Speaker placement for home theater setups.

By | January 6, 2011

THXYou just got the home theater setup you dreamed of, have it all installed and in working order, but did you stop to think about speaker placement?  Yes, home theater is very much a science and plugging in cables, pushing buttons and turning knobs is only a part of the whole.  Correct speaker placement can make cause a $500 setup sound like it’s worth thousands…and vice versa.

The surround sound speaker setup images displayed below were taken directly from the THX Home Entertainment site.  If you would like to learn more beyond what the images show you, please read more from the experts by visiting their site.

7.1 surround

7.1 Speaker configuration

  • Front Right & Left converge at 45° angles  at the central seating location.
  • Center should be above or below the display, pointed directly at the central seating location
  • Surround Left & Surround Right should be at least 2 ft. above the listener’s ear level at the central seating location, within 90° to 110° to each side.
  • Surround Back Left & Surround Back Right should be directly behind the central seating location.  Aim the speakers directly at the listener’s ear level, dependent on mounting height.
  • Subwoofers should be placed in the middle of the facing wall, if possible, to provide maximum throw.  Depending on the type of room, it may be necessary to experiment.

HD audio setup

HD Audio Configuration

  • Use the same configuration as in the 7.1 speaker configuration, except separate SBL & SBR to create a 60° from the central seating location.

5.1 speaker setup

5.1 Speaker configuration

  • A 5.1 speaker configuration is the same as the 7.1, with the absence of the SBL & SBR speakers.

5.1 surround for desktops

5.1 Speaker configuration for desktops

  • Front Right & Left speakers should be aligned to each side of the display, angled slightly toward the seating position.
  • Center speaker can be located above or below the display, pointed directly at the seating position.
  • Surround Left & Surround Right speakers should be located 56″ from the seating position at a distance relative to that in the image above.
  • Subwoofer can be placed under the desk, optimally against the facing wall.

Do understand, that room dimensions, speakers, receivers, amplifiers, etc. all combine to make it completely impossible for a one-setup-for-all-solutions setup.  However, I do consider this a fairly good starting point if you’re new and already overwhelmed by all there is when facing HTPCs and home theaters for the first time.

Source: THX Home Entertainment Surround Sound Speaker Setup

8 thoughts on “Speaker placement for home theater setups.

  1. DamianP

    I am almost finished setting up everything in my bedroom. I mounted my TV, have two bookshelf speakers in the front (Polk 30 monitors) just added two satellite speakers in the rear (Polk RM8 satellite), and just purchased an in wall center channel speaker from Monoprice to install right below the TV (so my setup is nearly identical to the 5.1 setup diagram except the sub is pushed to the side as it doesn’t work underneath the TV). I eventually plan to replace the front and rear speakers with in wall and in ceiling respectively but I wonder how that will affect the sound quality. For example, THX states that the front L and R should be at a 45 degree angle, but using in wall speakers you would lose the ability to set at a 45 degree angle?

    1. Jon Post author

      Nice! The in-wall speakers I got from Monoprice have adjustable tweeters, so they can be pointed at the 45 degree angle no problem. Shouldn’t really be an issue with the cone as it’s just for some mid-tone and light bass throw.

  2. DamianP

    Hey Jon,

    If I recall a few months ago you installed in-wall speakers in your bedroom. What did you do for a sub, did you go with an in-wall as well or just use a free standing one? I have a Polk free standing sub, but do like the idea of getting everything in-wall to free up space. Monoprice has an in-wall sub which I am debating, but most people I talk to don’t have in-wall subs to gauge their performance. It is for my bedroom so no need for anything ground shaking (I will leave that for the other activities in the bedroom lol).

    1. Jon Post author

      I have a standalone sub, but it’s in the closet, so being out in the open wasn’t a problem for me. The in-wall subs, from what I’ve read (was interested also) usually ended up needing to be boxed in since they provided very little low-level bass otherwise. I’m sure a little ingenuity could get something worked out between wall subs without little fuss though. I’m still considering one when I do the living room…I just haven’t made it to the ‘design’ stage yet. That will probably be a summer project.

      I’ll be interested in what you decided on!

      1. DamianP

        I have a drywall saw and am itching to use :-) Was reading online and it appears that possibly a 2 sub setup would work best (one in the front right and the other in the rear left). The monoprice subs would need a separate amp though, so that adds an extra box for each. I just don’t know if saving the space from a standalone sub is worth cutting more holes and possibly getting a sub par (no pun intended) experience. I guess I should walk before I run though, while setting up the Monoprice center channel this weekend my Onkyo 608 crapped out. It was only 1 week old, Amazon has just shipped a replacement which should be coming today. Once that gets here I can finish setting up the speakers, install the Monoprice Power Kit (http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=104&cp_id=10425&cs_id=1042505&p_id=4652&seq=1&format=2), and take it all in before I tear anything else apart!!! Thanks for the feedback

        1. Jon Post author

          Same predicaments I face. However, if you do decide to go ahead with it, check out Parts Express for amps. They have some pretty good options that are very inexpensive.

  3. DamianP

    Hey Jon – Well, center channel speaker is in and TV cables are hidden behind the wall. I think I am going to stick with a standing sub instead of in-wall. At some point I will do the front and rear speakers as in-wall/in-ceiling. Makes no sense to do now since the current speakers are new (well, fronts are about a yr old but rears are brand new). Maybe if I can get a decent price on eBay (they aren’t too expensive) I will then go with the in-walls/in-ceiling. Here is a writeup on my setup – http://www.mediasmartserver.net/2011/01/20/holiday-projects-take-deux/

    1. Jon Post author

      Great read. Love the way the media cabinet and how they have the hidden LR channel door panels…never seen that before. All looks great! Will definitely keep up with your project :)


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