DIY: Setting Up a Surround Sound System

In a room, sound has three choices: it can transmit into other areas outside the room, it can absorb into the walls or it can reflect and bounce around inside the room. Inside of a home theater, you want the sound to be absorbed so that it does not reflect off surfaces and disrupt the audio experience.

Depending on the setup of your home theater, you may have five, six or even seven speakers, excluding the subwoofer. While connecting the speakers together may be a challenge, if you follow these steps you will be enjoying your home theater in no time. Before you begin, make sure that you have quality speaker cables, not ones that came with an all-in-one home theater package.

Positioning Speakers and Subwoofers

In order to get the optimum performance from your speaker system, you must first install each individual speaker in its proper location. There are three basic types of systems: the 5.1-, 6.1- and the 7.1-channel systems, each having five, six and seven satellites with one subwoofer.

Begin by placing the center speaker directly below or above your television. This speaker can be installed either on top of a direct-view television or you may choose to mount it on the wall. Wherever you decide to place it, make sure it is directly at ear level.

The front-right and front-left speakers can either be set atop stands or mounted on the wall. However, avoid installing them on the wall if the speakers feature bass ports in back; the wall will muffle the sounds. Space each side speaker equidistant on either side of the center speaker and ensure they are also at ear level, no more than two feet above or below your center speaker.

Ideally, you want the surround-right and surround-left speakers mounted on the side walls either parallel or slightly behind your listening position. Again, if they feature rear-panel bass ports, choose to place them on a stand instead. If you cannot use the side walls, consider mounting them on either the rear wall or simply use a stand.

Additionally, 6.1-channel speaker systems feature a back-center speaker. You will typically mount this on the back wall, directly center behind your seating area. Make sure you install it at the same height and no more than six feet behind the surround-right and surround-left speakers.

A 7.1-channel surround system features a back-right and a back-left speaker. While most people typically mount these to the back walls, you can choose to place them on stands if they have bass ports in the back or if the back wall is far from the seating area. Ideally, you want to position each speaker on the wall no more than six feet behind your surround-right and surround-left speakers. Make sure they are aligned with the right and left edges of the seating area.

Finally, because the frequencies in a subwoofer are non-directional, you have the option to place the subwoofer in different locations throughout the room. Try experimenting; you may find that the best sound comes from the front of the room, six to eight inches from the wall. For more bass, install the subwoofer in one of the corners in the front.

Connect Your Speakers to the Receiver

In order to complete the setup of your surround sound system, you must connect your DVD player or media player to an audio/visual surround-sound receiver by making a multi-channel-compatible connection. The simplest way to connect the speakers is to choose a cable that carries digital signals such as a coaxial or optical connection.

A coaxial digital connection is used for cable television, although the connectors are different to those of the speaker system. Instead, these cables have RCA connectors and are much less expensive than optical cables, although they may transmit interference at times. An optical connection uses light to deliver the signal digitally without picking up on noise. Most media players have an optical output. Plug one end of the cable into the optical-out jack of the player and plug the other into the receiver’s optical input. Either way, you should have optimum sound; it is very difficult to distinguish the difference between the two connections.

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