Many of us take pride in the way that we are able to use what we have and build it into something more remarkable, functional, or impressive. But, when using our current surround sound speakers and attempting to add more, we might question the possibility of this working.
While some audiophiles can securely mix and match surround sound speakers, this is not the optimal setup. If you choose to use speakers from various lines/manufacturers, it is most important that the front speakers (left, right, center) match one another, and the rear speakers match each other, too.
Specifically, you need to make sure that the sonic balance matches in the front speakers to achieve a well-paired timbre. This is important for dissecting audio, dialogue, and more. Generally, the front speakers should be of the same size.
In addition, the side or rear speakers should match one another, but they are not required to match the front set as long as you know how to successfully connect them.
Just be sure that they have a relatively similar dynamic range (output capabilities) to ensure a cohesive sound. Let’s take a closer look.
Also read: Do Dual Subwoofers Need to Match?
Do Front and Rear Speakers Have to Match?
As you piece together your home theater’s surround sound system, you are likely taking a look at the equipment that you already own and are preparing a shopping list for the pieces of equipment that you are missing.
After all, high-quality sound equipment is critical to achieving a high-quality audio experience. But, in this compilation of sound equipment, you may run across a few dilemmas.
When setting up your surround sound system, you will want your speakers to match or be paired as closely as possible to a similar dynamic range (output capabilities). The front speakers should match each other, and the rear speakers should be a set, but the front and rear do not have to match.
One of the major reasons that your front speakers need to match is because they work in sync to achieve an overall sound quality that is directly influential to the sound experience that listeners will go through when in your home theater.
With that said, the front speakers need to follow the same dynamic range and also have a matching sonic balance.
This is important for the front speakers specifically because the left, right, and center speakers are used in your surround sound system to achieve clear dialogue and character audio that needs to be particularly distinguishable for listeners.
Along with that, when a center speaker is larger or smaller than the front right and front left speakers, the entire sound system can become distorted, and the audio consequently becomes unclear.
Thus, with this, you will want to make sure that the front speakers match one another. Plus, choosing to try to hodgepodge together your front speakers in your surround sound system can become rather complicated in the first place.
It is better to ensure that your front speakers match one another in your surround sound system for these reasons.
In terms of your rear speakers, these should also match one another, but they do not have to necessarily match the front speakers. However, the rear speakers should still have a relatively similar speaker output and dynamic range as the front speakers to ensure a cohesive surround sound system.
Most importantly, though, is that the rear (and side) speakers in your surround system match with their counterparts. This has a lot to do with the centralization and localization of sound that takes place when a listener is experiencing the audio cast out by your sound equipment.
Matching your rear speakers to one another helps to make sure that your right back or your left back speaker does not stand out above the other in a tremendous way- so much so that it makes the sound appear as if it is only coming from behind one shoulder rather than coming from a “surrounding” area.
With that in mind, it is important to try to match your front and your rear speakers to make the entire sound system work well together.
After all, you are messing with the laws of physics when you set up your perfect home theater surround sound system.
And, unless you know what you are doing in mixing and matching various pieces of sound equipment, it is better just to buy a set that was designed to work flawlessly with each piece working harmoniously with the other.
Finally, although you might find one speaker that you would like to add to your surround sound system (specifically, one that does not match the other speakers in your current setup), you should consider the long-term value of this speaker.
Even if it is a high-quality speaker, it will not give you a high-quality audio experience in your surround sound system if it does not pair well with the other speakers.
For a high-quality audio experience, all of your speakers should be as similar to one another as possible (and from the same line/manufacturer when this is a possibility).
Does a Subwoofer Have to Match Your Surround Sound Speakers?
Ok, so you get the general idea behind matching your front speakers to one another. Then, knowing that the rear speakers should match one another, too, is all sounding good.
After all, achieving a cohesive surround sound system in which all speakers work to achieve an overall high-quality audio experience is what you are after here. But what about when a subwoofer comes into the picture?
Interestingly, while many surround sound speaker systems carry a subwoofer in their line, a subwoofer does not have to match the surround sound speakers to be able to achieve a cohesive system. Instead, you can choose a subwoofer based on the specifications of the subwoofer output on the receiver and more.
This can come as a relief to some who have their eyes set on a subwoofer but are not drawn to a particular line of other sound equipment made by the same manufacturer or in the same set. Fortunately, this does not have to ruin your hopes and dreams on your home theater surround sound setup entirely.
Instead, you can rejoice knowing that adding a subwoofer to your surround sound system can be a bit easier in terms of matching the other speakers.
While the front speakers in your surround sound system should match one another, and the same for the rear, you do not have to have a matching subwoofer to make the entire system work seamlessly.
The main reason that this is the case is that the subwoofer is using low-frequency audio signals that are generally out of range of the other speakers in your surround sound system. With this said, your subwoofer will not be overlapping the same frequency range that other speakers are putting out.
Because of this, you will likely be more worried about the power used by the subwoofer or achieving the appropriate ratings here, when connecting the subwoofer to your surround sound system than you will be about overlapping audio frequencies.
Instead of wondering if your subwoofer will overpower the other speakers or make it sound louder on the left or the right side because it is from a different line of speakers, you can worry more about the subwoofer placement and overall quality of the individual speaker itself.
With this said, it is still important to carefully select the subwoofer (or two) that you will use in your surround sound system.
The use of a subwoofer is critical to achieving a full surround sound audio experience considering the low bass tones that would be missing without this particular piece of equipment.
So, rather than skimping on this piece of equipment, find the one that works best in your home theater space and be proud of the investment that you have made.
What Happens if Your Surround Sound Speakers Do Not Match?
So, we have talked about the importance of finding similar speakers for your front set as well as the rear speakers and matching the entire system when possible (or coming close when not possible).
But, you might still be wondering why this is so important in the first place. They are just speakers with standard connections, right? Wrong. Not all speakers are made the same.
Using unmatching front speakers will distort the audio in dialogue so much so that it can be indecipherable and take away from the overall experience. In the rear, an unmatched set distorts the localization of audio in your home theater. An entirely unmatched system will be imbalanced and poor-quality.
More so, choosing to piece together your own makeshift home theater surround sound system by using the pieces of sound equipment that you have- even if they are not in the same line/by the same brand- can make your audio experience rather pitiful.
Instead of being impressed by your ability to connect each mismatched speaker, you and your guests will be left disappointed by the unclear dialogue, terrible audio tracks, and negative overall experience that comes from using mismatched speakers in your surround sound system.
Rather than experiencing this mishap, just be sure to match your sound equipment as best as possible, and choose to invest in an entire line if you are able to.
Jason is a home theater expert with over 10 years of experience in setting up home cinema rooms and systems. What started out as a hobby soon transformed him into an authority in the audio-visual field. He is passionate about providing readers with accurate and up-to-date information on the latest audiovisual technologies and their applications for home theaters. Read more about Jason.