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Setting up a surround sound system in your home is a lot of fun. When it is done well, and the speakers are in the right position and right volume, it can help you get a great experience out of each show and movie you want to watch. There is a common debate about whether surround speakers should be set to higher volume for better effect.
Ideally, surround speakers should not be louder than front speakers as they are only responsible for helping with background noises, music, and enhancing some of the other sounds in your movie. The dialogue and the main function in the show are handled by the front speakers.
This article will help explore how each speaker in your surround sound system is meant to work so you can determine the right volume level for the best experience.
How a Surround System Works
The main thing that will set your home theater apart from an ordinary television setup is it uses surround sound. For this to work, you will need two to three speakers located in front of you, and two to three speakers to the side or behind you. The audio signal will be split up into multiple channels so that different sounds will come out of the speakers.
The most prominent sound will need to come from the front speakers. When something makes a noise to the left of the screen, you should notice more sound from the speaker on the left side of the screen. When something in the show or movie happens on the right, you will hear it more from the speaker on the right.
We can also place a third speaker in as well. This one needs to be in the center-right under or above the screen, depending on your setup. This is an important speaker because it helps anchor the sound that comes in from the other two speakers.
The center speaker can help play all of the front sound effects and the dialogue. This helps make the sound seem like it is coming directly from the center of the television.
That takes care of the front speakers. In a surround system, you will also have speakers that sit behind you. These are there to fill in different background noises like dogs barking, rushing water, and more.
Surrounds can sometimes work together with the speakers in the front to give the sensation of movement. This works because the sound starts from the front and slowly moves behind you.
Front Speakers vs Surround Speakers – Which Should Be Louder?
Your front speakers should be louder than your surround speakers. This allows you to hear the dialogue and most of the sounds from your television without having trouble. The back speakers work more on the background noises and do not need to be as loud.
It is possible to turn them up as loud as you would like. But if they get too loud, it may take away some of the dialogue and main action of your show.
How Loud to Have the Speakers
It is important to never turn the volume too high on any of your speakers. The front speakers should be a little louder than the surround speakers. This makes it easier for you to hear the dialogue and important parts of the show you want to watch. It is still possible to turn the sound too loud on the front speakers and wear them out too quickly.
Many people also tend to boost the rear speaker levels too high relative to the center and front speakers. This will cause an over-emphasis to the back and give you an unnatural surround field localized by the ear. This diminishes the balance in the system. The back speakers should always be lower than the front speakers.
There are a few steps you can take to make sure the front and surround speakers are at the right volume. This ensures your speakers are just right for your home and the space you have. The procedure that helps includes:
- Sit down in the location where you will often watch movies and shows. This is most likely your couch.
- Adjust the master volume of your receiver to a common listening level that sounds comfortable to you.
- Once this is done, initiate the receiver/preamp test tone.
- Allow the test tone to go through and sweep all the speakers in the system.
- Adjust the volume levels of each channel until they come out similar in volume.
This will often be enough to give you a balanced sound between the front and surround sound. You may need to tweak a few things to get it just right, though.
How to Set Up the Front Speakers
It is important to properly place your front speakers in the right place. This helps you get the right sound effect. Having three speakers, a left, right, and the center speaker will provide you with the best sound while watching movies and programs.
One of the key jobs of these front speakers is to realistically reproduce dialogue. The middle speaker should display the sound like the person is right in front of you. You should feel like those who are to the right and left are standing in those positions near you as you talk when the speakers are put in the right place.
The goal of your front speakers is to minimize any gaps when the speakers talk. This allows dialogue to move from side to side seamlessly. Some points to consider when setting your front speakers up include:
Set the center speaker first. The placement of the other two speakers will depend on where the center speaker goes.
- Have the front of the speaker be flush with the TV display: most center speakers should be placed right on the display. You should try to keep the front surfaces of both flushes with one another. This helps to minimize reflections.
- Watch the channel speakers: You should keep the left and right speakers the same distance from the listening position as the front speaker. Don’t keep them in a straight line. Your goal is to form a little arc with the speakers. Keep both equal distances from the center, but move them away from the wall or television a bit.
- Toe-in the speakers: the front panels of these two speakers should be placed, so they are aimed right at, or a little behind, your chosen seating position. Your wall mount should make it easier to angle the speakers this way.
- Give them a little angle: 45 to 60 degree angles will be fine. Start by putting every 30 degrees to the right or left of the center speaker. If you listen to the television and it sounds unnatural or too widely spaced, add the speakers closer to the screen. If you notice it is hard to distinguish between the left and right in terms of sound, move the speakers apart.
- Have near ear level: Think about the level of hearing you have while sitting and put the speakers as close to this as possible. You may need to raise the height a bit if you use floor-standing speakers. You may need to listen to a show while doing this to get the perfect height.
Having a surround sound system in your home is a great way to enjoy movies and shows in a new way. You should always have the front speakers set louder than the back speakers. This makes it easier to hear the dialogue and important parts of the show while the surround speakers will handle the background noise while enhancing the experience.
- CNet: What is the Difference Between Center, Front, and Surround Speakers
- Sound and Vision: What are the Differences Between Speakers?
- Definitive Technology: Surround Speakers
- Dummies: How to Place the Front Speakers in a Home Theater
- How Stuff Works: Surround Sound Basics
- Audioholics: Setting Speaker Levels and Distance in a Surround Sound System