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Three room-friendly ways to get surround sound

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I've become something of an ambassador for surround sound. Having enjoyed it for four years now, I simply can't let any of my friends or family upgrade their TV without also upgrading their sound. And invariably, when I'm halfway through extolling the virtues of multichannel sound, how it makes movies and TV shows and video games so much more fun and engaging, they ask The Question.

"But, wait, how am I going to run wire to the back of my room for rear speakers? I don't want to see cables all over my floor."

And I answer, "You don't have to." In most cases, one of these simple solutions will do the trick.

  1. If you have an unfinished basement, go through the floor. Drill a small hole in the floor, then route your wire across the joists in your basement's ceiling. This method worked well for some friends of mine who had a very large living room. It saved us lots of time routing the wire along the walls. They also saved quite a bit of money on wire, since their runs were so much shorter.
  2. Hide the wire between your carpeting and baseboard. This was the method of choice for my parents' surround sound setup. It took a bit of time to route the wire along the walls to the back of the room, but it looked really clean and nice - you couldn't see a thing, except for the wire running up the walls to the small wall-mounted surround speakers. And we used paintable speaker wire, so they could match it to their walls.
  3. Use a sound solution that doesn't have rear speakers. These days, there are lots of systems that can provide much better sound than your TV's speakers without requiring you to route wire to the back of your room. Single-speaker "sound bars" and simple three-speaker systems can both deliver spacious stereo sound, and some of them even provide pretty convincing virtual surround sound. If rear speakers just aren't an option, systems like these can make an excellent alternative.

Of course, there are other ways to manage your home A/V cables, but these are the solutions that I've recommended most during my ambassadorship.

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