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Speaker placement for home theater

5.1, 7.1 and other surround sound setups

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How you arrange your home theater speakers has a big impact on how your system sounds. Proper speaker placement can elevate an average-sounding system to an elite home theater experience.

In this article we’ll show you where to place your speakers to get the best performance. And we’ll tackle some common room challenges that often get in the way of lifelike sound. Whether you have a new speaker system or just want to get more out of your existing gear, we can help.

Front left and right speakers

You want your front left and right speakers to focus their sound field at your listening position. Angle your speakers slightly towards the seat that’s directly in front of the TV. The tweeters should be at ear level when you’re seated.

Have some fun with your listening! Play around with how far your speakers are from the wall. The closer they get, the more that bass is reinforced. That can be good to a degree. But your overall sonic performance can improve if your speakers are pulled away from the wall. Try a few different positions to see what delivers the best results.

Front speaker placement

Angling your front speakers towards you locks in tight, accurate sound at your seating position.

Center channel speaker

Place your center channel right above or below your TV, and line it up with the midpoint. If possible, tilt it to direct the sound to ear level. Here are some center channel shelves that go above your TV if you don’t have a shelf available.

Surround speakers

Your surround speakers can be placed on speaker stands, or you can mount them to the wall. To keep your wires and cables neat and clean, check out our room-friendly tips.

5.1 surround sound

In a 5.1 system, your surround speakers are best placed to the left and right of your listening position. Aim them directly towards you for the best sound. If side placement isn't practical, place your surround speakers a few feet behind your listening position and face them forward. You’ll want your surrounds one to two feet above ear level to get the best sound effects.

5.1 surround sound speaker placement

Place your surround speakers 1 to 2 feet above ear level for immersive special effects.

7.1 surround sound

In a 7.1 system, surround speakers are positioned beside and behind your seating area. Just like in a 5.1 setup, the side speakers are placed to the left and right of your seating position and face directly towards you. The rear speakers are positioned behind you, facing forward. Position both pairs of speakers one to two feet above ear level for best performance.

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A 7.1 system utilizes side and rear surrounds. Direct each speaker towards you for wraparound sound.

Subwoofer

Since bass frequencies are omnidirectional, you have flexibility where your subwoofer goes. Placing your subwoofer near a wall will generally result in more bass. Placement near a corner where three room boundaries come together will get you even more.

Most people put their sub in the front of the room, so that it’s easier to connect it to their home theater receiver. If running a cable to where your sub sounds the best is impractical, use a wireless subwoofer kit.

Subwoofer placement

Placing your subwoofer near a wall reinforces bass. Corner placement delivers even more low-end punch.

Add a second sub for better bass

Using two subs improves bass distribution by filling in gaps where bass response may be weak. A second sub also provides more impactful dynamics and greater system headroom.

The layout of your room will determine where the second sub should be placed. Some rooms get the best results by having a sub in each of the front corners of the room. Others get more even bass distribution from having one sub in the front of the room, and the other in the back. Try a few different arrangements to see where you get the best bass in your room.

Once you've got your subwoofer(s) in place, check out our home theater subwoofer setup article for tips on getting deep, room-filling bass.

A two subwoofer system

Add a second subwoofer for more evenly-distributed bass in your room.

Tips for odd-shaped rooms

Not every room will easily accommodate a surround sound system. Ideal speaker locations may be taken up by doors, windows, or furniture. And some floor plans are notoriously tricky. Use the system layouts shown below to get the best sound in these challenging rooms.

L-shaped room
TV in a corner
Open floor plan

If you have a room that doesn't naturally lend itself to surround sound, consider using a high-end sound bar or a 3.1 system. A 3.1 system uses a left, right, and center channel along with a powered subwoofer to create a dynamic front soundstage. These systems are often better options than putting surround speakers where they are in the way, or look strange.

Dolby Atmos® and DTS:X

You can set up a Dolby Atmos or DTS:X system with in-ceiling speakers or Dolby Atmos enabled upward-firing speakers. An Atmos system starts with a conventional 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound speaker setup. Then you add two or four speakers to project sound that rains down from above the listening position.

DTS:X works with any traditional surround system. Simply arrange your speakers to best fit your space. Then let your receiver’s auto-calibration and object-based surround processor sort out the details. It will determine where to best send dialogue and sound effects.

For specifics on where to place your Dolby Atmos speakers, check out Dolby's speaker setup guide. For tips on where to install your overhead speakers, check out our in-ceiling speaker placement guide.

Don’t worry about perfection

The good news is that you don’t need to find the “perfect spot” for each speaker. Many home theater receivers offer automatic speaker calibration that takes care of things for you.

An included microphone gets placed in your seating positions. It listens to test tones that are played through each speaker at different volume levels. The receiver is then able to compensate for less-than-perfect placement by automatically adjusting timing, output level, and equalization for each speaker.

