Multichannel Speaker Placement

By: Professor Humphreys
Speaker Engineer

Optimizing A Multi-channel Set-Up For Surround Sound

The explosion of home theater and multi-channel music has changed the landscape of home audio forever. Instead of your entertainment system consisting of monstrous floor mounted stereo speakers of the 70’s and 80’s, you can build your system out of a combination of small speakers and a powered subwoofer to supply the deep, rich bass. You may also choose full-range tower speakers or powered towers with built-in powered subwoofers. These speakers are arranged around the home theater with three speakers in front of you, two surround speakers on the sides and in some cases one or two back surround speakers behind you.

Each room is unique. It’s quite unlikely that your living room was specifically designed to be a home theater, so the acoustic properties won’t be perfect. You can start by following these guidelines for setting up your speakers, but don’t be afraid to experiment. Often a small difference in speaker placement can make an impressive improvement in your sound. Besides, it’s fun!

  • Be aware! Many bare surfaces in a room can add echo, harshness to the sound or muddy home theater dialogue. Sound absorbing and scattering surfaces like carpeting, furniture, bookcases and drapes help tremendously.
  • Perfectly square rooms, or very long rooms can be tough on acoustics and may need additional sound absorption.
  • If possible, the seating area should be centered in your room.
  • For the best bass possible, try not to place your seating area so that it is against a wall or at a position that is half or a quarter of the room’s width or length.
  • A speaker’s bass output grows stronger as it is moved closer to the corners. If a speaker is placed too close to a corner it can sound muddy or boomy.  Amplified subwoofers that have bass controls are okay to place in corners.
  • Speakers can create a “soundstage”, an illusion of instruments and voices with precise locations in three-dimensional space between and behind the speakers. Having excess room echo will lessen this impressive effect – so be careful.

Speaker Placement For Surround Sound

Left and Right Front Speakers

Try to place the front speakers in-line with your TV (flush with the screen), separated by 45° when viewed from the seating position. They should be positioned at the same height as the listeners’ ears when seated. 28-30 inch stands put your bookshelf speakers at the correct height.

Center Speaker

A good position for the center speaker is… in the center! Yep, right on top of your TV (or just below, if your TV is mounted high). Try to place the center speaker on the same plane, or slightly behind the plane formed by the front left and right speakers. If it is placed low or high, you may want to aim the speaker up or down at the listening area.

Surround Speakers

For home theater, the surround speakers should be placed directly to each side of the listener or slightly behind them. Placing the speakers two feet above the listeners’ ears can help to minimize localization effects. For SACD & DVD-A use, it is best to position the surround speakers at ear level. See illustration.

Back Surround Speakers (6.1 & 7.1 channel systems)

If possible, the back surround speaker(s) should be placed directly behind the listeners at the same height as surround speakers. See illustration.

The Subwoofer

The human ear cannot localize the long wavelengths of bass frequencies below about 100Hz. As long as your Subwoofer is set at the recommended cut-off of 100Hz or below, you can place it pretty much wherever you want (try not to place it behind the listening area, though.) Keep in mind that the further you place a subwoofer from a corner or the listening position the more uneven the bass will be spread throughout your room. If the distance from the sub to the listener is significantly different (>3’) than the distance from the front and center speakers to the listener, try using the phase reverse switch to see if it improves the bass response.




Aperion Home Theater Gurus
Tags: Guru Tips and Tricks, Home Theater, Home Theater Blog


  1. Stephen Benben
    July 28, 2014

    I’ve tried all that you talk about and then some. The sub we’ll talk about that last, well… just because it’s a sub… in a box…
    I have an older set of 634 VACs that I use as surrounds just you say in your home theater set up, and a pair of 633Ts for the fronts and for the center, a Intimus 5D. I use the 634s as dipoles but I’m still not getting that ‘wrapped around’ sound we all love. I don’t really have the room to set up a pair of back surrounds due to space constrictions.

    Before we go any further, let me give you the room specs: 13′ 5″ wide by 14′ even and the height is roughly ( old house) 7′ on a good day. I came from a perfect room setup that sounded absolutely amazing but unfortunately that is in the past and this what is what I have to work with. I actually have two systems in my rack; one for home theater ( Onkyo amp, oppo disc player all running through a Furman Conditioner, with a couple of little extra items plugged in. The other system ( Completely separate in every way; electrically, cables, etc. ) is all Bryston. It’s what I use at the studio and I wanted the same equipment at home to critique my mixes as close as I could get; realistically given the home environment. Plus I could just pop the mix in my home theater set up and get a ‘better’ idea what it was going to sound like on every day equipment.

    But back to the Surrounds…. I’ve tried moving them up, down; closer to the listener, set to bi-pole and I still feel like I’m still “hearing” the speakers, not the air and ambience that envelops you in the movie… .I’m a bit stuck. As I said earlier at my previous home the set up, with all the same hardware, no matter what I played… the system let me know exactly what it was suppose to sound like; even some bad mixes (!!)

    So…..any ideas would be greatly appreciated

    With much thanks,
    Step Benben

    • Mike Hopkins
      July 30, 2014

      Hello Stephen,
      As you are using a speaker that is a few years old, it would be a good idea to hook them up as the front main L/R and play 2-channel audio music to ensure that you are getting full range from the surround speakers in bipole mode. This would also help to determine if there is possibly something else going on with the drivers or crossovers. Have you went in and reset all your speaker configuration/settings within your processor since it was disconnected?

      Your listening mode can also effect the output of the surrounds. So it is a really good idea to try different modes, or at the least confirm that you are in the same listening mode that you used prior to the new set up. What was the location that they were previously in? Also what are you powering/processing the system with?

      Pleas feel free to contact us via phone (888-880-8992) or e-mail us direct at as we have direct visibility of your questions and can respond much quicker.

      Thanks for your patience and best regards,
      Mike Harvey

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