How to Create the Ideal Home Theater Audio System
Have you ever plugged in a brand-new television and turned it on, only to be disappointed by the horrible sound quality? More often than not, stunning visuals have to be countered with equally stunning audio presentation. Whether you're trying to recreate a true theater experience or simply looking for a cleaner sound presentation, here is a simple breakdown of what you need to do to create an ideal home theater audio system.
Deciding on an Audio System
Define your intentions.Take stock of everything you have already (if you're building a home theater completely from scratch, you can skip to the next step). Consider the type and size of TV you have, the dimensions of the room, and your intentions going forward. How many people do you want to be able to fit? Is your entertainment room spacious--which will allow for richer sound quality--or will you have to reign your ambition in a little bit? How many speakers can you feasibly place? These are things to consider before you even start planning the physical placement of your equipment.
Measure your space.Typically, you want your seating to be positioned between the TV and the adjacent wall, not up against it; that way, you can run speakers behind your couch or chair, creating a surround-sound experience.
- This is a good time to evaluate the sound flow of the room as well. High-backed furniture and superfluous items will block or distort sound; try to keep your entertainment room as clean and low-profile as possible.
Pick a general audio system.You've probably seen designations such as 5.1, 6.1, 7.1, and so on. In these cases, the first number stands for the quantity of speakers, and the ".1" signifies the use of a subwoofer. Pick a speaker system that pertains to the size and location of your room.
- As a general rule, if you live in an apartment or similarly close-knit location, a 5.1 stereo system will probably be the largest one you need, since any considerate volume on a larger speaker system will be redundant.
- Similarly, you should pick a speaker system for the space in which it will preside, not for the space you think it will eventually belong in. You can always purchase a 2.1 speaker system for a small room and add on later.
Block out your placement.Measure the distance from your TV to your couch, from your couch to your back wall, and from the corners of the room to where you will be sitting. Place tape where you intend to put the speakers; the main ones will sit in front of the TV, while the surround sound usually goes behind the viewer.
- You want your speakers to deliver approximately the same sound to everyone in the room, so keep this in mind as you plan.
- You will need to test your subwoofer before placing it, so don't worry about it for now.
Buying Your Equipment
Establish a budget.It's easy to get carried away while looking at shiny new electronics, so set a reasonable budget--one that allows you to purchase what you need, plus a little wiggle room--and stick to it.
- Remember that last year's technology will always be cheaper than this year's same model, and it often does roughly the same thing. Especially if you're trying to save money, don't buy brand-new tech.
Make a list of equipment you need.Basic home theater audio systems mandate a receiver for all of your audio and visual technology, a subwoofer, and several speakers, along with all the pertinent cables; depending on your needs and limitations, you might opt for more than one subwoofer and several extra speakers or an extra power strip.
- Keep in mind the limitations of your chosen room; you may need to add stands or mounting brackets to your shopping list as well.
- One of the nice things about setting up a multi-speaker audio system is its customizability: you can always add or subtract speakers as your environment changes. Keep this in mind when purchasing the initial equipment.
- When purchasing a receiver, make sure it has enough outputs for the hardware you're running, since any DVD players or consoles should be attached to the receiver rather than the TV. Similarly, make sure it has the correct inputs and outputs for your hardware; you don't want to purchase an older receiver that only has analog input (the standard red and white cables) when your TV is capable of running an HDMI cable.
Research your options.Find a reputable brand such as Samsung, Bose, or Sony, and stick with that company as you research your technology. As you delve into specific models within these subsets, be on the lookout for common problems or longevity issues.
- Basics are always better to start with. You're better off getting a relatively plain receiver that does exactly what you need and no more than spending twice as much on a receiver with a ton of features you'll never use. The same logic applies to speakers.
- It's a good idea to research features of specific brands and models; often times, these "valuable" features turn out to be unnecessary or downright negligible. Don't spend extra for nothing!
Buy the equipment directly from a relevant retailer.Especially if you're buying equipment online, where it is often cheaper, make sure you buy directly from a retailer; while third-party providers often have seemingly incredible deals, there's always a solid chance that you'll end up getting an inferior product with no warranty.
- Places like Best Buy and Walmart tend to stock reputable brands for a reasonable price.
Purchase only what you need.Brands will often try to trick you into spending exponentially more money than necessary on things like gold-plated HDMI cables or triple insulated speaker cable, under the premise that you'll get better sound quality. In reality, you're not likely to notice the difference in sound quality between cheap speaker cable and its expensive counterpart, so always err on the side of inexpensive when it comes to cables. Technology needs to be replaced often enough that, unless you have an extensive budget for your home theater audio system, it isn't worth buying the top-shelf products.
- For example, if you don't own Apple products, don't buy a receiver that costs more because it has built-in Airplay.
- You will need to buy speaker cable to connect your speakers to your receiver's audio outputs--use this as an opportunity to stock up in case you suffer a short-circuit or a crimped wire.
Consider buying a warranty.After you've bought everything and signed off on all the receipts, a sales rep will usually ask if you want a 3-year warranty or something similar on your equipment. Since - extra is infinitely less than the cost of having to purchase everything again after your basement floods, consider obliging.
