Speaker Placement for Multi-Channel Audio Entertainment Systems

A high-end sound system will set you back on your budget, but what you get is more fidelity and sound resolution.

The Basics

In the end it will be worth it especially for watching 4K movies. The only problem is getting the right system configuration so that you get the most out of your money. Some systems do not make full use of the hardware and features because of improper installation. This guide will go over the basics. There is no one stop solution for everyone’s audio needs. Every room and setup is unique, taking into account the hardware and location’s acoustics. When you setup a sound system for a small man cave, that is different from a mini-theater because of the difference in the amount of space required to fill the room with sound. I will concentrate on typical home multi-channel audio entertainment systems that are ideal for a den, living room and the man cave setup i.e. home theater configurations.

As a rule of thumb, before buying a multi-channel (multi-speaker) audio entertainment system for the home, the bigger the room the more power you will need to drive the speakers. Bigger rooms require more power to deliver the intensity of the audio signal without being absorbed by the surroundings. A bundled setup is ideal for those who are not too experienced with these setup since the vendor provides everything that is needed. An important consideration is that the speakers should match what the receiver unit can provide. For the den or small room, 50 W RMS per channel is typical. The bigger the room or if you want a louder system, you will want something > 50 W RMS. A large den would require 100–150 W RMS per channel (this is just an estimate as there are so many factors to consider, so this is for starters).

There are many brands to choose from when it comes to audio entertainment systems. These are the speakers and audio equipment that enhances your user experience with features like surround sound on multiple channels. “Multi-channel” simply means stereo audio, which delivers higher fidelity sound on channels with a left and right speaker. With multiple channels, the audio system can recreate different sounds at various frequencies that deliver a multi-directional audio perspective. This is because the speakers are strategically placed around a room to immerse the listener. These systems make use of Digital Signal Processors (DSP) which are specialized integrated circuits that contain audio processing software functions that separate the audio to different channels and then reproduced in analog form by the speakers to deliver high-fidelity audio.

In an audio entertainment setup, like a typical 5.1 surround sound system, you have 5 speakers plus a sub-woofer. Typically you have 5 full bandwidth channels and 1 low frequency channel on the sub-woofer for an actual total of 6 channels. In a 7.1 surround sound system, you have 7 full bandwidth speakers plus a sub-woofer for a total of 8 channels.

An original surround sound system used a front, center and sub-woofer speaker configuration. It was not very immersive to the listener though, so the 5.1 system was developed which introduced an additional 2 speakers which combined the channels for the rear and surround sound effects. Audiophiles would not be content with this setup for long, because the 7.1 system introduced another 2 speakers which this time combined 4 channels for side and rear surround sound effects.

Depending on the sound system you have, you will need to either connect the speakers via wired cables or the speakers are wireless. Audiophiles and more traditional audio enthusiasts prefer wired sound systems with high tension wires and high conductivity contacts to the sound system. The speakers will connect to a receiver box which process the signals from the source, in this case the TV or playback system, to deliver to the speakers. Serious audiophiles further condition the audio quality by using multi-frequency equalizers and mixers to really separate the various elements of sound, but this is more advanced. Some wireless options provide the simplest and easiest configuration, but they must be installed in places where there is little or no EMF (electro-magnetic interference) where other devices may interfere with the wireless speaker’s signals.