How Do I Arrange a Simple Stereo System for Surround Sound?

A simple surround sound stereo system has five speakers, called tweeters, and one subwoofer. This is referred to as a 5.1 system. The tweeters are for higher pitches like human voices. The subwoofer is for base, like drums and floor-trembling explosions. You can have more speakers, like a 7.1 system, but if you have fewer than five, the sound won't surround you. To keep the installation simple, consider using a wireless receiver and two wireless rear speakers. This gives you the benefits of surround sound without stringing wires all over your living room.

Selecting Components

Step 1

Examine the components you may have already, such as your current amplifier and speakers. Look at the connectors on the amplifier to see if it can connect to your HDTV, DVD player or Blu-ray player.

Step 2

Determine whether or not the amplifier can support surround sound with six speakers—five tweeters and the sub-woofer. You should also decide whether you want to wire the rear speakers into the stereo system, or if you prefer using wireless speakers.

Step 3

Make an inventory of the components you need. In addition to the five tweeters and sub-woofer, you need wires and adapters to connect the speakers to the amplifier. You also need a cable to connect the amplifier to your HDTV, either directly or through a cable box, DVD player or Blu-ray player. A single HDMI cable is the easiest to connect if your amplifier supports it. If it doesn't have an HDMI port, component digital audio is also good. On older equipment, you can usually use analog RCA cables.

Step 4

Compare the cost of additional speakers, sub-woofer, connectors and cables with the cost of a ready-made home theater system. In many cases, a simple home theater system is less expensive than the cost of assembling the required components yourself.

Speaker Arrangement

Step 1

Determine your preferred seating position. This should be based on the size of your TV, not the speakers. Multiply the screen size of your TV by 2.5 or 3 to determine how far you should be from the TV.

Step 2

Place the center speaker directly above or below the TV screen. Place the left and right front speakers at about a 45 degree angle from your seating position, either in the same line against a wall as the center speaker, or slightly forward from the center speaker. Speakers should be as close to ear-height as possible.

Step 3

Place the two rear speakers on the left and right of your listening position or slightly behind it, about 2 to 3 feet above ear-level.

Step 4

Place the subwoofer anywhere in the room where it doesn't touch any furniture or equipment. The subwoofer's strong magnets can cause problems for electrical components and its vibrations can be distorted if it is touching furniture, walls or if it's placed on a shelf. The subwoofer's base is mainly transferred through the floor so it can be placed behind you, in front of you or beside you without any changes to your listening experience.

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