So, you’ve managed to put together a pretty sweet setup in your media room—you’ve got your TV, you’ve got your sound system and a cozy couch. The only thing left for you to do is to figure out the correct position for each thing. The task might seem daunting at first, but setting everything up for the best sonic experience is easier than you might think.
The best way to set up your speakers if your couch is against a wall is to start by positioning your center speaker directly against the center of your couch. Then position your rear speakers so that you’re using them as surround speakers and not as real rear speakers.
Let’s dive into the details of where and how you should position your speakers if your couch is against a wall. We’ll take a look at how you should go about positioning a 5.1 setup and then a 7.1 setup. By the end, you’ll know exactly what to do, and you’ll be able to treat yourself to the best possible listening experience.
Before moving further, check out my recommended speaker setup for home theaters.
The Best 5.1 Speaker Setup With a Couch Against the Wall
5.1 setups are the standard for home theaters and serious gaming setups. They are meant to provide a detailed, 3D surround sound that will immerse you and add to the realism of what you’re watching or playing. A 5.1 setup includes the following components:
- A subwoofer
- Three front speakers
- Two rear (surround) speakers
The subwoofer is there to handle the low frequencies, while the other speakers are full-range speakers that mostly deal with higher frequencies. Due to the different frequencies these speakers handle, it’s important to find the right place for each one.
Positioning the Subwoofer
Since the subwoofer is used for the bass frequencies, it’s pretty flexible when it comes to positioning. This is because bass frequencies are omnidirectional, so you’ll get a decent sound no matter where you place your sub.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can put it just anywhere. Your sub comes enclosed in a box, so putting it in an enclosed area is going to muddy the sound, and you won’t get what you’re paying for. For example, you should not put it in a corner, under the couch, under your desk, or in some similar place.
It’s generally a good idea to place your subwoofer next to a wall, which increases the bass. If you’re planning on doing this, make sure that you’re not going to disturb anyone. The sound can travel through your walls and be heard by your neighbors, roommates, or family members.
It may not be a bad idea to move the subwoofer away from the wall if you don’t want to disturb others. Alternatively, you can put it next to a different wall.
Your subwoofer will work best if it’s positioned next to your front speakers, some 4 or 5 feet away from them (1.2 or 1.5 meters). This will produce the cleanest sound with minimal disruptions and interruptions. Try moving your sub around and see what works best for your setup and your room. Every room is different, so you’ll have to do a bit of fiddling about with it until you get everything right.
Positioning the Surround Speakers
Putting your rear, that is, surround, speakers in the correct place doesn’t allow as much flexibility but is pretty straightforward. Just remember, they’re not really rear speakers, so they shouldn’t really be behind you, but rather next to you.
You can start by putting them next to your couch, either on speaker stands or on the walls. Putting them on the wall seems to work best for most people. The speakers should be at a 90 to 110 degrees angle from you. If you really want to manipulate the angle precisely, a speaker stand might be the better option.
Your speakers should be at about ear level. This is what most users report to be the best option. If that doesn’t work for you, you can tilt your speakers downward or even put them slightly lower and point them upward. You should try both options and see what works best for you.
Positioning the Front Speakers
The front speakers should also be at ear level for the best listening experience. Most of them will work best if they’re at a 30-degree angle toward your couch while the couch is perpendicular to the TV. You should also not forget to put the speakers at an equal distance from your TV.
Some speakers, on the other hand, might work best if they’re at a right angle against the wall. You’ll have to see for yourself, so checking the user manual is also a great idea if you want to maximize the sound quality you’re getting.
For the best output, they should be as far away from each other as they are from you. If that is not a possibility due to a lack of space, try to separate them as much as possible, so that signals from them don’t mix and muddy the sound.
It is also advisable to place them a foot or two away from the wall. The closer you put them to the wall, the more bass you’ll get, which might be good if your woofer is not the best, but most of the time that won’t be necessary.
Positioning Your Central Speaker
Your center speaker handles the middle frequencies, and it may seem like it doesn’t do much until you’re left without one or until it’s not placed in the right place. That’s when you realize it’s crucial to your sound quality.
Thankfully, there isn’t much to do with it. As long as it’s at a 90-degree angle toward your seat, it’s going to work well. It can be put above or under your TV, but it has to be horizontally aligned with the middle of your TV for the best performance. It’s even possible to mount it on a wall, but this is not the most common option.
The Best 7.1 Speaker Setup With a Couch Against the Wall
A 7.1 setup is like a 5.1 setup on steroids. It provides an even more detailed sound and even more immersion and realism. For a hardcore audiophile, this setup is often the only acceptable one. This kind of setup includes:
- A subwoofer
- Three center speakers
- Two surround speakers
- Two rear speakers
It provides much more detail because it includes two additional speakers that take care of the rear sounds, a role which in 5.1 setups belongs to the surround speakers. This means that you also have to think about how you are going to position those speakers. This can be a challenge when your couch is against the wall.
Luckily, the positioning is very similar to 5.1. If you’re upgrading, there is not going to be too much work to get everything right. Let’s take a look at how you could go about doing this.
Positioning 7.1 Speakers
Your sub, center, front-right, and front-left speakers should be positioned as they would be positioned in a 5.1 setup. The center should be right across you, the left and right speakers at equal distances from it—at around a thirty-degree angle toward you—, and the sub should be in between, not too far away from a wall.
The difference is in the rear and surround speakers.
