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Lead image

5 tips for installing surround sound speakers

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

W

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.

Before

After

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.

  • harry daniels from west grove

    Posted on 10/3/2022

    thanks great help

  • Martin Davila from Corona Ca.

    Posted on 3/8/2022

    What do you think of connecting the back floor standing speakers Epic CF-3s to the main left and right posts on the receiver but leaving the to the left and right of sofa like if they were surround sound speakers ? Then placing the bookshelf speakers in front to the left and right of the TV but connected to the surround sound posts on the receiver? I'm trying this because my Epic CF-3s are too big to put in front. What are pros and cons? Thank you

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 3/9/2022

    Thanks for reaching out, Martin. I think your CF-3s are fine to use as surround speakers, but I would connect them to the surround channels on your receiver so that they reproduce the information meant for the rear speakers. Hearing front-channel information in the back of the room (and vice versa) would likely diminish your listening experience, since what you hear and see wouldn't match up. This would be especially prominent when action pans from left to right or front to back, along with scenes where dialogue shifts from one speaker to another.

    I know it's tempting to route the main channels through your awesome tower speakers, but I'd stick with them as ultra-capable surround channels in this scenario. Thanks again, and happy listening!
  • Gene Mitchell from Mariposa

    Posted on 10/5/2021

    I had the Onkyo 6 channel For years until I over loaded A generator and fried the Amp. Are there any repair services available these days or is everything a toss and repair? I'm close enough to Fresno and Merced to drive to. I simply run three front speakers in this home but if I wanted full surround sound I brought out the rear speakers for the movie or event. My other home in Vegas I installed directional ceiling speakers I found at the CES show.

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 10/6/2021

    Thanks for reaching out, Gene. I think checking into what repairing your receiver looks like is worthwhile. An Onkyo service center is where I'd start in your shoes.
  • david stevens from louisville ky

    Posted on 9/11/2020

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

  • liubu from kentucky

    Posted on 5/19/2017

    great

  • 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.

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