Watch our short video to see how this works.

Let us help you get started

If you’re still choosing your equipment, check out our guide to home theater speakers.

Want friendly, one-on-one help choosing the best gear for your new system? Our expert Advisors can help you design a surround sound system for your home. Contact us for free, personalized advice. Free lifetime tech support is included with every Crutchfield purchase.

  • Morey C from Lake Worth

    Posted on 8/7/2021

    I have the Sony STRDN1080 AVR. My speaker configuration is 3.1. My input is digital optical coming from a Sony XBR55X950G TV. I have no easy way to run wires for a rear speaker set up. Using the front surround setting on my AVR does not activate my center channel front speaker. Can you suggest a way to get a 3.1 setup working or a compatible wireless set of rear speakers so I can use a 5.1 setup. I have outlets available so I can plug the speakers in. This setup is used almost exclusively for movies and streaming TV.

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    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 8/10/2021

    Hi Morey, thanks for reaching out. Have you run your receiver's room calibration system yet? If not go ahead and do that, and the receiver should automatically detect the 3.1-channel setup that you're using.

    As for wireless transmission to rear speakers, I recommend giving one of our Advisors a shout to see which solution will work best for your system.
  • David Rehn from little falls,nj

    Posted on 7/8/2021

    I would like to mount a pair of Klipsch RP-402S sideways, near the rear ceiling, for surround effects. Mounting sideways would shoot direct sound down to the rear of the listener, and sound would then also be reflected off the ceiling then dispersed downwards. Remember, the RP-402S has angled speakers. Comments? Suggestions? Many thanks . . . . . DVR

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    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 7/16/2021

    Hi David, thanks for reaching out. I think you can make that work — just keep in mind the RP-402S is not the smallest speaker in the world. If footprint isn't an issue then I think it's worth considering. If you do go that direction I'd love to hear about your experience.
  • Dirk from Tempe

    Posted on 6/21/2021

    I'm somewhat confused about speaker placement. 1. Depending on what source (Dolby, forums, etc.) it is said to place the surround speakers at ear level, or 1-2 feet above ear level. Not sure about the discrepancy, and which is correct? 2. Dolby Atmos: Seeing various setup's, I see that the preferred is 4 in the ceiling speakers (x.y.4), but 2 ceiling speakers are acceptable (x.y.2). The one that keeps showing up in Amp assignments is the "Front Height" speakers that are basically placed above the front R/L speakers. Generally how effective are the "Front Height" for Atmos or DTS for that matter? Or what encoding uses the front height? I ask about the front height, because that's what I done at this point (it was easy because I truly have tall bookcases on each side of my TV and jut putting them at the top was a 'no brainer' with my NR1711) , and it's just "eh..." for height virtualization.

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    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 7/7/2021

    Hi Dirk, thanks very much for your questions. Somehow your note slipped through the cracks on my end — I apologize for the late response!

    You'll enjoy excellent sound effects with your surround speakers at ear level or a little higher. But every room is different, as is how we hear. As long as you stick relatively close to the placement recommendations you'll be fine, especially once you've run your receiver's calibration system.

    The vast majority of Atmos systems I've worked on have one pair of overhead effects speakers. Yes, additional pairs are better in that you'll get a wider, more immersive soundstage and better transitioning of effects. But four or more Atmos channels are by no means a requirement for great sound.
    br> Front height speakers do raise the height of your system's soundstage, but I wouldn't rely on them too much for overhead sound effects. You might consider upward-firing speakers that bounce sound off your ceiling. I especially like the SVS Prime Elevations, which can also be used as surround channels as well.
  • Jason Mraz from El Sobrante Ca

    Posted on 5/21/2021

    My listening rooms' dimensions are 8' Height x 9'7"wide x 9'1"long (with sliding glass doors closed), 11'1/2" (with sliding glass doors open). What If any room acoustics would help my home theater system sound the best?

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    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 5/28/2021

    Hi Jason, thanks for reaching out. If the room is too live (you're getting harsh reflections), then adding sound-absorbing materials will help. Area rugs and thick curtains are two simple options. A few more pillows on the couch is another.

    There are a host of acoustic treatments that you can also add. I especially recommend using a subwoofer platform like the Auralex SubDude to reduce vibrations.
  • Louis Piwowarski from CAPE CORAL

    Posted on 4/5/2021

    Hi Kramer, You carry the Klipsch RP-450C for roughly half the price of the RP-504C. They are very similar spec wise. Looks like the 450C is very slightly larger; it lists as heavier. The speakers have the rear ports and binding posts on opposite sides. What is the real difference with these two? Why are there two choices so very close together spec wise? Which one makes the most sense? 7.2.4; Yamaha 2080; RP-8060FA's fronts; R-625FA's rears/sides. Have a lot of trouble with dialogue with current RP-400C at the low volumes; its great for news and broadcast TV, but not for great movies/streaming/BD. Thanks, Lou Piwowarski

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    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 4/7/2021

    Hi Lou, thanks for reaching out. Those two center channels are quite similar in performance. The RP-504C is about three years newer (hence the currently discounted price on the older RP-450C). Both are excellent speakers and are ideal for getting clear dialogue in large rooms.

