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5 tips for installing surround sound speakers

How to cleanly install side and rear speakers without a mess of wires


atching a movie in surround sound is an enormous amount of fun. But sometimes running wires or installing rear speakers can be a logistical challenge. It certainly was for my system!

Here are five tips for a clean home theater installation. We'll start with a traditional wired approach, and then look at some other ways to get great sound while keeping things tidy.

1. Use flat wire for your surround speakers

One of the challenges of installing surround speakers is getting wire from one side of the room to the other. Thankfully, there are some simple ways to keep things stealthy.

Flat speaker wire is designed to be tucked under a rug, or concealed behind baseboards. You can also snake flat wire up and around doors or window frames to keep it out of sight.

wire and baseboard

Flat speaker wire can be concealed behind your baseboard, making it ideal for sending signal to your surround speakers.

I have found cord covers quite helpful for covering and protecting speaker wire. The before and after photos below will give you a sense of just how helpful. You can even paint them to match your décor.

Read our article about cable management to learn more.



Move the slider back and forth to see what a difference a cord cover can make.

2. Use a wireless transmitter

Sometimes it's not practical to make a wired connection between your home theater speakers and receiver. I ran into this problem with my powered subwoofer — running a cable proved exceedingly difficult.

The solution? A high-quality wireless transmitter, which lets you send signal from your receiver to anywhere in the room.

How to send a wireless signal to your surround speakers

If your receiver has multi-channel RCA outputs, Audioengine makes it easy.

Use their W3 wireless audio adapter kit to send signal to the compact N22 amplifier. This is a great way to power a pair of conventional side or rear surround speakers (like bookshelf speakers).

N22 amp

The compact Audioengine N22 amplifier is a great choice for discreetly powering surround speakers (shown on a desk for scale).

How to send a wireless signal to your powered subwoofer

Want to eliminate the long subwoofer cable between your receiver and powered sub? I recommend using a wireless subwoofer kit, like Martin Logan's SW2-TRD or SVS's SoundPath to get wireless bass in your room.

I use the SoundPath kit with my SVS sub, and love the placement flexibility it provides without sacrificing sound quality.

Soundpath wireless transmitter

The SVS SoundPath subwoofer adapter kit lets you add wireless connectivity to your powered sub.

3. Run the wires through your walls

Want your wires totally hidden? Run in-wall speaker cable through your walls or ceiling for a footprint-free installation. Our comprehensive in-wall wiring guide offers an in-depth look at what's involved with this type of installation.

I recommend in-wall wiring if you are working with a new build, or renovating an existing space and have access to the studs.

If you use in-wall wire with externally-mounted speakers, I recommend using wall plates to help make your connections neat and clean.

In-wall wiring.

Have new construction? Use in-wall rated wiring for a clean, stealthy installation.

4. Use in-wall or ceiling speakers

If you install in-wall or in-ceiling surround speakers, the wire is completely hidden away. That's the route I went, and love the immersive sound effects I hear without my surround speakers taking up any floor space.

Recessed speakers do require more installation work. But they provide a smooth, finished look that sounds fantastic. Plus, they have paintable frames and grilles to match your room's décor.

Read my in-wall and in-ceiling speaker buying guide for recommendations on the best options for your room. I also have tips for placement and installation that may be helpful as you plan out your system.

In-ceiling speaker viewed from the back.

In-ceiling surround speakers provide powerful overhead sound effects with zero footprint.

5. Go with a wireless speaker system

Wireless surround sound systems are simple to set up, and offer a lot of flexibility. They're an ideal choice when running speaker wire across your room isn't feasible.

Options range from compact sound bars to full-sized floor-standing speakers. Our wireless surround sound buying guide has tips on choosing the right system for your space.

Everything you need for a wireless Dolby Atmos® experience

One of our most popular wireless speaker systems is the Sonos Arc home theater bundle. It includes a Dolby Atmos-enabled sound bar, two wireless rear speakers, and a wireless subwoofer.

This system is a great way to get immersive surround sound without running speaker wires to each location. It's fantastic with music, too.

Sonos Arc package

The Sonos Arc is a fantastic way to enjoy room-filling surround sound without any wires getting in the way.

Bonus tip: Try front speakers only

If you're not able to make any of the above options work, consider forgoing surround speakers altogether.

