Basic Acoustic Principles
Acoustics is the study of sound, in this case the principles of sound as related to home theater system configuration. Sound waves travel by vibrating molecules in the air. The sound wave will travel at different speeds depending on the material in the room. If you have a lot of carpet, it will absorb sound waves and dampen it. Conversely, a cement floor will reflect them. In relation to home theater systems, this means you do not want your speakers too close to carpet to prevent sound dampening. You also do not want an echo – avoid placing speakers too close to sound reflecting surfaces.
Where to Place Your Speakers
Dolby, a high-end sound system manufacturer, suggests that speaker placement is crucial in getting the most out of your system. It is time to connect the speakers after you have unpacked all of the components of your home theater system. Below is a general guide for speaker placement; your exact situation may vary based on the room configuration.
Confirm that none of the speakers have their backs directly up against the wall, as this can create an undesirable rattling noise.
1. Front Speakers – Wired, a technology magazine, suggests that the front speakers should be set based on the size of your living room. Your front speakers should typically be placed on either side of your television. If possible, the speakers should be placed at ear-level of the usual sitting position.
2. Center Speaker – Most of the dialogue from movies and television shows comes through the center speaker. It is optimally placed in line with your view of the television, typically above or below the screen.
3. Rear Speakers – These speakers will go behind the sitting area. Wired suggests that you attempt to mirror the placement of the front speakers, attempting to place them at ear-level.
4. Bass – If your home theater system has a sub-woofer, you have a few placement options depending on the setup of your room. You can place the sub-woofer next to the viewing seat, or next to the viewing screen. Try a few locations to find what is ideal for your room and preferences.
5. Connect Them – You are now ready to run the speaker wires to each speaker and connect it to the receiver. Some home theater systems include wireless speakers as well; consult your owner’s manual to set them up.
6. Adjustments – This step may be skipped with some systems. It’s now time to tell the receiver which types of devices are connected to the receiver, what kinds of speakers you have and where the speakers are placed. All of this information is used to produce the best sound possible.
Optimally Configure Your Audio
Your home theater system will include several equalizer presets. Explore these presets as you use your system. When you are watching online movies, try the "Cinema" option. When you have people over for a party, try the "Music" option. These presets are already optimally configured for various uses.
You can also customize the audio configuration of your home theater system using the equalizer. This allows you to adjust each frequency to suit your tastes. Consult your owner’s manual for exact instructions on how to work with the equalizer.
Compete with the Theaters
Next time a friend or loved one suggests that you go see a movie, suggest viewing a movie at your home instead. Your new home theater system can be configured to perform as well, and possibly better, than those in movie theaters. With a rough understanding of acoustic principles and ideal speaker placement, you will be prepared to get the most out of your home theater system.
Is there anything else that you take care of while configuring your home theater system?