    That said, in your shoes I would play around with your receiver's center channel output level (if you haven't already). I have to make changes to my center channel level frequently when switching between different sources. That's especially true with movie soundtracks like Tenet, which are mixed in a way that can make dialogue difficult to hear at lower output levels. Try raising the level of your center channel up a few db the next time you watch a movie and see if that helps.
  • Louis Piwowarski from CAPE CORAL

    Posted on 4/5/2021

    How far from the TV are the two mains on each side?

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    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 4/7/2021

    Hi Louis, thanks for reaching out. The answer depends entirely on the layout of your room and how much space you have. Generally speaking you'll get the best sound if you place the left and right speakers as far apart from each other as they are from you (forming an equidistant triangle with them). This wide placement creates a large soundstage with excellent separation between the left, right, and center channels.
  • Michael Overholser from Riverside

    Posted on 3/18/2021

    Do you have any examples of a 3.1 system? All I can ever find are 2.x (0 or 1) or 5.1/7.1 setups. I currently am using a soundbar with a sub, and oftentimes I have severe issues hearing the actor's speaking, so I have to turn it up, and then when there's action noise, all of a sudden, I'm getting blown out of my chair because the audio level is so high! A reasonably priced setup would be great to see, as I don't have a lot to spend.

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 3/25/2021

    Hi Michael, thanks for reaching out. Please accept my apologies for the delayed response.

    A 3.1-channel system is three speakers up front (left, center, right), and a powered subwoofer (the ".1"). A home theater receiver powers the front speakers, and sends signal to the sub. This can be a powerful arrangement, since you get the benefit of a wide soundstage where sound can transition from one side of the room to the other, plus much fuller sound than most sound bars can produce.

    A 3.1 system also gives you the ability of turning up the level of the center channel relative to the left and right speakers. That way dialogue is clear and crisp, but you don't get blasted when the action starts.

    I recommend giving one of our Advisors a shout, who can put together some system possibilities for you. Thanks again, and happy listening!
  • Charles Mistretta from Townsend

    Posted on 3/18/2021

    I have upward firing speakers placed on my Pioneer tower speakers. I'm setting up today and was curious I having a ceiling fan will disrupt the sound? We have a somewhat box shaped room with no back wall (open floor plan) where our sofa is. This is our listening area and faces the TV. The fan is centered in the room. I cannot place speakers in the ceiling so what are options if the fan disrupts it? I could mount the speakers to the left and right wall if I had to but I'd like to avoid that since it's very hard to fish wires through our wall AND I absolutely hate working with installing or patching drywall. Bane of my existence.

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    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 3/25/2021

    Hi Charles, thanks for reaching out. Please accept my apologies for the delayed response.

    I don't believe that your ceiling fan will cause any sound issues for your upward-firing speakers. In yours shoes I'd run (or re-run) your receiver's audio calibration system, but otherwise wouldn't give it a thought. Atmos is a lot of fun — happy listening!
  • Chris Wilson from COSTA MESA

    Posted on 2/22/2021

    Hi, I have a Marantz SR7013 AVR . I am setting up a 5.2 system. Speakers: RP 280F for the main fronts, RP 450C for the center, and RP 250S for the surrounds I am mounting the RP 250S on the rear wall, 6-1/2' up, about 7' apart and about 3-1/2' behind from listening couch. So my question is do I connect the RP 250S to the surround L/R or the surround back L/R? Remember, I have no side surround speakers due to placement difficulty and not sure if the surround channel gets the same signal as rear surround channel. If they are the same, just use rear surround? If they send different signals, what is the best connection? Rear surround because they are rear or is it still better to connect to just surround because it will give more detail? Confused, please help, thank you

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    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 2/23/2021

    Hi Chris, thanks for reaching out. I'd connect your rear speakers to the Surround channels, and then run the Audyssey room calibration software. (As far as I know, I don't believe Audyssey offers an option for only Rear Surrounds without also having the Surround channels engaged.)

    That's some nice gear you have there. I expect your system is going to sound terrific!
  • Brad from Columbus

    Posted on 2/4/2021

    Kramer, holding off on the ds2's for the time being. Swapped the R-41M's and the R-51M's...I have the R-41M's as the surrounds and put the R-51M's as "front height". They are sitting on the floor-standing speakers and angled outward as the floor standing speakers are toed in to the mlp...I swear it has a better "above" effect this way than laying on their backs pointing toward the ceiling.

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    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 2/4/2021

    Thanks for following up, Brad. I'm glad to hear there's been an improvement in performance!