Five room-friendly ways to add surround sound speakers
And some tips on how to enjoy movies without them
Joshua honed his knowledge of home audio/video gear during an 8-year stint as a Crutchfield Advisor. He can talk tech with the best of them, but he lives for the emotional experience of music. He brings that outlook to his writing, and to his side gigs as a folk guitar player and music teacher. He stays active by chopping firewood and exploring our national parks.
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Surround sound is terrific. Untidy wires snaking from receiver to surround speakers? Not so much. Here are 6 tactics for a clean installation, starting with the simplest.
1. Try front speakers only
If your room makes placing and connecting surround speakers tricky, you have some other options. Some sound bar speaker systems do a good job of simulating surround sound without using rear speakers. For more on this, check out our article on choosing a sound bar system.
You could also try a stereo system (front left/right and subwoofer) or 3.1 system (stereo system, plus a center channel). These systems will generally offer clearer, more accurate sound than you'll get with a sound bar. If your receiver offers front height or width channels,consider adding those for more spacious, engaging sound.
The Sonos PLAYBAR is a sound bar that can be paired with wireless speakers and a wireless subwoofer for a full surround system.
2. Go wireless
A few pre-matched surround sound systems offer a “wireless” surround speaker option. These speakers do need to be plugged into a power outlet, but they eliminate the need to stretch speaker cables from the front of your room to the back of your room.
The Sonos PLAYBAR lets you add two wireless PLAY:3 speakers, as well as the Sonos SUB wireless subwoofer. You get full surround sound, without the cable clutter.
Routing cables behind baseboards and door jambs can give you a neat, custom-install look, without the hassle of drywall repair. Carefully pry off the baseboard with a small crowbar. Cut the wire channel by scoring and chiseling the studs. Tuck the wire into the channel and install nail plates at each stud. Re-install the trim. No drywall patching required.
3. Run the wires under carpeting or along your baseboard
If your room is carpeted, the easiest thing to do may be to tuck the cable in by the baseboard and run it along there. Or run the cable under the carpet straight to the speaker location. If you're worried that the wires will make detectable bumps in your carpet, use "flat" speaker cables.
If you have hardwood or tile floors, you'll probably want to go for the same "flat" cable mentioned above. You can run it along the surface of your baseboard and it's very unobtrusive — it's even paintable, to blend in better.
With more effort (or professional help), you can make the wire disappear altogether by running it behind the trim. Be sure your speaker cable is rated for in-wall use. See our comprehensive in-wall wiring guide for more details.
4. Run the wires under your floor or in your ceiling
If your home theater is right above an unfinished basement or below an unfinished attic, you’ve got an easy way to hide the wires. Just drill a small hole in the floor or ceiling, and run the speaker cable across the joists. Be sure your speaker cable is rated for in-wall use.
5. Run the wires through your walls
Another solution is to run your speaker cables through your walls. This involves more work at the beginning, but results in an even more finished look. You can install wall terminal plates, so you simply connect your surround speakers to that terminal to get sound to them. Just remember to make sure your speaker cable is rated for in-wall use. See our comprehensive in-wall wiring guide for more info.
6. Use in-wall or in-ceiling speakers
Finally, you can opt for in-wall or in-ceiling speakers. Some people use them just for surrounds; others use them for all of their home theater speakers. They do require more installation work — for in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, you always have to cut a hole in the drywall and run cables through your walls — but they provide a very smooth, finished look. Plus, they have paintable frames and grilles, so you can ensure they match their surroundings.
Check out our video on installing in-wall speakers to get an idea of what's involved, and find detailed info in our in-wall speaker installation guide.
Need more help?
Before you start running wires, you need to decide where your surround speakers will go. If you haven’t decided, watch our video on speaker placement. Or read our detailed article on home theater speaker placement.
One of our Advisors can help you make a plan and help you choose the speakers, wires and other accessories you’ll need to carry it out. Please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-888-955-6000.
For more wiring ideas and home theater installation tips, see our article on hiding home A/V cables.