Setting Everything Up
Unbox everything and lay it out.Once you've hauled in your boxes of electronics, clear the entertainment room and lay everything out. Take inventory of what you have, and if you've forgotten something, go back out and get it before you start setting up.
Do a dry run.Before you plug anything in, place your receiver in front of (or underneath) your TV, then do a walk-through of where you want to place your speakers accordingly. For example, if you have a 5.1 system, consider placing 1 speaker directly in front of your TV, 2 on either side of the TV, and 1 on either side of the seating area. Leave your subwoofer alone for now.
- Your setup will differ based on how many speakers you have, the layout of your room, and the height of your seating; this is simply a general reference.
- The 2 speakers on either side of the TV should be placed firmly on the ground or a stand.
- If you have a larger speaker system, place surplus speakers around or behind the seating area in an arc; this will enhance your surround-sound experience.
Place your speakers.From a top-down perspective, your front speakers should form an equilateral triangle with the center of your seating placed at the apex. Take the width of your room and the general number of people you hope to seat into account here--your speakers will need to be placed farther apart from one another if you hope to engage each member of a crowded room equally, whereas they can be fairly close together if you're the sole occupant.
- Surround-sound speakers are best place to the immediate left and right of your seating arrangement, with the speakers elevated to roughly standing ear level. If you don't have enough room to the left and right, you can always mount the speakers behind your viewing area.
Plug in your receiver.Once you've determined roughly where everything should go, attach your receiver to your TV and any existing pieces of hardware (consoles, Blu-ray, etc.). You should have a general A/V input (i.e., HDMI cable, optical cable, coaxial cable) to connect your TV to your receiver--this will differ based on your hardware, especially if you have older TV and receiver models.
- You may want to pull your TV away from the wall while you do this for ease of access.
Plug your front speakers into your receiver.This is where you'll need your speaker cable; though some brands include these cables by default, you're better off buying your own.
Plug in your other speakers.If you have a system higher than 2.1, plug in your remaining speakers to your receiver using speaker cable.
Turn everything on.Listen to a DVD or some music that you're familiar with; to figure out how to tweak your speakers' placement, walk around the room and take note of where the audio quality dips or otherwise sounds different than normal, then adjust the speakers accordingly.
- Pay special attention to sound distortion; this can be especially indicative of poor speaker placement. To avoid distortion, make sure your speakers have plenty of room all around them to broadcast sound--don't place them in a corner or between objects. You may also need to play with your TV's audio settings to even out bass and treble.
Connect your subwoofer.Since your subwoofer's sound quality will likely change based on the size and shape of your room, there isn't one universal way to place it, so experiment until the sound is balanced and refined.
- A good rule of thumb with subwoofers is never place them directly against walls or in corners. Even with the right audio adjustments, this can distort your bass.
- Entertainment systems with limited space usually resort to placing the subwoofer on one side of the TV, facing the seating area but not angled toward the viewer's head height like the other speakers.
Double check your calibrations.Walk around the room one final time to ensure your TV's audio is even and balanced throughout, experimenting with different bass settings to eliminate distortion as you go.
- Remember that your end goal is to distribute the audio equally to everyone in the room; therefore, ensuring that the audio is consistent throughout the seating area should be your top priority.
QuestionHow do I hook up my Bose speakers to my TV? I have a cable box and I would like to hook up my receiver to a VCR and CD player.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThere are two ways of doing this. Assuming both your receiver and TV have an optical audio port (looks like a tiny square), then you can hook that single cable between the receiver and the TV, and then just plug the VCR into the back of the TV. This method would also work for any additional devices you might add like Blu-ray players, Xbox/PS4, etc. For the CD player you will have to determine what ports it has, most have stereo audio out (red and white plugs). You will have to determine which plug will go into the receiver. You can also hook the VCR directly into the receiver if you choose.Thanks!
- If you're willing to spend a little extra cash, consider hiring a professional to install and calibrate your audio system. The amount you'll get back in time and sound quality will likely be worth the fee.
- Avoid buying a soundbar. Although they are becoming increasingly popular with consumers, their limited audio output and static positioning render them inferior to a true sound system.
- Universal items such as HDMI cables, speaker cable, ethernet wires, and power strips can--and should--be purchased ahead of time. Buy these online before you set out to purchase your remaining hardware; this is by far the cheapest option.
- The manual that comes with your equipment will more often than not describe exactly how to hook up your speakers to one another. This is another great reason to buy everything from the same company, since most Sony or Bose speakers will adhere to the same basic guidelines as their previous or future models.
- If possible, utilize multiple outlets and power strips. Place an entire sound system's worth of plugs into one source outlet is hazardous due to potential short-circuiting and even an electrical fire.
- Read the manuals that come with your purchases. Just because you have a general idea of what goes where to attain basic sound quality doesn't mean you're getting the most out of your sound system and, in some rare cases, you can short-circuit your system with a poorly-placed wire.
Video: How To Set Up A Home Theater In Non Ideal Rooms
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