A powerful front soundstage is an excellent way to enjoy TV, movies, and music. Here are three great options:

1. Go with a sound bar

A high-quality sound bar can dramatically improve your listening experience over your TV's built-in speakers. Some can even simulate surround sound.

Read our sound bar buying guide to learn more.

2. Choose a 2.1 system for music and movies

A pair of well-positioned speakers and a powered subwoofer can be potent. I especially like powered stereo speakers for a 2.1-channel system.

3. Step up to a 3.1 system for improved dialogue

Upgrade your stereo rig to a 3.1-channel system — that's stereo speakers and a sub, plus a center channel for improved dialogue.

Our center channel speaker buying guide will help you find the right one for your room.

Sonos Arc

Use a sound bar and a sub in the front of your room for clear dialogue and convincing sound effects.

Connect with us for a personalized recommendation

Have questions about choosing the right gear? One of the great benefits of shopping with Crutchfield is working with an expert Advisor.

Contact us for one-on-one shopping advice.

Advisor best powered subwoofer

Give us a shout today for free, personalized shopping advice.

Last updated 1/18/2021
  • david stevens from louisville ky

    Posted on 9/11/2020

    There are ways to get rear ambiance without surround. Try dynaquad matrix.

  • Daniel Kelsey from Box Elder

    Posted on 10/19/2019

    So I understand the idea of taking my existing Rear Speakers and use a wireless system to send the signal without wires. But. you didn't talk about how the speakers would get their Power. I have a very powerful Denon 7-1 Surround Amp and NHT Front, Center and Rear speakers and have moved to where running wires would be difficult. How much power does the rear amp get to run the Speakers?

  • rudy from Houston

    Posted on 2/23/2019

    Probably one of the most useless articles I've read in a long time. Let me try what you did. I can write a great advice article too. How to cook the most amazing thanksgiving meal all by yourself and impress your family. 1. Go to culinary school and become a professional chef 2. By a pre-cooked meal. Tell them you did it. 3. Does someone else in your family cook? Your spouse? Maybe they can do it? 4. Try eating salad and cheerios with some bread. 5. Screw it. Order a pizza instead. 6. Don't celebrate thanksgiving. Done.

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 2/25/2019

    Hi Rudy, I'm sorry the article wasn't helpful for you. May I ask what you wanted to learn that wasn't offered in the content?

    We're always here to help by phone or chat too, if you'd like to talk about the specifics of your system.
  • Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/28/2017

    Hi Jeremy, I recommend giving one of our expert advisors a call. They can discuss the specifics of your system with you, and will help you find the best solution for your home.

  • Jeremy

    Posted on 7/28/2017

    So buy a new system with wireless, or add wireless to your system, run wires (not an easy feet once walls are up), or don't have surround sound at all. Is this supposed to be a joke, anyone so clueless about surround sound where this advice would actually be useful, well they are likely here looking for assistance figuring out how to hook-up an HDMI cable from their cable box to the TV. I was looking for creative ways to incorporate rear surround speakers into a great room besides in-ceiling speakers (which due to being mounted in very dynamic conditions, don't sound as good as sealed speakers tuned for their enclosure).

  • liubu from kentucky

    Posted on 5/19/2017


  • dan danfield from Silicon Mound CA

    Posted on 1/10/2017

    Even better, add number 6: call us and we'll tell you what to do......

  • Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/10/2017

    Hi Paul, feel free to give one of our expert Advisors a call. They can discuss the specifics of your system with you, and will help you find the best solution for your home.

  • Paul from New Orleans from New Orleans

    Posted on 1/10/2017

    ^^ what that Paul said. Again. ^^

  • Paul from London

    Posted on 1/9/2017

    Room friendly ways to add surround sound speakers: 1. Buy a brand new system. 2. Use wireless transmitters, because plugging in expensive transmitters won't require any cables.....? 3. Run cables through your walls - because tearing out your walls just to run speaker wire will be easy and not cost you much....... /sarcasm. 4. Use in-wall or ceiling speakers...because that'll help me set up my current speakers. 5. Don't bother with surround! Wow, these sure are helpful. Your great setups must have never, ever involved having to deal with people who already have speaker systems and need assistance.