Since in a 7.1 setup the surround speakers will be used only for surround sound, you should place them on both sides of your couch, at an equal distance from it, at a 90-degree angle. The rear sounds will be left to the actual rear speakers.
The easiest thing to do with your rear speakers is to mount them on a wall, at a 135 to 150-degree angle toward your couch. They should ideally be at your ear level, but you have to make sure that they are not blasting directly into your ears. After all, you don’t want to damage your hearing.
As you can see, there are very few differences between the two setups in terms of placement. You just have to put in slightly more effort to get the perfect sound. It will be worth it, though, as a well-organized 7.1 system will sound mind-blowing and elevate your movie-watching or gaming experience to a much higher level.
Why Is Proper Placement Important for 5.1 and 7.1 Sound?
The proper placement of your speakers is important for 5.1 and 7.1 sound because it will greatly enhance the sound quality. Putting your speakers in the right position and at the right angle will ensure that nothing obstructs the sound and that they’re coming at you at an optimal angle.
Even though it might seem pointless to waste a lot of time tinkering with the position of your speakers, finding the right place for each speaker is going to do wonders for your sound quality.
Soundwaves will inevitably bounce around your room, but you want to keep it to a minimum. When a soundwave bounces against the wall, it will arrive at you with some delay, causing distortion.
It might seem as though a couple of degrees to the left or right, or a couple of inches up or down won’t do much to the sound, but it might just be the thing you’re looking for. Besides, if you’ve already invested a lot of money and effort into your media room, why not go the extra mile and make sure that everything’s perfect?
Things To Remember
Even if you’ve nailed down the theory of how and where to place your surround system, there are a few things that you have to keep in mind before you put the theory into practice. Let’s take a quick look at them before you go and set up your surround system.
You Should Avoid Corners
Putting a speaker in a corner will make the sound much louder, as you may have noticed, and this can easily make it tempting to do just that. However, the quality of the sound will suffer in turn, and even though it’s going to be louder, it’s going to be muddied and heavily distorted. Since you’re aiming for quality here, you should avoid corners at all costs.
This effect occurs because all rooms have problems with resonances, especially if they are small. Some of the soundwaves produced by your speakers will go straight to your ears, but others will hit a wall first and then bounce toward you. If you don’t try to minimize resonance, these small delays may noticeably distort your sound.
Resonances are even worse in corners, which makes the bass frequencies much louder while ruining the quality of mid to high tones.
You’ll never see recording professionals with speakers in the corners, and you should copy them in your media room. It’s best to put your speakers somewhere else.
Not All Rooms Are the Same
This piece of advice is especially important if you’re moving to a new place or if you’re moving your media room to a different part of your house. The setup that worked perfectly in your first location might not be ideal for your new room.
Every room has different acoustics, which is going to be influenced by pretty much anything in it. The doors, windows, furniture, and other objects will influence your sound one way or another. Even drapes could possibly alter your sound, so it’s hard to be too careful if you’re aiming for perfection.
You’ll have to invest some time in experimentation if you want to find the best possible position for each speaker. It also might not be a bad idea to invest in some acoustic treatment, if you’re willing to invest some extra cash. It would definitely be worth it.
Another good idea might be soundproofing your media room. This is especially useful if you like to blast sound at full volume or if you live in an apartment building and don’t want to make your neighbors hate you. Whatever the reason might be, combining soundproofing with acoustic treatment and the perfect positioning will turn your media room into a real movie theater.
Watch Out for Obstructions
Ideally, there should be nothing standing in the way between you and your speakers. Every obstruction will take a toll on the quality of the sound. You want the speakers to push the sound directly toward you instead of bouncing the soundwaves off furniture and other objects.
Perform a Listening Test
Nothing you do will make any sense if you don’t actually test it to see how it works and how it influences your sound. Every time you make a change, you need to sit down and listen to see how the change influences the sound.
The easiest way to do this is to get a friend of yours to sit on the couch while you’re moving your speakers around. Look for their feedback and adjust the speakers’ position accordingly. This is much easier than doing it on your own. Plus, it’s way more fun if you’re not sitting there alone, not to mention that you’re going to get much more reliable results this way.
Don’t Put Speakers Too Close to the Walls
Moving your speakers away from your walls helps with preventing the soundwaves from bouncing off your walls and from the noise leaking into other rooms.
Usually, the sound will be a lot cleaner if the speakers are not right next to the walls. This is especially true for large rooms.
Sometimes you might move your woofer closer to the wall if you need to boost the bass. But if there’s no need for that, try not to glue your speakers to the walls. Your friends, neighbors, and roommates will thank you.
Pay Attention to the Type of Speakers
Different speakers will react differently to various placements. Not every angle is going to be suitable for every speaker. You’ll have to read the manufacturer’s guide to see what’s best for the speaker.
Another key concern might be whether the speakers are front-ported or rear-ported. Rear-ported speakers, as the name suggests, have their ports in the rear, so they’re not a good choice for mounting on a wall. Front-ported speakers, on the other hand, are usually a bit bigger, so they’ll take up more space.
Positioning speakers is similar to both 5.1 and 7.1 systems. You want your central speaker to be directly in front of you, your front speakers a few feet away from it at a thirty-degree angle toward you, and your subwoofer between them.
With a 5.1 system, your surround speakers should be mounted on the wall behind you since they will be dealing with both rear and surround sounds. With a 7.1 system, they should be next to your couch. Since they’ll be dedicated to rear sounds, your rear speakers should be behind you.
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.