear center, and a 7.1 system sticks with one center (front) but adds an additional set of left and right surrounds. The two pairs of surrounds in a 7.1 system are designated mid and rear surrounds.

Placing the Front Speakers
.Bookshelf Speakers

Position the center speaker as close to your television as possible--true center speakers are shielded to prevent image distortion. You can set the speaker right on top if the TV permits; otherwise place it on a shelf above or below the screen.

The left/right speakers--whether small satellites, bookshelf speakers, or a floorstanding pair--should be equidistant from the TV. If this isn't possible, adjust your receiver's balance (or individual speaker levels) so the left and right speakers sound equally loud from your primary viewing or listening position.



Placing the Surrounds

Rear or side? The rear wall is fine, provided it's not too far back. A point several feet behind your sitting position is ideal. When a helicopter flies behind you, it's most effective if the sound actually comes from behind. But you'll still get a front-to-back experience with side-mounted speakers.

If you're going 7.1 rather than 5.1, you'll have two additional surround speakers: one set should be even with your listening spot and the other should be behind you. (You'll also need an AV receiver capable of delivering 7.1 sound).

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Stands or shelves?

Speakers will always sound better on stands, since shelves tend to absorb energy that you should be hearing, and placement against a wall can make a speaker sound boomier or muddier than it should. Suspending satellites from the ceiling is another option (when properly installed).

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Many speaker/theater systems include the cabling you'll need to connect the speakers to your surround receiver. Some don't, however, and depending on your room you may need longer cables than those provided. For runs over 30 feet, use at least 16-gauge speaker cable or wire (the smaller the gauge, the thicker the wire). For shorter runs, 18- or 20-gauge is fine.



Placing the Subwoofer

If you're using tiny speakers for your primary channels and you put the sub in a corner, chances are good the sound will ""pull"" to that corner. Placing a subwoofer in the middle of the room (either behind your sofa or below the TV) will help.
If you're using full-range or floorstanding speakers for your primary speakers, you'll have more freedom in where you put your sub. When onscreen explosions shake the room, you won't be worried about where the sound is coming from--you'll be utterly swept up in the action.

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